Hi everyone, I’m afraid the magic carpet took off and then had technical trouble in October over West Yorkshire, where I was grounded for some time due to family problems. However… The MA is going on and I’m getting back into it now so I thought I’d share my thoughts on videos, screencasts, blogs and wikis:
Using video, screencasts, blogs and videos
Number One: Using Jing
First of all, here is an example of a Jing screencast I made a few years ago to help students navigate a photocopied worksheet on phrasal verbs which we were using in class. The link will take you to the relevant wiki page. Scroll down until you come to Week Six: Can you use phrasal verbs? and you will see how the screencast comes in between other worksheets that B2 students were using (and still are). The value here, of the video is that those who missed the class, can see it later, as can those who would like to review their work or go at a different pace from the one set in class.
I don’t actually like Jing very much though, as it is quite intrusive on my desktop and limits what you can do to short screencasts, so I tend to use other software such as Camtasia . Follow this link to see a series of screencasts I did with this software to familiarize learners with dictionary skills. This is a different page of the same wiki. Scroll down until you come to Using Dictionaries.
I also use screencasts a lot for my own professional development when I have to give a presentation. I record the presentation so that I can watch it and improve “my performance”. Follow this linkg to see a presentation I was giving at Iatefl Harrogate 2010. (It is actually iin various parts as you could only upload short videos to Youtube at the time. This is Part One of “Breathing Life into E-Learning” . I also teach my university students how to do this so that they can practise for their C2 Oral exam which involves giving a Powerpoint or a Prezi presentation of the main points from a mini research project that they do. So far, the results have been very favourable and the students are generally enthusiastic.
Number Two: Dvolver
This is another site that I played with a few years ago when I was also trying out work with Comic strips and other animations such as Goanimate or Writecomics among others. In the end I decided that this type of activity was more approapriate for High School Students so I abandoned it but follow this link to a page on the wiki with a Dvolver video that was developed for my middle aged adult conversation course :-). The video was used to introduce the idea of the “Awards” ceremony, in which students gave each other awards for things such as “always being a leader” “Knowing how to say the right thing” etc. If you follow this link you can see the photos from the actual ceremony when the “Rabbit Awards” (Lindt rabbits at Easter time rather than Oscars” were presented. This type of activity, as well as working on language and fluency, goes a long way towards the social community forming type of motivation activity that works well with this group. (I mentioned this in one of the posts on learner strategies.)
Blogs and Wikis
1. Student Blog
I’ve always been a fan of blogs and wikis although the way I use them is probably quite personal. My student blog, for instance, is not really a personal “diary” type blog but more of a “diary ” of my courses. If you look at the bar at the top of the page you can select the area you are interested in,
so the Universtiy of Verona students wil do the Verona University, and then they can find their page (and I generally leave the page from the previous year too, for those who want to access it). On their page they find an overview of the weeks lessons, plus work they can do to prepare for the next week and useful documents, worksheets etc. that they can download. On the hoepage of the blog there are notices and in the menu on the right there are useful links in categories such as Exam Practice or Study Skills. If you hover over these links with your mouse, you will see my comments on the resources, such as what is good about a particular dictionary etc.
2. Teacher Blog and Wiki
This is a more traditional idea of a blog in that I post my thoughts, insights, resources etc. and I have not been using it much recently becuase, as they say, “Life is getting in the way” with family problems etc. However, I use it a lot to post things that catch my attention or thoughts I have. It has links to other blogs that I like and often use.
I also set up a wiki on Wikispaces years ago for my colleagues, and it has taken us about 8 years for everyone to learn how to use it and to use it regularly, but now they do and we use it for exam admin etc. I can’t show it to you because it is private but I can show you how I used screencasts on this one: here is an introduction to Teacher Autonomy when it comes to standardization for oral exams:
3. Student Wiki
I have several of these and I used them before I started the blog. This one has a range of activities that I use for different groups and nowadays I generally provide links from the blog to the relevant activity on the wiki. I use Wikispaces, because I have always found it to be very user friendly, and I had been using the university e-learning site, but it didn’t let me do a lot of the activities I wanted to. (It is very similar to Moodle, just to give you an idea).
One of the nice things about Wikispaces is that each page also has a discussion space so students can join in on discussion threads. In the past we used forums, but this is one way of integrating them better. I have also used the Edublogs wikis which are part and parcel of my student blog, to set up simple wikis for students, and we have experimented with students setting up their own English blogs on Blogger too.
Here is a Screencast video I made to show some ways in which the wiki space can become a mutual space which starts with me as the teacher but gradually begins to bring in the learners and their contect too: encouraging peer learning:
4. Social Media Space
Despite all my efforts though I have always found it quite difficult to get students to actually work on Wikispaces. I think there are issues of encroachment because they actually do see this space as “mine” as I created it and I use it a lot in class too. That is why a couple of years ago I decided to overcome my reluctance to use Facebook in class and created a “sister page” for our student blog, which has the same name: EnglishLab Discussions. This has been a great success when used as an integral part of the blended learning approach. Learners can upload, presentations, photos or just interesting things that they read etc. and I send them things such as “the word of the week” or “good things from the written exams” or “irritating errors” or simply fun activities. This is definitely not simply my space and the students are using it more and more, Incidentally, they tend to use it to contact me as well, much more so than the university email, which is much more formal.
All this may look as though it takes a lot of work, and it does take constant monitoring, the Facebook Page in particular, but I find that if I go there once or twce a day for five minutes, I can comment on posts and things, and this constant feedback from me, even if it is something quite small encourages students to take the plunge and not to simply lurk in the background.