If you’ve been reading this blog you know that my teaching partner Çiğdem and I are hoping to use cell-phones as “tools for learning” in our English classes next year. There’s just one little problem: our school’s ban on cell-phones. However, we’re hoping that our admin will give us permission to experiment with phones as long as we supply them with a brilliant plan for how – as well as good reasons for why – we want to do this.
To start with, we’ve decided only to use the phones as cameras, video-cameras and audio-recorders and not for accessing the internet, sending messages or playing with apps. It’s not that we’re not excited about the latter functions but we think things need to be taken one step at a time to begin with until we feel comfortable with this new technology (well, it’s new to us).
Another reason why we’re “limiting ourselves” is that we think that kind of use will be easier to “sell” to the administration since picture-taking, video-recording and audio-recording is something that has been going on in the English classrooms since forever. All we’re really asking is to exchange one tool for another – and we’re not even asking for money out of a budget to do it! We’re calling our project proposal: ” Taking advantage of free technology in the grade 8 English classes”. Catchy, huh?
Then, provided our first baby-steps don’t kill us, we’ll start exploring the more techy parts of todays wonder-phones; 20 Interesting Ways to use Mobile Phones in the Classroom.
Anyway, back to step I. At the beginning of the year (September/October) we usually focus on introductions and descriptions at my school in grade 8. Students write short descriptive paragraphs about themselves or their friends and review vocabulary used to describe physical characteristics, personal qualities, likes, dislikes and interests. In the Main Course there’s an initial review of the present and past tenses, regular and irregular verbs, posessive pronouns and reported speech. We’re not going to change any of that, all we’re suggesting is to enhance the learning experience by adding three little projects to be carried out in the 3rd and 4th week. Here they are:
Mini-projects where all the audio and video recording as well as the photos will be taken using the students’ own cell-phones.
In pairs students audio record themselves interviewing each other. They also take a picture of each other and then create podcasts (www.podomatic.com) by uploading the photo and the audio. They also add a descriptive paragraph about the person they’re interviewing. Links can be shared on the Moodle/Facebook page. www.audioboo.com is also an alternative here, and if enough of our students have i-phones we may be able to take advantage of the audioboo free app and do everything from the classroom? If not we’ll make due with podomatic and the computer-lab.
In pairs students help each other re-write the paragraph about themselves from the “Inter-pods” into the 1st person. They then register at www.voki.com, create their own avatars and upload a recording of themselves reading their paragraphs introducing themselves. They should also add a background photo from the English classroom. Links can be shared on the Moodle/Facebook page. If we want to save time we could also use fotobabble.com (no creating avatars) but I think the kids will enjoy their “voki-selves”.
3 “Mini Pecha Kuca or Animoto Video”
In groups of 4, students take photos to describe themselves as a group. They put this together as a slide show (Power Point) and perform together. Each student is then responsible for two 30 second slides each. Pecha Kucas can be videotaped and shared on the Moodle/Facebook page.
In groups of 4, students take photos that will serve to describe them as a group. They also record themselves talking/singing/rapping about who they are. They then put this together into a 4 minute long animoto (www.animoto.com) video. Videos can be shared on the Moodle/Facebook page.
OK. We realize that we could try to share the one video-camera the department owns and perhaps we could find enough microphones or digital cameras somewhere too – but why bother? We happen to have students who not only own all the equipment we need, but who are dying to use it! It’s also a plus that they’ll need no training in how to use it – they already know. Finally, we really believe they’ll have more fun learning if they are allowed to use their beloved phones as tools. Is it wrong to think that if they enjoy the process, then they’ll learn more?
How are we going to make sure the phones end up functioning as tools for learning rather than as tools for distraction?
* The phones will be collected at the beginning of the school day, handed out to the students only when needed and collected again immediately after the activity has been completed. The teacher will always be present in the room with the students while the phones are in use. For activities where the phones are only meant to be used as audio-recorders, video-cameras or cameras, the sim cards can (if necessary) be removed, thereby making it impossible for students to do anything “inappropriate” (like access the internet or send text messages) during the activity. In addition, each pair or group will only be allowed one phone to share. That way the students will be too busy using the phone appropriately to goof around with it.
How do we intend to measure our success? How will we know whether or not the phones helped our students learn/made the learning process more rewarding and enjoyable for them?
After each activity we will have the students complete a survey (www.surveymonkey.com) where they can express their opinions about each activity and their own learning. As teachers we’ll keep a journal of our own experiences. The results will be discussed in the co-ordination meetings with the HOD.
What do you think? Will we get the thumbs-up for the first part of our cell-phone experiment? What do you think of the projects we’ve planned?