Graffiti creator: would I want to use it?

Editing the letters individually, with greater contrast between them, would have made the word ("create") more legible

Here's one I'm not so sure about:

It's fun, though I'd have liked an un-do button, but maybe that's just me: I've never actually had a go with an aerosol can and reckon true graffiti artists don't, ever, "un-do"… ,-)! But would I actually want to use this with students?

Criteria for using technology
When I'm lesson planning and look at a website or an activity of some sort involving the use of any technology, I ask myself the same questions I suggest in the technology session on our CELTA course:

  • Is it a suitable level of difficulty, language and maturity for my learners…?
  • Will my learners enjoy doing it…? Will it engage them…?
  • How can / must I adapt it…?
  • What are the aims…?
  • What are the stages…?
  • What language is being used, practised and learnt…?
  • What are we going to do with what we've found / created…?
  • What is the return-on-investment (time spent setting up, in class…)?

With, my doubt is really over the language that is going to be produced and used: is it merely going to engage my learners at the visual level and absorb them in understanding how the site works, or am I going to be able to create a task that will really produce a lot of meaningful (linguistic) interaction?

Decision time…
On balance, that looks to me like one that will go into my "For the kids" file in my favourites — for my own kids, that is, they'll like it, but I don't think I'll be using it in the classroom with learners.

Now, on the other hand, if we had a class blog, and I wanted to decorate it, and we had — say — a new "graffiti word a week", and the kids wanted to do it in their own time, at home, or when I'd got someone finished all their other work, then I might consider it — but my aim would not then be a linguistic one.

Making collages with Glogster

Glogster: Yes, and those creep crawlies moved about on the page… Yuck!

Like ImageChef [see previous post], Glogster allows you to create images, though the latter is a lot more sophisticated, allowing you to create much more complex collages, making it suitable for older young learners with a higher level of English.

If you got your learners to work together in pairs to create their collage, there is a lot of potential for interaction and language use. You can't quite understand how it works? Don't worry, your kids will get it immediately!

As always in the technology classroom, you want to make sure that language is English!

Alternatively, you could get them to create their collages at home and then present them to the class in an oral presentation.

See also >> Making animations with Dfilm

Strip cartoons with

Doctor, I've got what you want. The last known living da-da bird…

Here's a comic strip three of you started in our session December 5th – using my "plan B",, which I had to fall back on when we couldn't make animations on, which had been working just fine, 30 minutes earlier.

It ( doesn't quite have the same "wow factor" as dfilm (an important consideration).

But the "last known living da-da bird" there looks like it has the makings of a good story. And that's important too because good stories are potentially packed with good language.

As we also commented on during the session, a classroom activity of this kind can also generate lots of use of language (a big consideration) – "let's try…", "why don't we…", "how about having the bird…", that sort of thing.

Vital, obviously, that you get your learners to do things like that in English, not in their own language…

Making animations with young(-ish) learners

Here are two sites which enable your learners to make fun animations.

Dfilm MovieMaker allows you to select your character (eight can be seen, left above), add what they're saying, etc, etc.
Using Dfilm's MovieMaker you pick from a choice of preset backgrounds, skyscapes, scenarios (rendez-vous, chase…) and characters, write their lines, add music and — in a series of straight-forward clicks, create your animation.

Once you've finished, you can send it to a friend — or yourself — which will then give you the URL (address), so that you can see it again.

ZimmerTwins (above) gives you just three characters to play with but some crazy additional features…
At ZimmerTwins you can create similar animations, though you've only (currrently) got three characters to play with. You can save your movies, watch other people's and comment on them, among other features.

Like Dfilm, it's very intuitive to work with — and kids will love exploring what you can do with it. The "How to make a movie" section explains all, if you are in any doubt (and makes good listening comprehension practice too!)

Note that you have to register (and provide an email address). You could get round your students doing that by registering yourself, and having them use your username.

Which is better?
Of the two, besides not requiring registration, Dfilm also has the advantage that your learners can input more text (important if you want them to be able to write some English).

On the other hand, ZimmerTwins seems to offer more "fun" features. If you've got really young learners, who don't know much English, it might be a better choice.

What would you do with these sites?
Make animations, of course… But what you really want is for your learners to get some language learning and practice out of it — and it's all too easy for the class to go silent (or real noisy!) while they fiddle with the animations but learn and practise zero English…

Providing them with a list of characters and features first and — in pairs — getting them to storyboard their animation first, before logging on, might be the best way to go about it.

When they do then get on-site, they will probably then have to discuss how they are going to adapt their storyboard to what the site can actually do — but that can only be a good thing!

What's the point?
For your learners, it's a fun, motivating activity. For the teacher, it must produce that language learning and practice.

If it doesn't, should you be using this technology…?

Technical note
Note that you might need to upgrade your Flash Player (an easy download, provided you have "administrator permissions" on your PC/s, which you might not if you are in a school).