Archive for the ‘Digital Learners’ Category

Something new that people are talking about is Poll Everywhere. I haven’t actually used this yet, but it looks like it could be very useful and a lot of fun. It allows students to use shortcode texting on their cell phones to take polls. The polls can be conducted in class, and the results are available almost immediately. These polls could be learning objects or practice quizzes.  The lowest level of service is free.

I have experimented a little bit with Poll Everywhere. Be aware that while most cell phones will allow shortcode texting, some may not. In my case, I am on a family account and shortcode texting is blocked, so I am unable to submit answers using my phone. One way to ensure that all of your students can participate is to put them in pairs, making sure that students who do not have phones that allow shortcode texting are paired with students who do.

I would like to adapt an interactive PowerPoint presentation I made on  Fact or Opinion to Poll Everywhere and see how it works. In the meantime, let me know if you have any ideas or something you would like to share.

Image Source

Poll Everywhere



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The February 2010 issue of the Asian EFL Journal has an article that Wendy Bowcher and I wrote on using blogs. The title is “Using Blogs in ESL/EFL Teacher and Teacher-Traning“. 

Part of the article is about some research that we did on students who used a blog as preparation for writing a paragraph contrasting high school education in two cultures. We asked the students:  “Do you think the blog was a useful part of writing the paragraph on high school experiences?” and 100% of those who participated answered “yes.” That was pretty rewarding.


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I took an online class this past semester, learned a lot, and had a lot of fun. One of the things that I learned in the course was how to make PowerPoint pesentations with audio. It was surprisingly easy and I plan to use it for an online course that I will be offering in the fall. I am also thinking about asking my summer term students to use this method for one of their presentations.

The two things that you need are Audacity and Movie Maker. Audacity is software used to make audio recordings. It’s free and very easy to use. If you use Microsoft Office, you probably already have Movie Maker. It might be under entertainment or under Microsoft Office. After you make your presentation, you can upload it to YouTube so that others can access it. You can find a very clear presentation that explains how to do this at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xZmOVt_BIAEvideo.

The process of making the presentation for this class was interesting. Along with learning how to use the technology, I also learned some things about what presentation features are appropriate in this format. Since I had never made a presentation of this type, I struggled with how to do it.  After some thought, I decided to approach it as if it were a research “paper” put to PowerPoint. However, later when I viewed my classmates’ projects, I realized that this type of presentation is not really a research paper on PowerPoint. The presentations that I thought were the most successful took a different approach. In my opinion, they were a bit more casual and noticeably shorter. They also tended to display more of the affective features of language. After the course was finished, I went back and edited my presentation to make it more appropriate for the medium that we used. My second draft can be found at 


If you would like to see the original version, click on this link.

If I decide to ask my students to make a presentation of this type, I will experiment with giving them the following guidelines:

  • The presentation should be between five and seven minutes. (I think that this type of format is best if it is not too long.)
  • Use two to five sources. (This is not a research paper.)
  • Use some emotion in your voice. (To be honest, I am not sure about this one. I think that this point would depend on the topic of the presentation.)

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copy-of-mombradquiltPreviously, I wrote a post on how to make flash cards for iPods and mobile phones that have photo browsing capability. Since then I have continued experimenting with this and have added another set of cards to my and my students’ stash. (I took the term “stash” from my mother. She and other quilters use it to refer to the myriad of different types of fabrics that they keep in drawers and cupboards. From my perspective, a quilter’s stash is a treasure and the bigger the stash, the better. I think this might apply to mobile flash cards as well!)

I made the latest set using PowerPoint. These cards involve a simple review of the irregular past tense. The first card is the base form of the verb and the second card is the irregular past tense form. I think I prefer this way of making portable flashcards to using MS Paint (the method I used my first time around) because with PowerPoint, I can also put the cards on Slideshare where students who do not have  iPods or mobile phones with photo browsing capability can  access them. The cards are simple, but if you would like to use them with your students, please feel free. You can down load the cards for mobile devices that review irregular past tense verbs or view them at Slideshare (Flash Cards for Irregular Past Tense Verbs at Slideshare).

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Last weekend I went to a conference and learned about Voicethread from Steven Ahola. He uses it for extensive writing and it looks like a fantastic tool. Voicethread is one of the 25 free tools for teachers referenced in the following slide show by Jane Hart. Looks like there is more exploration ahead!

By the way, if you like the way the title is made from photos, you can try the same thing. Go to Spell with Flickr and check it out.


Hart, Jane. 25 Tools every Learning Professional should have in their Tool box — and all for free! Retrieved February 15, 2009, from http://www.slideshare.net/janehart/25-tools-presentation?src=embed.

Kastner, Erik. Spell with flickr. Accessed January 23, 2009, from http://metaatem.net/words/.

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In an earlier post I mentioned that I would like to work on ways to make learning activities portable. I’ve been experimenting with how to do this and I’ve learned a few things. Most of the examples of portable activities that I have seen are simply jpeg images loaded onto a handheld device. These images can be created in a variety of ways (MS Paint, software, PowerPoint, photos), but in the end are saved as jpegs. In the case of a portable quiz, the first image will be the instructions (01);  the second image will be the first question (02); the third image will be the first answer (03). The second question (04) will follow and the second answer (05) and so on. In the case of both a quiz and a PowerPoint presentation, the images must be numbered with at least two digits so that the mobile device can put them in the correct order. Understanding this, opens up all kinds of creative possibilities.

The images are then made available to the students through the web, in a course management system, or sent to the students through email. If they have iPods or iPhones, they will sync the images the same way they sync photos. This means saving the images in the folder (usually a picture folder) that syncs to the iPod. Getting the images to cell phones is something that is more challenging. Both Joe Dale  and Dave Foord have given me some helpful advice and encouragement. Dave Foord feels that the reason getting the images to phones is a bit “tricky” is that it’s “not something that can be achieved with a ‘1 size fits all’ solution especially as all phones are different and all institution systems allow people to do different things in different ways.” His advice is to rely “on the learners being able to upload files…, so all we need to do is get the files into a folder, and make this available somewhere” and he wisely advises that it is a good idea “to talk to the learners and find out what they would find easiest.”

As you make these types of portable activities, just keep in mind that because the images are jpeg, the quiz questions can only be multiple choice or have one answer (correct or incorrect, true or false, a one word answer such as a vocabulary response to a photo, or a fill in the blank answer.) Critical reasoning and analytical skills could be accessed by asking the students to provide reasons along with their answers.  Also, PowerPoint presentations can only be presented in a linear fashion, and as a result animations and non-linear aspects are, unfortunately, lost.

In my opinion, activities that are somewhat large are better as portable activities than smaller ones since a larger activity makes the time taken to download it and then transfer it to a portable device more worthwhile.  

Using MS Paint to make cards is easy. I learned how to use MSPaint to do this from a video made by Lilian Soon. I read about it on Joe Dale’s Blog and he learned about if from David Foord. Here it is! Thank you to all of you.

After talking to my students, I made 92 cards on Prepositions of Location  and made them available. (They need to be removed from the zipped folder.) One very enthusiastic student downloaded them and synced them to his iPod immediately.  When he appeared in class the next day showing off his portable flash cards, there was a beautiful buzz in the classroom and since then (just last week) another student has accessed the cards.  At the request of the students, I have also turned some PowerPoint presentations on grammar into jpegs and made those available. It’s been kind of exciting! To turn a PowerPoint presentation into jpeg slides, simply choose “Save As” and save it as a jepg. You will end up with a folder containing one jpeg for each slide in the presentation.

For me, the easiest way to create quizzes for portable devices is to use a software program called StudyMate. You have to purchase the software, but it allows you to make an activity available to students in a variety of ways. They can either work with it as a link from their computer, or they can download a version of the activity and snyc it to their iPods or put it on their phones. One of the books that the students in our program use for reading and vocabulary development is Contact USA. In the teacher’s book there are a lot of multiple choice questions that cover the vocabulary. Using StudyMate, I turned these questions (with a few revisions) into 100 cards for review. There are three versions of the review: flash cards for use on a computer, a game that requires two participants, and cards that can be used on a Portable Device. If you’d like to see these, the first two can be found at Cards and Game for the Computer  and the portable cards are at Cards for a Portable Device. Since almost all of these questions were taken from the teacher’s book, I was concerned about copyright and contacted  the publisher. I was told that it would be fine for me to make this activity available.

One more way to create quizzes is iQuiz Maker. It is very easy to create quizzes on iQuizmaker; it’s free; and there are some nice flashy templates available for Mac users. To get it, go to iQuizMaker with iPod. Create the quiz and make it available to your students in the way that is easiest for all of you. Students will need to download the file and then put it in their iPod Games folder which is in their iTunes folder. The quiz will automatically sync to their iPods just like it does for any new music download. I have made a very small (ten questions) experimental quiz pack with iQuiz maker that you are welcome to take a look at. To view it, you will first need to download iQuizMaker.

Of course, you can use your camera to take pictures and use those as images. For beginning vocabulary building, you could make the first image a picture and then use MS Paint for the second image, which would be the word. 

There are other ways to make portable learning activities and I am sure that as handheld devices become more sophisticated, teachers will have increasingly more options available. At this point, I’m happy to know that at least some of my students are carrying a little bit of their writing class with them when they ride the bus.


Dale, Joe. Create mobile phone quizzes in MS Paint. Accessed January 19, 2009, from                          http://joedale.typepad.com/integrating_ict_into_the_/2009/01/create-mobile-phone-quizzes-in-ms-paint.html.

dgrice. PowerPoint to iPod. Accessed January 19, 2009, from http://www.teachertube.com/view_video.php?viewkey=fe1efe93b16e8d353499.

Foord, David.  Using ‘Paint” to create simple quizes for a phone. Accessed February 11, 2009, from http://davefoord.wordpress.com/2009/01/12/using-paint-to-create-simple-quizes-for-a-phone/.

Martin, Kelly. CTA-articulated-bus. Retrieved February 15, 2009, from http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:CTA-articulated-bus.jpg.

Soon, Lilian. Creating quizzes for the phone. Retrieved January 19, 2009, from http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-2479360146328027324&hl=en.

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wordle2The other day, one of our cool  librarians showed a group of faculty members Wordle. The site is a self described “toy” where you can make word clouds like the one on the left. After you make them, the clouds are yours and you can use them any way you like.

I haven’t used them with students yet, but so far I can think of two possible ways that Wordle could be added to the educational toy box. Both ideas might work in my beginning writing class. 

At the beginning of the semester, some students really struggle with the concept of main idea. We work on writing paragraphs that have stated main ideas in the form of topic sentences. The ease at which students get this varies and, in part, it seems that the student’s first culture and language has an influence. Both of my ideas for using Wordle would visually illustrate the sometimes illusive main idea. One idea is to use it as a teacher fronted activity. Before class I would prepare some text. In my case, I would probably use one or two of the pretests that were written on the first day of the term or an early homework assignment. In class, I’d open Wordle, insert the text, and viola! a cloud would appear. From there we could talk about the large words and, hopefully, see some possible main ideas popping out. We would then narrow down our choice and, if the cloud is working well, perhaps even start looking at some possible supporting points. A second idea would be to assign students to do this at home with a piece of their writing, print the cloud, take it to class and talk to a partner about a main idea for their piece.

I wonder if Wordle might also work in a reading class when students are trying to identify an unstated main idea. Check it out and let us know!

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