International online learning projects for students
Online tools for resource creation
Animoto Create videos from images
Benettonplay Create stunning animations
Classtools.net Create educational games
Gliffy Create floor plans, flowcharts and 3D diagrams
Glogster EDU Create interactive multimedia posters
Kerpoof Create movies and stories
Mixbook Create a page turning e-book
Myebook Create an e-book
PoducateMe Exe files How to create a podcast
Power League Create an online debate
Prezi A zooming presentation tool
Scratch Join up and download programming software to create digital learning objects
Sketchcast Embed evolving sketches into your blog
SketchUp Create, modify and share 3D models
Storybird Collaborative storytelling
Storyjumper Create a page turning e-book
Timetoast Create a free online timeline
Voice Thread Hold an online conversation about an image
Voki Create a personalised speaking avatar
Wordle Create word clouds to summarise main concepts of a unit for students
Source/Courtesy – UNSW
1. Cognitive Behaviourism
According to Mckay & Tom (Teaching Adult Second Language Learners, CUP, 1999, p. 26), working in groups helps students feel they are part of a community. They come to know each other as
- individuals &
Pair- and groupwork serves an important pedagogical purpose, because it
provides more opportunities for individuals to talk than does a teacher-fronted class, as well as less formal and potentially threatening environment.
Working with peers, adult students are less likely to feel afraid to make a mistake, they are more relaxed and thus often end up speaking and experimenting with the language more. What is crucial is your teacher’s classroom management skills, though. There is more to efficient pair- and groupwork in a language class than simply putting people into pairs or groups and telling them to talk about something. The tutor has to design appropriate tasks and provide enough scaffolding in order for this type of learning activity to benefit the students.
It looks like more and more language teaching is being done on the web. Let me summarize what online language teachers have on offer, what they do or could do in theory. I will list several examples from Curtis J. Bonk & Ke Zhang’s (2008) Empowering Online Learning, pp. 62-63.
Types of resources & activities for online language learners
- online flashcards
- electronic dictionaries, glossaries & corpora
- presentations / slide shows
- grammar lessons
- vocabulary lessons
- voice games
- word games
- interactive speaking games
- news portals
- topic-specific websites
- reading exercises
- listening quizzes & exercises
- collaborative writing tasks
- digital storytelling
- text & voice chat sessions
- asynchronous discussions
- pronunciation labs
- progress reports
- interactive quizzes
- online conversation classes
- placement tests
- self-paced lessons
- peer-to-peer practice conversations
- expert mentoring, etc
What else is out there? Is there anything on the list you either have tried and liked or hated, or would like to try?
Heather McKay & Abigail Tom (1999, CUP, Teaching Adult Second Language Learners, pp. 21-22) suggest teachers differentiate among four types of mixed-ability activity. Unless the text is in quotation marks, it is my own interpretation.
same input, same task
What is different in this situation is the level of your students’ language proficiency. What makes it possible for the students to do the task is their collaborative effort. You have to divide your class of students into pairs or groups so that weaker students get to work with stronger ones. The tasks that are best suited in this case are those that require problem-solving skills, e.g. games, puzzles, mazes, quests, trivia quizzes and the like. In other words, the focus is not on English but on the task, which should require the students to draw on their knowledge of the world and life or work experience as opposed to their knowledge of grammar rules or lexis. You should design the activity so that it would not look, feel or sound like a language practice activity.
same input, modified task
A good example of such an activity would be a multilevel dictation. The more proficient students would have to write everything, the less able ones would have to fill in the gaps, and those you consider a pain in the neck could be asked to tick the options they hear. Once you have finished dictating, everyone should have the same text.
Another example is multilevel listening. Stronger students may be instructed to listen without reading the script while the audio is being played, and weaker ones could be permitted to consult the script as they listen.
By and large, weaker students are provided with more scaffolding.
different input, same task
This type of mixed-ability activity requires weaker students to use the input you provide “as is” and stronger students to do something with the initial input in order to do the main task. For instance, you can choose to give the more proficient students in your class cues and the less proficient ones ready-made questions when you do a mingling activity such as “Find Someone Who”.
same task, different performance level
This last type is very much like project work. What makes it special is that the teacher doesn’t give out any materials, but just sets the task. The students work alone or in small groups, and the language they produce will vary according to their level. I imagine all sorts of “create a poster” type of tasks will fit in this category.
Does studying 1-to-1 qualify as pairwork? And is it necessarily teacher-centered and bad? Anyone?
Ian Forsyth (Teaching & Learning Materials & The Internet, 3rd edition, p. 135) defines interactivity as
emulating the traditional classroom
He lists the 5 Ts that cause interactivity to fail on the Internet (pp. 19 -23)
time technology timid territoriality on topics training truss – an infrastructure requirement
A digital story is a personal experience represented in narrative format. The script is amplified by including video, music, still-frame imagery, and the author’s voice. A digital story typically lasts for two to three minutes. Web 2.0: New Tools, New Schools p. 43
It must take ages to create such a story, but the idea is interesting anyways. I imagine the teacher has to provide a lot of scaffolding to make sure that it is about learning English rather than having fun with technology. The learner should also have a story to tell in the first place. If you have nothing to say, your story will be a flop. Songs and stories have one important thing in common – they have to have a real message to be a success.
Here is a wonderful example of a digital story
Various names have been given to this form of teaching, and there are some distinctions among these: cooperative learning, collaborative learning, collective learning, learning communities, peer teaching, peer learning, reciprocal learning, team learning, study circles, study groups, and work groups. But all in all, there are three general types of group work: informal learning groups, formal learning groups, and study teams (adapted from Johnson, Johnson, and Smith, 1991).
Informal learning groups are ad hoc temporary clusterings of students within a single class session. Informal learning groups can be initiated, for example, by asking students to turn to a neighbor and spend two minutes discussing a question you have posed. You can also form groups of three to five to solve a problem or pose a question. You can organize informal groups at any time in a class of any size to check on students’ understanding of the material, to give students an opportunity to apply what they are learning, or to provide a change of pace.
Formal learning groups are teams established to complete a specific task, such as perform a lab experiment, write a report, carry out a project, or prepare a position paper. These groups may complete their work in a single class session or over several weeks. Typically, students work together until the task is finished, and their project is graded.
Study teams are long-term groups (usually existing over the course of a semester) with stable membership whose primary responsibility is to provide members with support, encouragement, and assistance in completing course requirements and assignments. Study teams also inform their members about lectures and assignments when someone has missed a session. The larger the class and the more complex the subject matter, the more valuable study teams can be.