Tag Archives: language learning

Five Changes I’ve Seen in Teaching and Learning with the iPad

autumn leaves5. Changing the Discussion

Within my teaching context, there is a long institutionalized history of photocopying from textbooks and assessing students with essays, reports, and presentations. Of course, many teachers employed student centered pedagogy within their classrooms but you get the picture.

The implementation of the iPad has moved the goal posts so to speak. Instead of asking which textbook might supplement a lesson, we are now questioning why a textbook needs to be used. Instead of photocopying worksheets, we are looking to incorporate apps and use iPad based activities to get students interacting with the language they are learning. The discussion is exciting and all aspects of teaching and learning are student centered.

4. Connectivity

As a department we are learning more about the apps we have at our disposal and we are integrating them to increase students connectivity with the language they are learning. Students use the language and can make personal connections with it. Need a picture for visual support? Students take photos to make connections. Need to learn a grammar point? Students make videos to outline that grammar structure. When students become teachers of other students, there is a stronger desire to learn more about it so that they have all the answers. There is a stronger connection than just discrete grammar worksheets.

Students are connecting interpersonally in both face-to-face and online environments more than in the past. Of course I used learning management systems in the past in a blended approach in or out of class. But the ease in which they can upload and share their work is amazing. I often see iPads exchanged between hands to share something interesting or to show off their work. I admit sometimes it is to give answers as well…

3. Streamlined

But the ease in which students can produce something on their iPad and then upload is far more efficient than before. Before if a student were to write a report and include images, then a student would need a digital camera with a cord to transfer the picture into word document and upload. The iPad streamlines this as students use the one tool for everything.

Workflows are common for iPad activities and tasks. I find that students realize this and go in and out of apps with ease. They write in pages, find research online or ask questions in our Schoology page. Most students know gestures to get around really quickly too.

 2.Variety of Tasks and Assessments

I have already eluded to this a number of times but I am constantly amazed at the creativity and resourcefulness of teachers in designing tasks and workflows for their students. There’s a growing trend for us language teachers to utilize apps that feed into image-based apps like Instagram. This is not to say we use Instagram itself, but apps that allow users to write text and design their photos are being used to provide authentic ways to use the language.

Assessments are being reviewed and as stated before, no longer are we settling for the essay. Teachers are turning to tasks and projects that incorporate student creativity to produce. I’ve seen this many times; when students have an audience beyond the teacher, they work much harder in terms of quality and quantity. Students love sharing with their classmates and their family. These assessments are providing a real audience that increases student motivation.

1. Student Creation

Students are now creating and producing language within real-world contexts. Before it was just words on a worksheet but now they are words on a picture or e-book that can be easily shared with a larger audience. Teachers (and students!) are discovering apps to utilize. They are finding no limit to supplement the teaching of learning objectives. For instance I teach a unit on interior design and before students might make a diorama or a collage cut from magazines to complete design projects. Whilst there is nothing wrong with these, students invest more time on apps where they are designing and modeling 3D rooms. Students have commented that they feel more invested in the task and feel like interior design is their job.


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iPad: All-in-One and Workflows

I Love Milwaukee

I Love Milwaukee

I had two initial thoughts back in March when I first heard we were getting iPads. The first was PURE GOLD. iPads are fun. I had read a little about them in education and they seemed to be transforming classrooms. At that time, typically the classrooms that had them were elementary (primary) education classes and they were showcasing their use of apps to help with early childhood literacy, science or numeracy and maths. I began reflecting on applying this into the university ESL foundation classes that I teach and my next thought was WAIT A MINUTE. We have a curriculum in place and our students need to obtain a certain benchmark on the standardized IELTS test. With limited knowledge of the iPad, I wasn’t fully aware of how to integrate the iPad with the curriculum and learning objectives that I had for my lessons. Initially these institutional were parameters that didn’t seem as flexible, that is, until I realized the value of two things: the iPad as an All-in-One device and workflows.

Our university decided to implement iPads and based on my experience and knowledge of teaching and learning with educational technology, I applied and was successful in teaching a pilot class with only iPads (instead of laptops). I had earned my wings! I started reading feverishly and realized like a lot of people out there that the iPad is an All-in-One device. I realized the potential of integrating their real lives into their learning. If we’re doing a grammar tense or structure, then we can personalize it with their content. If we’re doing small research projects, then apps like Notability or Evernote might be useful in their collation of resources. Students here drift towards rote learning before exams. Whilst I don’t condone it, I certainly see that our current assessments promote this and we’ll need to start talking about that. But after we learn the words and actively produce the language, I showed them the flashcards app. Students loved it and couldn’t get enough. I even have students pulling unknown vocabulary from reading and listenings and making personal lists. Students never had the motivation before to do that on their laptop.

In my opinion, the iPad’s true potential is only realized when you use the All-in-One iPad within workflows. To me the workflow is using two or more apps to complete a task (I use task liberally). Students want to personalize a paragraph they’ve written in Pages? Then they take the photos on their camera and retrieve them from the photo library. They’ve created a very small workflow between the camera, photo library and pages. Another time, students created videos to explain different aspects of humanitarian aid. Students researched using Safari, stored notes using Evernote, discussed and shared resources on Edmodo, took photos using their camera, and created a video using ExplainEverything or iMovie. This was possible because the iPad has it all and I was able to design the learning task to move between these apps.

I believe in the potential of iPads but it must be based on sound teaching and learning. GREAT POTENTIAL INDEED.

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Flipped Learning & Motivation

by Backratze

by Backratze

This buzz term has gained traction over recent years and with good reason. Rather than explain flipped learning again, see this infochart.

Language learning lends itself to being flipped quite well as students could complete the passive learning of the language structure before the active use and production of it. How easy is that?

One observation that I have made, as well as others, is that the premise of flipped learning fails if the learner does not complete the work outside the class. Whether it is used as pre-learning or a post review, language acquisition is promoted the more times learners are exposed to the language.

I have decided to selectively flip only certain lessons of language learning in my class as I believe in utilizing a variety of pedagogy to suit the learners, their needs and the goals of the lessons. However, students in my foundations ESL class in a Middle Eastern university have largely failed to complete the passive part of the flipped learning more often than not. I recently spoke informally with my students and noted some reflections on the teaching and learning that happens in my classes.

To generalize, students lack motivation to complete all tasks at home. There are of course students who see value to this and understand the rationale of why I set some passive work outside of class and more active work in class. Some don’t have the internet so most of these lack the drive to complete the work using campus wifi before or after class. Some lack motivation to work hard on activities with no direct relation to their grade. There’s always one or two of these students in the class and this means rigid assessments that haven’t caught up to our changing classrooms are hindering progress. There’s a number of students who just don’t like learning English and the passive, individual learning, whether it be a video, audio recording, or a reading all with basic ‘getting started’ information and questions, just isn’t interesting to them. Perhaps the last two are push backs from students and John Sowash acknowledges this.

Whilst I believe that intrinsic motivation is the key for successful independent learning, I am taking the steps to provide more extrinsic motivation to perhaps get the ball rolling. I have noted a few times that the carrot dangling in front of students does produce some short-term motivation.

Online merit lists and weekly report cards are two options I will employ soon to publically highlight good standards of attitude, motivation and behavior. Badges are one upcoming trend with a number of educators and Educational websites are slowly seeing this and incorporating badges into their design. Additionally I will also review the passive learning input I choose to use and see if I can add to it. Adding emphasis, highlights, extra inset video, supplementary materials, editing resources for only crucial information etc… may all be effective in capturing student interest. I am also thinking of more individual consultations to provide positive praise and constructive feedback (probably face-to-face, the shock!). Of course I reason with students as to why we are doing the work in the way we are doing it but it is difficult to assess understanding among non-native speakers as feedback for everything.

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