Twitter

Look Mum, I'm eating soup…!

It's not a technology that I've used personally, but here are some links that will be of interest if all your friends are talking (or twittering…) about it and/or you wonder if you could use it for teaching.

What is it?
Twitter describes itself as "a service for friends, family, and co–workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple question: What are you doing?". In 140 characters, or less, that is. Like, you think it's important that your Mum knows you're eating soup (see image, above)…? Or she thinks it's important…

Don't dismiss it

You don't think that's important, huh? Well, Jennifer Laycock — and hundreds of thousands of others — "embraced Twitter" and thinks "you should too". And maybe we should take a look at the technology — any technology — and ask how we might use it (see below), before dismissing it out of hand.

Laycock's is quite a good guide to getting started with Twitter (see also parts two and three).

How it could be used in the classroom
As a Twitter skeptic, it doesn't surprise me that practical classroom ideas for it are a bit thin on the ground.

Over at weblogg-ed.com, Will Richardson has 1,000 people following his twitterings (that's not meant unkindly); can see that it must have possibilities; but is still getting over "Twitter guilt" (over spending too much time on it) and doesn't seem to have pinned them down yet.

Elsewhere, this article on chronicle.com drew my attention to David Parry's more concrete proposals, Twitter for Academia, on AcademHack.

I still think it would be better just to get your students to talk to each other face-to-face or use technology to create something more permanent… But, as I say, I'm a skeptic who's never actually tried Twitter…

Mr. Picassohead

Portrait drawn on Mr. Picassohead

My RSS feeds brought me another great link from Larry Ferlazzo this morning: Mr. Picassohead, which now allows you to save and send the picture you have created (see example, above).

You could have your students create portraits as a way of learning "face vocabulary", as Larry suggests, at quite a low level.

Personally, I'd have them work in pairs and ensure that they had the vocabulary to make suggestions ("Let's choose that one…", "Why don't we…") as well as the vocab to operate the tools together ("Drag that over there", "You have to click the Rotate button", etc), especially at a higher level.

See also Making animations with Dfilm

50 Web 2.0 Ways To Tell a Story

Another link, suggested by Ana Falcon, that came to my mailbox in the ELTECS Latin America news list — 50 Web 2.0 Ways To Tell a Story.

I think storytelling — getting your learners to write stories, to tell multimedia stories — is one of the most interesting things you can do in a language class. Apart from the obvious opportunities for learning and using language that such a project provides, it's the creating things aspect of it that attracts me — and it's one of the best possible uses we can make of technology, as it takes much fuller advantage of the potential of technology than, say, seeing and using the Internet as a bank of images for use in class.

You want good group dynamics in your class? Get your learners to create and share something together.

The article (or wiki, to give it its proper term), contains lots of useful ideas and links, including links to audio, images and video available under Creative Commons licences — ie. that you can use without infringing copyright.

The author, Alan Levine, has the commendable rule that "the media files you use in your story have to be ones that are licensed or shared with permission to re-use". However, my suggestion would always be that your learners create their own images, audio files, etc.

The more they create themselves, the less they steal from other websites, the prouder they will be of their work; the "pride in creation" is wonderful for motivation, for wanting to learn…

>> ELTECS news lists
>> More good stuff in your mailbox
>> Creative Commons
>> More on digital storytelling
>> Er… What's Web 2.0?

Videos for learning to use technology

This one came to my mailbox from one of the ELTECS news lists.

It mentioned a post on Nik Peachey's Learning technology teacher development blog for ELT, which referred to the materials on teachertrainingvideos.com.

Teachertrainingvideos.com has lots of things of interest, particularly for ELT, for anyone looking for something to "help them to incorporate technology into their teaching".

A possible alternative would be TeacherTube.com.

Nik Peachey's blog is similarly of interest, covering a wide range of the technologies available to us.

Dreamweaver and FrontPage

Someone on our technology courses last month wanted to know about more about Dreamweaver and FrontPage, two html editors [definition] for creating webpages.

Adobe (formerly Macromedia) Dreamweaver (price currently 347 GBP from Amazon.co.uk) is much the better of the two, and is a program I've used — and liked very much — every working day for about the last five years.

It's not that difficult to start to learn, comes with a full manual, has good online support and tutorials and is a very professional solution for building webpages.

You also want to know about the following, sooner rather than later, as webpage design is not just a question of learning to use Dreamweaver:

Personally, I'd recommend learning a little about html and CSS even before you start with Dreamweaver.

Microsoft FrontPage has now in fact been replaced by Expression Web (price 256 GBP from Amazon.co.uk, 85 GBP for an upgrade from FP). FrontPage had its limitations, Expression Web looks to be on a par with Dreamweaver, though I've not used it extensively.

But do you really want to know about such programs?
You can create webpages with other programs, far less sophisticated ones, like those available at Yahoo and Google, for example.

Or — if you want something professional looking and dead easy to set up — your best bet would probably be to set up a blog.