Getting the most out of technology: sharing is caring

A further quotation I used in my conference talk last weekend, one that came from my own children, who used it when they were very small as a magic phrase which instantaneously ended their squabbles. They are now 16 and 19 and it's been fascinating to watch two digital natives grow up; and having learnt so much from them, I had to include something that they've taught me!

One of the fundamental changes that Web 2.0 tools have brought about is that they make it so easy for users to share things. If the use we're making of technology doesn't lead to that, then we can't possibly be using it to its full potential.

Perhaps the problem is with the word "we": it's not "we" the teachers that should be using classroom technology at all, but our learners. And if what they're doing with it doesn't lead to sharing things online, then we need to rethink what we're asking them to do.

On a class blog, have your class post photos (taken either on their mobile phones or with a digital camera) of their first coffee of the morning, on a regular basis.


You could, alternatively, substitute "breakfast" for "coffee", as in the image (above).

Original source: Tumblr

I've suggested a blog but you could also use a Facebook group or Edmodo or a Google+ Community, though (for reasons of its superior privacy, my personal preference would definitely be for Edmodo).

I like this task for a number of reasons. It's suitable for quite low levels; it's creative; it involves sharing and, because it does, it helps create a sense of community, which is excellent for your group dynamics, both online and in the time you and your learners spend face-to-face.

Another thing I like about the task: it requires the learners to take their own photos, not steal them from Google-is-Evil. As far as humanly possible, I don't set tasks which can be illustrated with images stolen by and from Google (or anywhere else).

What's not so good about the task (and it's a serious defect!) is that it probably won't lead to a lot of interaction (think "comments"). It's not enough for language learners merely (as on Facebook) to "like": you want them to actually use English to communicate.

In order to get more interaction, your learners could have ongoing negotiation of what posts should include to make it most interesting; and discussion of, and research into (think mini-webquests) how the photos could be improved is a further possibility.

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  1. Here's a real fun variation on the idea, if you've got a really creative class :-)!

  2. Looking back here, I'd have to make a change to this post, possibly because G+ has evolved somewhat…

    Edmodo is brilliant for a private "social media" space for working with teens.

    A Google Plus Community, one that you've made private, would now be my choice for working with adults.

    G+ Communities don't quite give you all the options (things like small groups and quizzes, which you get with Edmodo) but the huge plus is getting any new content directly in your email.

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