Friday, 23 March 2012

MailVU- Speak up and Show yourself in English

What is it about?                                                                    
Click, record, and sent. With the three simple steps, a webcam, and a microphone, you can record your own video and share it with your friends through e-mail. It's not specifically designed for language learning. You can use it to record your greeting to say hello to your friends far away. However, it is indeed a good tool that can be used in language learning and teaching. 

Why is it good to language learning?                                     
Language learners can use mailVU to practice English speaking skills. The feature that it's easy to sent the video file through e-mail creates more interaction between teachers and students after school. Students can also practice what they want to record again and again until they are satisfied with it. It's also an excellent tool for distance learning.

How can it be used?                                                               
For teachers:
  1. We can use mailVU to record short weekly lesson to our students, just like a video podcast. Students can both learn language knowledge and practice listening skills.
  2. We can use it to give comments to students' work or presentation if there is no time in class.
  3. We can answer students' question through mailVU in distance learning or virtual classrooms. 
For students:
  1. Different kinds of speaking activities can be designed for students to complete through mailVU, like show and tell, story telling, or introducing a friend or a family member. Students can show the things they want to talk about, the picture book, or the person in front of the webcam. Students can complete the task at their own pace and feel more confident to speak English since they can always do it again. It raises students' confidence and also learning autonomy.
  2. Students can also be asked to do an interview with their classmates or practice broadcasting a piece of news, record it, and sent it to the teacher.
  3. With movable webcam, students can even record a short play as a team and share their work with friends.
  4. Singing English songs is usually used in class to motivate students to learn and also help their pronunciation. Teachers might ask students to sing a complete English song as a task. MailVU can help shy students to sing aloud without worrying that they need to sing in front of the peers.
  5. Teachers can also ask students to keep a reading diary through talking and recording the summary and their feedback. 
  6. Students can even take turns recording their own weekly video podcast for other classmates to listen.
More Information                                                                   

Russell's Teacher Training Website

What is it about?                                                                   
Russell's Teacher Training Videos is a great information source for language teaching, learning, and teacher development. There are videos for ESL/EFL and for learning ICT. There are a great number of videos recorded by Russell, teaching us how to use software or websites step by step and also tips for language teaching. In addition to English language teaching, there are also a lot of tools that can be used to teach all languages.

Why is it good to language learning?                                    
Using ICT in ELT is a trend. With the aid of ICT, learning autonomy and learners' motivation can be generate. It also breaks the boundary of classroom and connect learning inside the class to the world outside. Though there are so many advantages, we are sometimes worried about our own ability of using ICT in ELT classroom. This website helps us to learn the technology and also provides us with ideas to use it in language teaching and learning.

How can it be used?                                                              

For Teachers:
  1. By watching the videos, we can learn the technology step by step. There are also videos in which Russell shares ideas or tips of using particular websites in ELT classrooms.
  2. By taking a look at TOP 20 Training Videos, we can know what other teachers around the world are interested in and use in their classrooms.
  3. The videos on this website is updated. Follow the latest videos and we can learn the latest tools or find the latest websites for language learning and teaching.
  4. Sign up for the newsletter and you can automatically get the latest useful information from the free monthly newsletter. 
For Students:
  1. Here is a part called Videos to Recommend to students. Useful websites for language learning are introduced in the videos. Students can learn how to use these websites by watching the videos. These are also authentic listening materials.
  2. When we integrate ICT in some tasks, for example, asking students to record an oral presentation about their favorite tourist attraction by using myBrainShark, students can watch the video to learn how to use the website and review the video whenever they forget any detail.
What are the limitations?                                                     
Though there are a lot of tools and resources, we need to consider the constrains and challenges in our own teaching contexts to adjust the use of ICT in ELT.

More Information                                                                  

Sunday, 11 March 2012

LyricsTraining- Learning with Songs!

What is it about?                                                                   

LyricsTraining is a website providing listening exercises with music videos and lyrics. The music videos are labeled at different language level, and there are also exercises at different levels for the same song. Learners need to fill in the blanks by listening to the song. When learners finish the line of the lyrics, the song will go on to the next line. Learners can replay the same line again and again. The song won't keep going if the previous line hasn't been finished. Each time you restart the game, the blanks will be in different places. It's an relaxing and interesting way to learn and improve listening skills. In addition to English, there are also songs in other kinds of foreign language.

Why is it good to language learning?                                    
  • When playing the game, learners will listen to the lyrics again and again unconsciously, which can develop their listening skills. When they get the answer, they can get the reward right away, which is that they can keep the song going.
  • The website is based on songs, which are quite motivating in language learning. Since the exercises are on-line, students can play the listening games after class, which increase the time the learners are exposed to the language.
  • It's a great self-learning resource.

How can it be used?                                                              
  • Students can go to the website and practice their listening at home. There is a billboard showing the highest scores, which can motivate students to take the challenge and see if they can get on the board.
  • We can also use this in class. Play the song and make students have a group competition. The group which first get the correct answer gets one point.
  • In addition to English songs, there are also Spanish songs, which are available for Spanish learners.
  • For teachers who like to use songs but are not sure which song is popular for students, this website is a good reference.
  • There is also a karaoke mode which students can see the lyrics along with the singers singing the song. Students can use this function to get familiar with the songs before practicing listening the missing words. We can also ask students to use this function to learn an English song, and we can ask them to sing an English song in class.

What are the limitations?                                                     
  • For students who are not interested in music or songs, there are not many other options in this website.
  • The patterns of the exercises are not various.

Friday, 9 March 2012

Wordle- Learning with a Beautiful Word Cloud

What is it about?                                                                    

Wordle is originally created for amusement. People can use Wordle to create graphics from the text they upload. The words that are used more frequently are in bigger size. Common words like "the," "of," or "and" are excluded. People can change the font, color, style, and layout.
I tried to upload Dr. Martin Luther King's famous speech, "I have a dream," and got the above word cloud. The more frequently used words, like "freedom," Negro," "nation," or "dream," are visually popped up.

Why is it good to language learning?                                    

Wordle is like small-scale visual corpus. Showing the frequency of the use of words in an artistic way, Wordle shows its possibility in language learning. The colorful word cloud is an attractive element to motivate students to learn. The word cloud created from a text can show the theme, and the one created from a sentence can show a scrambled sentence. 

How can it be used?                                                              

Teachers can use Wordle to prepare teaching materilas before classes.
  • For young learners, when teaching colors, we can create a black-and-white word cloud with different words of colors.  Learners can color the word "blue" with a blue crayon. 
  • Creating a word cloud from a sentence can have a colorful sentence scramble, and we can ask students to reconstruct the sentence.
  •  We can create a word cloud and ask students to find collocation inside, like "make an appointment," "make up a story," "do homework," etc.
  • Using a word cloud created from a reading text, students can guess the theme and the details of the text.
  • We can create a word cloud with some key words and teach students metaphor. For example, we put the words "love," "war," "dream," "onion, and ask students to make sentences like "Love is like a war," "Love is like a dream," "Love is an onion," etc.
Teachers can ask students to use Wordle to find some interesting facts.
  • Students can make word clouds from different speech, and compare the frequently used words. 
  • They can upload an academic writing to see the word cloud. They can also create one from their own writing to see if they repeatedly use the same words too often.

What are the limitations?                                                     
  • Wordle is not created for educational purpose. There might some insulting words appearing in the Wordle's online gallery.
  • Students at advanced level, who might have the ability to use corpus, should not rely too much on Wordle to find the collocation or the tendency of the word usage.

More Information                                                                   

(These links are provided by Tilly in the lecture of ICT in ELT on 02/02/2012)

    Thursday, 8 March 2012

    Breaking News English- News English with Interactive Exercise

    What is it about?                                                                    

    It's an amazing website. There are English lessons on current news. They are free and ready-to-print. Each lesson is quite complete, including before/while/after reading or listening activities. You can also download the audio files.The website is quite organized, and it's easy for you to see the files you can download and use. 
    The database is quite large and updated every 3 days. The topics of the news is various and worldwide. You can find the news related to the topics you want by using key words to search within the website. There are also lessons arranged by themes, like environment, health, technology, or famous people and gossip. Besides, there are plenty of interactive exercises, including hangman, flashcards, fill-in-the-blank, matching, sentence jumble, crossword, no letters, missing words, etc. By doing these exercises, learners can practice the content repeatedly.

    Why is it good to language learning?                                    
    The lessons are news-based and suit students at intermediate level or above. Students can develop their vocabulary through the lessons and the exercises. The activities in the lesson also help students to develop listening and reading skills, like reading and listening for main ideas or specific details. There are also various kinds of discussions, which provide chances for students to communicate in English. Writing activities are also incorporated in the lesson, like finding collocations, making sentences, or writing a letter. 

    How can it be used?                                                              
    • For the context that computers or Internet are not available in class, we can print out the worksheets to use. There are plenty of exercises in one lesson, so we might need to modify it to fit our class time. We also can choose different activities to use every time to create different interaction in class.
    • The lesson plans are very clear and designed in details. There is warm-up activities, like predicting the words used in the news, or discussing the topic. Various reading and listening activities are also available.  For example, synonym/phrase match, fill-in-the-blanks, discussion.
    • For classes with computers and Internet, there are motivating online exercises. For example, the one below is "missing words." We can ask students to read the news first and then play this game to see how much students remember or ask them to predict the words that might be used in the piece of news.

    • This website is also a great self-learning resource. Learners can develop their reading, writing, listening skills on line by themselves. Clear answer key is also provided.

    What are the limitations?                                                     
    • Though the news here is not as long as the one on real newspaper, it suits students with intermediate or higher language level. Since the content is about news, some students who have no interest in news might not be attracted.
    • Most of the audio clips are recorded by the same person reading at the same speed, which is easier for students to be familiar with the content, but might give less chances for students to access to English with different accents and at real speed. 

    More Information                                                                               
    Here are other very useful websites conducted by Sean Banville, who set up the website Breaking News English:

    Sunday, 4 March 2012

    JING- Generate More Interactions

    What is it about?                                                                    
    • Jing is a scree-capture tool, which capture what you do on the screen and also can record your voice at the same time. The most important feature of Jing is that it helps us to store and share the recordings fast and easily. 
    • Just click some buttons and you can start your recordings. Your recordings will be stored in your file on the Internet, which won't take the space of your personal computer. You can send your work to anyone by e-mail, and the receiver will get a link to your work.
    • It provides us a chance to have a revolutionary change on the way of giving feedback. With Jing, we can give students oral feedback easily. 
    Why is it good to language learning?                                     
    • In terms of giving feedback by using Jing, teachers can highlight the words or sentences, point out the part they want to comment on, and give and record  the oral feedback. By recording the oral feedback, the amount of suggestion will be much more than the written feedback, the teachers can explain more details, give examples, elaborate their comments, and students can go back to listen to the  comments again and again until they understand.
    • It can be used in long-distance teaching and learning. Using Jing, students can ask questions in a more clear way by pointing out the sentences in the text, and teachers can give response right away.
    • When recording an oral assignment by Jing, students can redo their work again and again until they are satisfied with their outcome, which give them more chance to practice.

    How can it be used?                                                              
    For teachers:
    • Teachers can use Jing to give students feedback on their composition. Recording oral feedback can include more details and examples, and students can listen to the feedback several times.
    • Teachers can use Jing to record the explanation of some questions asked by the individual student and share them with all other students who might have the same question. The question and the points can be shown on the screen.
    • After a group presentation, teachers can give group feedback by Jing and email it to all the group members. Teachers can lists both the good part and the part needed to be improved in a Word file and show on the screen.
    • Teachers can record what they want students to do before next class as a reminder, which is also an authentic listening material.
    • Teachers can videotape students' presentation in class, play it on the screen, comment on it, and use Jing to record their presentation and the teacher's comment at the same time.
    For students:
    • We can ask students to open a movie trailer on YouTube, mute the trailer, and they create their own voice-over, and record them by Jing as an oral practice. A clip from a movie is also an option. With the same clip, students can recreate different stories.  
    • Students can also mute a basketball or soccer game and give commentary by themselves.
    • As the function provided by MyBrainShark, students can also record their PowerPoint presentation. It gives students chance to practice and record again and again until they present a satisfying one. 

    What are the limitations?                                                     
    • If it's a free version, there is a 5-minute length limitation for one Jing recording. However, we can separate one long recording into several short ones.
    • Though Jing provides a lot of chances for students to do practice and activities outside the classroom, and a lot of practice time can be saved in class, teachers might also need to spend more time after work to evaluate students' performance. 
    • Some students might be used to written feedback and might not accept oral feedback at first. In terms of this condition, we can give them both oral feedback and some written points.  

    More Information about Jing                                                

    Friday, 10 February 2012

    Bubblr and Bookr – Tell Stories with Photos

    What is it about?                                                                    
    • Both Bubblr and Bookr are projects based on the images from Flickr. Flickr is a website providing people space to upload and share their photos. People can tag or label their photos. Some photos are shared as copyright-free when used for non-profit purposes.
    • Using key words to search for the needed Flickr images, users can create their own photo strips with words in bubbles on Bubblr, and photo books with stories on Bookr.
    Why is it good to language learning?                                     

    1. Language learners can be motivated to read the English photo strips or photo books.
    2. By creating their own English photo strips or photo books, language learners can practice writing monologues, dialogues, sentences or paragraphs.
    3. In Taiwanese College Entrance Exam, students are asked to write a story based on a comic strip containing four pictures. Bubblr and Bookr are good tools to create similar writing tasks for students to practice writing a story.
    4. Students can share their Bubblr or Bookr works on blog, and they can get peer-feedback, which can give them a sense of achievement.

    How can it be used?                                                               
    1. We can use Bubblr or Bookr to introduce a topic, a grammar rules, or a sentence pattern. With the images as visual aids, learners can be motivated to learn,  understand the concepts easily, or memorize the rules for a longer period of time. Here is an example from the archives. A teacher created a strips to teach prefix and suffix.
    2.   Example1
    3. We can also use these two tools to make vocabulary cards or mini picture dictionary to help learners memorize the new words.
    4. By using Bubblr or Bookr to create comic strips or story books, learners can practice their English writing skills. Here is an example from the archives. The user used Elmo as the main character to create a story.                                                                                                                                        
    5.   Example2
    6. We can also ask students to use Bubblr or Bookr to do a presentation, like introducing the traditions of a holiday from their own country, promoting a trip to a place, or introducing their own city, their favorite singers, etc. One work from the archives shows the St. Patrick's Day in Ireland.
    7. After getting feedbacks on their works, the learners can recycle their strips on Bubblr, correct the mistakes, and then publish a new version.

    What are the limitations?                                                      
    • Though the photos provide visual aids to motivate learners and the photos are tagged, sometimes it takes a long time to find the photos related to the specific topic. Without enough instructions, learners might spend too much time searching for photos that fit their needs and forget to focus on the language they should learn and practice. 
    • There are some works that are not appropriate for young learners or teenagers  in the archives. 

    Thursday, 2 February 2012

    QuestGarden- Grow Your Own WebQuest

    #Welcome to visit the WebQuest Sam and I made together.#

    What is it about?                                                                    
    • QuestGarden provides service to help build high-quality WebQuests easier and quicker. Follow the instructions step by step, teachers can grow their own WebQuests without worrying about the complicated technology.

    Why is it good to language learning?                                     
    1. Teachers can build up their own WebQuests based on their teaching context. Students’ language levels, needs, class size, or local cultures can all be considered.
    2. Many example WebQuests can also be found in this website, which are good language teaching resources.

    How can it be used?                                                               
    1. Working teachers can use QuestGarden to build their own WebQuest to meet their needs.
    2. It can be used in Teacher training or development program. Teachers can have a “group page” as a community on this website to share and comment on the WebQuests they create.
    What are the limitations?                                                      
    • QuestGarden solves the technical problems and makes the process of building up a website easier. However, the content of a WebQuest is the key issue. It takes a lot of efforts and time to plan a sound content for a WebQuest. Having a group work might be more practical then designing one by individual ideas.

    Tuesday, 31 January 2012

    Exploring WebQuest: Off to Oz

    What is it about?                                                                    
    It’s a WebQuest introducing Australia to the learners. By using the WebQuest, learners learn through tasks. Instead of looking for the information without appropriate direction, students use the information provided or selected by the WebQuest designers to complete the tasks. In this WebQuest, learners can find out more about the culture and lifestyle in Australia. There are also tasks for practicing English reading, speaking, and writing.  

    Why is it good to language learning?                                     
    1. The questions in the task connect students’ background knowledge with the new information they are going to learn, lead students to use reading skills including skimming and scanning, and cultivate students ability of comparing and transforming information.
    2. With tasks relating to students’ real life, this WebQuest raises students’ learning motivation.
    3. The tasks include group work, which gives students a chance to learn through collaboration and negotiation meanings.
    4. Various types of writing tasks are provided, including writing a postcard and creating a brochure.
    5. The patterns that can be used in an interview are provided to scaffold students’ interviewing skills.
    6. Authentic reading materials are provided.

    How can it be used?                                                               
    1. There are a number of tasks in this WebQuest, and we can choose some of them according to our time and students’ English level.
    2. We can also assign different tasks for students at different levels.
    What are the limitations?                                                      
    1. The authentic reading material from the websites provided by this WebQuest might be still too hard for intermediate students.
    2. Students’ ability of paraphrasing and transforming information needs to be trained or they might just copy and paste words from the Internet.
    Here are more WebQuest resources:                                                

    Tuesday, 24 January 2012

    myBrainshark- Powerpoint with your own voice.

    Here is my self-introduction done by using myBrainshark. It's a good way for students to practice their oral and presentation skills.

    What is it about?                                                                   

    It's a website to help you create an online and mobile video presentations. The special feature is that you can upload documents, PowerPoint files, pictures, videos, etc, and then add your voice in them to become a presentation with your own voice. The file is easy to share and can be embedded in blogs. You can even track the viewings of your files.

    Why is it good to language learning?                                    
    • Files created by myBrainshark are easy to access. If it's a presentation from teachers, students can review the content anytime anywhere.
    • It's a great tool to help students to improve their speaking skills and presentation skills. 
    • It  gives students chance to practice English outside classroom and promote learning autonomy.
    • The possible authentic audience can increase students' motivation to refine the presentation.

    How can it be used?                                                             
    • We teachers can use it to produce some extensive learning materials, lectures for remedy learning, or feedback to students' work. Just share the file and students can view the content. It's also quite useful for distant learning.
    • Students can have different tasks related to speaking skills by using myBrainshark to complete. It improves students' learning autonomy because they can complete the task based on their own pace and  make it as good as they want. Students who are nervous and shy to speak English in front of the classmates also have a chance to practice.
    • Tasks like presenting a tourist attraction, describing a picture, telling a story, sharing a topic, etc, can be included.
    • Students can embed their speaking tasks done by myBrainshark in their blogs, and as a learning portfolio, which helps students to see their progress.

    What are the limitations?                                                      
    • Each recording is limited in 15 minutes for the free version.
    • The files can be viewed and shared online but can't be downloaded.

    Wednesday, 18 January 2012

    TodaysMeet- An Interactive Space

    What is it about?                                                                    
    • TodaysMeet is a virtual room for people to share their opinions, discuss, ask questions and give feedbacks. The host/ presenter/ teacher can create a room and all the participants can spontaneously post their ideas in the room. It creates an interactive community.
    Why is it good to language learning?                                     
    1. It provides an interactive and cooperative space for language learners to use the target language to communicate. When brainstorming, students can discuss and build up the ideas together through TodaysMeet. There is interaction between students and the teacher, and also among students.
    2. It creates a friendly learning environment. By using this space, teachers can show their willingness to hear opinions or feedback from students. The students who are too shy to speak up in font of the whole class can express their thoughts through typing words.
    3. It breaks the limitation of space. It can be used in long-distance classes or a joint class connecting two classes from two different countries.
    How can it be used?                                                               
    • In class
    1. In writing class, it can be used to help students to brainstorm their ideas or collecting relevant vocabulary they want to use in their writing. Students can also do cooperative writing in the virtual room. They can make up a story by taking turns to write a sentence.
    2. It can be used as a tool to check students’ reading comprehension by questions and answers.
    3. It is also a good tool to review the vocabulary. Students need spelling skills to type the vocabulary.
    4. At the end of the class, students can review and share what the main points they learned today.
    • Outside class
    1. Students at home can have group discussion in the virtual room after class. The teacher can also join in the discussion or give them suggestions.
    2. Students from classes in different countries can have interaction in this virtual room. Teachers can set up discussion topics and students can use target language to exchange their ideas involving different cultures.
    What are the limitations?                                                      
    1. When using the virtual room in discussion or brainstorm, students might neglect or ignore other people’s ideas because the information flow is so fast. New ideas keep coming out and some overlapping or repeated opinions might occur. A host is still needed to organize and list the ideas.
    2. Some students might keep silent and not involve in the discussion.

    Tuesday, 17 January 2012

    A New Leaf

    Hi! Welcome to my blog. This is a place for sharing, discussing, and enjoying English learning and teaching. :)