Posts tagged blogs

High School Digme Courses Inspire

Minneapolis Roosevelt High School students have been using blogs, Twitter, wikis, video, podcasts and other digital media in their English lessons.

At the University of Minnesota they have been looking at how the Roosevelt High School “Digme” programme has given students an opportunity to engage with English lessons in a way they never did previously. Judging by some of the feedback in the video, the use of Web 2.0 tools has inspired the students so much that they now really look forward to their English lessons.

Apart from mygeneral interest in the use of ICT in education, this program has really grabbed my attention as the school seems to be doing almost exactly the same kind of activity that I’ve been doing with my students this year at Martino Martini in Italy. I too have been using Twitter to facilitate e-twinning, podcasts and voice recordings to encourage oral fluency videos of science experiments and a social studies video to enthuse the students and encourage them to use the target language.I have also been using a wiki to co-ordinate the whole programme and give teachers, students and parents one central place to check up on the latest classroom activities.

In short, they’re doing just what I’m doing. It’s nice to know that you’re heading in the right direction! 🙂

Have a look at this video of the U.S. students to see how positive they seem about the whole project.

Social Media in Plain English

Social Media – Blogs, Podcasts, Photo sharing,  Video Blogs (Vlogs) etc – as we know these can be really versatile tools to use with our students.

This video by Lee LeFever from the fantastic Common Craft explains why the “Social” part of social media is bringing new life to publishing while allowing small, content publishers (our students?) to have meaningful interaction with other students and their readers/listeners/viewers via the comments system. If you’re looking for a simple explanation of all this, you can’t go wrong with this golden oldie (from 2008!)

If you have lower-level students you can also find a subtitled version of the video on the Dot Sub website.

How to Embed Almost Anything in your Website

I had an excellent website link passed on to me by our colleague @ipcjones via Twitter the other day. It tells you  how to embed stuff into your blog, Moodle or other web page (that means to add extra, or external stuff into your blog or other web page – if you have a look at the end of this post you’ll see my delicious  links which I have “embedded” into this post. )

The guide is pretty simple to follow and they reckon they can help you to:

“Learn how to embed almost anything in your HTML web pages from Flash videos to Spreadsheets to high resolution photographs to static images from Google Maps and more. “

I had a quick browse through the page, it looks excellent! Well worth a look for all those of us who were thinking about adding Twitter, Delicious, mp3’s or other content to a blog page. 

Here’s an example of “embedding” my favourite web links from delicious:


Have fun adding or rather “embedding” stuff into your blogs!



Voicemail in your blog – Get A Buz

For a While now I’ve been thinking of different ways that students can have asynchronous voice conversations outside the classroom. I’m convinced that this would help a lot of my adult learners to improve their English more quickly, as IMHO it’s the short, weekly exposure to a foreign language that they get in traditional 1.5 hour lessons that is holding them back. If they could get online a couple of times a week and take part in an asynchronous conversation, a bit like an oral blog, I’m sure that it would help them to recall more vocabulary, create interest in what they are learning and give them a focus for their studies.

I wrote a while back about a great called Evoca. But it is a bit labour intensive, requiring the Evoca account holder (the busy teacher) to manually embed the code for any replies they got to their voicemails if they wanted to share them with the rest of the class. This led to me not using Evoica that much after first discovering it.

“Get A Buz,” despite it’s silly name, provides bloggers, MySpace users, and in general anyone with a website to include a voicemail type of widget, that would allow a teacher, or one of the students, to start off a discussion. Other class members can then listen in their own time to the discussion and then add their comments. All of this happend automatically, with the teacher only having to upload the code to the blog once, and then they can simply follw the discussion and reply to their students wherever relevant.

Here’s an example of a “Get A Buz” plugin below. Click on the “Hear My Message” to listen to my recording, then please feel free to leave me a reply too:

The things I like about “Get A Buz” are:

  • It’s a great way to get students speaking L2 outside the classroom. This will be really valuable to them IMHO.
  • It’s pretty straightforward to use. As long as you know how to embed a bide of HTML in your blog page you can use it.
  • Once you have set it up, it “Just Works” there is no need to perform ongoing maintenance on it.

The things I don’t like are:

  • You only get 3, free “Buzzes” per account. This means that you can’t start new discussions over and over again without either paying, or re-registering.
  • With large classes the conversation threads could become a bit lost and it might be difficult to follow who is following who.
  • It’s not possible to get rid of one “pre installed” introductory voicemail which is essentially just an advert.
  • Most Importantly, there doesn’t seem to be any sort of notification / RSS feed etc to let the teacher and students know when a new comment has been left. This could be a a bit of a pain if the teacher has to check the site for new messages.

All told, I think Get A Buz is a cool little tool to use, especially as it’s very straightforward to set up. If anyone uses this, or any tools like it, leave me a comment to let me know what you do with it. I’d love to exchange teaching tips!


Update: Be aware! Get a Buz allows you to create up to three different personalised “greetings” for your voicemail, but each and every voicemail player will record and play the same messages.

In other words if you want to use Get A Buz with more than one class of students, make sure you get several accounts with Get A Buz and use a different account with each class. Otherwise all your messages from all your different classes will become mixed together as one (as has just happened to me!)


Twitter – MicroBlogging.

I’ve just recently discovered “Twitter” thanks to online colleagues such as Graham Stanley , great blogs like Common Craft and (strangely enough) the BBC Radio 4 program “iPM” which recently discussed Twittering.

Twitter has been described as “Micro Blogging” or in other words: like a blog, but much smaller. When I write a Twitter post (a Tweet!) I can only use a maximum of 140 characters. These get sent to my Twitter homepage. Any of my friends or colleagues who want to have short, personal updates on “What I’m up to at the moment” can check by my homepage to read about what I’m doing and get a quick update on my life. They can also follow me automatically via RSS if they want to. This video by Common Craft explains the beauty of Twittering nicely:

One of the things I like about Twitter is the tiny size of posts you can make to it, 140 characters disappears really quickly. This means that language students don’t need to feel pressured into writing huge, long blog posts (which I have found can be off-putting for students who are writing a “normal” blog.) With Twitter the emphasis is on posting short, but sweet posts and often.

Another thing I really like about Twitter is that you can send your Twitter posts from a mobile phone (Moblogging?) This could also give our students more freedom to practice their English when it’s most convenient to them. Out in the centre of town? Seen something amazing? Let your classmates and friends know all about it! Practice your English while your doing so!

I’d also like to see if it’s possible to centrally “aggregate” several Twitter feeds. I was thinking of trying to set up a wiki which I’d use to tie all the Tweets from a class together in one place. It would also make for some really interesting inter-personal reading. Ever wondered what your class mates are doing on a Sunday evening? Check Twitter and see if they are telling you! If you look to the right of this post you’ll see my own Twitter feeds.

I’m sure I’ll be using this tool in my next A2 (Elementary Level) classes. I think Twitter will be a great way for my students to practice using the Present Continuous. I also want to try it out with a higher level class I am working with, we are blogging together, but not all the students are able to find the time to post regularly. Maybe they will with Twitter?

In the mean time, does anyone know about any “Twitter Aggregators” out there?I’d love to try out the idea of collecting my students’ posts together all in one, central place.

All the best and have fun!

Seth 🙂

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