Why I love Edmodo

Here's a quick one from Twitter:

Leah is a 5th grade science teacher but that's what I love about Edmodo — and lots of other Web 2.0 tools, blogs or podcasting with SoundCloud, for example: if you put them in the hands of the learners, if it's not you that's using technology, it also makes learners (especially anyone under the age of about 21) excited about school.

What am I doing on Twitter?

Among the quotations I've hoarded over the years is this one:

A culture of 'read it, print it, punch two holes in it, file it and call it learning'

I can't attribute it to whoever said or wrote it but the quotation springs to mind every time I hear the words "Facebook" or "Twitter" — or see interesting posts on blogs which dozens of people, sometimes hundreds, have "liked" but none have "commented" on, at least not on the original blog. Now, don't we have a culture of "like it (or tweet/retweet it) and call it learning"?

At the risk of sounding like the grumpy old man I am quite possibly becoming, I particularly dislike Twitter. Perhaps Chatter would actually be a better name for it. When birds twitter, their song is meaningful; when monkeys chatter in the jungle they're as often as not just making as much otherwise meaningless noise as possible in order to become the dominant male.

I've previously abandoned Twitter but now, with some reluctance, I've opened a new account. On it, my intention is to tweet one thing a day that I think might be useful to language teachers (and one thing only). It's already got off to a bad start: I missed Day 2 (!) but we'll see.

Partly it's a question of trying it out over a period of time (the best, possibly the only way, to learn to use a new piece of technology and to discover its potential, as well as to overcome a prejudice against it, which as you can see I freely admit to).

One of the biggest advantages of 21st century technology is that it allows us to share things with other people (including our learners) and thus help them and it ought also to allow us  to comment on them and discuss them, which blogs do, but (says Doug Johnson) Twitter does discussion only very badly.

If you follow me on Twitter,  you'll see how long I can keep it up. You'll get no tweets about what I'm having for breakfast, promise!

Google Reader to be ditched, July 1

My thoughts entirely…!

As of July 1, Google is pulling the plug on Google Reader, in my view absolutely its best tool (with the possible exception of Google Drive), says The Guardian and the BBC, and Lifehacker, and Mashable, and 100s of other sites in my Reader feeds.

Currently in a state of shock, I just don't know what I'm going to do without all the amazing material for classes, all the amazing new technology, all the great ideas that all come to me daily in one conveniently crap-free space, the last not something that can be said of garbage collection points like Twitter and Google+.

Having swept aside Bloglines, Google is now just going to trash Reader in order to force on us whatever of its products it deems is going to make it most millions…?

See also
Lifehacker has a number of suggested alternatives

Short, creative writing projects with Twitter, Edmodo

Doodle your story (see below)!

Here's another idea that came from this week's Guardian: Twitter fiction (telling a story under 140 characters, that is, not necessarily on Twitter). It isn't a new idea but it's one that works great with language learners, especially when the stories are written collaboratively, in pairs.

To relate it to your coursebook, in order to recycle language, you could specify that the stories must be on a particular theme (the environment, or whatever the unit is…). A "prize" for who can fit in the most vocab from the coursebook adds a nice competitive element…

Your learners could write and share them via Twitter, but an Edmodo group also works just as well and Google Docs (now Google Drive) is also great for collaboration, commenting and sharing.

The memo pad on a mobile phone is also great for writing (and sending) the finished stories (and if you have teenagers, which would they rather do: put pen to paper, or fingers to phones?).

Assuming at least some of your learners are reasonably creative (and, once again, classrooms should be creative spaces!), getting one in each pair to doodle the story adds another dimension to it. Here's one I wrote, with the doodle above:

South of the town, we abandoned the car, the tank now dry. Emma wept as she took the bags from the boot. If we could reach Zamora, we'd be safe. But they were there, too.

If you are going to do that, Edmodo is probably going to be a better tool than Twitter, as it's so easy to attach the image to the post.

Other tried and test writing projects
Older alternatives include 50-word Mini-sagas and 100-word stories (and at IH we've also experimented with 6-word stories).

Way back when I did a lot of fiction with learners (does anyone still do the Proficiency set book option?!) a similar idea that worked superbly was getting the learners to summarise the plot in exactly 100 words (and the same also worked for character sketches).

"But my students hate writing," I can hear you say. But if it's collaborative, shared, fun… my experience is that even those learners who say that in fact enjoy such projects.

See also:
Digital storytelling: Creative writing with technology

Giving up on Twitter

Prueba que eres humano: prove that you're human… I just did!

I've decided to give up on Twitter. I never used it a lot and found that the really good things (Life.com, for example), the stuff that was actually useful to me in class, in some cases I was already following by mail or RSS or Tumblr.

What pushed me over the age was needing to re-enter my logín details and being unable to remember my password. "Prove that you're human," Twitter told me when I clicked the "remind me of my password" link (screenshot, above).

You get two choices: either the two CAPTCHA words you have to type out, at least one of which (no matter how many times you refresh it) is always totally incomprehensible; or the audio version, which is so utterly incomprehensible that failure to comprend it proves irrefutably that you are indeed human… but won't get you back into Twitter.

Hm. Let me try the "Contact details", see if I can actually talk to, or email, another human being at Twitter.

Actually, not.

Ah, forget it. My life could do with a bit less information anyway.