Tech for Teach

Quizlet.Live: Classroom based social vocabulary game

quizletlivemadness

Quizlet Live is a website-based classroom vocabulary game where teams of three or four students work together to be first to match vocabulary terms with their correct definitions. Quizlet Live is a new feature of Quizlet, an excellent digital flashcard website and smartphone application already popular with many teachers. It is free and easy to use, allowing teachers to create customized flash cards with text, images and audio, as well as share with and borrow from other users.

To use Quizlet Live in the classroom, the teacher and students will each need to have an Internet connected computer or mobile device. It is important to understand that this is a website-based game (NOT the Quizlet smartphone application) and is designed to work on any device, even older mobile phones. Students do not need to download any programs or applications nor register/sign up for anything. While not necessary, it is very helpful to be able to project the computer or device display onto a large screen so students can see the appropriate websites and track their teams progress during game play. 

 

Before introducing Quizlet Live

First, teachers must create a free account on the Quizlet website: Quizlet.com.  Next, create your own deck of flashcards or search through any of the thousands of sets created by other teachers. To see a good English/Japanese example, here is a link to a deck of flashcards about “Vacations” that I have used successfully. (https://quizlet.com/30856965/vacations-flash-cards/)

 

Introducing Quizlet Live in class

While logged into Quizlet.com, chose a deck and click on the blue box labeled “Live” at the top right of the website page.” This will open the Quizlet Live page where it is possible to create a game, watch an instructional video, or try a demonstration version of the game.

live button

Clicking on “Create Game” leads to a new page with instructions for students to go to the URL “quizlet.live” (https://quizlet.com/live) and enter the six-digit “Join Code.”  Write the website (quizlet.live) and the game code on the blackboard (If you have already taught the class how to use the Quizlet website and/or app, which I normally do, it can cause confusion. Be sure to let them know this is not the Quizlet app, but a website they need to access with their browser.)

code

If possible, project this website screen from the teacher computer or device onto a large screen so the students know where they are supposed to go. It is also a good idea to log into this website on a mobile device to carry around the room and show students what webpage they should find. There are two common problems at this point:

  1. Students go to “quizlet.com”. 
  2. Students open the Quizlet smartphone application if already downloaded.

In a few cases, my students have been unable to enter the code number using the Japanese “flick” style smartphone keyboard. A possible solution for this type of situation is to change the keyboard to the traditional QWERTY keyboard. If there is no QWERTY keyboard, try having the student switch back and forth between the English flick keyboard and their native language flick keyboard after entering each number. Quizlet has already been alerted about this potential problem, so it may be fixed soon.

Once students enter the code and push the “Join Class” button, they will be prompted to enter their first name. If another student has already taken that name, they will be asked to enter their last initial. If a student makes a mistake and it is necessary to change the name, click on that name on the teacher screen and delete it, and the student will be prompted to enter a new name.

At this point, their display will say “Waiting for your teacher to start.” Their name will also appear on the the teacher game screen, as well as the number of students who have logged in. When first introducing Quizlet Live, during this logging in process, it will probably be necessary to circle around the room, troubleshooting problems. It is recommended to become familiar with the process beforehand to quickly get everyone logged into the game.

waiting

When all the students have logged in, click the “Start Game” button to go to the next stage.  If students fail to login correctly before the game starts, they can be added after the current game is over. If at any point students who were correctly logged in lose Internet connection, return to a previous web page, or close the webpage, the game will give them the option to “Refresh” or  “Re-join the game I was in.”

At this point, Quizlet will create random animal named teams of three or four students depending on the total number.  The students’ screens will display their animal team name and image, as well as the names of other teams members.  Instruct the students to stand up, find the other members of their team, and sit together. This is where the beauty of this game really shows, students must physically stand up and move around the room to form groups and work together. 

Once everyone is ready, select “Start Game”, and students will begin to work together to match the vocabulary term with the correction definition. Each member of the team will have the same vocabulary term at the top of the screen. Below that term will be three or four definitions from the total of 12 questions. Only one of the definitions on one team member’s screen will be correct. The team must work together to identify the correct definition.  If successful, the definition will turn green and disappear and the next vocabulary term will appear. If the choice is incorrect, the definition will turn red and all screens will then show the correct answer before starting the team over from the beginning. The first team to correctly answer all 12 questions in a row is the winner.

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The teacher can then choose to exit the game, play the game again, shuffle teams and play again, or review the cards with the class. For an alternative idea, try using trivia sets such as this “Sports Trivia” set. Or, search for sets which use images instead of definitions. Great for certain types of vocabulary like “kitchen tools“.

waiting

 

Superstars

At last! Teacher-designed EFL apps

Have you ever been frustrated using an app or a piece of software and thought something along the lines of “if only it was made with teachers in mind” or “if only they could have invited input from teachers during the design process”?

I thought it would be fitting to introduce a website where the software designer is actually in the trenches teaching university-level EFL classes by day and burning the midnight oil programming at night.

prMeet Paul Raine and his website Apps 4 EFL.

In this post I interview Paul about his website, and in later posts I’ll explore some of the fantastic EFL study apps he has created.

Q: Could you provide an brief introduction to Apps 4 EFL? And, could I ask you to summarize Apps 4 EFL in one sentence?

Apps 4 EFL is a website for teachers and learners of English as a Foreign Language, designed to work both on mobile devices and desktop PCs. It features a variety of games and activities for English language learners in the form of “web-apps” – apps that run in the browser.

Additionally, it includes management tools for teachers whereby students’ progress in each of the individual apps can be monitored, recorded, and used as an element of assessment in any English course. In order to summarize in one sentence, I’ll provide the site slogan: “Apps, games, tools and tech for English language teachers and learners”.

Q: I know you’ve had some of your apps available online for some time, but what made you decide to include the learning management system component?

After introducing one of the apps, WikiCloze, at the 2014 JALT CALL Conference, the feedback I received was overwhelmingly positive. However, among the comments for improvement were calls for a way teachers could monitor and record student progress.

I realized at the time that this would be quite a big undertaking, but one I thought would be worthwhile, especially bearing in mind my plans to add further apps to the platform. I moved the whole site over to a more robust CMS: Joomla, the same software used by internet giants such as eBay and Barnes and Noble.

On top of this solid foundation I built a student management system for teachers, which can now be used to monitor and record student progress in all of the Apps 4 EFL games and activities.

Q: What software have you used to design the site and apps?

The site is built on top of the Joomla CMS, which provides a very robust foundation of security and stability. The individual learning apps are coded using PHP, JavaScript (jQuery), and Ajax, which are the standard technologies for delivering HTML 5 enabled web apps.

Apps 4 EFL Apps pageQ: How do you incorporate Apps 4 EFL into your university classes?

I teach all four skills: Reading, writing, listening and speaking within my various university classes.

For the reading and writing classes, Word Ninja and WikiCloze are two very useful apps. Word Ninja can help students improve their knowledge of almost 3000 essential English words (the NGSL). WikiCloze can help students improve their knowledge of English grammar through intensive reading and cloze test completion. The pop-up dictionary function also provides the opportunity to improve vocabulary knowledge of words in their original context.

For listening, there is Pirate or Pilot, which helps students to improve their ability to distinguish between similar sounding English words (minimal pairs). All WikiCloze articles now also feature text-to-speech audio, and many have comprehension quizzes available, which means students can complete listening comprehension quizzes about topics which are of interest to them.

I haven’t made an app which specifically focuses on speaking yet, but I’m hoping to create something in the near future using the emerging Web Speech API technologies, which include Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR). Watch this space!

Q: Does students’ engagement with Apps4EFL influence their grades? And, how do you grade them?

It is entirely down to the teacher whether or not they wish to incorporate students’ performance on Apps 4 EFL into part of their grading scheme.

My students use the site a lot, both in class and at home – and on the train, bus, or in the bath with their mobile devices! My students work hard, both to improve their own high scores, and to equal or better those of their classmates.

I feel this effort deserves recognition in my grading scheme, and therefore I assign a certain percentage of students’ final class grade to their performance on Apps 4 EFL. This is very easy to do, as Apps 4 EFL provides a detailed breakdown of each individual students’ progress in each of the apps.

Q: What draws you to creating apps?

I started programming when I was quite young, and used to write applications in BASIC for my old Acorn RISC OS computer. However, when I went to university, my interests changed, and I chose to study creative writing and then TEFL.

I eventually came back to programming when I realised the popularity of mobile devices, as well as how laptops and desktop PCs, provided some really interesting learning opportunities for language students.

The iPod used to be marketed as the device which allowed you to fit 1000 songs in your pocket. With Apps 4 EFL, your students can fit over 100,000 cloze tests in their pocket, and study English vocabulary anywhere!

While some students even forget their textbooks and pencil cases, they never forget their mobile phones. Ultimately, I want to create learning tools which are convenient, powerful, and engaging.

Q: How will you determine the success of the site and your apps?

When I’m the Mark Zuckerberg of EFL learning apps, I’ll consider myself successful! But before then, if students and teachers of English find my site useful or enjoyable, that will also be a big success!

Q: Right now you have created five apps: Pilot or Pirate, Picture This, Word Ninja, Star Words and WikiCloze. Are you working on any more apps for the future?

I’m current working on a new app called Sentence Builder, which utilizes the huge tatoeba.org example sentence database. Students are presented with a sentence in their native language and are required to translate it into English.

I’d also like to continue to improve the five existing apps, and also do something in the near future utilizing ASR, although what form exactly this will take I’m as yet unsure. It’s great to think of new ideas, and I’m always open for suggestions if anyone has any – collaborators are always welcome!

 

News

Don’t Miss JALTCALL 2014

The JALTCALL 2014 conference on June 6~8 represents the largest gathering in Japan ofScreenshot 2014-05-20 09.43.41 educators from around the world who are committed to using digital technology in the language classroom. This year’s conference has attracted a massive wave of applications to present, and the pre-conference registration figures indicate that the turnout will be stellar.

Amongst the mix of fantastic presentations you can find talks by most of the DMLL contributors:

Those of you who are interested in mobile learning should also make time to check out the plenary by JALTCALL Journal editor and mobile language learning guru Professor Glenn Stockwell.

A full list of presentations and workshops can be found here.

See you in Nagoya!