Bring the World to Your Classroom: Videoconferencing

By Bryan A. Upshaw

My worst grade in high school was in Spanish I. Our teacher was tough, and the pace was blistering. I struggled to learn the vocab, grammar, and odd verb conjugation charts. I found the culture interesting, but the rest of the class was just frustrating and seemingly pointless to my future. Guess what subject I mainly teach now? That’s right – Spanish. What turned my worst grade and most frustrating class into my career?

Getting to see the world outside my little East Tennessee community and building relationships with people who at first seemed so different from me changed the way I saw the world. I was inspired to travel abroad, learn a language, join a local Hispanic church, and live with an undocumented family my last semester of college. Those relationships and experiences made language learning fun and transformed pointless grammar exercises into real-world challenges that unlocked boundaries that separated people.

How can I show them the world when we can’t leave our classroom?

I share my stories with my students and perhaps it inspires some to consider traveling one day, but how can I motivate students right now? How can I show them the world when we can’t leave our classroom? In my opinion, one of the most underused tools in education is videoconferencing. While expensive systems with fancy cameras and monitors can make it seamless, most teachers already have the resources to videoconference. If they have a smartphone, tablet,  or computer, then they probably have everything they need!

As a foreign language teacher, I use videoconferencing in my classroom in many different ways. For example, my friend in Nicaragua, Emanuel, converses with my students. My sister shares stories about her semesters abroad in Nicaragua and Honduras. Another friend, Garret, has talked from Germany about his year abroad in Argentina and how it helped him to learn German and get a job with BMW. My students love hearing stories from guest speakers projected in the front of the classroom. They have fun asking questions and always learn something new. Continue reading

Do Mobile Devices Harm Toddlers’ Speech Development?

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Tablets and smartphones damage toddlers’ speech development, by Sarah Knapton, The Telegraph, May 4, 2017

Knapton reports on a new study that makes a connection between the use of mobile devices and speech development in children under two years old.

Infographic: The ed-tech challenges faced by immigrant students by Laura A Scione, eSchool News, April 14, 2017

Scione reports on a study that shows that 43% of Hispanic immigrants who buy technology generally buy it to support their children’s education.

After Outage, Ed Department Unveils New IDEA Site by Michelle Diament, Disability Scoop, June 1, 2017

Although this article is not directly about educational technology, it highlights the importance of technology for presenting and disseminating up-to-date, accurate and accessible information to the public.

New Directions for Technology Use in ELL Instruction by Scott Evans, Language Magazine, May 9, 2017

In this article, Evans describes various ways that teachers can use technology to enhance the learning of English Language Learners. These include uses in differentiation, autonomous and self-directed learning, access to diverse language content, mobility, and multimodal learning.

It Turns Out ‘Screen Time’ Isn’t That Bad for Kids, by Julia Layton, How Stuff Works, Culture, Jan. 14, 2016

This article from 2016 reports on a study that claims research on the bad effects of technology on children are outdated.

 

Children Need More Than Apps in the Classroom

marie-merouze-80By Marie Mérouze
CEO/Founder of Marbotic

Our teachers are no strangers to technology with laptops, tablets and projection devices infiltrating the classroom. As technology is increasingly relied on in the classroom, teachers and students are as connected as ever to digital devices. It’s been proven that this digital connectivity is one of our most valuable resources in providing high-quality learning experiences for students.

When employed in the right manner, edtech applications can facilitate interactivity, content personalization, immediate feedback, and motivation for students of all ages. Thus, a large majority of teachers confirm that ed tech in the classroom allows for a more hands-on learning experience.

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With the current abundance of tablets and smartphones, kids today are constantly inundated with apps and how to use them. A recent report suggests that kids are using apps for at least three hours or more each day, which totals six and a half weeks per year.  Continue reading

QR Codes — Mystery Solved

Lynn ZimmermannBy Lynn Zimmerman
Associate Editor
Editor, Teacher Education

QR codes have always been a mystery to me. They are in a variety of places, and I know that one is supposed to scan them. I even downloaded a QR app to my iPhone. However, until I read Nik Peachey’s “20 + Things You Can Do with QR Codes in Your School” (9/25/15) on Nik’s Learning Technology Blog, I didn’t have a clear idea of what they were and why I’d want to use them in my personal or professional life.

Example of a QR code.

Example of a QR code.

First, I learned that QR stands for “quick response.” The purpose is “to  transfer various types of digital content onto a mobile device in seconds without having to type any URLs.” Peachey goes on to explain that to use them in the classroom you need two tools, something to create the code and something to read the code. He provides a couple of links for each and a video about how to create QR codes. He assures the reader that they are easy to use and any teacher will find them transformative in the classroom. That’s quite a claim.

What can teachers, students, and schools do with QR codes? Peachy says that, in the classroom, students can download homework assignments, notes, worksheets, etc. all directly onto their mobile devices. The school can use QR codes to link to welcome videos, photos of events, events and schedules, and newsletters to name a few. In the library or a self-access center, students can link to YouTube videos, digital books, and online activities. He also suggests that a QR code can also be useful for marketing. Put one on brochures and promotional materials. “Create a QR code with a link to a Google map showing the location of the school and add this to marketing materials to help people find the school.”

Finally, Peachey writes that while getting familiar and comfortable with QR codes may take staff and students some time, it will pay off in the end. A few of the benefits he lists are:

  • Reduced copying and printing costs
  • Reduced cost of purchasing and storing print materials, as well as cds and dvds
  • Increased engagement with materials
  • Creation of a “21st century mobile friendly learning environment”

I am going to try to pay more attention to QR codes around me and see how transformative I find them. What about you? Do you use them? What do you think about Peachey’s claim?

Gavin Dudeney on Technology and Teaching English

Lynn ZimmermannBy Lynn Zimmerman
Associate Editor
Editor, Teacher Education

I met Gavin Dudeney at a conference for English teachers in Balti, Moldova, in March 2016. He was keynote speaker and gave two workshops focusing on technology and English teaching. His presentations were engaging and informative, so I thought you’d like to hear from him, too. His ideas are relevant to all classroom teaching, not just English teaching.

LZ: Gavin, please tell us a little about who you are professionally.

Gavin: I’m Director of Technology for a company specializing in the use of technologies in education. I train teachers to use technologies and write books in the same area. I also work in online materials and course design and have a long history and background in language teaching and teacher training.

LZ: What do you think is the most exciting connection between technology and English teaching? Why?

Gavin: I think technology is a natural link between what we do in class and what happens outside of class — and this is particularly true of mobile devices, which give students the chance to bring things in from their “real” lives and use them in class, and take things they have learned in class and use them outside in the real world. Technology should engage, enable and enhance. If it gets in the way then it’s worse than useless.

LZ: I was especially intrigued by some of your ideas about using mobile (cell) phones in the classroom. As I told you at the conference, I feel like I am fighting the wrong battle trying to keep my students’ hands off their phones during class. What suggestions do you have?

Gavin: I think it IS a losing battle, so the secret is to own it instead of ignoring it. By owning it I mean working out how to incorporate mobiles into your teaching in a practical, useful and authentic way and making sure phones are only used under those conditions and are not relied upon for the whole class. In my workshop in Moldova, I gave some practical examples of how to achieve this balance, and some of them can be found here (click on the mLearning tab).

LZ: Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions.

* * *

I recommend looking at the link he provides. I especially like his ideas about using the phone to take and share photos.

 

Smartphones, Tablets & Subtitles for Language Learning

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NY program uses phone calls, text messages to teach English by Deepti Hajela, Associated Press, 30 Nov. 2015.

Using basic phone technology, New York state has created lessons for English language learners that are flexible and free.

Tablet use can benefit bilingual preschoolers by Elin Bäckström at Phys.org, 10 Nov. 2015.

The author reports on the result of a study done in Sweden that shows the value of tablets as teaching tools for preschoolers whose first language is not Swedish.

Spain considers ban on dubbing in bid to boost English language skills in The Local, 4 Dec. 2015.

Spain’s Popular Party wants to eliminate dubbing of TV shows and movies and retain original sound-tracks with subtitles in an effort to boost English language learning.

Chat Rooms, Emoji, ELLs, ABCmouse

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Chat rooms can boost success in learning English as a foreign language research shows” from phys.org, 7 July 2015.

This article reviews a newly published book1 which focuses on a research project conducted in the UAE. Ten female students were tracked for one semester as they engaged in conversations with native speakers of English in a chat room setting. The researchers found that the students developed speaking, writing and vocabulary skills. They identified one cause as “the relatively risk-free context of real time but not face-to-face interaction” provided by the technology.

Who needs words when you have an emoji?” by Finnian Curran in The Irish Times, 2 July 2015.

Curran asks: With clear evidence that more and more people are using the minuscule symbols, what does it mean for the future of the English language and should we be worried?

He cites several research studies and scholars who have examined the use of emojis, research which supports how they accompany language and also cultural differences in their usage. He also confirms that he sees no cause for worry.

Effectively incorporating technology with English learners” by Erick Hermann in Multibriefs: Exclusive, 11 June 2015.

Hermann identifies issues that arise when schools and school districts make decisions about expenditures for technology for the upcoming school year and the impact technology has on English Language Learners (ELLs). He points out that while good practice should be behind all such choices and purchases, the specific needs of ELLs who require additional instructional supports, such as various visual aids and redundant information, must be addressed.

Mobile app helps Chinese kids learn English” from Phys.org, 23 June 2015.

Many parents in China want their children to start learning English as early as possible. The ABCmouse English Language Learning app, designed for 3-8 year olds, was developed with very young language learners in mind.

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1Rahma Al-Mahrooqi & Salah Troudi, eds., Using Technology in Foreign Language Teaching, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 10 Jan. 2014.