M-education for beginners

M-educationforbeginners

Mobile phones are one of the most controversial aspects of today’s classroom. On one hand, we try to get rid of them, on the other hand we can’t live without them. I’m not talking about students – how often do we feel like using our mobile to check something more or less related to the class? Don’t we use Facebook to connect with other teachers and ask for help or inspiration? Don’t we browse Pinterest just to get a glimpse of an idea? The thing is – we’re not talking about mobile phones anymore, we’re talking about smartphones and we should use them according to their name: smart. There’s this joke I have access to the greatest library in the world… and I’m using it to browse pictures of cute cats. While I myself am absolutely guilty of spending too much time watching adorable felines, I am trying to reintroduce smartphones in my classroom, not as a nuisance though, but as a tool.
Mobile education, also called m-learning, is perceived by some as a kind of e-learning, yet it can be much more than that. By using smartphones in the class, and allowing – or even encouraging – my students to do the same, I bring some real context to the artificial
environment of a classroom. No longer a forbidden fruit, smartphones can be useful,
entertaining and… motivating!

Making learning more engaged

The most convenient thing about smartphone is that we can use it to check our facts
immediately, anytime and anyplace – be that a grammar rule, a spelling issue or a piece of information useful for our academic writing exercise. I am really surprised with my students not realising Google Scholar is something which can be more useful – and reliable – than Wikipedia. When a random question arises, even if it’s not related to anything we are studying at that moment, I encourage my students to check the answer on the spot, thus taking care of our natural curiosity which only too often is killed by the mundane world of educational system.
I also advise my students to use The Free Dictionary by Farlex – it’s a great antidote to
imperfect Google Translate, and is enriched with games, articles, spelling bee contests and a horoscope that always predicts good things (which is the only kind of horoscope we should believe).

Making learning collaborative

Teachers can use m-learning to individualise teaching, to engage students into learning beyond school and to encourage them to work with other students – which is much easier when we can use technology to communicate and share files.
Currently, the most useful application for me is padlet – I can share all the materials needed for the next class (my favourite form of homework), some additional exercises, place for submitting essays or projectwork etc. I also create closed groups on Facebook for my students where we make polls, enjoy discussions and try some brainstorming. It is also very useful when students write they had a particularly hard day at school and would love to play games or work on communication skills, instead of having to face planned grammar activities – if I get the message early enough, I can rearrange my lesson to their needs.

With padlet being now more commercial, I recommend trello as a similar solution.

Making learning communicative

Instant messengers are natural for our students (who, as I’ve recently read, perceive e-mails as outdated) – mobile technology changed that aspect of communication, and it’s obvious that at school, when students have to disconnect and switch to traditional way of learning in a formalised way, it may be quite difficult for them. So why not start using smartphones to encourage communication?
When it comes to warm-ups, for example, I find my smartphone irreplaceable. Story Dice, Table Topics, lateral thinking games – but to name a few. I find those applications – whether on my mobile or my students’ – really enjoyable and, what’s more important, that’s a great way of making them speak English right from the beginning of the lesson. They can even download the apps on their own, thus eliminating the teacher from the process of communication and carrying it out all by themselves.

Introducing rules

Naturally, smartphones may lead to some distracting behaviours – but are students
communicating via instant messengers so different from us, who used to write notes on pieces of paper and throw them to our friends? It’s the behaviour that is the real problem, not the technology. To avoid problems, we need to introduce some rules.
My rules are simple: all smartphones should be set on silent mode (unless being used for lesson purposes), on the desk, face down. I personally allow my students to use their smartphones whenever they finish their exercises or tasks sooner than most of the class – it’s really motivating them to get to work, just to check their Snapchat and text their friend casually yeah, I’m on my English lesson and I can chat, no problem, I’ve done my stuff and it’s OK.
As a teacher, I hope it is.

If you want to read more on the topic:
Kolb, Liz and Tonner, Sharon “Mobile Phones and Mobile Learning” in: “What School Leaders Need to Know About Digital Technologies and Social Media” (2012)

The article was first published in The Teacher nr 1 (155) 2018.

Advertisements

500 Activities for the Primary Classroom – when you look for inspirations (book review)

Feline Fact_

We all know that teaching kids requires not only knowledge and patience, but also wild amounts of ingenuity and creativity – the younger the learner, the more creative the teacher must be! And since I’ve professionally come back to dealing with young learners and teens, the book I felt like browsing through really carefully addressed the needs of the youngest learners – especially knowing the author.

I met Carol Read when I was a rookie teacher in a primary school – she was invited by Macmillan, visited Rzeszów and clearly wanted to observe a typical English lesson. I was only happy to deliver – and I found her one of the nicest people ever; also, she was the first native speaker my students had seen and they loved her.

What is the book about?

You would probably say – it’s 500 activities for children… and you’d be almost right, because it’s far more than this – each chapter starts with really useful methodological content that will help you understand the approaches behind various activities along with “reflection time” – section where you can think over your ideas. Moreover, each activity is followed by comments and suggestions, and with years of experience Ms. Read has a lot of useful tips to share!

Who is the book for?

As the dedication states – the book is for every teacher who tries to bring out the best in every child. If you’re a fresh teacher who hasn’t ever taught a kid – it’s for you! If you’re an experienced educator who has spent more time with the adults and now wants to start again with younger learners (like your truly) – you’ll find it a great source of inspiration!

Contents

The book is divided into ten sectionslistening and speaking, reading and writing, Vocabulary and grammar, Storytelling and drama, Games, Rhymes, chants and songs, Art and craft, Content-based learning, ICT and multimedia and Learning to learn. Each activity goes with an awesome description reminding me of my favourite book ever – level (from A1.1 to B1.2), age, organisation (groupwork, pairwork etc.), aims, language focus, materials and procedures. So, apart from mere ideas you have a lot of material you can adapt to your own groups and their needs.

My favourite activities

Naturally, the first part I read was the one focussed on storytelling – and the first exercise is called “words in the story” where kids create a story about a Kraken. My cthultistic heart appreciates such an excellent beginning! I really enjoyed the exercise “story stepping stones” where children learn to identify and use key episodes in the story – a very useful skill when it comes to storytelling.

But there are more activities than this – you will find activities you may use in a classroom on a regular basis – listening grid, follow the route task or wall dictation. I’m sure you’ll find something you’ll love.

Recommendations

This is one of those books I can recommend for everyone – even if you don’t teach children it may still prove useful; perfect when you need to cover for a colleague… or when your own (or your friends’) kids want to have fun and expect you to come up with a creative idea – 500 Activities is a great help, as young learners develop their skills unconsciously, simply having fun.

And having fun is something not only kids like!

Read, Carol “500 Activities for the Primary Classroom: Immediate Ideas and Solutions”

Macmillan Books for Teachers 2007

ISBN 978-1-4050-9907-3

 

7 Free Online Courses in June

 

7 (1)

With warmer days (in case of Rzeszów, Poland it’s actually a proper heatwave) we may either feel encouraged to spend days in the garden or in the park, or to spend evenings outside, enjoying slightly cooler air. I myself prefer the second option, especially that, as usually, I have so much to learn, that evenings and studying seem to be one… for ever.

Even if you’re not as much into CPD as I am, you might find some of the courses interesting:

1 Creative Problem Solving by University of Minnesota

Start: 04.06

Duration: 6 weeks

For whom: anyone with an interest in understanding the role of creativity and innovation

This course will focus on a series of “differents” where you are challenged to identify and change your own cultural, habitual, and normal patterns of behaviour. Beginning with a prompt (eat something different), you will begin to recognise your own limits and to overcome them. You will also observe that creativity is based on societal norms – and you will discuss various benefits and disadvantages of this concept.

2 A History of Royal Fashion by University of Glasgow, Historic Royal Palaces

Start: 04.06

Duration: 5 weeks

For whom: anyone with an interest in history and fashion

This course takes you into the wardrobes of British kings and queens across five royal dynasties from the Tudors, Stuarts and Georgians to the Victorians and Windsors. If you want to enjoy summer and explore the styles of monarchs and the impact of their clothing on society – that’s the perfect course for you!

3 Tricky English Grammar by University of California, Irvine

Start: 11.06

Duration: 4 weeks

For whom: anyone overwhelmed by confusing grammar rules

We know that English grammar can be quite tricky and sometimes we ask native English speakers “why do you say it this way”… and they don’t know (or worse, various native speakers use different versions). This course may be useful not only for you, but also for your students, as it will provide tips that will help you understand the rules more easily and give you lots of practice with the tricky grammar of everyday English. You may also take Teaching Tips for Tricky English Grammar course!

4 The Science of Everyday Thinking by University of Queensland 

Start: 12.06

Duration: 12 weeks

For whom: anyone with an interest in changing their mindshift

This course deals with the mind, but discusses placebos, the paranormal, medicine, miracles, and more. You will learn how to evaluate claims, make sense of evidence, and understand why we so often make irrational choices. You will improve your decision-making skills and improve critical thinking. It may seem quite long, but it’s one of the best courses to be found on “the net”.

5 Team Coaching by Deakin University

Start: 18.06

Duration: 2 weeks

For whom: anyone with an interest in coaching

This course will help you recognise the role of a coach in developing a positive team culture which may be useful not only for a teacher, but also for a DoS, especially those who start their adventure with coaching others. You will reflect on conflict, change and team development and apply principles and strategies to create a cohesive team.

6 Exploring the World of English Language Teaching by Cambridge Assessment English

Start: 18.06

Duration: 6 weeks

For whom: anyone with an interest in TEFL

This is a great course for those who have been thinking of teaching EFL and want to give it a go. You will learn about various teaching contexts and types of students, basic concepts and terminology used for describing communication skills, language analysis and awareness, using resources and other useful information for a teacher-to-be.

7 Developing Your Research Project by University of Southampton

Start: 18.06

Duration: 6 weeks

For whom: anyone with an interest in to undertake some academic research

This course guides you step-by-step if you think of undertaking an Extended Project Qualification, IB extended essay or any other scholarly research. You will learn about the principles of academic research, academic reading and note taking, drafting and developing research proposals as well as referencing, plagiarism, and academic integrity. If your students consider studying abroad, this may be a perfect course for them!

I hope you’ll find the courses useful – I myself will probably go for the Everyday Thinking – if you choose the same, we might meet online 🙂

Enjoy!