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….
This post is the fourth in a lengthy series where I will be sharing the Web 2.0 tools that I’m using with my Beginning English Language Learners, along with explaining how we’re using and sharing student examples of each one.
Clyp.it is the focus of today’s post. It’s an extremely simple free tool that lets you easily record audio online without a need to register. You’re then given a link and embed code to your recording. I’m not sure what the length limit is to it, but I haven’t found one yet.
The ability to use it without registration is, like the other tools in this series, is a big selling point. There are other similar Web 2.0 sites that provide a similar service (check out The Best Sites To Practice Speaking English), particularly Vocaroo. However, Vocaroo will only keep the recordings available for six months (I don’t know what, if any, similar restrictions Clyp.it has).
The real advantage that Clyp.it has over all the other similar sites is the best one of all — it’s not blocked by our School District’s content filters. Most of the other recording tools are blocked, so it doesn’t matter if they offer better features than Clyp.it or not. And if it’s not blocked by our district’s filters, it’s probably not blocked by yours, either.
One simple way my students use Clyp.it is making a short recording and pasting the link to it in the comments section of our class blog where they and their classmates can hear it. For example, after using the tool I blogged about yesterday, Szoter to annotate images of homes, students recorded very short sentences describing the images. They were about to use the “reply” feature on the comments to put the link directly below the link of the image.
For example, here’s a recording made by a Beginning ELL student saying “This house has a garage”:
Simple, easy, and effective — and that’s the criteria for every Web 2.0 I’ll be blogging about in this series….
The idea is that people think twenty years ahead or further about what they want other to say about them, and then use it as a helpful guide for how they live their lives.
In that resource link, you’ll find short videos from Dan, a hand-out I use, along with videos from my previous classes and ones from other schools in the United States.
I just did it with my Beginning and Intermediate English Language Learner students today — it’s a very good project to do two days before winter break! In addition to having them write their “one sentence,” I had them write three things they will do in 2015 to help them move towards their one-sentence goal (see The Best Posts On Students Setting Goals).
I used my favorite iPhone app, Shadow Puppet, to record a few of my Intermediate students showing and sharing their posters (actually, I should say that I had my students actually do the recording, and the last photo is upside down).
And they’ve created what might be the Education Site of 2014.
Write About provides many (and I mean many) images with writing prompts. Students can write their response and do an audio recording of it. Teachers can create virtual classrooms and provide individual written feedback to student writing. Student creations can be shared publicly or just with their classmates. Teachers can change prompts or upload their own photos.
There’s a lot more, too.
Plus, you can’t beat the cost (or non-cost):
Teachers can sign up and participate in the Write About community for free. Up to 40 free student accounts can be created with up to 3 posts each. Unlimited posts can be added with a Classroom account for $4.95/month. Teachers with multiple classes can add up to 250 students with unlimited posts for $7.95/month.
I asked John why he created Write About and here’s his response:
“Brad and I met and had a similar vision for what we wanted. I wanted something that would allow my students to share their work more easily with layers of groups and have hundreds of writing ideas. I’ve been doing visual prompts for a long time and Brad had been using visual prompts in his app in order to promote student choice in writing. In short, I wanted to make something that my students would want to use.”
I think Write About is going to be an exceptional site, in particular for English Language Learners. It combines visual imagery, writing, speaking and listening – not to mention an authentic audience.
I should point out that I had some trouble using the recording function on my home computer with a Windows 7 Operating System. I alerted John to the issue, and I’m sure it will fixed very quickly. It’s a minor issue for a brand-new site. It should work fine with other systems.
I learned about the free Shadow Puppet Edu (what appears to be a premium version of the more commercial Shadow Puppet app) through an article in this month’s ASCD Educational Leadership, and am very, very impressed.
It has a bunch of bells and whistles that I haven’t even explored yet but, at its core, it’s an iPhone/iPad app that lets you pick photos and super-easily (and I do mean easily) lets you add audio narration to each photo and create a slideshow.
Here’s a simple one I made in about thirty seconds:
You can be sure I’ll be using this app on my phone frequently. It’s ease-of-use will make it perfect for English Langauage Learner speaking practice.