Archive for January, 2012
At the end of 2011 I travelled up to Innsbruck, Austria to do some teacher training for one of the top language schools there, Die Sprache. We looked at a number of handy ICT tools for language teachers, with a focus on Podcasts. I thought I would share the slides from our training session here on the blog, so that other teachers who are thinking of using pod casts with language learners can take a look through and get a few useful hints and tips.
The presentation is basically broken down into three sections:
- The first is a quick run through of what pod casts are and why they are (a really good) tool, suitable for language learners.
- In the second section we look at podcasts used for active listening practice. Personally I think the fact that there are so many different topics of podcast available, as well as those made specifically for language learners, means that there are a great way of introducing regular listening practice to your learners.
- Then the third and final part of our workshop looked at using the brilliant Open Source sound recording software, Audacity. At first sight audacity can be a bit intimidating. I don’t really mind admitting that I only ever use about 5% of Audacity’s capabilities, but the ability to edit and mix sound recordings really make your recordings sound more professional. At the end of the day I’ve used Audacity with a class full of 15-year-olds, and it went very smoothly. A surefire sign of simple software.
Please feel free to take a look through the slides, and even share them with your colleagues if you wish. If you have any questions or if anything is not quite clear, please do ask any questions in the comment section below (these slides are of course designed to be used in a face-to-face seminar with me present, online they lose something.) Of course, if you would like me to come to your school to deliver this seminar in person, just drop me a line for a quote:
email: i n f o (a t) d i g i t a l a n g . c o m
Finally, I promised the teachers at Die Sprache who taught languages other than English, that I would find a few podcasts suitable for them. I didn’t find a great deal of sites, but here’s what I’ve found so far:
Radio Lingua Language-learning – Possibly the best group of language learning podcasts I’ve seen yet!
Schlaflos in München – der Podcast mit Annik Rubens – A very classy podcast from Munich.
http://www.andreasauwaerter.de/ – Andreas Auwerter’s Posdast
Podcasting for Learning » Zwei neue Interviewpartner im Bidcast online – Andreas Auwerter’s blog about podcasting
In addition to these links, I also have a list of links that (might) useful for teaching German and Spanish on my Delicious account:
- German http://www.delicious.com/sethdickens/german
- Spanish http://www.delicious.com/sethdickens/spanish
If you know of any more links good for teaching these languages, please do let me know in the comments.
To round up my series of interviews from BETT 2012, I have a post today about what I believe is going to be one of the most influential developments in educational technology in the year or so. Whether or not that’s true, it certainly was the most interesting new thing I saw at BETT 2012. It is of course, Google Education.
I saw two or three of the presentations Google gave at their stand, in particular one given by Dana Nguyen on the Google Apps for Education and the Google Certified Teacher programme really stood out. Both of these programs are worth a much closer look. I’m thinking of blogging about these in the future, so I’ll save the space here and talk about them in depth later. Apart from the fact that I’m quite a fan of Google anyway, I really was impressed by what the company is doing to try and make technology more accessible for students and teachers. In many respects, while the use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in teaching is still a “new” innovation, the free services that companies like Google offer can often act as a gateway for teachers to start using technology. This is even more true when the technology being used is the same as, or similar to that which teachers are used to in their everyday lives.
I guess it still remains to be seen whether Google apps for education will end up being as much of a game changer as YouTube, Google Maps, Gmail and the other successful Google services have been. Without a doubt though, the other VLEs like Blackboard, Frog, Moodle and Fronter will be keeping a careful eye on what Google is up to. What’s more, now that Apple have announced their entry into the educational market with their iBooks 2 launch last week, I’m sure that Google are going to continue to press ahead with innovations, making Google Apps for education a very interesting suite of tools to keep an eye on.
On the final day of the BETT show, I was lucky enough to score a bit of a scoop, and I got an interview with William Florance, Google’s Head of Education, for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. Apart from the fact that he rushed back from his lunch early so that I could do the interview and catch a train, he seemed like a really nice guy, and as might be expected, a really strong believer in the potential of Google Apps for Education.
So before I pass over to William, I think it’s right to just say in this final BETT post, that the show was incredibly helpful for me as an educator interested in technology. I really highly recommend it to anyone interested in this field. Although the selection of hardware, software and services dedicated to language teaching wasn’t as big as I’d hoped, there is just so much to see, that it really will be a valuable experience to anyone who chooses to go there. There will be something for everyone, I’m quite sure. I’m definitely going again in 2013, if you fancy a coffee and a bit of advice about what to see, I’ll meet you at Excel, London next year!
I don’t mind admitting to having a really pleasant surprise with this company. I had never heard of Frog before, which seems quite strange considering how big they seem to be in the UK. Frog had a huge stand at BETT, with loads of people working for them, and looking at their product you can see why.
Frog is a virtual learning environment (VLE) that has something of the social network about it, something of Google IG, something of English360, and generally speaking looks really nice. It’s not really possible in just a short four or five-minute demonstration to get a good in depth idea of the strengths and weaknesses of something as complicated as a VLE, but the first impressions of frog were very good. What’s more, the guy that I got to do an interview for Digitalang was none other than the CEO Gareth Davies.
I asked Gareth the same three questions I asked everyone else: “Why do you come to BETT”, “What have you been talking to people about most?” and ” What are you doing to make teachers’ lives easier?” I thought Gareth gave some good answers.
For the third in my series of Best of the BETT interviews I spoke to Anne Gilleran, from eTwinning.net. I’m happy to say that amongst the hundreds stalls at BETT, eTwinning’s area was a real breath of fresh air. Their service is a real help for language teachers who want their students to get some authentic speaking practice, it’s also huge (currently there are more than 150,000 members) and best of all it’s free. In their own words:
eTwinning is the Community for schools in Europe. Teachers from all participating countries can register and use the eTwinning online tools (the Portal and the Desktop) to find each other, meet virtually, exchange ideas and practice examples, team up in Groups, learn together in Learning Events and engage in online-based projects.
I’m a big fan of free stuff that makes teachers’ lives easier and I’ll definitely now be looking into eTwinning.net further. I’d like to see how I could work it into some of the seminars I teach at the moment.
Anyhow, over to Anne, who describes (in a very noisy BETT conference hall) exactly what eTwinning.net does:
Tomorrow’s post will be my last, but I’ve saved the “big one” or scoop until then. I was very lucky to get an interview with William Florance, the head of Education at Google for Europe The Middle East and Asia.
In this second in our series of interviews from the BETT 2012 interviews, we hear form Simon Lee, the UK Head of Sales for Livescribe, the manufacturer of the incredible SmartPen.
I use a Livescribe SmartPen myself, and I can attest to how useful they are for helping you to concentrate on what is being said, not taking notes and so on in meetings. More importantly though, at least for this blog, they’re invaluable in 1to1 language lessons, where the teacher will be able to quickly and simply play back errors to the learner, so that can correct themselves, whether it be pronunciation, vocabulary or grammar mistakes. Without fail, after every single sales meeting I do for English360, the people I’m talking to ask “what’s that amazing pen?” or something along those lines!
In this interview, Simon tells us why Livescribe came to BETT and what teachers have been hearing from him this year:
BETT (The British Educational Training and Technology show) is one of Europe’s biggest EdTech shows. It’s been going for close to 30 years, attracts almost 30,000 visitors each year with a round about 700 different companies exhibiting there. In the madness that was BETT 2012. It was very easy to feel overwhelmed. As an antidote to my mystification, I set myself a task – find the top 5 most interesting, relevant, or influential stands at the show and interview someone important there for my dear blog readers. So, over the next 5 days, I’m going to post one video interview per day with a key BETT player, starting today with Chris Klein, the Educational Consultant and Macintosh Specialist for SMART Technologies, one of the leading IWB (Interactive White Board) manufacturers.
SMART had a huge, and I mean huge presence at BETT. At a guess I’d say they had 50-60 odd people working at their stall at any one time. You know what, they were all busy, all of the time, too! SMART were showcasing their soon to be released Notebook software version 11, which had some amazing features. My favourite feature I think was the web mash-ups, which allowed you to bring streaming video, Google maps, online flas animation and seemingly any other internet based content directly into your IWB pages. It really was very impressive and a big leap up from the Notebook 10 software. Kudos to them!
Well, Chris very kindly agreed to do a short interview on film. I thought I’d make it a bit of a level playing field and asked him and all the other stall holders the same questions:
- Why do you / your company come to BETT?
- What have you been talking about most to the teachers and other people here?
- How are you making teachers’ lives easier?
So to kick off our short series of video interviews, which took place in a very noisy conference hall, so there’s a fair bit of background noise, it’s over to you, Chris:
Thanks once again Chris for talking to everyone who couldn’t make it! And in tomorrow’s post we’ll have Simon Lee, from the incredible LiveScribe company, manufacturers of SmartPens (one of my favourite gadgets it has to be said!)
Update: This post has been entered as part of the “Ed Tech Carnival” being run by Danny Nicholson over on The Whiteboard Blog. The carnival should be published in early February 2012, so take a look over there for more useful Ed Tech articles.