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)
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13 Comments

  1. Martin Lapworth

    Loathe? TaskMagic? Really? Why? It's not just about teachers creating exercises. What about getting students to create their own resources? e.g. Adding their own creative writing and their own audio to a TaskMagic Mix&Gap file… (It should fail to make your list because it's not free and it's not Web 2.0, and irt does require installation. How many EFL teachers use TaskMagic anyway? Not many, as far as I'm aware…)

  2. Well, I'd certainly agree, Martin, that any tool becomes more interesting pedagogically when learners rather than teachers are using it.

    As I said, I want "most if not all" of the criteria, so that installation or having to pay is not in itself a problem (Audacity, for example, needs installing, and that's definitely one it's great to get learners using).

    No, TaskMagic isn't really Web 2.0 (as I did mention) but my problem with it is that tools like it will never getting learners creating original content, sharing it via the web (possibly embedded on a blog or wiki), commenting on each others work etc. A blog and Prezi, for example, is IMHO the way to go…

    In fact I DO know 3 language schools using TM, and at least one other considering purchasing it — and the way it's being used is, I know, the teachers generating exercises and games.

    The teacher generating exercises — that's taking advantage of about 2% of the potential of 21st century technology…

  3. Martin Lapworth

    If teachers spend their time creating exercises for their students, doesn't it follow that the students will then spend a lot of time engaged in activities to help them learn / practise the information in those exercises? How can you say that it's just about teachers generating exercises? A typical TaskMagic file takes a few minutes to create, and it creates anywhere between 10 and 24 exercises, which recycle the same language in lots of different ways and at varying levels of difficulty. This provides the students with lots of practice material, helping them to actually learn the language.

    Too much focus on the creative side is like putting the cart before the horse. Students can't be effectively creative with new language until they have learnt it, can they? (Or if they try to, because they've been provided with a list of vocabulary and structures to help them, they may end up with a nice piece of work, but how much of the information will they have retained?)

    Having said that, what is to stop students using the result of their creativity – text and audio – as the basis for a TaskMagic file? A lot of teachers make a big deal of tools such as Voki. A typical Voki session might involve getting students to draft and redraft a piece of writing, which is then corrected by the teacher (or with the help of the teacher), and the student then records their voice – often editing their audio using Audacity. Why not use the text and audio created as a result of this process in a TaskMagic Mix&Gap file? This helps the student to practise the language they have used in their text as well as create their own vocab exercises for their own future reference. Have a look at http://www.mdlsoft.co.uk/exploitingtexts.htm for some ideas for getting lots of practice material from any source text.

    BTW, I know of one IH school near Barcelona that has bought TM, and a couple of EFL schools in the Alicante region. (It is used extensively by MFL teachers in the UK, however.)

  4. I'm not convinced, Martin.

    My problem basically is there: "A typical TaskMagic file takes a few minutes to create, and it creates anywhere between 10 and 24 exercises".

    There's a time and a place for "exercises", but language learning — or any kind of learning — should be so much more.

    You're a kid, say of 15: you have a choice between doing 10 to 24 exercises or creating something, say with a video camera. Which would you rather do?

  5. Martin Lapworth

    I'm sure the kid would rather chat with his mates on Tuenti…

    You're a teacher, with a set of vocabulary and structures to introduce and practise, and hopefully get your students to learn. Which is more likely to achieve the desired result? (ie. the learning) A series of exercises focused on lots of repetition of the key vocab and structures, or letting the kids make something with a video camera?

    I don't see why it's an either / or situation. I'm saying that it's useful to take part in rigorous and focused language practice before moving on to the creative side.

    Didn't the EFL world use to talk about PPP? I don't know whether this is now considered passé, but the idea of practising the language before using it to produce something still makes perfect sense to me.

  6. Don Escéptico

    Well also assuming that we're not going to allow kids just to chat on Tuenti or whatever……

    We were sold Taskmagic as the best thing since sliced bread but I've given up on it. It's OK (great even) for self study (about 5% of our students use it) but after the WOW! factor has worn off NOT engaging in class with a single PC and projector. Come to think of it, I WOULD rather have my students use Tuenti or FB than TM!

  7. Martin Lapworth

    Wow… horses for courses and all that.

    I'd just like to point out that I'm not the one who's advocating excluding anything.

    Out of interest, which school are you at?

  8. Martin Lapworth

    Hmm… so no info on the school, then.

    Most schools in the UK use TM either (a) with suites of computers, so that each student can work individually on the exercises as directed by their teacher, and get individual feedback etc, hundreds of interactions per session, or (b) with an interactive whiteboard, using those components of TM which are best suited to whole class teaching. I can see that just having a PC and projector might not be ideal.

    As with any tool, it depends how you use it, and TM's effectiveness in class will depend on how skilled the teacher is in generating their own resources and using them appropriately with their students.

    Why am I back here replying to your comments? Because, honestly, it's the first negative feedback I've ever come across on the internet. (And all the feedback I get via email is positive too.)

  9. Don Escéptico

    Perhaps you ought to be declaring what appears to be a vested interested in the product, Martin. You work for TaskMagic or are the designer, perhaps?

  10. Not sure who you're referring to, Martin.

    I work for IH Barcelona (where we don't have TM, though we have evaluated it and I have used it in another school).

    You seem to be taking this as negative feedback on TM: in fact, all I'm saying is that the tools I think our learners should be using should be communicative, and allow them to create and share things, and should go way beyond the creation of "exercises": Edmodo is a far more powerful, more engaging tool than TM ever will be.

    Note that, as stated here, views expressed by me on this blog are entirely my own, and are not necessarily those of anyone else at the institution that employs me.

  11. Martin Lapworth

    Don Escépitco: I never said I wasn't involved with TaskMagic. I thought it was clear from the outset. If not, I apologise.

    Tom: My question about the school was to Don Escéptico, as he says he works in a school that has TM, and there are only a couple of EFL schools that have it (legitimately anyway). Your claim that you know of several schools who are using it makes me think that perhaps it is being used illegally by EFL schools (something that just would not happen with Secondary schools in the UK).

    You are totally entitled to your opinion, and I totally accept that I won't be able to change it. It was only the strength of your initial statement – "one tool that I particularly loathe" – that made me respond in the first place.

  12. And there was me about to name names — maybe I shouldn't, just in case :-)!

    At IH Barcelona, we installed and evaluated the 30-day trial version but didn't upgrade when it expired.

    There certainly is an IH school close to Barcelona using TM, and at least one other IHES school considering purchasing it.

  13. Just a small update: Picnik was gobbled up by Google a couple of months ago.

    I've switched over to the even more magnificent Pixlr, both its easy-to-use Pixlr Express version and the more sophisticated Pixlr Editor.

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