I was fortunate to attend this years JALT CALL conference. There were many exciting presentations involving all levels of technology, but surprisingly it was one of the less tech heavy talks which ended up catching my eye. In a show-and-tell style presentation led by James Henry III, we were introduced to a method of student generated storytelling which mixed the pragmatic benefits of vocabulary building with the delight of visual story telling. James calls this activity, “Storycycling.” This multistage activity reinforces target vocabulary and/or grammar while also offering a mix of reading, writing, speaking and listening skills.
Have you ever used Google Docs with your EFL students? If so, have you ever wondered why students never seem to spell check their documents? Or, why you are unable to properly use the spell check feature with documents they have shared with you? Well, this has been eating at me for the last week, and today I finally made a point of finding the solution to the problem.
Google Docs fails to see spelling errors
In the image above you can see how Google Docs claims to have “No spelling suggestions” for the error-filled sample sentence. Of course, this particular error was staged for effect, but not on purpose. After spending an afternoon going over student essays in Google Docs, and being continually frustrated by the numerous spelling errors and Google’s reticence to help me with the issue, I finally broke down and started digging for answers. In a moment of frustration, I typed the above-pictured sentence into a new document and was amazed to see that Google finally had some suggestions for me.
What made my documents different than my students’ documents? That was the question that led me to the rather simple solution…
Lots of bright shiny toys appear on my screen. One of the first questions I ask, “Can it be applied to language learning?” Case in point: Wiglets. A kickstarter campaign (ends June 3) that uses augmented reality, or information digitally projected onto a camera feed of “reality”.
In this case it is for a children’s book. The book, when used with a camera-ready internet-connected device (smart phone or tablet), places cute little animated animals that follow physics and screen gestures by the reader to extend the story in the book, which is a collection of different backgrounds like a hillside or forest floor.
Here are some apps already available at wiggleplanet. They show the care that went into the design of the creatures, but also how they are applied as entertainment and learning tools for kids.
This one has me stumped. I know the technology could be adapted for language learning, and not only with kids. I just can’t get to any specific application ideas. Maybe someone out there who is more creative can leave a comment.
The JALTCALL 2014 conference on June 6~8 represents the largest gathering in Japan of educators from around the world who are committed to using digital technology in the language classroom. This year’s conference has attracted a massive wave of applications to present, and the pre-conference registration figures indicate that the turnout will be stellar.
Not enough information to have a verdict on this yet; Google’s new attempt at an LMS is called Classroom. Currently it is an invite-only beta for Google Apps for Education. Thanks to Alan MacKenzie for pointing it out.
I have tried to dust off my Apps for Education in two domains I had it set up in, but it seems that restrictions have blocked access for these. I signed up as an individual, before institutional access became the norm. My Apps for Education has become a free Apps for Business account. Continue reading →
Have you ever grown tired of finding ways to make spelling interesting to students? Wouldn’t it be great if there was a way to make a game out of it? Well, Spell Up with Google has done just that. Spell Up is an add-on for Chrome browsers (works with all but iOS version). You can also try it out on the live Spell Up with Google site.
Once you download the free App from Google Store, it asks to use your speakers and microphone. Then it gives you words to spell and adds letters to the screen as you speak them. You work to build a tower of words, and students can compete to see who can build the tallest tower. Some students may find this frustrating, but it is a wonderful way to get students used to speech recognition.
Spell Up is also somewhat intelligent, able to adapt to harder words if the student shows herself capable. There is a dictionary and a translation if the student cannot decipher the verbal prompt. The male voice, with a light British accent, is easy to understand.
I tried Spell Up with a group of 4 students who finished their in-class project before others. It works in a noisy environment, which is the achilles heel of Speech Recognition. They started passing the laptop around and I could not get them to quit. They wouldn’t give me my laptop back until after class, when they had all leveled up. Please share your experiences with Spell Up in the comments. I’d like to know how others use it. (An inter-class competition?)
I sometimes hear teachers complain about their “lazy students”, and often wonder if it is really the students who are to blame. When it comes to engaging students, a key concept which drives our pedagogy is the notion of learner autonomy. At times, this can seem only a far away dream; however when a program focuses on first hand student experience, the dream can become a reality.
This year at PanSIG I met an educator whose research focuses almost primarily on developing learner autonomy. I am talking of Michael Nix of Chuo university. In keeping with this theme, it was Mike’s students who would be stealing the show this year.