Tag Archives: classroom

Pop Psychology for Teachers

balloon poppingRed Pop Three” by Brent Schneeman used under CC BY-NC 2.0

I originally intended this post to be about an article I came across on creativity, but as I looked around What Makes Them Click.net, I found that the whole site deserves a mention.

Susan Weinschenk, who writes this blog, draws on her 30+ years of experience applying her PhD in Psychology to the workplace.  She identifies interesting research articles and then summarizes them in a way that makes them very easy to apply to the workplace, including the classroom.  Some examples are below.

knitted duck on a streetAfloat on Grey Street” by Nicola Stock used under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

4 Types of Creativity

Evidently, there are four types of creativity, each a combination of cognitive / emotional and deliberate / spontaneous.  Thomas Edison, who is said to have gone through thousands of failed experiments before inventing something, is classified as cognitive and deliberate.  In contrast, artists and musicians tend to be spontaneous and emotional in their creativity.  Each type has different requirements in order to be successful.    For example, the Thomas Edisons need lots of knowledge and time whereas require skill to create based on a spontaneous impulse.  So, there may not be a one-size-fits-all way to facilitate creativity in the classroom.

jack in the box toyGood Lord” by Kevin O’Mara used under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Surprises

Your brain craves surprises.  This is, ironically, not a surprise to any good language teacher who fills lesson plans with a variety of activities to hold students’ interest.  This summary is based on a study which demonstrated that people find surprises more pleasurable than things they like.  How do they know?  The squirted fruit juice in people’s mouths.  Seriously.

blue screen of death -- Windows computer errorBSOD 0x07B” by Justin used under CC BY 2.0

Error Strategies

This study looked at what strategies older and younger adults used when encountering an error when trying to use a new electronic device.  Some interesting differences: the older group didn’t receive meaningful hints from their actions or use their past knowledge as much as the younger group did.  These results may be particularly useful for teachers who integrate technology into their classrooms.  Common sense would have us believe that older adults would have different difficulties navigating a content management system for the first time.  Perhaps this study can help teachers to better anticipate these problems.

There are lots of other interesting studies summarized on this site.  Take a look around and if you find others that are particularly applicable to ESL teachers, leave a link in the comments.

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Group Work

classroom groupwork

Working in small groups is a natural choice for the language classroom.  If one student in each group is talking, the opportunities for practice increase dramatically.  But does group work work?

Group work that works (even in large classes) is the title of an interesting article on this subject in the Prof Hacker blog on The Chronicle of Higher Education’s website.  Although the article is targeted towards college and university professors, there are some useful suggestions for the ESL classroom.

First is that group work allows students an opportunity to make a difficult decision based on a set of data.  An analogy is drawn to a jury which must decide the outcome of a court case based on evidence in a trial.  The article argues for posing the same, significant problem to each group and having them report their specific choice simultaneously.

simultaneous reportingReporting simultaneously, whether by holding up cards with letters on them, pointing or moving to a wall or area of the classroom, or using clickers, prevents later groups from changing their minds based on previous groups’ answers.

The article goes into much more detail, and is worth a read.  How could these ideas be used in an ESL or EFL classroom?

Groups of students could be asked to evaluate a piece of writing and report back on their evaluations.  If you received this job application, would you hire the person?  Based on the mistakes in this paragraph, which country is the author from?  What letter grade should this essay receive?  Projects like these could be very engaging ways for students to interact with the target language and each other.

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Kinect Development

microsoft kinect hardware

Microsoft recently announced plans to release a software development kit (SDK) for the Kinect.  This should allow academics and enthusiasts to find new ways to connect the motion-sensing Xbox hardware to other platforms, such as desktop and laptop computers, much more easily.  In short, there should be many more Kinect hacks to come.

I’m still not sure how this would directly apply to classroom teaching, although it stands to reason that these applications could someday replace physical interactive whiteboards in the same way that Kinect was originally designed to replace physical videogame controllers for the Xbox.

For more, see my previous post on Kinect Hacks and below for some new examples of how Kinect is being used in new and exciting ways.

Control Windows 7

The touchless multitouch is really nice.  Mice are so 2008.

3D Tetris with Face Tracking

As the user moves his head, the perspective on the screen changes to match so that the 3D perspective is constantly updated.

Kinect Lightsaber

A wooden stick becomes a lightsaber in real time.  This would save hours of  frame-by-frame editing.

Balloon Body

After Kinect scans your body, use your scroll wheel to expand or contract the surface.

Christmas Lights

Use Kinect attached to a bunch of dimmers to control Christmas lights for a very nice effect.

Flying Robot

The 3D capability of connect makes it perfect for a robot that navigates three-dimensional space.

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Civics Games

judge's gavel

I was tipped off to iCivics games a few days ago and have finally had a chance to check them out.  iCivics is “a web-based education project designed to teach students civics and inspire them to be active participants in our democracy.”  There are several games on this site dealing with topics from Supreme Court decisions to immigration to being president for a term.

Each game has lots of information packed into it.  For example, in Argument Wars, in which famous Supreme Court decision are re-argued, players must read the case and then choose the appropriate supporting evidence for their side.  When the player chooses the evidence, the judge rules whether the argument is legally sound.  When the computer opponent submits evidence, the player can object to unsound arguments.  This requires not only more reading than your typical videogame, but a lot of critical thinking.  In fact, the level of reading required in these games would make it difficult for intermediate ESL students to play them alone.  The game does a good job of making the process a fun game by which students can learn more about the Supreme Court.

Will students put down their favorite commercial video games to pick these games up?  Probably not.  But highly motivated students (and citizens) might use them to learn more about the civics lessons they are learning (or learned long ago) in school.  Teachers could use these games with a whole class or have students use them individually or in pairs and report back in presentations, essays, or small group discussions.  More advanced students could look at these games critically and try to determine where they are accurate, where they are inaccurate, and where bias may be present.  Regardless of how they are used, these interactive texts are much richer than most civics texts and can serve as a useful supplement to them.

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Game-Based Mashups

love spelled in playing cards

I love a good boardgame and I love a good mashup.  So, when I read about the Boardgame Remix Kit on GeekDad, I had to write about it.  I don’t own the kit (which comes in ebook, book, card, and app form) yet, but I did take a check out the free Valentine’s Edition download, which looks like a lot of fun.

The first game, WLTM Humpty Dumpty is a kind of madlibs game in which players create personal adds based on Trivial Pursuit cards (WLTM = Would Like To Meet).  The second turns Monopoly into a game of Divorce! in which players use their money to pay lawyers to fight over property.  (I have to admit, my first reaction to this game was that it might be about as much fun as going through a real divorce, but after reading the rules, there is some strategy involved that could be fun to play.)  The other two games are based on Scrabble and Clue.

How can these games be used in a classroom?  Like other forms of media (books, movies, music, etc.), there are several ways in which these games can be used.  Students can play them and report back on their experience.  This could be as simple as Was it fun? and How do you play? to evaluating whether the game accurately simulated real life.  For example, was Divorce! similar to a real divorce?  Why or why not?  Students could also compare the original version of the game to the mashup version.  Finally, students could use these mashups as inspiration to seek out other versions of existing board games or even to create their own.  All of these could be fun ways to practice English on Valentine’s Day.

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More Free Photos

robot toy

MorgueFile.com is a morbid name for a useful resource.  Despite what you might expect, this website does not contain pictures from a morgue.  A morgue file is a term from the newspaper industry to describe paper files that are inactive and only kept for reference.  Illustrators later adopted this term to refer to files of images that could serve as inspiration or reference.  MorgueFile.com is a large collection of images that are contributed to be used for reference by artists and teachers.

Once you get past the name, this is a very useful resource.  I was struck by a link on the homepage to a collection of photos of robot toys, including the one above.  There are a total of 116 toy robots in this collection, which is really interesting to skim through.

Of course, toy robots may not apply to all of your teaching needs.  Other searches revealed 66 photos labeled classroom, 234 photos labeled student, 734 photos labeled books, and 1190 photos labeled computers.   Many of the photos are high resolution and have a very professional stock-photography appearance, by which I mean objects are on white backgrounds and scenes are generic enough to be useful in many situations.  Next time you need an image for your PowerPoint presentation, consider an interesting and relevant photograph instead of canned clip art.

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Hey, You Guys!

light bulb

In the 1970s, The Electric Company was a kids television show made by the Children’s Television Workshop, the same folks that made Sesame Street,  but designed for a slightly older, getting-ready-to-read audience.  Fast-forward to 2009.  The Electric Company is being made again by what is now called Sesame Workshop.

Each half-hour show contains a main story featuring The Electric Company kids and their antagonist Prankster peers.  Vignettes interspersed between parts of the story focus on letters and sounds that relate to the vocabulary highlighted in each episode.  Most are catchy songs or games and contests played between the characters.  I’ve embedded several videos featuring silent e in this blog post.

The best thing about this show is that it does not baby it’s audience.  Scott Cameron, the Director of Education and Research for Sesame Workshop, has experience teaching ESL with music and games.  The focus of The Electric Company is on motivating children to read and this really can’t be done by talking down to an increasingly media-savvy audience.

In our house, Silent E is a Ninja (below) is a favorite that has achieved earworm status.  Try to watch it once or twice and tell me it’s not stuck in your head the rest of the day.  You’ve been warned.

The Electric Company has even brought back its classic silhouetted heads reading words together.  These are really effective demonstrations of learning to read by sounding out words.

Videos are available on the Electric Company YouTube Channel and on the Electric Company website (which includes a section for parents and educators).

Will these videos work with adult students?  It depends on the student.  These videos are fun and poppy and targeted to a younger audience.  But as a way to expose language learners to lots of fun, catchy, repeatable reinforcement, these really can’t be beat.  Do you know of other good videos?  Post a link in the Comments section.

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