Transforming Learning w the iPad – Supporting ELLs Workshop

This past weekend I presented at John Burns‘ EARCOS weekend conference ‘Transforming Learning with the iPad’.  I was really flattered when John asked me to present, and to be considered a part of such a professional team of experts.  Besides John, whose work I admire and respect, I felt honored to be part of such an expert team of my fellow presenters & colleagues, Marty Ruthai (ES eCoach), Mark McElroy (HS eCoach, IB Teacher), Mark Knudsen (MS PE Teacher), Carlene Hamley (KG Teacher), Kimberly Shannon (G2 Teacher, Literacy expert), Katie Krouse (MS eCoach), and Diana Beabout (MS Humanities Teacher, fellow COETAILer).  Each of these educators are experts in their field and made this conference a great success.

I learned a lot in this conference from attendees, my peers, and my own experiences.  I realized that it’s not until you reflect on the why, how and when you’re using eLearning resources, that you realize how valuable they are in our students’ learning.  I would like to share those experiences with you by posting what I presented and some learnings from other presenters.

My Workshop – Using the iPad to Support ELLs (English Language Learners)
Attendees downloaded the following apps (except for the Kagan spinners, everything else is a free app):

I ran my session using Nearpod to model its use. This is a great tool to present new content, especially if your learners have their own device.  You manage the content you’re presenting while students follow your presentation on their on devices.  It’s interactive, you can make polls, ask questions, or quiz your students while you’re presenting; instant feedback!  You can find the slides to my Nearpod presentation here, and sign up for a free account here.

I started off with Videolicious which I have previously shared on my COETAIL blog.  Attendees loved how easy it is to make a video and different ways it can be used with ELLs.  Not surprising, all attendees were able to find a meaningful way to use a tool like this for reflections, formative assessments, and to support language learners that are still not comfortable speaking in front of big groups.  Other tools similar tools are Educreations, ScreenChomp & ShowMe.

I moved onto presenting Popplet Lite (there’s a paid version of Popplet, but the Lite one is good enough for me) and showed how ELLs can use it to map their ideas, take notes and reflect on their learning.  It’s fun to use and takes pressure off students since they can show their understanding of big concepts visually and as non-linguistic representations of comprehension.  Other similar tools are Mindo, MindMeister & SimpleMind+.

And finally, I shared two apps that support vocabulary development following the Exposure + Practice + Mastery model of language acquisition by Dr. Virginia Rojas.  I modeled the use of iBrainstorm & A+ Pro Flashcards, two free apps that allow learners to organize vocabulary concepts, self assess their knowledge, and track their progress.

iBrainstorm consists of virtual sticky notes on a pinboard, and I showed how ELLs can use it by writing the words and color code them according to what they know of a word:  Green if they are ‘experts’ in using the word, yellow if they are ‘still learning’ the concept, and red if they ‘don’t know’ the it at all.  Students can refer back to their iBrainstorm sticky note board during a unit or project, and color code accordingly as their learning progresses. Other similar apps are AllStuckUp Lite, Sticky Notes+ & Infinote Pinboard.

A+Pro Flashcards is an amazing app to organize and practice vocabulary concepts.  I showed how the app is simple for learners to use, they create flashcard sets where they can add audio, images, definitions and translation in their own language.  When a set is made, the app organizes ‘practice’ sessions every day where learners can go through their set and pile the flashcards by ‘Know’, ‘Not sure’ & ‘Don’t know’.  Other similar apps Flashcards+, Evernote Peek & Flashcards Deluxe Lite.

Although I didn’t have a chance to go over the Kagan Selector Spinners app in any of the sessions (sorry guys!), I feel that spinners should be in any/every EAL teacher’s toolbox.  Before they became an app, I’ve carried with me and distributed selector spinners to teachers.  The concept is very simple, yet effective.  Spinners allow for random selecting of students for participation, and all through cooperative learning.  It engages all students in equal participation and lowers the stakes for ELLs as they know they can count on their peers for support.  Other similar apps Decide Now! Lite & Custom Spinner ($0.99).

From Fellow Presenters
Thanks to Marty, I discovered the Discovr apps.  A way to search for sources & content effectively, and all in a live mind map.  It’s fan-tastic.  I’m using it now, actually, to find the ‘similar apps’ for this post.  You have to try it to love it.  Start with the free Discovr apps, and reflect on how they can support your and your students’ search for valuable content.  Kimberly showed how her Kidblog got over 5,000 hits (??) and her students get feedback on their writing from all over the world.  She explained the value of storytelling apps like ToonTastic to support literacy.  Great stuff 🙂

What a weekend.  What an experience.  For those of you who attended my sessions, thank you for your support and I hope you found at least one resource useful and effective to your students.  And please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below.  And for you fellow COETAILers reading this post,  I wish that you also have experiences like this while doing the course.  There’s no better way to reflect upon the texts that we read than taking a risk and putting them into practice.

Messing Around with Videolicious

A while back, a friend, colleague and eCoach, Mark McElroy, introduced the whole staff to the Videolicious app at a staff PD day.  Videolicious is simple enough, you can create a 1 minute video, quick and easy.  In fact their slogan reads “Make great videos! Just talk and tap”, and it not only lives up to its hype, it’s also free.  Mark shared the app by making a video on the spot, with us and himself as the main ‘performers’.  When he showed us the finished product a few minutes later, there were ‘ooh’s and ‘aw’s from a pleased crowd. After reading ‘Messing Around’ from ‘Living and Learning with New Media’, I will tell of my journey messing around with Videolicious, and how my perception on teaching how to use media has changed.

I’ve always been one to mess around with technology and I got excited about Videolicious, I downloaded it immediately.  I couldn’t wait to make my first video.  But of what?  I could think of many ways my students could use it (for a science reflection, retelling a story, telling about their just right book, or just a daily diary about school), but I couldn’t think of way for me to use it.  And if I couldn’t use it, then how could I teach it?  So I messed around with it.  I opened the app, and made my first video. I tried putting music on the background.  I practiced using my device’s camera.  I noticed some bugs, for instance, the app tended to crash when being used for a long time. I realized quickly that 1 minute could be really long if you don’t have a plan for what you’re creating, but really short if you want to show more content. So, my students would have to ‘learn’ to use their device’s camera, have a clear plan of what their video would include and they might not be able to save their work.  Good to know.

I told a group of EAL students, who are usually shy about speaking in front of the class, that they could use this tool to present their ideas for a project.  I showed them a sample video (I wasn’t ready to take the risk Mark took with making the video on the spot) and they ‘ooh’ed and ‘aw’ed as well.  I was going to tell them to mess around with it, explore it, but I didn’t need to.  They tinkered and explored on their own, shared with their peers the things they were learning about the app, and then couldn’t wait to get started with their assignment.  Brilliant.

By allowing myself and my students to tinker, explore, and well ‘mess around’ with this tool, I created a learning environment different than the one I’m used to, one where I’m ‘less helpful‘, more like a coach, a guide, rather than a centric source of information.  I realized that if I had given a lesson on how to use Videolicious, the learning wouldn’t have been as effective.  There is power in this type of exploration.

Before I post this reflection, I will mess around and take a risk, like Mark did, and include a Videolicious I made just now🙂