Activity Picture Prompts for Discussion

Here are some slides which show a variety of activities to elicit conversation in your language classes. Ask your students about what they see. Use these slides to talk about clothing and different kinds of equipment needed for the activities. (Are they count or non-count items? Describe them.) What different kinds (and levels) of skills are needed to participate in these activities? How are these skills acquired? (Are there any similarities to acquiring language skills?)
Are these activities common where the students come from? Did they participate in them “back home?” Have them talk about an event they participated in. (This is how I found out one of my students was actually an Olympian!)
What about now? Do they engage in these activities in their adopted homes? Why or why not? What are the benefits? What are the difficulties? Are there health benefits to participating in these activities? What are they?  Would they recommend that other people try them? Are these skills for careers or hobbies? (What’s the difference?) Are there opportunities for professionals and amateurs to participate?
Your students can bring a picture of a hobby, sport, or activity that they enjoy participating in and meet in groups of three or four to discuss the different pictures. The group can then select one of its members to present it to the class. Or, turn this discussion into a writing (blogging) activity or an oral demonstration presentation to put into a vlog. Students can tweet the links with an image to their online presentations. The possibilities are endless!

SU 2010-2011 Edtec4matc in Review on Animoto

Here’s a brief video summary of what we looked at in this summer’s ER&D course, Educational Technology: Exploration & Implementation. I enjoyed having class with you the last five weeks and want to thank you for sharing your thoughts and ideas with me.

Have a great vacation everyone followed by a wonderful upcoming school year full of creativity, collaboration and sharing! I’ll be reading your blogs and watching for your updates!


Vodpod videos no longer available.

The 12 Days of Technology-Day 9: VoiceThread

On the ninth day of Technology, my PLN gave to me: VoiceThread.

Voicethread is a collaborative web tool that facilitates conversation around uploaded documents, pictures, video, or other media.  It is a simple yet powerful application that offers a variety of options for communicating and/or collaborating, i.e., text, computer microphone, telephone, webcam, or uploaded audio comment.  As with most web 2.0 applications, participants are encouraged to have a digital picture of themselves to upload which will appear around the central document with their oral or written comments attached to it.  Those who do not have a picture may use an image supplied by VoiceThread.

This is a very popular program among 21st century educators, and many documents and tutorials have been written and shared to help us all get started with it.  Rather than re-invent the wheel, I will supply links at the end of this post that I know will be helpful to you.

How have I used VoiceThread so far in my adult ESL classes?  A favorite activity last semester was centered around a class picture.  Each student gave autobiographical information.  Continuing around that same “getting to know you” theme, students then practiced asking each other embedded questions in order to learn more about each other and practice a new grammatical structure.  More frequently, to practice vocabulary and conversation skills,  I posted short videos and articles from the New York Times and asked students to answer questions and make comments.

This coming semester I will be teaching an Advanced ESL Speech course, and VoiceThread will be one of my main tools.  Students will begin using VoiceThread to give autobiographical information, then for collaborative storytelling, and then they will move on to collaborate on joint presentations. This later effort will involve accessing information from library databases, saving it on flash drives, setting up their own VoiceThread account, and then uploading their own documents to VoiceThread to share with their partner prior to commenting.  For this course, I will ask them to use predominantly the voice tools for communication rather than text.  That way, in addition to practicing their oral skills,  they will also have to learn to make sure that their headsets and microphones are enabled and that the volume is adequate, other helpful skills to gain for using computers and today’s programs.

Developing these computer skills is critical to success not only with VoiceThread but most other web 2.0 technologies, and each step will be monumental for most of my students.  Considering that our ESL students are not only linguistically, ethnically and culturally diverse, their educational background and technological abilities are equally diverse. I am looking forward to having a few students this semester assume a leadership role and act as technology mentors for their classmates in order to help them master these new computer skills.

Here are the links I promised along with my sincere gratitude to those educators who have been kind enough to share their expertise with us.  If you like the information linked below, please consider revisiting their blogs, seeing what else they have to offer, and dropping them a note.  Comments are always appreciated.

Best wishes to all of you with VoiceThread!

How to use Voice Thread and VoiceThread Doodler

Welcome to the Voicethread 4 Education wiki

An Educator’s Guide to Using VoiceThread.pdf

Introduction to VoiceThread (for Students).pdf

17 Interesting Ways to Use Voicethread in the Classroom

Samples of Voice Thread Usage:     Get Well Soon, Chase

VoiceThread used as a venue for “What Does the Network Mean to You?”

Follow-Up on Monday’s Meeting of the Mind with VoiceThread

Today I used VoiceThread with my advanced ESL group. I can’t say it was an overwhelming success, but it was a start.  The first issue I had to deal with was the diversity of the class.  The students in this class were from thirteen different countries, from having perfect attendance to  missing half of their classes, ranging from computer literate to il-, and from strong in English and well-educated in their own language to weak in English with little education in their own language. So, since there were so many challenges for the weaker half and for me who was trying to keep everyone on task and learning,  I decided that from here-on-in when beginning a new web tool, I will suggest that those students with little computer background (or poor attendance) partner with a more tech savvy student, and that they stay with this partner for the first two or three times we use the tool.  Those students will contribute to the content of the assignment, but they will mainly observe and take notes on using the technology.  If,  because they miss class they are not able to keep up,  they’ll either have to make an appointment with me for extra help, or they’ll just have to “sink or swim.”

Issue  number two: VoiceThread allows students to make their comments in several different ways, i.e., telephone, typing, webcam, or microphone.   Today I encouraged the students who had cell phones to use them to comment on the video so they could try a connection with the computer that they had never used before, and so I could focus on their oral language. (The class had previously used Twitter.)  Unfortunately, a few students mumbled into their phones in order to not disturb the rest of the class resulting in unintelligible garble, and others did not get good reception on their phones also resulting in garbled messages.  So, as far as this group of students was concerned, the cell phone+computer technology didn’t work very well, at least not in the school building.  As for practicing their English, they may have spoken the best English of their lives and no one will ever know it because it was lost.  I think we’ll just assume that it was perfect, and that they’ll have to give VoiceThread another chance to demonstrate it once again. Let’s turn those lemons into lemonade!

Issue number three: a previous problem resurfaced today, and that was the issue of publishing written work.  I want the students to get in the habit of composing their sentences in Microsoft Word in order to avail themselves of the spell and grammar checker before they copy and paste their writing into whatever tool they are using, be it the blog on Blackboard, Twitter, or now VoiceThread.  Today, the clock was against me, and we were running out of time, so most published their first draft.

Final issue: VoiceThread presented another challenge for me, that of grading and error correction.  I want to use this tool to present and discuss cultural issues as well as develop their English grammar and vocabulary.  I believe I will not do much error correction in these “free communication/conversation” exercises since I am aiming more for developing fluency, confidence, and cultural understanding.  However, I also plan to use VoiceThread for practicing structures, and those I will correct.

Today I gave everyone who got on the program successfully full credit to encourage their enthusiasm for learning to use the computer and this new web tool.  I will be less and less generous as time goes on and my expectations of their ability to use the computer and computer tools increase.  I will develop more lessons using VoiceThread so that the students will eventually use it easily and will, therefore, be able to concentrate more on the quality of the content that they produce and less on the actual step-by-step use of the technology.

Regardless of my “glitches” today, I still give this program a thumbs up.  I can see that my work is cut out for me in developing good, thorough lesson plans as well as better time management skills.  But, new ideas create new challenges and yes, more work for me initially. Why do it?  1) For the students – to present new challenges and creative opportunities for them to improve their abilities in the usage of both the English language and computer technologies; 2) and for me to maintain currency in my profession, continued excitement and love of my field of teaching, and my own love of learning new things and finding ways to use them creatively.  Now there’s a win-win situation!

Using VoiceThread for Monday’s Meeting of the Minds

Tomorrow is the first of the Advanced Oral Communications classes’ weekly “Monday Meeting of the Minds” during which students will discuss issues and events of American families and society.  VoiceThread will be used to facilitate the discussions.  Topics will center on issues that many of us in this culture are dealing with such as health care, unemployment, high cost of living, caring for children and aging parents, crime and such.

Often our ELLs are confused about the way American society runs, and with how Americans deal with issues.  They have questions they want to ask but aren’t sure how.  They have opinions they would like to express, but lack the necessary background or vocabulary.  This will be an opportunity for them to share their thoughts through technology, and at the same time learn to make themselves heard appropriately.

I think this will be an interesting exercise for all of us, and a great opportunity to share thoughts, experiences, and information.  I look forward to helping the students with their English language and technology tools, and to learning a lot from them and what they bring from the their broad base of experiences and diverse cultures.