Teaching with technology training session

September 5, 2012

I’d like to share the ideas and the links that I used in a practical training session on how teachers can use technology to do 3 things:

  1. to build up and manage their PLN (personal learning network)
  2. to connect with their students outside of the classroom
  3. to supplement their class material / with web resources

The teachers had just finished a 200-hour in service teacher’s certificate course but some felt that the sessions on using technology had not been practical enough. So, this “hands on” technology session was organised (nice example of teachers taking responsibility for their own development!).

I set up a quick web page using the fantastic Check This  for the participants to use throughout the session – it was to be completely paperless, with the teachers working online during the 4 hours.

To get teachers started I had them set up accounts on Twitter  – the best place to start building an online PLN.  Once set up, the teachers then found 10 TEFLers to follow.

To help the teachers think about managing online PLNs, I had them take the first steps in setting up a Netvibes account. Netvibes, which is one of  most attractive and user friendly sites for receiving web feeds, will suggest dashboard links for you to follow, based on topics that you suggest, even if you are not registered a user.

We then found some TEFL blogs to follow via Twitter and the teachers added the links to their Netvibes dashboard.

We also briefly explored ways of using Evernote to store, produce and share (with students) teaching materials and web content, and Scoop It for book marking and finding online teaching and learning resources.

To show the teachers how simple setting up a class webpage can be, I had them make a Check This page for their students and then post there a resource for learning English that they’d found on Twitter. Check This is just so simple to use!

Finally, the group used a collaborative Google spreadsheet to make notes on ways to use 7 different web tools  in class. All the tools were ones that I’ve come across via my own online PLN, including Bombay TV, Animoto and the BYU Corpus of Contemporary American English.

Despite initial problems with web connections and setting up Twitter accounts, the session went quite well. The aim was really to help teachers see that using the web for teaching purposes needn’t be intimidating and that getting started is quite straight forward.

Note: If you were to do a session like this, I’d suggest getting the Twitter accounts set up beforehand, as it took longer than planned…but we got there in the end.


Organising Class Material with Evernote – ELT Library January Blog Challenge

January 25, 2012

I’d been thinking about writing a post on Evernote and a couple of other web tools that I’ve been using lately when I came across the ESL Library January blog challenge, which is about how teachers use bookmarking tools. So, here’s short post on how I’ve been using Evernote to organise content for some classes that I’m currently teaching. You can also see a screencast that I made using Evernote here.

Evernote allows you to create Notebooks for storing information that you find online. When you come across something interesting, you can clip it to Evernote. The easiest way to do this is by clicking the Evernote icon in your tool bar. Here’s what Evernote looks like (Click on the image to see a larger version):

What I really like about it though, is that in addition to web pages, I can also store other kinds of notes. Notes can be added as text, photos, or voice recordings and they can sit along side the web pages that have been clipped. In practical, classroom teaching terms, I can have a clipping of a news report that I want my students to watch, a clipping of a picture gallery related to the report, and next to them both, the corresponding worksheet that I will use in class (which I had previously typed up in Evernote!). I might also have a document with vocabulary that has come up in class there too which I can easily access and add to. All those things together in the same folder for easy retrieval!

Here’s one of the worksheets that I mentioned:

I can also share these via email, Twitter etc. This is handy for sharing worksheets, for example, with students.

The desktop version of Evernote means that I can see my clippings when I’m off-line, while the Android Evernote app allows me to take photos, record voice notes or type in notes on my phone and save them directly into the corresponding Evernote folder. Here’s an Evernote Snapshot of (not the neatest!) board work (to be used in planning the next class), taken via the Evernote app on my phone:

Of course, Evernote is completely searchable and searches will even recognise text in photos!

There are also some other Evernote related products that, from a teacher’s point of view, are really nice. One in particular is the Clearly extension. This changes any webpage into a text-only version, getting rid of menus, ads and other stuff that you might not want your students to look at. It also makes them easy to print out or copy and paste. Here’s a comparison of a news article from the BBC before and after the application of Clearly:

So there you go, that’s Evernote, which, so far, has been pretty useful.