I tried out the new Google Docs Voice Typing feature today, and was very impressed with its accuracy. I’ve embedded below both a video and the short test I tried out.
Its accuracy got me wondering if it could be a useful tool for English Language Learners to use and practice their pronunciation. Obviously, a site like English Central that actually grades pronunciation accuracy is more engaging. But it seems to me that having students speak and see if the Google Docs software can understand them might be worth trying now and then.
Several times each year, Jimmy Fallon plays a game on The Tonight Show that can easily be modified as a language-learning activity for the classroom. I’ve written about many of them.
Last week, he played a new one called Random Picture Association. As the video below shows, it’s exactly what the name implies — they show photos and players share what comes to mind.
It seems to me that this could be a fun exercise for students to practice speaking — either give groups of two or three a pack of picture cards or show funny images from the web on an overheard. Then one student in each group – taking turns – tells the others in English what comes to their mind.
Has anyone tried something like this in your classroom?
I spend a lot of time working with my IB Theory of Knowledge students on the importance of illustrating each point they make, both in essays and in presentations, with stories. In fact, many highlight that fact in their end-of-year class evaluations as one of the most important things they have learned. You can see many of the resources I use to back-up my hammering on that concept at The Best Digital (& Non-Digital) Storytelling Resources (especially in the bottom-half).
Ever since Joe Mazza encouraged me to sign-up for Voxer, I had been ruminating about how it could be used by my Beginning English Language Learners. But Alma Avalos, the extraordinary bilingual aide who is my colleague, came up with an even better idea.
Readers might, or might not, be familiar with the WhatsApp instant messaging app bought by Facebook. Alma suggested that, since many students already have the app on the phone, why not have all of them download it and use it for homework English practice?
So, we easily set-up a Group Chat for the class. At the end of the school day, Alma texts and records a simple audio question (“What did you eat for lunch today?”). She models a response in text and in audio, as do I. Then students have until the beginning of our class at 10:00 AM the following morning to write and record their response. Everyone in the group chat can see and listen to everyone’s responses. Students can receive extra credit for either asking another question or responding to an extra question.
We’re just beginning, and it seems to be going well. I’d love to be able to figure out an easy way to be able to post students’ recordings on our class blog, but there doesn’t seem to be a way. You can email a chat to yourself, but you receive a list of texts (which is useful), and a separate audio file for each voice message. It’s just too time-intensive to deal with clicking on each individual audio message. I wish there was some way to be able to access it on the Web, but that process seems to be a bit convoluted and won’t work with an iPhone.
Does anyone know of another way that Whatsapp can be accessed on the Web in order to play recorded messages for the class? Even though everyone in the Group Chat can already hear them on the app, people would still enjoy hearing them played in class. Plus, I think hearing what the Beginners are doing might inspire enthusiasm for doing something similar among Intermediate students.
How are others using Whatsapp for language learning?
It seems simple to use. It’s asynchronous — in other words, you leave a voice message and then other people in the group are immediately notified that you’ve left one. It also lists who has listened to the message you left.
It’s another venue where people can connect. I know Joe did a book club last year with Voxer on “Beyond The Bake Sale” with over sixty participants. It seems to me that it could a useful tool for speaking homework with an English Language Learner class. And it’s ideal for a family on the go to stay in touch.
I’d love to hear other ways people are using Voxer in education.
Kristen Swanson today shared an intriguing tool she found called Socratic Smackdown that might be a good way to introduce the concept to students, especially younger ones (by that, I mean ninth-grade and below). It’s basically a “gamified” Socratic Seminar.
I’ve embedded a video about it below, and I’d love to hear from teachers who’ve already used it. I’m considering giving it a try this year….