Mural.ly

As they describe it here, “Mural.ly is a new web-based application that lets you create your own virtual bulletin board, posting and arranging inspiring images, notes and more to spur your imagination. It also enables small teams to collaborate on murals, bringing a new dimension to team creativity.”

To this “virtual bulletin board”, or as I’ll call it : a mural or poster, you can add pretty much everything, from photos to videos and links and sounds.

You can have a look at this tutorial on the website of Mural.ly. What I remember from it is that this tool is really easy to use. I wouldn’t even explain to the students since it works pretty much like any other tools of this kind, which they all know how to work with it.

On top of this, there are many advantages to work with Mural.ly.

First of all, you can do so much with Mural.ly but it always is so simple to use.

Plus, you can look for any web content that you want and add what you find of interest to your work. There is no need to do a research seperatly from your mural.

You can even work in cooperation with Google. If you have an account, you can share documents from your Google files to your mural.

More over, you can share a project with anyone, and anyone can cooperate on one project. It is a nice tool to brainstorm in teams.

At the end of the class, students could have added important info about what they just learned to a collective poster and later use this poster to study. It is a way to create a visual support, which will help them remember the subject.

As you share one of your mural with the students, they can comment simply with a right-click! It is easy once again and you can collect their impression on your work and their understanding of the subject so far. Looking back at your mural, you can modify it to make it more useful for the students.

Another great option of Mural.ly is that you can keep your work private or make it public. You might wanna wait until it’s completely over before you share it, or you might prefer to receive feedback during the time you are working on it, at every step of the process.

One more advantage is that there are tons of possiblities to create a  visual support for your subject. You can use a pen to circle or point arrows at what you think is important. You can also draw shapes of all kinds.

Moreover, if the students don’t like the way you arranged information on the mural, they modify it so it’s easier for them to work with it. This way, everyone is satisfied and more productive!

When creating their own mural, students can draw mind-maps more freely than with other tools for which it is their only purpose.

We are saying “Hi!” to another great tool for students to do presentations. “Bye-bye paper posters!”, thanks to the continuous evolution.

Here is the opinion of another fan of Mural.ly who uses it in the classroom, get inspired!

However, one of its disadvantages is that it cannot yet be used with iPads, but I’m pretty sure they are working on it!

Conclusion of this post: DO NOT hesitate to use Mural.ly !!! It works out pretty well 🙂

Reasons why you should use iPads in your classroom!

When I was in elementary school, I’m not even sure tablets had been invented and you wouldn’t hear of technology in the classroom, or at least not from what I remember. Things have got a little different: technology is now everywhere!  As a future teacher, I can’t escape it. Even if it is way more demanding in the term of classroom management, iPads (or technology in general) should be integrated in the classroom as much as possible. Before having a look at my arguments, have a look here if you are not sure what an iPad is exactly, thanks to Wikipedia! Now that everyone has at least a basic definition of iPads, here are the reasons why I think we should integrate Ipad in the classroom:

1. Using technology comes naturally to children. Take advantage of this. It is even easier for them to take notes on the tablet than on paper. And probably faster. Moreover, on the iPad they can add tables, links and images.

2. They have to hand in a homework? I have a copy, you have a copy, EVERYBODY has a copy! Result: no paper copy, the environment is saying thank you, and it never gets eaten by a dog again!

3. You can use “Explain Everything” as a teacher, YESSSS! Everything you need in one place, the time you save using this app, you can use it for classroom management!

4. iBooks. Do I need to say more? “Mrs I forgot my book in my locker” said no student with an iPad ever.

5. Electronic textbooks are less expensive than printed ones. And going back to the last argument, they will always have it with them!

6. There is an infinite number of applications with educational purposes.

7. You can use the camera on the iPad to film students’ presentations and keep it for later evaluation.

I hope I have convinced you with these short but meaningful arguments! Even if you might have a hard time with classroom management at the beginning, it will pay back sooner or later!

However, just to make sure you survive, have a look at those useful tips 😉

 

Make me travel!

In my practicum, students have done many geography projects. The first one was about Canada, in which they had to present a province in teams. Now they are working on a country with a teammate. They found a lot of information and now they are presenting it in the form of a pamphlet. One thing that is missing according to me is visual support, other then their posters. Because when talking about places to visit and things to do in the country, it is has to visualize. If the students were using a mapping tool, it would make the presentation much more real and interesting.

The mapping tool I am using is Scribble Maps, in which you can scribble and write on Google Maps. It is simple to use and you can come up with really good results. Here is a tutorial to learn about the basics.

This blogger gives ideas on how to use scribble maps in the classroom in many ways!

Furthermore, as my classmate Marianne Fortin blogged about, Google Earth allows stories to get realer! While reading a story, students can identify on a map the places visited by the characters. This way you get a better mental image of the story. What is fun with Scribble Maps is that you can see the map you’ve created on Google Earth. So, instead of looking at each places individually as the story goes by, students can keep notes of the different places and, at the end, create a Scribble Map that they will eventually look on Google Earth.

As we’ve seen, Scribble Maps is a great tool to get the students to improve their geography skills. Another way to do so is by taking quizzes. There are a tons of quizzes you can find on the internet. Moreover, there is more than just geography quizzes, it can be on any topic of your choice, whatever the subject you are talking about in class. One of the best website I found is Sporcle. Do you know your countries ? Here’s a way to find out, try it!

Let’s blog!

In the ESL classroom, it doesn’t matter what you talk about, as long as it is in English. When the students are free to choose the subject, that’s where you’ll find their motivation.

Let’s do a blog project (Yes, just like what I’m doing right now!) But here is how I see it.

I wan’t to have my students write about what they already know, deepen their knowledge of stuff they like and even discover what they didn’t know that they didn’t know. Are you still following ? To make it short, I wan’t to open their mind! Of  course it won’t be done for nothing. While learning about their interests, they will be working on 2 important competencies of ESL classrooms, which are reading and writing. Let me explain how students will be working on those competencies.

Starting with the learning competency, this is how students will get there ideas from. How to learn about things you don’t know that you don’t know?

Here comes my finding of the week: StumbleUpon! As it is described on its web page, it is “a giant collection of the best pages on the Internet”. First of all, you have to create an account (see the link above) which will take you only a few minutes and then you select your interests, in other words, the subjects you want to visit pages about.  StumbleUpon will recommend you pages in your interests that you can go through at this moment, or save for later. You can also make lists of your favorite pages.

How does it fit with my blog project? Well it’s a way to find new ideas different then a Google research. When doing a regular research, you have to know what you are looking for. What I like about StumbleUpon that is different is that the starting points are your interests, and then who knows where it will bring you!

Furthermore, as a member of the StumbleUpon team, Currin Berdine sees it as a very innovative way to teach languages. It provides the teacher with many different ways to have their students use their new language skills, he says. Once you get the basics, it’s an ideal tool. Just as a weekly homework, appart from the blog project, students could have to write a quick hundred words about what they have learned this week through the StumbleUpon’s suggestions.

Getting back to the blog, after students have done enough research on their subject, by reading different pages, they are ready to start the writing process! The first step of this process will be to create a blog. As I’ve seen in my Computer Applications class, there are many different sites to create personal blogs. I’ve only use WordPress so far and like what I can get here. It is easy to add photos and links to your posts. There are great design options and it is not hard to run.

I won’t talk too much about this part of the process, maybe I’ll keep it for another post. But to help you, here are some sites : Word Press, Blogger, Tumblr, Weebly and so on.

And then, all that’s left to do is write! No minimum or maximum lenght, no special structure, free to write what comes out of their mind!

Extra Work   Something that could be add to the project is a section of new vocabulary! When doing a post, ask them to publish a short list of new words they have learned while reading about their subject. And what about working on the speaking competency? Have the students discuss in pairs or small groups what they have learned while doing their blog!

Google Drive, part II

I’ve already written about Google Drive and its numerous utilities. However, lets focus more on how I would use it in my ESL classroom. Google Drive is a very creative tool, lets see what students can come up with !

Documents

I love the ideas from M. Miller to write poems and stories in collaboration with other students. The start point can be a blank page, where each student has to add a sentence or paragraph. One student could also create a story with missing names of places or adjectives and another student would have to fill in the blanks. Another great idea I found among these 37 interesting ways to use Google Docs in the classroom is the “I am unique because…” activity. Taking turns, students will complete this sentence on the same Document. This way, you can learn a lot more about your students.

Want to have your students aware of the mistakes they often make? Write a text including those mistakes and have the students correct them on a shared document. Moreover, when asking students to write about a subject, you can ask them to share their text with a peer to get it corrected before they hand it in to you.

Because it can get messy if everyone share ideas on the same document, a table will facilitate the communication and keep everything clear.

Forms

The form can be used to get feedback on a lesson, by enumerating each important point and asking to rate the understanding from 1 to 5. Forms can also be used to communicate with parents instead of giving sheets to the students to bring home.

Moreover, after an educational visit, forms are a great tool to get students’ impression on the activity and then decide if it should take place the next year.

Many other ideas are put forward on this blog: 80 ways to use Google Forms in your classroom!

At the beginning of the year, I suggest to have the students create a form by asking each of them a question linked with their interests. Using the results, you can create groups sharing the same interests to work together throughout the whole year.

Spreadsheets

Spreadsheets are a great tool to collect data from the sudents which can be analysed, averaged, charted and explored by the students afterward. Creating quizzes and tests online is one of the tips suggested by Mohamed Kharbach in a post about the use of Google Docs in education.

Create an “assignment tracker” using a spreadsheet to keep track of students results and homework. This way, parents and students can have an overlook of their work.

Presentations

All the lessons should be presented using Google presentation, so you can share a copy of it with your students. If you share it before the class, they can follow your presentation and give comments in the chat window simultaneously!

 

These are just few ideas, but I’m sure there is a lot more that can be done with Google Drive.

Feel free to share you ideas with me 🙂

 

The Mind Map

The mind map was first introduced to me in university by my pedagogy teacher. I’ve never heard of it before, or never thought to do something of this kind. It turned out to be a revolution!! My mind is full of ideas of all kind; however there is something missing: organization! Everyone knows a good teacher has to be organized. Well, for the ones like me, who want to become a teacher, but are not organized at all, the mind map is there to help!

Mind maps are great tools for the teachers as well as for the students. In the case of the teachers, they can structure their presentation. This way, it gives a global view of the subject without forgetting a single information.

In the case of the students, it can help them to study. As this student says, the mind map allows to clarify thoughts, simplify complex ideas and memorize information. Hence, it is a great tool to restructure course notes and study for exams. Also, when using colors and images (the more absurd and exaggerated the better) you help you brain remember the information.  It remind me some of my classes where the course notes were going from the topic #1 to sub-topics and sub-sub-topics. You ended up with 5.3.12, etc. And when it goes to topic 6, you don’t remember what topic 5 looks like. It’s easy to get lost with this kind of organization. I wish I would have known the mind map back then since this tool gives you an overall idea of the subject and it is easy to go back to the main topics. Also, by using a different color for each topic, you clearly differentiate each idea.

If the teacher uses mind maps, it simplifies the work of the students. If not, the students should structures their course notes in a mind map when studying for an exam.

Here are some software you can use to build a mind map, even if I personally think the result is better when done by hand!

First of all, the one that I’m using at the moment is iMindMap from Tony Buzan. You can get a free trial for one month will all the features and then, you get the basic version. With the basic version, you have a choice between different images as a central idea, and then you can add up as many branches as you want. Then, you can choose the colour of your branches and write as long as you want in the different boxes (you can choose between many font features).

Another software I have used is XMind. This one doesn’t give you as much place for creativity, colors and images. It is more a conventional software. One of the disadvantages I found about this software is that you cannot move the branches as you want. Depending on how many branches you have, they will move around your main topic.

Here are some other free softwares to create mind maps: FreeMind, MindMeister, Coggle (tutorial) and Popplet.

Skype in the classroom

“I don’t want to become Einstein, I don’t need to learn English.”, is what a Grade 5 student told me about his English class the other day.

My opinion about English classes, when I was in high school, was slightly different but still I was reluctant to learn English. I had such a hard time speaking English in the classroom. I always thought: why speak English to someone you know would understand you better in French? And it would be easier for you to express yourself in French! I’ve spent a year in Australia after college, to realize that what works best for me to learn a second language is to be surrounded by this language only. No one could understand me in my native language, so I had to make efforts and suddenly all my knowledge of English was coming back to me. All I needed was practice.
What I’m trying to say here is not that every student should go to Australia for a year to learn English, but that the best way to learn any second language is to practice with non-French speakers. Since you cannot travel with your class to discover other cultures, you have to make the other cultures come to your classroom. How is it possible? The answer my friend is Skype!

Students here in Quebec need an extra motivation to learn English because you could easily live all you life in Quebec speaking French only. So why is English necessary? You need to give the students a reason to learn it.

Start the Skype adventure by meeting friends from all over the globe with whom the students will be able to discuss in English. This way they won’t even notice they are learning! Skype in the classroom is a good start to find teachers with the same intentions as yours. These “friends” could be native speakers as well as English learners just like your students.

Learning about someone else’s culture is so interesting you won’t have to give them extra motivation, students will be asking for more!

Another great idea to integrate Skype in the classroom is to have conference calls with amazing individuals such as actors, authors, hockey players, etc. Take the author, for example. You could have the students read one of his book and have him talk about the process of writing it. Then the students would have time to ask questions. Because they don’t want to look stupid in front of this important individual, the students will take the time to read the book and prepare their questions.

What is great about ESL classes, as my computer applications teacher says, is that you can talk about any subject, as long as you do it in English! Keeping this in mind, you have endless possibilities. Thanks to some bloggers I read, here are some interesting ideas!

Debates: Students from Quebec probably have a different opinion about the second world war than the ones from Germany. What about bullying in school? Is it a problem in South America’s schools as well? Have the students make some research about the subject to reinforce their arguments and open a debate with another classroom!

Peace One Day: Skype supports Peace One day to change the world, starting in your classroom! Subscribe to interactive lessons or take part in SkypeTalks. A great way to make the kids conscious about world peace, still using English!

Hold a contest: Again, unlimited possibilities! A science contest could be organized, linked with their science class, and they would have to compete against another classroom. Practicing science while learning English, amazing!

Mistery call: The smartboard is ringing, kids are going crazy. Who’s calling? Don’t know! They’ll have to listen carefully to the clues to find out where the mistery call is coming from.

Book club: Create a book club with different other classrooms. Every week, the students from every classroom have a book to read and will share their impressions with the other.

Yes, all these activities could be done inside the classroom between your students. However, the advantage of using Skype is that since they will have no choice than using English to communicate with their pals, they will forget the goal of this class which is to learn a second language and will focus on what the activity is about.

Using English to learn instead of learning to use English, remember this!  The kids will become “Einsteins” without even noticing it 🙂

Credits to those blogs :

10 ways to use Skype to learn

50 powerful ways to use Skype in the classroom

How to get rid of the boring presentations?

Is there anything more boring than a teacher who’s reading his powerpoint? I don’t remember it happening in elementary school, but it was a recurent problem in high school and college and I still face it every week in University. What to do in order to lose students’ interest? Teach them in a boring way, that is, with a powerpoint on which is written everything you are saying, word by word. This is an invitation to the student not to listen or even not to show up in class since he will find everything he needs on the powerpoint you will send him after class.

The boring and overelaborate powerpoint problem is present in the students’ presentations as well. Often the students are asked for visual support and they see it as an obligation to write all their text down. Moreover, it reassures them when they are scared to forget what they have to say.

How to resolve this frequent problem and make classes and presentations more interesting? By introducing creative presentation tools such as Prezi!

This tool allows you to escape the linear format of the usual presentations and to organize your information on one page only with an inspiring and colorful backgroud!

The time when you would lose the information mention earlier through the slides is over. All the information is gathered in one place. All you need to do is zoom in to focus on some details important for your presentation, and zoom out to go back with an overview of the subject. The links created between the different elements which are strategically positioned facilitate the understanding of the subject.

Where to find time for Prezi?

Of course, you will need time to get use to this new tool. But once you’ve understood the concept properly, you are ready to revolutionize your presentations!

For an oral presentation from the students that starts from nowhere, Prezi is a good start. It offers already made backgrounds which are way different from the traditional blank page. Once they’ve chosen the background, bring in creativity.

In the teacher’s case, however, when the course plan has already been planed in a linear format, Prezi implies a reorganization of the ideas, necessiting a lot of time. Nevertheless, one of Prezi’s advantage is that people have used it before you and created original presentations. You can use them as an inspiration or even directly in your own classroom. Furthermore, you will be able to share the presentation you’ve created and which you are proud of.

How to use Prezi efficiently to keep the audience’s attention?

A fascinating presentation is the opposite of the presentations I’ve give as example earlier. The endless lines of script are over, they don’t have a place in Prezi’s presentations. What we are looking for here is a visual support for our presentation. Keywords are best fitted since they allow listeners to follow and afterward is a good revision. Another way to do it is to use only images which represents the concepts to mention. What is important to remember is that you must not be able to do without the presenter which would encourage the students to do something else instead of listening or even miss the class.

To link it with my last post about IWB, Prezi can also be used in an interactive way with the students. Why not create a revision Prezi about all the material you’ve seen in class which they could use at home to revise. By participating to the elaboration, they have a better chance to remember.

Of course there are disadvantages to the use of Prezi. First of all, it takes a lot of time to learn how to use it and it is hard to fit in a teacher’s planning. Moreover, you need to pay to use it outline. Finally, the creating options are limited and the zoom can make your audience dizzy.

I might be talking only about the advantages of Prezi, I’m not saying the traditional powerpoint is not good anymore. The powerpoint is easy to use (at least, the basic features) and the students have learned how to use it at school. Also, it has useful options like builds, transitions, animations, hyperlink, syncs with SlideShare, charts, tables and many more. The biggest disadvantage is its boring linear format.

Naturally, it doesn’t all depend on the tool you use, but especially on the person who creates the presentation!

 

Visit Prezi’s website to learn more or watch tutorials.

If you wish to read more about the subject, you can visit those blog where I got my inspiration from.

The Budding Educator

Practical Teaching Advice, Ideas and Opinion

Presentation Panda

*** I know I said I would talk about Google again this week, but I thought Prezi was more interesting for the moment. I might come back to Google later! ***

 

The IWBs: a great tool or a burden for the teachers?

 
I’ll start this post by telling you a little anecdote. This week at the school where I am doing my first practicum, the director had bought interactive white boards (IWB) for the classes and he would give them randomly because no one requested them. So he called a meeting after school. I heard my teacher wishing she wouldn’t be picked because she hates interactive boards. She would prefer to get a simple projector.
That just confirmed what I’ve read about IWB, teachers perceive them as a burden while schools are spending a lot of money on them. So they find themselves being force to integrate this tool in their teaching with no training provided. The case of my teacher is just one among so many others.
Fortunately, there are kind people who master the use of IWBs and create short videos as a Survival Guide! Here are the ones from Matt Granger and the Smart Board Revolution. 
Because they want to please the director who bought these tools the first reaction of the teachers is to use the made-up activities which comes with the IWB software. According to the technology bloggers, there is so much more you can do ! And their ideas are very inspiring for my future teaching. Even if I don’t know yet at what level I want to teach, or even in which country, one thing I know is that I could make a good use of these boards! The IWB gives you access to internet, use it ! Internet signifies unlimited possibilities. You want to practice your students’ reading skills, make them annotate a recent article from an international news network. You can also present multi-level presentations with documents and videos using original presentation tools. It is not enough just to know how it works. Teachers need to be able to plan lessons using the IWB and as the third step, make those lessons interesting and engaging.
As Patty Grayson says, the interactive whiteboard is like a window to the world. Since it is equipped with a camera, it allows you to connect with anyone using Skype. You are free to do activities with other classrooms from anywhere which will bring new point of views to the project you are working on. You could also connect with the author of the book your students have to read, or the actor playing in their favorite TV shows. The possibilities are infinite, and foundations have been created to approach these people for educative purposes.
Another advantage of the IWB is that there is a lot of websites where you can download material from. You save a great amount of time that you would lose on creating your own. Suddenly, IWB won’t look that much like a burden. You can find these activities on blog like Teachers Love SMART Boards, Online White Board Tools and so on.
To end the discussion, lets just remember the main points. To use the IWB efficiently, teachers should receive a good training, they should keep in mind the goal they want to achieve using a smart board and BE CREATIVE!
Sources

Google

GoogleGoogle has a large range of products available nowadays. Google is mostly known for its Web Search, which enables you to search about anything through billions of web pages. However, if you are looking for medias, you could look in Youtube, Books or Image and Video Search. For something more specific, you can have a look at Blog Search, Google Scholar or News.

Other products are also available outside of the searching field. Google + is a social network. Google Maps helps you find places or get directions. Google Calendar allows you to do time-management and to receive notices on the day of an event. Gmail is an email service. Google translate is a basic translation tool.  Google Drive is a file storage and synchronization service.

This post will focus more on Google Drive and how it can be used effectively at school.

What exactly is Google Drive ? 

Google Drive is a free file storage and synchronization service. What does that mean? A file storage is also called cloud storage because it is accessible from any computer or mobile device with connection to internet. For example, if I create a document on my computer and save it in my Google Drive account, I can later have access to it on my mobile device or on the school computers. What about the synchronization service? It means that the file will be update with the latest modifications, wherever you modified it and have access to it. Here is a video about it.

The creation of a Google Drive account

To connect to Google Drive, you need to have a Google account (if you don’t have one, you can create it in just a few steps!) The advantage of using the Google account is that everything you have with Google is shared between the products. Once you have got an account, you can install the desktop app to have an offline access to the files. This last step is optional, if the school computers don’t allow you to install apps, the web account is enough. Here are some tips and tricks to help you along the process.

How Google Drive can be useful for the students?

There used to be a product called Google Docs which is now included in Google Drive. The files that can be created with Google Drive are documents, presentations, spreadsheets, forms, drawings and you can add more to the list with the many applications available. The files can be shared with many users and modified by any of t

hem at the same time. This is a way for students to work on a group project from their home.  Furthermore, if they are not working at the same time on the file, as one connects on his account, he can see the latest updates. Furthermore, the teacher could have access by Google Drive to the students’ homework.

How Google Drive can be useful for the teachers?

This product by Google can be useful for teachers in many ways. First of all, they can use it to share documents like homework, readings and results with their students by creating a Google Group. Moreover, instead of using checklists, they can use Google Forms to easily see if a student has handed in a homework, camp money or a signature from the parents. All the assignments can be kept in Google Drive; this way you save space and time not searching among all the mixed papers. There can be a file for each student or each term.

In conclusion

This is only one of many products by Google that can be integrated in schools. This file storage and synchronization service, as I demonstrated, is easy to use and is a great tool wether for students or teachers.

As for the other products from Google (which I listed above), I will discuss more about them in my next post!

Have a good week !