Facebook makes you stupid?

An unnamed US study reckons 68% of school pupils using Facebook got "significantly lower" exam marks than those who didn't, according to The Week, the study referred to probably being that of Ohio State, according to TIME.

What it doesn't say — though I haven't personally read the actual report — is whether or not the exams themselves were actually testing what the learners know, or were relevant to their learning styles or actual real-world needs, and I suspect that quite possibly they weren't.

I might just be tempted to use Facebook rather than e-mail as a means of communication with learners as — says my daughter (13) — no-one ever uses e-mail now, at least not young learners.

What would put me off would be the privacy issues. While creating a new Facebook profile recently, I got asked did I want to be friends with these 25 people — all of whom looked suspiciously young, and none of whom I recognised…

Hold on, I did recognise them: they were all 13, all girls, and all my daughter's friends. If you're going to use technology with young learners, you want a network that is a whole lot more secure than that…

Non-linear PowerPoint

PowerPoint: you can make it interactive!

As language teachers, you probably aren't big users of Microsoft PowerPoint. It might well be a tool you use for giving a talk or workshop at a conference or if, like me, you teach technology. But, as language teachers, using it is probably rapidly going to produce Death by PowerPoint and, in any case, you're not supposed to be lecturing your learners, are you?

As a workshop presenter, you certainly want to avoid inducing Death by PowerPoint, which is caused by — among other things — using too much text and too many bullet points per slide and then simply reading monotonously through it all, which your audience could have done at home on their own.

If you can make it an interactive presentation in some way, in which you respond to and dialogue with your audience, PowerPoint can nevertheless be a powerful tool. If, on the other hand, your audience has gone terribly quiet, best call the doctor quick — for yourself.

Creating a non-linear presentation is one way to ensure that you respond not lecture. The following links came from the February 2009 issue of the Office Insider for Microsoft Office newsletter:

If you're not that expert with PowerPoint, and want an easy way to allow yourself a non-linear PowerPoint presentation, you do have a "Go to" function which allows you to jump to whichever slide you want — and not necessarily the next one:

Right-clicking in "Slide Show view" allows you to jump to whichever slide you want…

Make the learners make the PowerPoints
With learners, PowerPoint can be fun too — for making presentations (eg. of the results of webquests), as well as for creative writing exercises.

With the latter, young learners love making multimedia stories with PowerPoint, including sound and images as well as text.

See also: Using PowerPoint Interactively in the Classroom

Twittering in ELT

What are people in ELT twittering about? Is it useful to me and/or my learners…?

According to TIME magazine, "Twitter is on its way to becoming the next killer app…" (as Twitter is proud to proclaim on its home page).

From long experience, I would suggest that a healthy dose of scepticism is always called for whenever the words "next killer app" are used, be it Twitter or Second Life or interactive whiteboards, or any new bit of technology.

"Are my learners actually going to learn more, if I use this?" — that would be the first question I think you should ask yourself as an English teacher. What are they (as opposed to me, the teacher) actually going to use the technology for, to do what, that will ensure that they learn more…?

If you can't see answers to those questions, I'd suggest you hold on before you jump on the latest digital bandwaggon.

Twitter is big at this moment, whatever people are using it for. They're also Using Twitter as an Education Tool, in a number of ways, says Search Engine Watch, such as using it to set assignments.

I'm not a Twitter user myself, either personally, or for use with my classes: I just can't see the answers to those questions…

>> 7 things you should know about Twitter
>> More on Twitter

Score your own wonder goal!

Gascoigne into space, look at this, Gascoigne: two-nil!

Here's one that I got from the amazing collection of links produced by Larry Ferlazzo — which might make a great activity when Euro2008 comes round this summer.

Larry's suggestion is to have your learners use Reebook's Sprintfit KFS Replay tool to create a goal and "relive your greatest football moments" (registration required). You've got tutorials and can replay goals like the one Gazza scored against Scotland at Euro96 (picture, above). It's not exactly PlayStation, but it's probably a lot more interesting than the next unit in Headway!

As Larry points out, and as with so many of the things you can do with technology, it's the talking and the reading the tasks will involve as much as the task itself that that are important in the language classroom… We're using the technology to produce that, and the interaction between our learners — for the sake of that, and not merely for the sake of the technology itself.

You could just watch the YouTube video of the Gazza goal… But isn't it so much better to get the learners to create things themselves…?