12 tweets, links to 100s of ideas for class

Having got to 365 tweets, I took a look back at what I've been posting and picked out a dozen things that I particularly liked for one reason or another.

In reverse chronological order…

#1 | Because, thanks to Twitter, I discovered a great blog for anyone teaching Young Learners:

#2 | Because getting learners to interact is so important; because if you're using web 2.0 tools but not getting learner to comment, then you're not exploiting them to their full potential, and because there's so much good advice here:

#3 | Because there are literally 100s of great ideas here:

#4 | Because if being on Twitter doesn't make you think, you probably shouldn't be there at all:

#5 | Because I think this is an absolutely key question we should ask ourselves as language teachers:

#6 | Because 1000+ Pictures for Teachers to Copy is such a brilliant book, the most useful I've ever come across in 35 years as teacher:

#7 Because I love good quotes (=make you think!):

#8 Because film-english.com has got to be among the very best sites for materials for lessons for English teachers:

#9 | Because infographics are great for class:

#10 | Because video is so great for class, especially so on Vimeo rather than on YouTube:

#11 | Because Edmodo is so great, provided you exploit it too the full (I mean, how would you feel about Facebook if all you got to do was read what your Mum posted?!)

#12 | Because I love creative writing digital storytelling: it's such fun — and so productive — to invent such stories in class; and because I highly recommend PhotoPrompts:

On Twitter (@Tom_IHBCN), I post no more than one thing a day, always and exclusively things that I think will interest language teachers and/or their learners.

Ask your learners what they think

Another of the quotations I used in my IH Barcelona ELT Conference talk last week…

The "quotations" I collect have come from a huge variety of sources, and are by no means all from famous people.

This particular one came from a workshop I did many years ago in which we were talking about working with teenagers. One of the tasks I asked those attending to do was to brainstorm a list of things teens like, making the items as specific as possible (so, for example not just "music", but names of particular bands).

After a few minutes, I asked for ideas, and a young teacher read off the most amazing list of bands, video game titles, brands of clothing, shop names, places to hang out, and so on.

"How do you know all that?" an older member of staff asked, astonished.

"I just asked them," the first teacher said, almost equally astonished that a teacher wouldn't be interested in what their learners had to say.

I'm not sure quite why the incident stuck in my mind as vividly as it did, but it was perhaps one of the things that fixed one of my beliefs about teaching young learners in my head: if you are going to work with kids, it's vital that you take a genuine interest in them as people. If you don't have that, for your sake and theirs, teach adults instead!

About the same time, in the same school, I started an ambitious project to survey all our learners on the courses they finished, tallying the results with a pencil and typing up the many excellent suggestions they made for improving the courses on an old Amstrad word processor, for subsequent consideration and implementation.

Since, technology has changed the world but in all the courses I do now, I've carried on asking students what they think at the end of them, something which I can highly, highly recommend.

Task
Use Google Docs forms to find out what your students think of your courses

Creating a new form… That's a Google docs form (arrow), which can be filled in and sent, not just a "Google Doc" (the equivalent of Word)

Google Docs forms [find out more] have replaced my pencil and tally sheet and they're a fabulous tool for the job, being easy to set up and share, and automatically collating the information collected and presenting it neatly in graphs and pie charts.

Adding an item (a new question) to the form: there is a variety of different question types in the dropdown menu

Results of the forms submitted, automatically tallied and neatly presented

Of all the questions I've ever asked "What one thing would you suggest we do in order to improve this course?" has been the one that has been most productive. I've asked literally 1000s of learners the question on literally 100s of occasions and the question has always lead at least one significant improvement to the courses I teach.

Further ideas
You can also have your students write their own surveys and get them to answer each others, which works particularly well if you are working with another school, perhaps in another country.

A written report or an oral presentation of the results allows for further exploitation.

Introduction | One | Two | Three | Four | Five | Six | Seven | Eight | Nine | Ten

Which Web 2.0 tools should you use?

Wordled: What I want from the Web 2.0 tools my learners use

Hi and welcome to my blog to those of you who came to my session on Web 2.0 tools at the Macmillan Teachers' Day in Murcia (April 1).

There are countless Web 2.0 tools around; but, for lack of time, any given teacher can only be using a small proportion of an ever-growing list of names.

But which are the best ones to try out with your learners? I like any tool my learner use to meet most if not all of the following criteria:

  • It's free (legally so!)
  • It does NOT require download and installation
  • It's easy to use and not time consuming to learn
  • My learners are going to like it and be inspired by it (Prezi are Glogster and ones everyone loves)
  • It's going to lead to a LOT of interaction between learners — and thus a LOT of use of language, and language learning
  • It's therefore collaborative and communicative (one of the many reasons I love Edmodo)
  • It will NOT involve the learner just doing a lot of clicking! (That's one reason I dis-like Wordle.)
  • It will NOT just involve the teacher creating exercises for the learners to do (TaskMagic is one tool I particularly loathe — though you could argue it isn’t really "Web 2.0")
  • The learners (not the teacher) will be using it
  • It's creative (i.e. will involve the learners actually create their own digital end product; for which reason I dislike the very popular Storybird, and just love Picnik)
  • It comes with some guarantee of privacy (possibly an education version, like Glogster, for example)
  • It preferably does NOT require learners to register (another reason I love Edmodo)
  • It will be there in a year's time (i.e. isn’t just a cool start-up which will soon die, along with all my students’ projects)

Ninging, FBing, Jamendoeing or disappearing… What?!

Here's an opinion expressed I-don't-actually-remember-when, or by who, on the Dogme discussion group:

The horseshoe makers have all but disappeared along with the typists, telegraph senders, row boat men and red wax makers.

Teachers who aren't downloading, podcasting, communicating, blogging, tweeting, buzzing, ninging, FBing, jamendoeing, waving, creativecommonscreating, linking, viewing, exchanging, building avatars with their students will all go the same way, and well, probably, really quite quietly.

Surely that can't be right…?