Using mind maps with younger students?

 

This week I have been asking myself whether or not mind mapping can be done effectively with younger students. Many teachers utilize mind maps as they make the information clearer for the students. However is it possible to effectively implement this tool in second language teaching? Apparently yes!

First off what is a mind map exactly? Mind maps were invented Tony Buzan in the 1960s. According to its creator, a mind map enables their user to “unlock the potential of their brain”. His main objective was for students to be more easily able to decipher different pieces of information. His techniques involves using a blank unlined sheet of paper with different colored markers. By using colors and pictures, the information becomes easier to analyze and study. This mind mapping technique is still to this day extremely popular.

According to an online article on the topic of mind maps and their use with younger students, the author suggests not naming the activity per se. On the contrary, they advice teachers to refer to it as a “new fun activity”. The author also encourage using that tool during individual activities such as brainstorming or reviewing for a test. They also recommend promoting creativity and imagination even if at the expense of neatness.

However, nowadays students are usually more at ease while using a computer mouse. Therefore, instead of forcing them to craft it from scratch, teachers can use an online tool such as bubbl.us for students to create dynamic mind maps without having to put too much energy into it. What is really nice about this website is the fact that students do not need to build an account in order to start making their first mind map. Furthermore this website has a easy display for students and it allows students to print the ending result in mere seconds.

I think mind mapping can be great for primary students if done appropriately. An effective way of making sure students know what they are doing is by using free Internet tool such as bubbl. I think this technique is perfectly suitable for third cycle primary school students.

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Using online polls to trigger students’ interest!

online polls computer app

As a teacher it is crucial to find topics that will trigger the student’s interest. In doing so, a teacher is more likely to receive positive feedbacks from both the students and their parents as he/she is doing anything in his/her power to influence their students in a positive way. While trying to capture their attention, a relevant way could be to use online polls. A tool such as this one helps to get a general idea of possible subjects that could be both current and relevant for the students.

According to the website faculty focus, online polls are a good way of shifting information from the short-term memory into the long-term one while doing a reflective activity. Moreover, this tool also allow teachers to get feedback on an activity without suffering from the peer pressure of doing it using a show hand technique.

In fact, I am not the first teacher who agrees on using online polls so to capture student’s attention. While researching the topic I stumbled on a blog about an English teacher who uses features such as an online polls with his students. He proposes a website that allows students to utilize it without even having to register themselves. What is so nice about the Mentimeter website is that it involves direct interactions with the results popping up almost immediately. The only con is that this website works solely on intelligent phones or electronic tablets.

From what I learned while researching on the topic, I think an online poll survey could be a great addition in a classroom as it allows the teacher to receive direct feedback from his students. Best this service is completely anonymous. As they say on Mentimeter, this tool is great for pop quizzes, expectation management from the students, forcing their reflection as well as providing a stress free environment in which students can give their teacher constructive feedbacks.

I suppose this tool could be harder to use in an elementary school but I can see myself using it with high school students. As teacher we should always aim at improving the lessons we give. Therefore, I can see why more and more teachers use online polls as to give their students a positive opportunity to review whether or not the teacher delivered to them the information in a decent manner.

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WebQuest 101

webquest

Since next week we have to hand in our WebQuest project I thought that maybe a little extra research on the subject might be of use!

The first thing I did was to learn more about who invented this type of activity and how he intended WebQuest to be used.

They were invented by Dr. Bernie Dodge in 1995. According to him, a well-designed webquest should include a muli-facet activity in which there are many possible right answers. He also suggests using topics that are relevant for the students and that are not based on topics that are already covered by student’s text book. He adds that students should not search for information but rather use it in order to complete the task. He advises teachers to give all the information they might need before hand. Dr. Dodge also promotes the use of authentic material for creating a WebQuest. Finally, he summarizes WebQuest as a task involving a higher level of thinking during which students do not simply copy paste information but rather use creativity in order to make sense of it and complete the activity.

Although it looks quite appealing and easy to do there are many pitfalls teachers should be aware of. First, there is the fact that some students will see it as just a traditional task in disguise, others will be lost amongst the endless numbers of website and last some teachers might forget to review the information thinking the students learned everything there was to be learned by simply completing the WebQuest.

Another website gave me clear explanations on how to put the information within the WebQuest ensuring it would be convenient for students to use and fill out.

One thing that Dr. Dodge said that really made me realize the potential given by such tool is the fact that it is a constructivist activity which really to the field of competency that students should acquire according to the MELS document.

Now that I have this information more defined in my head, I think it will be easier for me to create a WebQuest that could be of use for me either during my practicum or later during my professional career.

For more information visit:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v7UynehA_l0

http://educ6040fall10.wikispaces.com/Webquests

http://www.educationworld.com/a_tech/tech/tech011.shtml

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Practical classroom applications for Google Drive

Google-Drive

As future ESL teachers we have to face it; the time of storage information solely on USB keys is over. Now it is the time of virtual storage known as either Goggle Drive or iCloud. These applications allow 5GB of free storage for their users. As soon-to-be teachers we should understand the underlying mechanism behind such technology and turn it to our advantage.

One of the most useful characteristic of Google Drive is the fact that students can work from any electronic device quickly accessing the information they required. Basically all you need to have is an Internet connection and an account in order to start storing or obtaining the documents or data posted by the teacher.

According to a specialist on the question, over 61 out of 100 of the top university utilize this device. The same specialist ensures that Google drive has many components that protects its files making sure that the information is safe and easily accesible for all users. Indeed, he proves that Google Drive saves the documents three times but also encourages user to keep a back up version on a USB key. He also refutes gossips that says that Google Drive will ask for users to pay eventually. Finally, he also shows how to turns off the advertisements.

Now that the possible questions and problems are out of the way, how could an ESL teacher make use of Google Drive effectively?

Well from the information I gathered so far, many bloggers say that Google Drive can promote collaborative learning. Teachers should remember that the main focus of the MELS program is for the students to acutally acquire this ability to work effectively in teams. Furthermore, because the students are actively involved in the process of being part of a web community, some specialists also claim that using Internet based storage system can promote more accurate self evaluation or assessment since when they do it there is not the peer presure of answering like the vast majority. Here again the MELS centers its attention to students being able to justly assessing whether they did enough for the task that was at hand.

One problem I realised when it comes to the use of Google Drive is that students that are in elementary school need a signed release from the parents since the account the need to create on Gmail requires user to be 13 years old or older. However after this has been resolved, Google Drive can help create documents or mindmaps that the students can work on collaboratively making it a useful tool even in elementary schools.

Although I have just rencently the potential of Google Drive, the huge potential this online free device has cannot be undermine. However, I will definitely need to research more into it so to understand really how it is regulated and how I could eventually include the tool in my lessons.

For more information visit:

https://docs.google.com/presentation/pub?id=197JU15kULr7HTDQWFo6Y5ZyPFWrZknLYiFrwkyvmvho&start=false&loop=false&delayms=3000#slide=id.p

http://catlintucker.com/2012/05/making-the-most-of-google-docs-drive/

http://www.teachthought.com/technology/a-case-study-using-google-drive-in-the-classroom/

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Is Google your best friend or your worst enemy?

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It has long been discussed whether Google should be considered trustworthy or not. Teachers question the validity of some of the information it displays and if it is the best search engine for students to use.

According to an article on Edtechmagazine.com, about 60% of US teachers believe that online resources make it harder for students to differentiate between credible sources and non credible ones.  However the author of the article respond that teachers should become aware of a function that Google offers them; an online course on power searching!

The videos are there to help Google users make the best use out of the resource. More than giving out videos, the people of Google also provide handy sheets that can be of use to all users.

On that convenient reference sheet, I noted that by simply adding a minus sign after the word we are researching we can avoid getting unnecessary information. The contrary also applies. If we add a plus we get a broader range of information.

Other techniques involve adding an asterisk symbol for Google to fill in the blank for you. Users can also change the settings so Google filters the massive amount of information better.

According to CBC news, many students relies solely on web based search engines for finding pertinent information while working on an essay or a project. A study published in 2010 prove that most students take little consideration regarding whether their source is credible or not. In their observation study, the authors discovered that out of the 102 freshmen students they picked many admitted never verifying if the author of the article they used was credible or not. To base their analysis, they let the student mark themselves on a scale of 5. Their findings made people realise that the average was around 2.8 out of 5.

This article made me feel very uneasy as I feel like I can easily relate to this situation. I will be the first to admit that I rarely do I double-check my sources to ensure their validity. However, as a future teacher, I am able to positively influence younger minds. As such, if facing the dilemma of students not verifying their sources I will now be able to suggest them tricks and tools that could facilitate their search on web-based research engines.

I think teacher should be aware of the Google power researching videos and techniques as it will enable them to stop critize Google so much and offer them ideas for their students to increase their chances of finding significant sources

For more information visit:

http://www.edtechmagazine.com/k12/article/2013/01/can-google-help-students-master-art-online-search

http://www.powersearchingwithgoogle.com/course/ps/assets/PowerSearchingQuickReference.pdf

http://www.google.com/help/features.html

http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/story/2010/07/27/google-student-usage-study.html

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Information and communication technologies’ (ICTs) possible practical applications in an elementary school setting

http://http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-WWsAXmBqk7g/UL-NDefy9_I/AAAAAAAAAas/kQrshv-R0BQ/s1600/ICT_Alphabet.png

While doing some research on the practical use of ICTs in primary school I found an article that seemed trustworthy to me. The authors discuss the multidimensional level of learning a new language.

They propose that most teachers do not use the new technologies appropriately. According to this article, the free online resources given to ESL teachers are rather old and can possibly lead the students to boredom. The good softwares available are unfortunately expensive therefore the authors do not recommend their use. Moreover, they say that such software work on a superficial level and should be used with moderation by teachers.

Instead, teachers working at an elementary level should focus on pronunciation and spelling. Students can listen and repeat afterwards given them the satisfaction of knowing almost instantly if they got the word right or not. The authors suggest that in doing so, students will tend to practice longer as they have some control over the situation. By controlling the mouse, it gives them some sense of control as they are not so controlled by the teacher. Furthermore, many of these websites offer an attractive display which makes learning more fun and feeling like a game.

After I read this article, I started looking for websites that had the features the article said we should aim for. Amongst the websites that had all the elements an ESL teacher need for a proper lesson, one really stood out for me. The English media lab website has all the elements the article promotes.

First its display is interactive. I think students could navigate easily on that website. In my opinion this website is totally suitable for students in an elementary school setting.
Second, it features some pronunciation exercises for students to practice on their own each will help them monitor their learning, also it has spelling exercises based on diphthongs and grammar exercises.

Again, this website features elements that according to the MELS program teachers should look for. The activity on pronunciation, if done in collaboratively, could related to the competency 1 and 2 of the MELS program. It would, indeed involve both the oral interaction between teammates and the use of interactive software to enrich and consolidate their learning.

This resource I will DEFINITELY use it in my practicum. Recently, a group of fourth graders just finished a unit on the rooms and the furnitures of the house. Surprisingly, this website has an activity based on that same unit! Next class I will propose to my teacher to do a classroom activity based on the templates given on that website.

For more information visit:
http://www.albany.edu/lap/Papers/technology%20use.htm
http://www.eslgamesworld.com/ClassroomGames.html

http://www.mels.gouv.qc.ca/dgfj/dp/programme_de_formation/primaire/pdf/prform2001/prform2001-annexe.pdf

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Web 2.0?

Image

I have recently learn about the web 2.0. I am therefore curious about what it exactly entails and how as a future teacher web 2.0 could be of use to me. This week instead of reviewing technologies of which I have a certain knowledge of, I decided to venture into a universe of which I have absolutely zero knowledge of; the world of web 2.0.

As I am reading about it, I come to realize that unknowingly I have been using the web 2.0 for at least of few years! According to the definition of it, I could be summarize as following: a web 2.0 website is a website that enable their users to interact and collaborate between each other. It is a sort of virtual community. As I am reading those lines, I come to realize that Facebook which is a device that I use on a daily basis is considered as part of the web 2.0. Therefore even without any knowledge of it, unconsciously I have been aware of that tendency in the Internet for quite some times.

One element that immediately caught my attention is the fact that wikis are also considered as being part of the web 2.0. As such my instinctive reaction was to think of how great of a project it would be to have children writing an article about a topic of their choice on a homemade wiki. It would encompass two of the main competencies that students are required to obtain through their passage in the schooling system. Mainly, it would focus on the C2 which involves the reinvestment of knowledge as well as C3 the production of written texts.

 Easily, I could see my students part of a year long project that involves the creation of articles that could eventually be posted on the school’s wiki page. Student could gain from this experience an ability to summarize information and put it into their own words. A click after I had that realization, I quickly became aware that such sites are already there and could be easily implemented within a year long project.

On Wikibooks:Guidelines for class projects, I saw that this website offers some sugestions and general guidelines for teachers who would like to try out a project such as this one. Everything is well described and I think such as this one could be suitable for more advanced students such as high school students. I think the students would like a project like this one. It would offer them a wide range of possible subjects that they could work on thus making the learning more fun and in touch with their own reality. Eventually, a wiki 2.0 project could also form a sort of database that the students could refer to that would be easily accesible to them.

This idea is so far the best I unveiled when it comes to the practical use of ICTs in a classroom. I will make sure to remember that idea when in next practicum which is going to be in a High School.

 For more information visit:

 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Web_2.0

http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Wikibooks:Guidelines_for_class_projects

http://www.mels.gouv.qc.ca/dgfj/dp/programme_de_formation/primaire/pdf/prform2001/prform2001-annexe.pdf

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