VoiceThread

Voicethread is a web platfrom that can’t be downloaded. It is a cloud application. The only thing required to use it , is to have a recent version of Adobe Flash. On this application, people can have audio or textual conversations. Users first have to create an account. Once it is done, they can open conversation pages with other users. On that conversation page, users decide whether they want to send a text message or send an audio one. People can also place images, videos or documents in that conversation. Audio conversations can be done with a microphone, a web cam, a telephone or an uploaded audio file. To identify themselves, students can  put a picture of them as their avatar on the application. This way, it can make life easier to a teacher that has 100 students and that is not so good with names.

When a VoiceThread page is created, it is possible for the teacher to create a presentation. Once the presentation is done (including audio, documents, texts, etc.) it is possible to share it with the students. At all time, students can comment the presentation and they don’t have to be online at the same time to do so. The comments can be made by text or by audio. Once the comment is posted, it stays there and other people can reply to it.

It is possible to make a presentation and present it live to students without being at the same place. In other words, teacher has to make the class aware that there will be a presentation at a certain moment in the day. Students, than, have to log in and follow the presentation. They can use the comment tool that was introduced before to ask their questions. Those presentations can be share with only some specific person or to the entire world. It is also possible to get in touch with parents via VoiceThread. This way, they can see their child results or ask any question to the teacher if needed.

You can use VoiceThread with your mobile phone. You can have access to all you content via your mobile device. All the same options are offered to you :

  • Capture images from your camera or upload them from your photo library.
  • Flip through slides with the flick of a finger and annotate while you narrate.
  • Share VoiceThreads as easily as sending an email.
  • Receive notifications for new comments on your VoiceThreads.
  • Access the extensive catalog of existing content on VoiceThread.com.

For elementary schools, VoiceThread can be an interesting tool as well. As images can be posted , it is fun for child to use it. They can be asked to share a picture and to comment on it. They can tell the teacher why  that picture is relevant; What it represents ;Is there a story linked with it? Etc. A teacher can easily do a vocabulary review with this application. For example, a teacher can record himself reading aloud a list of vocabulary and post it on a conversation .Afterwards, he can ask students to use that record to practice themselves pronouncing those words.

As a future ESL teacher, I feel like VoiceThread can be a nice tool to use, but with older students. It can be hard to understand how it works . Students from elementary school would need too much support to be able to work with it, so it would be more a lost of time than anything else. As much as it seems interesting, I would not use it with my students, because it is too complex. It would be useful to use it with a class that is done by distance. For example, if a student can’t come to school because he is sick , I would use VoiceThread to transmit him the information. Otherwise, VoiceThread seems to be a useful tool for Cégep or University students more than for elementary and secondary students.

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Follow up with Socrative

Socrative lets students do educational activities on tablet, laptop or smartphones. Teachers are engage in the activities and can have access to their students’ account on real time or afterwards. Thus, teachers can give instant feedback on the student’s work and help him or her to do a better work and to get a better grade. If the teacher is not online while a student is working on an activity, the teacher always has the opportunity to return on previous activities to correct and to explain mistakes to the student who worked on the activity. Students and teachers have to create a free account. Than, they can have an easy access to Socrative.

It is simple and flexible. Peer-to-peer discussion can also be created and group problem solving as well. Students can help each other from home with that kind of group. According to that, students don’t need to meet upafter class or in the weekend, they can do everything online via Socrative.

Teacher can personalize the content they want their students to learn and work on. Thus, the teachers can put online activities that are relevant to what they saw in class or to what they will go through in futur classes. Also, teachers can focus on students weakness by giving activities that will help them improve their weak points. This can also be applied to stronger students who are not challenged enough with the work done in class due to their high level of proficiency in English.

It is also possible for teachers to create a report section. A whole class overview report can be made so every students see the progression of the class and they can be motivated by wanting to keep the class pace.

Socrative also allow the students to ask questions to the teachers and the teacher to give general feedbacks to the class or to answer a question often asked. It also shows the teacher if an activity has been harder than others for students. Students can see their report card individually. The reports can be emailed or delivered on google drive at any time as Socrative is directly linked with Google Drive. The reports stay available as long as the student and the teacher keep their account activated.

Type of activities

There are many types of activities that can be done on Socrative. Here are some of the popular ones :

  • Short Answer Questions: The teacher ask an open question and students respond. The teacher receives all the answer on his screen. When it’s done, the teacher can ask his students if they liked it or not.
  • Quick Quiz: A teacher paced or student paced activity with multiple choice or short answer questions. Results can be viewed question by question and exported to a report that is automatically aggregated and graded.
  • Create a Quiz: Teachers can design their own Quick Quizzes with the built in feature and import them with the Excel template available on Socrative. It can be shared with the students afterwards.
  • Space Race: Teams of students answer multiple choice questions posted by the teacher in this fast-paced rocket race game. First team to get their rocket across the screen wins. It motivates the students to work well and to not lose their time while working.
  • Exit Tickets: Get a quick, paper-free pulse-check at the end of class. All answers are aggregated into a report. It is a fast way to see if students listened in class and if they understood what you have been talking about.
  • Multiple Choice: The teacher asks a multiple choice question, and see student responses on his screen. More than one question can be asked at the time and the grades can be posted on the report.

As a future ESL teacher, I would definitely use Socrative with my students. I like the fact that the teacher can create his/her own activities with the Tools offered on it. That way, it is easy to test the students on what you want. It is specific and you don’t have to deal with unrelevant questions that some pre-made tests provide. I also like that the teacher can give instant feedbacks. It helps the students a lot in their process of completing a quiz or an activity. Students need help when they are at home because they don’t necessarily have the support needed. Even more, by having the opportunity to give feedback at all time, students can feel that their teacher is present for them. As I think that having a close relationship is important in an ESL class, being able to be in contact with them at all time is something I encourage and that I will definatly focus on with my students when I will be a teacher.

Use of electronic books in classrooms

In 2015, technologies take a big place in our society. Rare are the ones that do not own any electronic device. Most people keep a tablet, a smartphone or a computer on them at all time. Even electronic books have been invented. The way it works is easy : you buy a book online and you read it on your little tablet. The most popular company that makes that device is Appel. They invented what is called the iBook. In this article , it will be discuss if those books are a good tool to be used in a school context or not and if it would be interesting to have all scholar manuals on them instead of having paper versions.

Description

It is a small little bookshelf where you can browse your library on. Throughout all the books you bought, you tap on the tittle of one of them and the book will appear on your tablet. You can read a free sample of any book on iBookstore before buying it. Some books come with videos, audio records and animations. Thus, it makes life easier to those who are not at ease in reading in English, for example, and want to have a visual or an audio support. You can organize your library in what they call personal collection. You will tell me how bad it can be for the eyes. Something nice is that you can adapt de brightness of your screen depending on the environment where you are reading your book. That way, you are not dazzled by the book at all time. When you are ready to change page, you only have to swipe your finger on the screen and it will do.

Disadvantages of having iBooks in schools

First, it is very expensive for schools to buy them. The price would not be a problem if the device would work for a long time. Most of the time, electronic devices are breaking down after two or three years. It is more worth it to buy a book that will last 10 years, than buying a device that will not even work for the quarter of that time. The buying price is about $350.00, but you haven’t bought the book yet. You still have to buy the book that are about $15.00 each. A private school could probably afford those costs ,but not a public school. Buying iBooks would involve a cut of budget for other services that are given to students. Either in sports, in arts or in some installations that are in place for the entertainement of the students. Kids need competent teachers, support and a good Learning environement where they can also have fun. The purchase of iBooks would enable some schools to give a good service. There are many prior changes that should be done in schools before investing in this.

Advantages of having iBooks in schools

iBooks are leaving paper behind. Students don’t have to carry heavy books in their backpack anymore. It would avoid back problems for some kids .They would only have to carry a light tablet with them that they can take wherever they want without any problem. It is easy to highlight important parts of texts and create virtual notecards that the iBook will automatically collate. That way it can make studying more effective and easier as well.

As a future ESL teacher, I feel like using iBooks in class instead of using regular school book would not change a lot for learning a second language. In my opinion, it is better to have a paper version of a book ,because you are sure that nothing will go wrong with it ; there is no chance of lagging or of having an iBook out of battery when you need it. Plus, it is not all schools and students who can afford that device so it would not be fair for everyone. Even more, as , in my opinion, to learn a second language we should focus on the speaking and the interaction within each other, books are not used enough in ESL classes to invest so much money in something that might not improve the teacher and learning quality in the class. It is probably useful for a literature class where students have to read many books and to carry many books with them. For an ESL class, I think it would be more a distraction than anything else.

Catherine Hébert