Edueto: is creating exercises really Web 2.0?

Here's a site I've not tried out with learners and which personally I actually don't like the idea of.

However, Edublogs drew my attention to a post by Larry Ferlazzo which says that Edueto — for creating online exercises (multiple choice, gap fill, matching…| example) — "has got to be one of the best teacher & Web 2.0 sites of the year".

It's free, it's easy to use but I have two principal doubts: (1) is creating exercises the best use teachers can make of technology — and do they have the time or get paid enough to do that, for what return-on-investment; and (2) is Edueto really a "Web 2.0" tool anyway?

True Web 2.0 tools ought really to involve people in creating and sharing things, and commenting on things other people have created — and thus creating interaction and dialogue.

You could argue, of course, that Edueto is letting you create things and share them with your learners. But, to that, I'd say that you want to flip not your classroom, but flip who is using the technology in your classroom.

I never tire of saying this:

It's not about what YOU do with the technology!

Yes, Edueto will save you a certain amount of time if you wanted to create "interactive" exercises… but is that really the use you should be making of your time, and of technology?

Recommended | I picked this one up from an Edublogger email update. I don't actually use Edublogs (I prefer Blogger, and recommend that to teachers) but if you do blog, using whatever platform, it's well worth subscribing to get the new Edublogger posts.

Great YouTube video for listening and speaking task

Here's a nice, generic listening and speaking activity that you can do with many YouTube videos, which I've described previously.

The summarise and present activity suggested there requires the learners to:

  • Watch the video, taking notes as they go along
  • Discuss it in a group of 3-4
  • Agree on a summary of what is being said
  • Watch again to check their summary includes the most important information
  • Prepare a presentation of it, using a maximum of 3 PowerPoint (or whatever) slides
  • Present it to the class in 60 seconds
  • Hold a Q+A session lasting 3 minutes (which you might allow to go on longer, if the discussion generated is fruitful)

Getting more out of the same activity
The activity works particularly well if you (or your learners) can find a different video on the same subject for each of your groups.

If you also have somewhere like a class blog or Edmodo group where the discussion can continue — and your learners can post the different videos, perhaps to be watched later, outside class — that's also fantastic.

Footnote
This post nearly didn't make it out of "draft", but the activity works so well that, when I was doing the spring cleaning this last weekend I thought I'd post — five years (!!) after first saving it — rather than trash. I think I must have found the video on a post on Doug Johnson's Blue Skunk Blog.

Posting it had nothing to do with the young lady in the static image before the video starts to roll, you understand 😉 !

Fun collaborative writing task: St George and the VW microbus

VW microbus

In a shop window…

Here's just a quick idea for a digital storytelling project: Kim asked me to suggest a fun writing task ("Is that an oxymoron?" some of the teens in her class might have thought… 😉 ! )

In Catalonia, we celebrate St George's Day (known here as Sant Jordi) and in many schools they include writing competitions as part of the events, so this one had to be related — to be done with 15-16 year olds.

The VW microbus model in the image was in a shop window here in Barcelona and the aging hippy in me had to have a photo of it. I then suggested it as the starting point of the story, of which we provided the learners with the barest of bones, including this very rough one-minute sketch:

rough sketch

The story
This was how the story has been presented to the learners, who have to complete it, in groups, by Thursday:

A person (man…? woman…?) leaves Town A (why…?), driving a VW microbus to go to Town B (in what country…? how far away…?), traveling over mountain roads, as per the sketch. On the way s/he picks up various other travelers (how many fit in a VW…?) who are trying to get to (where…? why…?).

One of the people is St George, one is a dragon (not necessarily a real dragon, possibly a very fiery little old lady, for example…)

We don't know anything else: you have to fill in all the missing details, each of you in your groups being one of the travelers, writing your own version of the same story.

My thinking was that this would be an ideal project for a class blog but would also have worked well on Tackk if you don't have a blog you already use with your class. Tackk is super easy to use, though you'd need one person to post all the different stories there, or else all use the same login.

A nice simple alternative would be to use shared Google Drive documents.

The original plan was:

  1. One lesson (50 minutes) working the story/stories out in groups (varying in size from 5 to 7, approx.), with as much help with vocabulary and ideas as possible coming from the teacher
  2. Writing the stories up at home, with as much collaboration as possible (Google Drive, Skype, WhatsApp… more or less whatever tools the learners wanted to use for that)
  3. One lesson, in class, putting the finishing touches to the stories, reading everyone else's stories, commenting on them, presenting them, getting feedback on the project, etc.

Learners sometimes — often! — say they "hate" writing (these learners said that last week!) but such projects are fun to do once you get people into them.

I think I'd in fact rather do such things than anything else in a language classroom.

You want comments, not likes

750 shares but only 2 comments

Nearly 750 "shares" and "likes", but only 2 comments…

Here's one that comes from a great blog I follow, Creative Bloq. It's not related to ELT, but the problem you can see them having above is one the vast majority of blogs have nowadays (including this one!): they're getting very few comments.

In language teaching, if you're using a class blog, or something else (an Edmodo group, or Facebook, or whatever), you want lots of comments, as well as the posts. Both should be produced by the learners as often as by the teacher and  you want the comments particularly (a) because it suggests the learners are finding the content interesting and (b) because comments provide meaningful opportunities for more interaction and use of the language.

To get such comments, you really have to add a "comments" stage to your task design, and require it of your learners. It's not enough just to "like"!

Apart from what you're doing with your classes, if you're reading blogs (etc.) for the purposes of professional development, you want to write comments. You want to do so because "liking" and then immediately forgetting and moving on to the next thing to "like" really isn't engaging the brain in any meaningful way whatsoever. Actually having to write some sort of response does, as does entering into dialogue. To develop as a teacher — or as anything else — you need to brain to be engaged. "Liking" isn't enough!

If you think you just don't have time to "comment", my advice would be to stop "following" so many people or use something organised like The Old Reader to follow blogs via RSS, rather than wasting your time "liking" stuff on Facebook (etc).

Rant over. Am I starting to sound like a grumpy old man…?

Podcasting: 60 seconds to save the world

Outline of task

Above, the fourth of the tasks I suggested in my talk at the IH Barcelona ELT Conference on February 7th.

One of the ways in which I believe that we're getting technology wrong in language teaching is to fail to progress beyond our own use of technology as a word processor; and one of the simple ways we could start to get it right would be to have our learners turn their mobile phones on and start using them for productive language learning tasks.

This task requires them to do just that with Spreaker being an excellent little app to enable them to rehearse and record audio.

In groups of 3-4, they need to:

  • Brainstorm and come up with an idea that would make a difference to the environment and/or climate change, one that could actually be put into practice in your school
  • Rehearse exactly what they are going to say, in class, getting it down to exactly 58-60 seconds,  and not a second longer
  • Record it (and if necessary re-record it), something which is probably — because of the noise — best done somewhere quiet, outside class time
  • Post the finished recording where the rest of the class can listen to it (Edmodo or a class blog are great alternatives), again something which can be done outside class
  • Comment on the recordings made by the other groups (to get the most language out of the task, a vital stage, missing from my slide, above).

Note that, though you might want to try out the technology involved first for yourself, as the teacher your job is to provide the language, including helping with pronunciation and intonation, as well as vocabulary, not to provide technical support.

You want to do the former in class, which will reduce the amount of subsequent correction that will be required, and leave any technical help required up to the learners. Believe me, they will be able to provide it!

A nice simple alternative to Spreaker and audio would be to use PowerPoint (or Prezi) and Present.me, with a webcam, which would give your learners video, though I'd recommend keeping it to three slides, and insisting on that maximum of 60 seconds.

Acknowledgements The idea came from the excellent BBC podcast Forum: 60 Second Idea to Improve the World, one that is well worth both you and your learners subscribing to.

Thanks also to Kate who, as ever, was willing to try the idea out and to my PodcastHERs group, who had so much fun doing something along these lines as a long-term project.