Tag Archives: phone

Poll Everywhere

clipboards

Ever stare out into a roomful of your students’ faces as you explain the role of the comma in differentiating restrictive and non-restrictive adjective clauses?  I have.  After a few terms, I began to wonder whether those blank stares indicated that students were overwhelmed by the topic, or bored because they already understood this material and couldn’t wait to move on, or were just plain bored (though I was pretty confident the latter was true.)

I thought it would be great if we teachers could adopt the same technology that the network news teams use when they take a roomful of average citizens and make them watch debates with a dial in their hand.  By turning the dial left when they are happy and right when they are not, an average response is displayed in a graph that scrolls across the bottom of the screen.  Wouldn’t it be great if students could dial between “I don’t understand. Slow down.” and “I get it.  Move on.”?  For now, we must make do with the analog, “Any questions?”

Getting live feedback can be very useful in the classroom.  Poll Everywhere is a website that makes creating live polls extremely easy.  With a free account, you can create a poll that allows up to 30 responses by web, text message, smartphone or Twitter.  You can even download your poll on a PowerPoint slide, which you can use to observe the results as they roll in.  More features are available for paid accounts.

Polls are very easy to set up, but there are lots of good online tutorials out there, including this one by Sue Frantz.  These kinds of polls can do a great job of gathering instant feedback from your students using technology they likely already have with them (instead of requiring them to purchase Clickers, devices with only one function.)  Whether asking students if they the pace of the class is appropriate or checking comprehension of content, Poll Everywhere is an extremely flexible tool that can be used in a wide variety of situations.

poll image

To respond to this poll, text the code for your response to 37607, tweet the code to @poll, submit the code to http://poll4.com, or use the web form to make your selection.  View results.

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Google Labs

beaker

If you haven’t visited Google Labs, you should check it out.  This is the experimental, work-in-progress part of Google where users can see what’s next, or at least what the engineers at Google are tinkering with

Some projects that started in Google Labs have graduated to become fully-fledged parts of the Google experience.  These include Google Scholar, Google Docs, Google Maps, and many others.

Other projects have stayed in the Lab, sometimes continuing to develop, other times seeming to arrive at a conclusion that may or may not be further integrated Google-wide.  Some of these are may be interesting for language learners and teachers, though how to use them is not always immediately obvious.  A few of my favorites are below.

set of fruit imagesGoogle Sets

This was the first experiment I ever encountered in Google Labs and I always come back to it.  Enter a list of items in a set, and Google with guess other items in the set.

It’s easy to imagine how this was envisioned as a way to improve the search experience — sometimes searching for synonyms can be more productive than the original search terms — but it almost has the feel of a Scattergories-like party game.  (Can you find a set that Google can’t guess?)

In a way, Google Sets is kind of like thesaurus, but its kind of not.  At the same time, if students can get hooked by it’s game-like nature, it could be a good way to discover new vocabulary.

books arranged by color on shelvesGoogle Ngrams

In its endless pursuit to make it possible to search everything, everywhere, across all time, Google has scanned millions of books and made them searchable.  This is not without some controversy as authors and publishers are concerned that their books are being given away for free online.  Currently, Google only makes passages of copyrighted books available in its search, as opposed to the entire work.

In the meantime, Google has made the entire corpus available and easy to search.  Though not as robust as the Corpus of Contemporary American English (COCA), Google’s simpler interface may be easier for non-linguists to use and understand.

Students of English can not only compare the frequency of several words and / or phrases, but can also see how the relationships between the search terms have changed over time.  For example, see how ain’t has precipitously fallen out of favor since peaking in the 1940s.  Or, see the how the use of subject pronouns has changed, in part as a result of he no longer being considered the generic.

motorcycle gogglesGoogle Goggles

This one isn’t as language-oriented as the previous two examples, but it is a remarkable glimpse into the future.  Google Goggles are a way of performing a Google search, but instead of typing in search terms, upload a picture from your smartphone.  This can include anything from a book cover to a landmark.

Given the rise in popularity of smartphones, just think of how much language is available to ESL students through these devices.  Walking down the street, a student can snap a picture of something unfamiliar and find links to all kinds of related information.

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Plagiarism To Go

blackberry

We had an interesting case of plagiarism come up recently.  A teacher gave students a writing assignment based on what they had learned from a movie they had watched in class.  After collecting the papers, the teacher noticed that one of them had some interesting phrases that did not sound like they would naturally come from the student who turned in the paper.  So, like many of us do, the teacher typed a couple of sentences into Google and found the web page that contained much of the writing assignment that the student had turned in.  She then followed up with the usual information about “you need to cite sources” and “this is plagiarism”.

What’s so strange about this particular case?  All of this occurred in the classroom during the twenty minutes that the students were given to write.  Clearly, the student must have accessed the internet via a cell phone, searched for some keywords, and written down parts of a passage from a website.

cellphone cheating

Cheating via text is so 2008.

I was a bit stunned that this could happen, but in retrospect I shouldn’t be.  Smart phones are literally putting the Internet into our pockets, so why should students’ habits online be any different whether they are at home or on the go?

All of this technology can obviously be a very good thing when used appropriately.  For example, many students have dictionary apps on their phones which makes a useful resource very accessible.  But occasionally “checking the dictionary” is not just checking the dictionary and it is becoming easier and easier to confuse the two.  This experience served as a good reality check for us.  We are now more keenly aware of how easily students can access these resources and how important it is to teach them how to use them appropriately.

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Phone Your Blog

phone

Who ya gonna call?

I’ve had this WordPress blog for about two years and have had blogs with Blogger in the past.  Both are good services, but I like the WordPress interface a bit better as well as the ability to have several static pages (inspiration, projects, and resources, for example).  Recently, WordPress announced a feature that Blogger had years ago but cancelled: the ability to phone your blog.

Once you’ve signed up for a WordPress blog, you can configure a special number that you can call and record a message that will appear on your blog.  I don’t plan to use this feature on this blog, but there are several reasons that this feature is mentioning.

First, this is a way to create digital recordings without any special equipment: no microphone, digital audio recorder, computer, mp3 player — just a phone.  The recordings can be downloaded, shared, and edited in the same way as any other digital recording.

Second, a student in an ESL class can make a recording and then others in the class can comment on it. This could be feedback on an impromptu speech topic, a dialog between two or more students, or any other oral interaction.  Comments could be based on language used, content, or both.  Many options are possible when it is this easy to share a digital audio recording.

All of this is possible with some content management systems (there are plugins available for Moodle, for example) but otherwise pulling all of the technology together to make this happen can be a bit of work, all of which is streamlined by simply calling your blog.

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WTMI

a young child texting on a cell phone

It seems like today's students are born with phones in their hands.

WTMI stands for Way Too Much Information, an example of shorthand commonly used for texting and instant messenger.  There are lots of others.  I frequently hear stories from students and colleagues about how proficient students are at texting.  Some can allegedly send text messages without taking the phone out of their pockets.  The mosquito ringtone — a ringtone so high-pitched that adults can’t hear it — is another means students have to covertly use their phones.

Many of our students (and many of us) use text messages everyday.  A recent article in the Columbus Dispatch reported on a study conducted by the Pew Internet & American Life Project.  I wouldn’t say the study has way too much information, but there is a lot.

Among the findings: 75% of 12- to 17-year-olds own cell phones and 88% of teen cell-phone users text.  In fact, use of texting is so widespread that teens send more texts than they make phone calls.  Is this last part surprising?  Although I’m a relatively late adopter of texting, now that I use it, I find that I do text more frequently than I talk on my phone.

I’m not sure what percentage of schools ban cell phones, but 65% of cell-owning teens at those schools take their phone every day.  Obviously, we don’t ban phones at Ohio State, but the fact that 64% of teens with cell phones have texted in class and 25% have made or received a call during class is worth noting.

In addition to the startlingly large total numbers of texts (a third of teens who are texters send more than 100 texts a day; about 15% top 6,000 a month,) the increased use of texting and cell phones over the last five years is amazing.  In 2004, only 45% of teens owned cell phones (now 75%), and in 2006 only 51% of teens were texters (now 88%).

What are the ramifications for the classroom?  In our pre-college intensive ESL program (which is obviously very different from elementary and highschools,) cell phones are a part of students’ lives.  Very few have a traditional landline.  When possible, I try to embrace this technology.  For example, I had students use their phones in class to listen to the cellphone tours of the statues outside the Ohio Statehouse before a recent field trip.  Used in this way, cell phones could conceivably replace, or at least supplement, a traditional listening lab.

Students taking calls and sending texts is an obviously a distraction.  I usually take the opportunity to address classroom culture and etiquette, but it can be a constant classroom management struggle.

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