Tag Archives: student-centered

Flipped Learning & Motivation: The Sequel

Recently I reflected on my integration of flipped learning principles in my English foundations program class. In my earlier action research blog, I noted several remarks by students about their motivation, or lack thereof, towards outside classwork. I avoided using the term homework but it doesn’t necessarily need to be completed at home, right? Mobile technologies will remove “homework” from our vocabulary… 🙂

I have reflected more on this and thought more about the learning design and the my employment of flipped learning. As a language teacher, I always want to incorporate language learning elements within all of my lessons. Firstly when I completed the passive learning task within class, due to more than half the class not completing the passive activity, I tried using communicative activities.

I first observed success during an information gap-esque activity where students watched two different videos on the passive voice. The video content had some overlaps but also some different points. Students were given some general questions to help them take guided notes as well as specific questions for students to answer. After watching their separate video, students started their active learning and came together to complete a number of different tasks specifically related to information from the video. Students then proceeded to actively use the passive voice within appropriate texts.

My teaching context involves teaching IELTS preparation and skills and thus I feel hamstrung because the assessment can, to a certain extent, dictate the types of teaching activities. This is especially the case within the education culture of the Middle East. I first start with specific IELTS language input, both grammar and vocabulary, within a passive learning mode and most was completed outside of class. I informed students of the next day’s activity that we would do only if the flipped task was complete.

by Jonathan Kos-Read

by Jonathan Kos-Read

Based on the language input, I used small tasks to integrate language skills and provide ‘authentic’ tasks in which to practice specific skills related to the IELTS. I say ‘authentic’ because they are skills necessary for the test, which is the students’ real world, as opposed to the outside real world. Students use iPad apps like Explain Everything, iMovie, QuickTap Survey App and Keynote to actively create and produce language necessary for the IELTS. When I asked about these tasks, students didn’t automatically see the connection to IELTS practice.

I also observed students working quite hard throughout these active tasks. The tasks caught their attention and they worked for longer periods of time individually and in pairs. I asked several students afterwards and it came down to their preference for the iPad apps we were using. Explain Everything and iMovie were hits as they produced their own videos. They loved the creative expression afforded to them (my words) and the ability to bling their videos (their words).

The principles of flipped learning could be used in contexts without technology, no doubt about that. But the technology certainly affords many more opportunities and modes of content delivery in both the passive learning before class and active learning during class.

Tagged , , ,

Connecting Learning: iPads and Field Trips

Mosque field trip iPads

I recently had a wonderful field trip with my ESL students. Within the unit of work on Design, we travelled to the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque to see the design features of the mosque. I take students twice a year and usually ask them to bring a camera (i.e. phone) with them to document what they see. However this only captures limited amounts of design features. What about notes from the tour guide? What about asking tourists for their impressions? As soon as we had implemented iPads into our classes, I knew what had to be done.


Going to the mosque is towards the end of the unit of work so students have already learned about design features. Students have come across videos and readings explaining terms and aspects. We also tie in Islamic aspect to design and features that are found in this region. Specifically, I ask students to take photos around their home, neighborhood or the university to capture what they’re learning and to visualize the term or concept. This can be problematic because female Emirati students may not be allowed away from their home without a male family chaperone.

On the day, students bring their iPad and start documenting the trip from the moment our buses arrive. They know they will be asked to present what they saw at the mosque so they start collecting resources to use. Typically they use photos but some create small videos giving a dynamic 3D perspective instead of the static 2D image. Students often walked around the design feature, like the design of a pillar, to capture all sides and views of it. But while on the tour this time I encouraged students to record (audio only due to tour guide’s rules) certain parts of the commentary. Usually we all just tag along and there is little interaction but since we’re recording, students want to get their voice heard and ask follow up questions. They also took photos and annotated on them in Skitch to remember what design feature they were documenting.


As soon as we arrived back to our class, I witnessed girls starting to incorporate their photos, videos and audio commentary into their presentations. They were keen (excited?) to relive that experience and start preparing in their chosen apps. Some chose Keynote to present face-to-face but others chose ExplainEverything or iMovie to make a movie to play for their audience. I was amazed at the connections they were making with the design features we had studied and they demonstrated this visually. They were also quite curious when reviewing the commentary.  The audio quality wasn’t great so I was listening and helping students a lot. But students sought clarification and explanation from me and the internet to understand more about the commentary. If we hadn’t recorded it, the learning opportunities would have been lost at the point of delivery. During our presentation Bazaar (MarketPlace styled presentation), half the class presented in a room at the one time (and then swapped) and other students and teachers went around to hear students present. Students who had movies stood next to their movie and played it on the iPad but others spoke live. This was very successful because at lots of points throughout the process, students interacted with the language and content in different forms and both virtually and in real life.

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Portfolios to Assess Language Learning

Read by Daniel Y Go

Recently I’ve been reading about portfolios as an alternative form of assessment. Portfolios could be used to assess the experiences of learning instead of testing knowledge of learning. A portfolio should be an ongoing assessment of learning and not just handed in at the end. The teacher plays an important role here to guide the process and interact with the student and their portfolio. This enables the portfolio to reflect the process of learning more than just the product. This portfolio should reflect learning objectives of the course and could certainly act as formative feedback for the student constantly updating them on their progress. Reflection on this development is also crucial to separate a portfolio from activities.

Within language teaching, the portfolio can reflect students’ progression as a language learner. The portfolio won’t necessarily assess their language but will demonstrate their experiences and (hopefully) their improvements in their language learning journey. Each language student has different strengths and weaknesses and teachers can use portfolios to promote self-directed learning so that students target their weaknesses independently. Through work samples or activity/experience documentation, students demonstrate their active interaction with their weaknesses.

Taking the skill of reading as an example I want to share my preliminary thoughts on a portfolio design for assessment purposes. Often classes complete an IELTS activity with a long text and up to 15 questions only. Sometimes teachers incorporate pre- or post-reading activities but there is much language input in the text as all language learning opportunities may not be maximized. The ability to read the text is not being assessed; rather it is the process of learning language stemming from the reading.

Within a portfolio, students might include the reading and their answers to the questions as a start. However, students could engage with the text more and complete some critical reading within which the student discovers more about the text (purpose, inferences, analysis of sections etc…). If a portfolio stopped here, apart from resembling learning activities only, progress may be limited and opportunities to explore the language within the text may be lost.

Students could explicitly notice unknown language, vocabulary or grammar structures, and make an effort to learn and subsequently produce this language. Written or spoken texts could be produced with the student paying attention to the language learnt. The class could use an online forum to talk (written or spoken) about issues or topics from the text with the teacher facilitating (or stirring the conversation) debate or discussion. Students could even drive the interaction by creating new threads or posting their own questions or comments based on the text using the target language. Transcripts, summaries or reflections of these discussions could easily be included in portfolios.

e-Portfolios can be a personalized central collection point for all their digital documentation of learning. Websites or programs that offer e-Portfolio solutions all promote the organization of students’ documents in a range of formats and links to external websites where students’ work has been uploaded. These portfolios can even have a plagiarism checker included to ensure all students submit their own work for their own portfolios. Finally, most e-Portfolios offer a reflection platform to ensure students are working cyclically and not just completing one off activities.

Tagged , , , , , , , ,