Tech for Teach

A Christmas Message from Tellagami

Seasons greetings from DMLL.Screenshot 2013-12-19 09.09.13

Thank you for supporting DMLL in 2013. I can assure you that the team at DMLL can’t wait to share the potential of DMLL for your language classroom in 2014.

Like my avatar?

Tellagami is a free avatar app for iOS and Android devices created by a group of heavy hitters who have worked for Apple, Yahoo!, Disney, Universal and Nickelodeon. In short, Tellagami enables you to create a short avatar video (called “gamis”). All the user needs to do is select an avatar and scene, insert a text and the app creates a short video, ready to be shared via email, Twitter, Facebook or SMS.

photo (3)The first bit of fun you can have with Tellagami is customising your avatar. You have a say in the gender, skin tone, hairstyle, eyes, fashion, emotion and background image. Users can also annotate the image and substitute background photos with photos from your camera roll.

The hook for me though, is the choice of accent. You can choose anything from a deep southern drawl to the Queen of England. I teach in an English as a Lingua Franca program and having the opportunity to share different styles of pronunciation with my students is a breath of fresh air from the British and American accents found in most textbooks and listening texts.

How I’ve been using Tellagami in my classes includes: creating a report for my classes and embedding it in my class blog or Learning Management System; sharing a gami to introduce homework tasks at the end of class; and using gamis  for short dictation tasks. Students have used this app to create class reflections and to tell short stories, which they post to the class’ blog or share inside the classroom.

Avatar annimation programs and computerised text readers are not for everyone, but Tellagami’s ease of use, customisation, and choice of accents make it stand out from the pack as a great choice for your language classroom.
Screenshot 2013-12-19 09.09.36

All the best for the holiday season.

Opinion, Practical Teaching Ideas, Tech for Teach, Your thoughts?

How about avoiding the app store?

I thought it would be good to step back from reviewing all the fantastic DMLL apps out there to highlight the applications our mobile devices come with straight out of the box. You know, apps like digital cameras, voice recorders, note pads and timers. Applications or hardware we could only dream about using with one device a decade ago are now sitting in every student’s pocket. I understand it’s easy to get caught up in the search for the newest or coolest, but let’s get excited about tools we have right at our fingertips.

Teachers really need to take a longer look at how they can incorporate these built-in apps into their classroom. To begin with, students are usually very proficient at using them, which means a teacher doesn’t have to dedicate class time to training, and should a technical issue arise, there is a classroom full of teachers to help out. Secondly, many great apps aren’t available on both iOS and Android platforms, which prevents the whole class from participating. And, even when an app is available on both platforms, it often doesn’t work exactly the same. For a lot of these built-in apps, an Internet connection isn’t required, and given the app has been designed to run with the whole device in mind, teachers don’t have to worry about reception or processing issues. And lastly, I feel a lot of these built-in apps develop study skills which students can apply to classes outside of the language classroom.

If none of my arguments above have prompted you to consider the built-in apps once more, I hope this list of my four favorite built-in apps and their possibilities for the language classroom will.

2013-11-23 14.51.28Voice Recorder: Allows the teacher to: record lesson instructions; create authentic listening texts; record speaking activities;  and ask students to narrate their class blog posts. I’m also finding that if I ask a group of students to record themselves during a speaking task, students are less likely to fall back into using their native language, Japanese. Students can record themselves to evaluate pronunciation or prepare for a speaking task. Not only can students evaluate sound, the sound waves displayed on their screen can provide useful feedback on intonation. One of my favourite activities to play with the voice recorder is a “hot potato” game where a group of three to five students stand in a circle and pass a phone around the group and each member has to contribute one word to continue on a story. When teams are finished I play the recordings over the speaker system and we judge the best story.

Video camera: Over the last few years it has been interesting to watch how video cameras and cameras have been taken over by the smartphone. A feature I love is that users can rotate the camera to record a great video of themselves. This technique can be used to identify problems with pronunciation or create individual content for a class blog or project. A tablet or smartphone’s screen and speaker volume is also large enough for a video to be watched by a small group. A lot of the activities I suggested in the voice recorder section above can also be experimented with using a video camera, just make sure the mobile device is close to the speaker’s mouth to ensure sound quality.

2013-11-23 12.32.34Timer stop/watch. One technique for increasing student motivation is  to include a component that stimulates the heart rate. Racing the clock or displaying a timer beating down are wonderful ways to get your students moving and foster a game-like environment. For classroom management, stopwatches or timers enable a teacher to ensure tasks don’t run over time. I also see value in encouraging students to use this application to evaluate their time spent on tasks or leverage their own motivation while studying individually.

Camera: I know that the saying goes  “a picture tells a thousand words” and when one is teaching a language it’s fair enough to question whether images rob the opportunity for more language to be produced. However, the power of an image to stimulate or support a conversation cannot be ignored. What is more, the camera is usually the app students are most skilled at using.Tamagawa pic

Even without downloading Instagram one can now crop, take panoramic shots and use filters with their built-in camera app on newer devices. I also like the ease at which students are able to flick through their camera rolls to show multiple images during small group presentations similar to this picture above.

Some examples of how photos can be used include: asking students to report on their weekends while flicking through their photos; asking students to introduce the most artistic or interesting photo on the camera roll; ask students to take photos for blog content; and, sending students on a picture hunt to take photos of something which is round, diagonal or red, etc.

Students and teachers alike can also record whatever is presented on the blackboard or projector screen with just one tap.

I know there are more built-in apps worthy of a mention, but in the spirit of slowing down, let’s keep things simple. How have you been able to incorporate these 4 apps into your language classroom?

Tech for Teach

How far is 10 miles?

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I’m writing from my family’s home in Noosa Heads, Australia, so my priorities have shifted to surfing with my dad and eating some home cooked meals.

However, this trip home has helped remind of an app I can’t leave home without. The GlobeConvert app (iOS) is as the name suggests, all about converting units. If you need some converting, this is your one stop shop. Currencies, areas, energy, length, power, pressure, speed, temperature, time, volume and weight values can all be converted into the measurement you seek. Continue reading “How far is 10 miles?”