Posts Tagged ipad
Vocabulary is in general not fun. It mainly deals with rote memorization of words with little context or use in everyday conversation. For learners of English as a second or other language, many of the vocabulary words presented for study, especially as they reach intermediate and advanced stages of L2 acquisition, have little to no relevance to their language use. This is especially true for students who participate in courses designed for test preparation. In my case, I am responsible for TOEIC test preparation for high school students looking to enroll into universities that use the test as a proficiency check.
Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC) is especially popular in Japan and South Korea, and focuses on context derived from business encounters. I have been particularly interested in the effects the class (and in some ways the test) has on students’ motivation towards the L2 as they move through the year-long course, but I have also taken interest in how to best study vocabulary. Many publications print out vocabulary lists based on levels students want to achieve. What I have found is that none of these authors can really tell you which vocabulary will be used on the test. ETS has a published book of common vocabulary that I rely on for my lists. The challenge now is what to engage the students (or rather to get the students to engage themselves) into not only studying these vocabulary, but also how to use and manipulate them.
Two years ago I began experimenting with Quizlet, an online service that digitizes study cards for not only you to see wherever you go with your smartphone or tablet, but also to share with others, either within a class or with the world. Prior to trying Quizlet, students were assigned sections of a vocabulary list and assigned to fill out a form for each word, then copies of these forms were made for other students in the class. A lot of paper and very time consuming. Though the pair forms still exist, students can now transfer their work to Quizlet for others to see. For, that solved one problem of peer-to-peer collaboration, and also reduced my time at the photo copier. But now, how to engage with it?
This year I experimented with group game/activity. I brought in iPads, 1 for every 4 students, and engaged in a gameshow-like activity. On the board were categories:
- Example sentence
- Word families (changing the word into different parts of speech)
- similar sounding words
Students as a class decided the point value of each category based on what they felt which categories were easier or more difficult than the others (more difficult gave higher point value). The iPads were used as an answer board using one of the many Whiteboard apps available. Each group took turns deciding a category while the teacher decided on the word. Students could use Quizlet on their smartphones to review the word that was chosen. The feedback on the activity was positive and provided a ‘fun’ time for the class.
Though this activity is one to hold on to, I still ponder on its effectiveness in vocabulary intake. Surely it allows students to converse on the chosen words, creating valuable dialog, but it is difficult to understand if these dialogs support vocabulary intake or not. What I do know is that Quizlet itself is a game-changer, with one student, in an evaluation she wrote for the class, stated that Quizlet was useful for her, but would like to see it used in class more.
So the search is on. In the meantime, promoting to take full advantage of Quizlet and its many study activities is a priority, with the iPads coming out more often for group dialog on individual words is on the table.
Even though we are a Japanese high school, we attract returning students who have grown up outside Japan. In the case of one student this year, her parents live in Australia as she is schooling in Japan.
To allow the home room teachers have a proper parent-teacher conference, we were able to take advantage of our limited Wi-Fi and iPads to make the conference work and connect the two sides with Skype.
Not all classrooms are designed to maximize the benefits of an electronic display, especially when the classroom itself was either not designed by a tech-savvy architect, or the it was modified to somehow accommodate electronic display functionality at the request of administration. In the case of one classroom, a little bit of both.
We have two flatscreen monitors on either end of a classroom, with a mobile rack (held down by the length of the cords connecting to the wall jacks) in the corner. For someone wanting to use video or a slideshow via computer, the task of using a computer while trying to engage with the students is a daunting task, unless you’re willing to walk through a floor of wires in what is already a tight space.
It’s a perfect storm to showcase the usefulness of a wireless connection; more specifically, the Apple TV. Using the Apple TV has allowed the teacher to remain in the ‘teaching zone’ of the classroom, rather than disappearing into the corner, or jump roping through wires during a lesson. The iPad is easy to hold, and the Apple TV gives the teacher full access to the wall displays.
In short, the Apple TV allows the classroom to used as it’s intended purpose without the distraction of its potential assets.
In the late morning classes, one senior teacher was using an iPad as he wirelessly connected to a projector via AppleTV in order to demonstrate to students how to understand UNHCR country profiles as part of their Model United Nations training. As he gave a tour of the profiles, students used their smart phones to view the web pages being shown. On the other side of the room, an exchange student who does not have a smart phone was issued a school iPad connected to the room’s WiFi system for the activity.
It’s a great feeling to know that students are finding our small number of iPads useful. This past week, students of our UNESCO club have been borrowing an iPad to make a slideshow of their activities to be shown at a school assembly next week.
Students are using Microsoft’s Powerpoint App (I know, Keynote is better, but it’s a matter of student understanding) connected to an office OneDrive account. Even though we only have one wifi router in the school, the router is strong enough to reach most classrooms, allowing the students to save their work without the threat of it being erased when the iPad is used for other purposes.
Overall, students were able to engage both the iPad and Powerpoint app without any teacher intervention, demonstrating the ease of use (and usefulness) of having iPads available for use.
This past weekend, two of our students participated in a Model United Nations in Tokyo, with their coach accompanying them while using one of our UNESCO iPads to document their achievements, and uploading media to our office DropBox account.
This week and next, students are once again using iPads as video players to learn about the challenges developing countries like India face when denying the right to an education to women. In small groups, tasks are performed and discussions are being held in a peer-to-peer setting to challenge their understanding of the situation.
In my schools international exchange office, we have come to the annual scan and send moment where we have to scan over a half-dozen documents and send them to our exchange agent in New Zealand, where our 90+ students will spend 6 weeks abroad this coming winter.
This year, I installed CamScanner Free on our 2 office iPads to use for this purpose. The features in the free version allows us to not only take photos of the documents to convert to PDF, but also allows us to crop them, and share with our office’s Dropbox account. Another feature is that the app allows us to save a batch of scans as a single PDF file.
Though it is still a time-consuming process, we have been able to omit a few steps between the scan and send process. It has been a viable alternative to a computer scanner.
Continuing to record the use of tech in the classroom, I had the privilege today to assist two teachers in tech use, aside from my own use.
- Teacher A being given an iPad to be used as a debate timer using the app Presentation Timer, as well as a video player. This was his first use of an iPad in the classroom.
- Another teacher was given our electronic blackboard projector to show and demonstrate how to fill in forms for the students’ preparation for an abroad school trip coming up in February.
- Myself, placing a number of audio speeches on 3 iPads for students in small groups to listen to while practicing the preparation of a debate summary speech.
Our International Exchange Office were assisting potential exchange students in their application for admissions into schools throughout Victoria, B.C., Canada. As the application was only available online, we found our iPads to be a valuable tool for not only ease of use, but also gave our International Exchange officer the flexibility to move around and assist students, all while using an Apple TV to project and example application. The setup also allowed students to easily move around and assist each other.
For as simple as an application process may be, the mobility of the iPads (lack of computer desks, wires, and the like) made the process much more simple.
I started off my 2015 listening workshop class using the traditional approach of a class watching a video on the big screen and completing appropriate work. Last week, I broke them into small groups to watch videos on a group iPad while completing appropriate work.
I then asked in an informal manner which setting they prefer, and all who replied voted for the small groups. I would agree. I find the larger class to be very passive when everyone is sharing a big screen. As is the manner, students face forward, mouths shut, while their teacher lectures. However, when they are broken into smaller groups, interaction occurs, and the work seems to become more enjoyable.
It also allows more teaching moments for individual students as I can walk around and answer questions.