Two more wonderful starting points for digital storytelling

One I spotted on Twitter last month, where I keep an eye out for the excellent Vimeo Staff Picks

And one I tweeted earlier this week…

We have to assume, of course, that bunnies can either write or speak for this to work. Teachers sometimes say to me "My learners just aren't that creative", to which I always say "You have to ask them to be"; and the more you do, the more they will be.

Writing or speaking tasks
Whether this is to be a writing or a speaking task, I like to make such things collaborative efforts, with learners working together in pairs or groups of 3 and producing a single version of the story between them.

If it's to be a writing task, Google Drive documents that the learners (not you!) set up and share with you and everyone else are amazing (a class blog makes a great alternative) — but do make your learners deal with all the setting up: you're not in class as technical support!

And for a speaking task, my preferred tool is for the learners to record it using the excellent Spreaker Studio app.

Thanks to Amanda for trying the second story out and providing feedback.

On Twitter (@Tom_IHBCN), I post no more than one thing a day, always and exclusively things that I think will interest language teachers and/or their learners.

Inspiring children to read with simple drawings

In my recent session on classroom drawing at the IH Barcelona ELT Conference, I explain how my son's primary school teacher had inspired him to do better at school by putting not ticks but quick doodles of football players on his work.

Toni, however, remembered not so much the football players as the drawings Agustí used to do on everyone's reading records…

As I suggested during the workshop, even if you never draw on your board, learn to doodle, and — especially if they are young — doodle on your learners' work!

One cool photo for one fun, collaborative digital story

Above, an idea posted on IH Barcelona's Instagram feed.

The retro toys, photographed in a shop window, to be found all over Barcelona, are real fun as collaborative writing prompts with small groups of learners creating the stories of their drivers and passengers.

I've used these several times before ("What? Again?" a learner asked the last time I repeated the idea 😉 !) but really like the idea of a single suitable prompt and a couple of juicy brainstorming questions as the basis for a materials-light, language-rich classroom activity.

See these two previous posts for further information and what we did with this last time:

Tips for success with learner-centered technology

Tips for success with technology

The above tips were suggested during my OneStopEnglish webinar on February 10th. Here, I've added a few further notes to them.

1 | Find out what apps (etc) your students already use and start with those
If many of your learners are already using, say, Instagram, that's probably the place to begin. Their familiarity with it means that you don't have to teach them how to use it, and if some are unfamiliar, their peers can provide the technical support.

See also (5), below.

Conversely, if many of them are not really using things like Facebook at all, start with one that no one uses (Edmodo and a private G+ Community would be obvious choices; see also (4), below). The fact that they will only be using it for my class (plus the fact that I've made it private) has persuaded even some of my most technophobic learners to come on board.

And one that's caught me out: if they don't use email, don't use that, use WhatsApp instead!

2 | Don't touch the technology yourself, ever
I mean this one literally. If you have a computer and projector in your classroom, the best possible piece of equipment you can purchase is a wireless mouse and keyboard — and then put one of your learners on it. You want to show a YouTube video (or whatever)? Get one of your learners to do it for you. Handing over the technology takes so much of the stress off of the teacher!

You think technology "always" goes wrong in your classes? Make one of your learners handle it for you and you'll be amazed: it never seems to go wrong!

See also (5), below.

3 | Have your students use technology to create things
You can do wonderful things with YouTube but you don't just want to have your learners sitting there watching videos, something which they could be doing at home! And if your learners are simply passively consuming your PowerPoints, rather than creating their own, then you're perhaps using 1% of the potential of 21st century technology.

What you really want to be doing (and what lots of your learners really want to be doing 😉 !) is to have them use technology to create things — photos or text, or audio or video, all of which can be done on the smartphones you might actually have just told your learners to put away.

See also (6), below.

4 | Have your students set up a shared digital space
You get your learners to (a) create things; but after that they'll need somewhere they can (b) share them and (c) comment on their creations. The commenting is an important stage of your task design because it provides further opportunities to use language. That's where a shared digital space comes in, a class blog on which your learners are all authors, or an Edmodo group (great with teens!), or WhatsApp or a Google+ Community (those last two with adults).

You want to be using social media with your learners (though that's a term I generally avoid using with them, so as not to put anyone off!)

5 | Have your students provide the technical support; you provide the linguistic support
Using technology successfully in a classroom is very much a question of getting learners into good habits (backing things up, using safe passwords, keeping the noise level down, speaking in English… etc.). One of the habits I most strongly recommend you to get your learners into is to have them turn to their peers if anything goes wrong, rather than turning to you.

Especially if they're young, you want to identify which of your learners are great with technology, and make use of them. Your learners calling out "technical!" if they have a problem and your new assistants then getting up and going to provide that help is another great habit to get them into. Your job is to help with the language, not the technology! On the former, not the latter, you're the expert to turn to.

Here's possibly the best ever scheme for providing technical support in a school that I've ever come across, described by my son Toni.

6 | Create tasks that require your students to play with language, not just technology
Technology can be exciting and, yes, you can do amazing things with it. But I often wonder whether or not our learners get so excited about it that they switch into their own rather than the target language, or else fall totally silent (bliss 😉 !) and end up doing a lot of excited clicking, but not much in the way of language work and practice. The latter is what we're there for, after all.

I think it's probably best to devote the usually limited number of hours our learners have in class to them talking and we the teachers helping them to talk better, providing language and improving performance, as well as to things like pronunciation, intonation, etc.

To have this happen, in other words:

What I want to happen in my class

If in class we've provided them with the ideas and the language and the practice and the rehearsal, outside class they can do the clicking and editing that pulls everything together, preferably collaboratively, perhaps using the shared digital space we've set up, to produce a digital end product like a story or a podcast or a presentation to be rehearsed at home and performed in the next class.

The way to go is probably talk inside, click outside the classroom.

7 | Never be afraid students will know more about technology than you do!
One of your learners will always know more about some aspect of technology than you, some more about all aspects of it.

They do? Be happy, not intimidated! You need technical assistance? You have it sitting right there in front of you!

See also
What's the recipe for using technology successfully?

More on using technology in language teaching

Subscribers to OneStopEnglish have access to a series of articles detailing activities for many of the tools mentioned above.

Webinar Feb 10: Getting your learners to use technology

15 Years of OneStopEnglish

Join me February 10 for a free webinar celebrating 15 years (!!) of OneStopEnglish, one of my favourite sites for English teachers.

I’m going to be talking about how we can (and should!) be getting our learners to use technology, indeed one of my tips is this:

Don't touch the technology yourself, ever !!!

I mean that literally: put one of your learners on the keyboard and mouse (the best edtech purchase you can make: a wireless mouse and keyboard!) and literally don't ever touch it yourself in the classroom.

At the IH Barcelona ELT Conference this weekend, Rachel Appleby (@rapple18) tweeted this from the excellent plenary given by Lindsay Clandfield (@lclandfield):

But are there really that many English language teachers left who aren’t using technology nowadays? Are there really language teachers who aren’t turning on their projectors and exploiting some of the amazing things you can find on YouTube or (even better) Vimeo or VideoJug or (another of my favourites), Film English?

IH Barcelona (OK, in that case, me 😉 !) replied to the above tweet with this comment:

That's more or less what I'm going to be talking about in the webinar.

On OneStopEnglish, there are a series of articles I’ve written suggesting easy ways you can get your learners to use tools like Edmodo and G+ Communities, Google Drive and Instagram (and their mobile phones) for some language-rich, learner-centered tasks.

From a learner's point of view, they are so much more interesting than watching you, the teacher, plough through a PowerPoint it took you an hour and a half to prepare!

Join me Wednesday…

NOTE Full access (recommended) to OneStopEnglish is by subscription (see prices) but you can also obtain a free 30-day trial). There is also institutional subscription, which I recommend you recommended to your Director of Studies 😉 !