Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

The Best Places Where Students Can Create Online Learning/Teaching Objects For An “Authentic Audience”

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This is a “companion” The Best… list to to The Best Places Where Students Can Write For An “Authentic Audience” list. I think it’s worth checking-out that list to learn more about my thinking behind creating this kind of list and identifying places where students can find an “authentic audience” (not just me) for their work.

The companion post to this list focused on places where the primary purpose was writing. Writing is obviously a part of the work created with the web tools on this “The Best…” list, but it’s not necessarily the main work required.

I don’t really describe the individual sites in detail, but, since all of them appear on various “The Best… lists”, you could locate broaders descriptions there.

The criteria to get on this list is extremely similar to its companion list:

* The work required to create the learning and/or teaching object would not be that great, and could be finished in a reasonable amount of time — a few days at a maximum and preferably much, much less.

* The creating and posting process is simple — accessible both to my English Language Learner students and to me.

* Posting the piece does not necessarily require any kind of ongoing commitment for communication — once it’s up, it might be interesting to check-back after awhile to see if there have been any reactions (if the site is set-up for that kind of involvement), but it’s really just a matter of sticking it up there in a place that gets a fair amount of “traffic” and  knowing that it’s likely others will read it.

* There seems to be some kind of enforced standards for all the content that’s posted on the site.  In other words,  when students explore it to see models of what others have written, it’s unlikely they will encounter something that is inappropriate for classroom use.

With that criteria in mind, here are my picks for The Best Places Where Students Can Create Online Learning/Teaching Objects For An “Authentic Audience”:

QUIZZES: ProProfs and Bab.la are easy sites where students can create quizzes for the public.  Bab.la is especially good because it’s designed specifically for second-language learners. The I Know That Quizmaker is a newer addition to this section.

LEARNING GAMES: Students can easily create learning games at Purpose Games, What 2 Learn, My Language Exchange (another good one because it’s designed for second-language learners), and Study Stack.

FLASHCARDS: I have three favorite sites for students to create flashcards: ProProfs again (this link will take you to their flashcard site; Study Stack (again) where you can also make hangman games, word searches, and many more activities; and Ediscio which, like ProProfs, lets you grab images and videos off the Web to insert in the virtual cards.

SURVEYS/POLLS: The sites that meet my criteria are All Rankings , and ProProfs’ poll-making feature.

ANIMATIONS: English Language Learners should be able to make simple animations pretty easily at DoInk.  I especially like what sounds like a strict and pro-active policy at ensure classroom appropriate content on the site.

COMIC STRIPS: This is a little tricky because of concerns around hosted content.  I’d say the site that’s easy to use, and is the least likely to have objectionable content, is going to be Pixton.

INSTRUCTIONAL VIDEOS: These are obviously more complicated to create. However, if you have the equipment, energy, and the time, I think the best site to use is Monkey See,

CAPTION-ONLY SLIDESHOWS: Mixbook meets my criteria the best in this category for online slideshow creation.  Of course, you can also upload PowerPoint presentations to Slideshare and Author Stream.

AUDIO SLIDESHOWS: These are more complicated and take more time to make (at least with English Language Learners) than slideshows that only use written captions, but can obviously be useful for speaking practice.  I’d recommend  VoiceThread in this category.

PODCASTS: PodOmatic looks like an extraordinarily easy way to create a podcast. Sign-up and your class has your own channel — all you need is a computer microphone.

TIMELINES: Xtimeline and Dipity are two tools that students can use to create text and visual timelines of historical events.

VOICE MESSAGES: Woices allows the user to easily leave an audio message about a specific place. That message can then be listened to by others. Similar English-speaking practice can be done by using sites listed here, but Woices would provide an authentic audience for English Language Learners. They could leave messages about where they live now, places they’ve visited, or their native countries.

Lunch is a recommendation engine. It also lets users create a game called ExhilaRATE, which is basically a survey/poll with bells and whistles.

Visual Recipes is a new site where recipes are listed step-by-step along with accompanying photos. It’s a great place where students can both read and easily add recipes. However, the site has a strange “terms of use” policy which says you’re supposed to be at least eighteen years old in order to post a recipe. That’s an unfortunate restriction which doesn’t make much sense to me.

Docs Teach from the U.S. National Archives lets you easily create online activities using primary sources. Plus, you can access the interactives that others have created, too. It’s super-easy to register. Creating the interactives is not as intuitive as I would like, but it’s still pretty easy.

USA Today has begun a “Voices” Project, where the paper poses a question and then people can respond in writing (via Twitter) or video.

Some of the questions have included:

What is the American Dream?

How has the oil spill changed you?

What does freedom mean to you?

Sharendipity lets you create online games that you can either link to or embed on your own site. It seems particularly easy to create a quick Word Search. I’m generally not a big fan of word searches, but they can have some value for Beginning English Language Learners if they are the ones who create them.

Swayable lets you create a simple survey that can include two photos (you can either upload them or grab them from the Web) and a question.

tildee lets you very easily create a simple step-by-step tutorial for just about anything. You can add text, maps, videos and photos (unfortunately, though, you can only upload photos — not grab them from the Web). And you don’t even have to register for the service.

Tricider lets you write a question (without registration) and then anyone can propose an answer with supporting reasons. People can then vote on which answers they like best. Responses are not moderated, but it appears that the originator can delete them. You can see an example that Nik Peachey created: How do we encourage pedagogically sound exploitation of technology in language learning?

My City Lives lets you upload videos(or post the urls of already uploaded ones) which are then placed on a map. Students could create videos on field trips, or about places in their neighborhood, and post them there.

I’ve previous posted about “Turn-O-Phrase,” a game where you are shown images that give hints to common English phrases, and you need to identify that words that would go along with them. You can also get hints. I had two concerns about the game, though — one, in order to play it, you had to login with a Facebook or Twitter account (and that was going to rule out having students play it at schools where those sites were blocked) and, two, users weren’t able to create their phrases and turn them into games. Well, Ilya Bagrak, the site’s creator, has now responded to both of those concerns. As of today, users can create an account only using their email, and players can also create their own phrases. Creation couldn’t be made easier — think of a phrase, type the words in, representative images automatically appear, and pick which ones you want as clues — you’re done!

Mysteries of Vernacular is site that will eventually display many of the kinds of videos that are displayed below. They’re generally not going to be accessible to many English Language Learners. However, they could be nice models for students to see creative ways to define a word. There are plenty of flashcard sites where they can create simple “authentic” materials for others to view, and sites like VocabAhead that invite them to upload their own videos to teach…vocabulary. The “Vernacular” videos could just help them get their creative juices going.

Web of Stories is a pretty cool site that easily allows students to tell their stories or interview a family member or friend about theirs. Here’s a description from the site:

Everyone has a story to tell. Over time many stories become forgotten, but now Web of Stories offers you the chance to tell your story for future generations to enjoy.

Web of Stories began as an archive of life stories told by some of the great scientists of our time. As the number of stories grew, it became obvious that some were on related topics and a web was slowly being created of connected stories. After a while we also invited famous people outside the field of science to tell their life stories.

We are now opening up Web of Stories to everyone, inviting you to help make our web of stories grow. We all have wonderful stories to share, and have family and friends whose tales we would like to hear. So tell your stories, and invite others to tell theirs.

The great thing about Web of Stories is that you can talk about virtually anything you like; the time you learned to ride a bike, the feeling of climbing a mountain, a conversation you may have had with a late relative… the range of topics you can talk about is endless!

We have created technology that allows you to either record direct to your computer with a webcam or upload a video you have filmed on your handycam or phone. You can even perform simple edits with our trim tool, and of course you can record as many stories as you like.

Once you have recorded your story (or stories) you will be asked to provide a title, a brief description and keywords that will help others when searching for stories of interest.

We hope to provide lasting first-hand accounts of people’s experiences – imagine that in a hundred years’ time your grandchildren or great grandchildren will be able to watch you telling stories about your life today.

Placeling lets you label any location on a map anywhere with images and descriptions. You can even create a tour, which can be shared online by its url address or you can embed at a place of your choosing. Unfortunately, you can’t grab images off the web — you have to upload them.

Findery (formerly known as Pinwheel) has just opened to the public. It lets you place notes and images on a virtual map that others can see if you make it “public.” For example, if my students search “Coit Tower” in San Francisco after our field trip there they can write about what they saw and experienced. They can upload photos, but unfortunately can’t grab them off the Web. It’s probably going to around for awhile, since it’s been created by one of the founders of Flickr.

As always, feedback is welcome.  Feel free to offer additional suggestions for this list.

If you found this post useful, you might want to look at previous “The Best…” lists and also consider subscribing to this blog for free.

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Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.

8 Comments

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  3. I love your site! I realize that it’s intended for teachers but I posted a link to it on my remedial English class’s page (I hope you don’t mind). This information would work quite well for students who need independent learning aids. Great collection! :) Feel free to use mine if anything strikes you.

  4. Your collection of websites is fantastic! They gave me so many teaching and learning ideas as I was going through them. I will definitely re-visit your blog. Thank you. =)

    P. S. I had trouble accessing “Turn-O-Phrase,” though.

  5. Larry – Fantastic! This practical list has just saved me hours of research, and given me a roadmap for adding more authentic audiences to my class assignments. I already suggest students submit essays to http://www.thisibelieve.org and book reviews and product reviews to amazon, and research papers to target publications. But you’ve opened up a far wider range of target audiences. Thank you!!!

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