Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Catching Up on Week 2 of EVO

It is the end of Week 2 in EVO. I signed up for too many sessions again this year and last week was crazy at work. So I found myself in front of my computer at the end of the week, having no idea where to start. Could I even hope to do all my assignments in two days? And interact with other participants?

A sane answer to these questions would have been "No". The right thing to do on a Saturday morning would have been to go out and enjoy life. Luckily, the weather was awful all weekend, with dark gloomy skies and rain. And, luckily, I am a nerd.

It took me six hours on Saturday and four on Sunday, but I managed. And I loved every moment of it.

So here's what I did. I first attacked the Flipped Learning homework. I experimented with PowerPoint and created this video for my advanced class:

There are blunders and mistakes and things I could have done better, but this is my first instructional video and I am proud of it. I am really enthusiastic about my flipped learning class, I can't wait to learn more and create more videos.

Working with PowerPoint on my Windows tablet was a great experience. I have become a Windows 8 fan by now and I want to explore the use of PowerPoint for flipped learning. I also created a Jing video, but I made so many blunders in that one that I am leaving it out. Still, Jing videos are great when you need to share your screen with others, or teach them how to use a tool. Or take a screenshot, the way I am doing it here:

This is a picture of my Blended Learning homework. You might notice that I have recycled my Idioms with Paint video. Our task was to create two different forum-based activities, to explain what the previous task was and what the objective of the forum was going to be. I have some experience with online forums and I have used Yahoo Groups with my students. I haven't got much experience with Moodle, except as a student. I am quite impressed by what Moodle forums can do. You can find out more about Moodle forums here.

Next, I created an audio recording for ICT4ELT, listing some ways how audio can be used with students. I used a Windows 8 application called Sound Recorder. It is great and the sound is very clear, but there was a slight problem with it - afterwards, the file was nowhere to be found. It wasn't stored anywhere in My Documents, or in Downloads. I searched and searched. Finally, I asked Google and this post helped me find it. After I had finally located my file, I uploaded it to several podcasting platforms (probably in fear of losing it again)  Anyway, here are my thoughts on how you can use audio with your students:

On more ideas how to use audio, I warmly recommend this article by Nik Peachey.

We also played with Skype in ICT4ELT and I suggest you read this article about Skype in the classroom.

Next, Teaching Pronunciation Differently. Did I already tell you how much I love that class? This week we watched a series of interesting videos (for example, this one) and did some practical exercises. I recorded myself again, and this time I was saying Sing a Song of Sixpence in a normal voice, stage whisper and ordinary whisper. I deleted the recording afterwards, it was for my own personal use.

This week in EVO eTextbooks we were thinking about the visual design and layout of our etextbooks. What do we want our books to look like? And which visual elements are important to our students specifically? If I think about my (adult) learners and the visual elements that are important to them, I believe we need to start with the basics, and that's the font. It needs to be easy on the eyes and large. Of course they can always enlarge it on their device, but it will help if the page is not cluttered with text. Instead, there should also be images, bulletpoints, arrows... I speak from personal experience. I can't see a thing without my reading glasses. The only reading app I like is FBReader. You can enlarge the letters as much as you want and, what's equally important, you can increase the space between the lines. That way even I can read without my glasses. Unfortunately FBReader only works on Android devices. 

More on visual design in this very informative post by  Walton Burns. And here's a helpful rubric by M. Jesus Garcia San Martin.

And what will textbooks be like in the future?

Of course we can't be sure, but in the future most textbooks will probably be read on people's devices. They will be interactive, with videos, interactive quizzes and exercises and lots of images. Students will probably be able to "write on the margins" and post comments and feedback for the textbook author. Digital textbooks should be designed in such a way that they can be quickly edited, so that the content can be changed and updated regularly.

I made a Prezi for last year's #etextbook course. I believe it still neatly sums up what I want future textbooks to be like.

In Educators and Copyright we had interesting readings and listenings this week. For example, in this post you can find more search tools which help you locate CC-licenced images. Quite a few of them are new to me. Sadly, I was mostly lurking in Educators and Copyright last week, otherwise I would probably have needed a Time-Turner.

Photo Credit: Natalie Barletta via Compfight cc

One last thing before I sign off. I mentioned the interaction. In every one of the groups where I have participated I have met great teachers who have inspired me with their work and their comments.

And if I can somehow get a hold of that Time-Turner, I will work even harder next week.

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