Tag Archives: social media

Communication Goes Visual

happy guy with pug

You know that feeling that you can’t put into words?  Like when your mind reels with an overwhelming realization.  Or when you’re too tired to do anything except stare blankly.  These sentiments, and thousands of others, are being expressed across various social media a GIF.

What was once just a snappy way to let visitors know your newfangled website was still under construction, the GIF has been embraced for its ability to compress not just a single image into a manageable file size, but also several frames of animation.  Though these images are not high quality, they look fine online and load relatively quickly due to their small size.

These simple animations can be created using desktop software such as Photoshop or in any number of newer online services.  (Google it.)  So now, when you’re looking for the perfect way to express something like the feeling you get when you do something clever but no one is around to notice, you can do it with one perfectly succinct animated image.

How do these GIFs relate to ESL learners and ESL teaching?  Well, if your students are venturing out into the wilderness that is the Internet, they are likely already encountering this form of communication.  Do they understand it?  Many of these animated images express universal sentiments such as surprise / exasperation, not wanting to hear what someone has to say, or that awkward moment when no one has anything more to say.  But, as you can see from this list alone, some of the meaning is somewhat complex and layered.  Also, many of the images are taken from popular culture which some students may not be attuned to as well as a native speaker.

But, perhaps we’re not giving our ESL learners enough credit.  They could very well be communicating with GIFs regularly because they appreciate the ease with which they can communicate complex ideas which they may not have words for in English.  Ask them.  Or ask students to describe these emotions as a classroom exercise.  You might be pleasantly surprised by what they say.

For lots more animated GIFs, visit reddit.com/r/reactiongifs.

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Blank or Blank: a Concordancer Game

This is a 10-minute demo of a web-based game I’ve been thinking about.  At its heart, it is a concordancer, but the game is also a repeatable, user-directed tool that could be used to study many interesting linguistic structures.  It could be used in any language and in other, non-linguistic disciplines.  I’ve also incorporated crowdsourcing and social networking to make it more useful and more fun.  And it’s so simple, it just might work.

Don’t believe me?  Too good to be true?  Perhaps.  Watch the demo and decide for yourself.  Then, share your reaction in the comments.

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ESL Games

various colored dice

I’ve been thinking about games a lot this week.  I had viewed games in ESL as a way to engage students and possibly elicit some complex language tasks such as negotiation that might be challenging to practice in a more abstract context.  I had even contemplated developing a simple video game design class for the same reasons.

Since participating on a panel discussing the role of video games in higher education this week, I’m seeing games in terms of a more authentic purpose.  Specifically, learning games should an activity fun so that the player gains experience doing a given task in a low-risk environment.  If the game is fun, the player will be inclined to repeat it, thereby gaining more experience.  So, for example, a game that rewards your avatar for making good dietary choices could be a good way for diabetic children to learn about foods that can help them manage their diabetes.

But what is the equivalent in ESL or language learning terms?  Should a game be very simple (a fun replacement for a drill-and-kill activity) or complex (navigating a virtual world in the target language)?  Can games be made in a way that students can gain something more from doing the activities more than once?  Can some part of a game be crowdsourced to the students so that the teacher is not the sole guiding force behind their design?  Can games incorporate some web 2.0 or social media elements?

I’m curious to know if any ESL or EFL teachers regularly use games in their classrooms.  If so, what games are most useful and what are the essential elements that make them so successful.  If you use games, digital or otherwise, please share it by leaving a comment.

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Top 5 Technologies You Should Already Be Using

apple cassette tape

You don't miss these, do you?

I realize that in the world of technology there are early and late adopters.  I’m not the earliest of bleeding-edge early adopters, but I do like to try out new technology and incorporate it into my teaching.  This list is a handful of tried and true technologies that are established enough to not be too buggy and problematic, user-friendly enough that just about anyone can start using them quickly, and useful enough that you’ll soon wonder how you got along without them.  In short, this is a list of tech that just about everyone can (and maybe even should) be using in 2010.

1. Social Bookmarking – Don’t let the “social” part fool you.  Delicious, Diigo and others offer a way to move your bookmarks to the cloud, meaning they are no longer saved only on one computer.  You can also: tag bookmarks with keywords to make them more searchable, get a URL to all the bookmarks tagged with the same term (for example, all of the sites I bookmarked for my presentation at the recent DMSW conference: http://delicious.com/eslchill/dmsw10), and search other people’s bookmarks to find out what people think is worth bookmarking on a given topic  (for example search for “ESL” on Delicious and you can see how many people have bookmarked each ESL site).  But wait, there’s more!  Diigo allows you to highlight and comment on webpages and then share them.  For example, take a look at my About Me page with some highlighting and sticky notes.  This can be a great tool for collaborating and compiling research.

2. Social media – Ok, here’s where the social part kicks in because Facebook and Twitter are just for fun, right?  Well, I’ve found a lot of great resources via Twitter (try a search for #iwb if you want to find resources people are posting for use with Interactive Whiteboards, for example.) And more and more people are joining Facebook making it a great resource for networking with colleagues.  Don’t want to expose your students to Facebook?  You can build your own social network using Ning!

3. URL Shorteners – These may not be necessary, but they are very handy.  Copy your long URL (the Google Map directions to your house, for example) and paste it into Tiny URL, Tr.im or a handful of others.  They give you a much shorter link that is easier to Tweet.  Not on Twitter?  They can still be useful.  Consider the website for the Unconference I’m planning for this May.  Is it easier to share tr.im/eltu2 or https://carmenwiki.osu.edu/display/eltu/?  Both take you to the same place, but I can memorized the first one.  This technology is so handy, it’s even built in to other sites, like the link provided by Diigo to my annotated About Me page that I shared in #1: http://www.diigo.com/09je0.

4. Wikipedia – Although it has become popular (but not necessary) to question it’s accuracy, Wikipedia has become the defacto knowledge bank on the internet.  Once we are clear on what it is (a secondary source: a compilation of all referenced knowledge) many of its criticisms fall down.  Access to all of this information means a reorganization of learning.  Memorizing becomes virtually unnecessary while the ability to find and retrieve relevant information becomes essential.  More importantly, at least with factual questions, we no longer have to sit and wonder anymore.  What are the lyrics to Carmen Ohio? Just get on the internet and find out!

5. Google – No, I don’t just mean search, but all the other stuff: maps, docs, calendar, etc.  It’s never been so easy to collaborate with other people.  I created a Google Maps / YouTube mashup (student created videos from around Ohio State mapped to where they were recorded) a couple of years ago, back when it involved coding every individual coordinate for every pin placed on the map as well as the contents of every bubble that popped up.  But now, just create your account and you can drag and drop most of the information where you need it — even invite people to work on the same map.  Plus, you can get a sneak peak at what the next big thing might be by checking out Google Labs.  Who wouldn’t like a pair of Google Goggles?

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Professional Development 2.0

A network is all about making connections.

A network is all about making connections.

I’ve had a presentation called Professional Development 2.0 accepted to Ohio TESOL 2009.

The goal of my presentation is going to be highlight Web 2.0 technologies that can expose teachers to new resources and other people in the field.  I’ve posted before about the networked student, so why not the networked professional?

I’m going to focus on Twitter, because following the right people can set you up with a constant stream of great ideas and resources, blogs, which do the same but in long form, and RSS feed readers and other applications that can help organize all of these streams.  I’d also like to include Facebook, Linked In, Nings, and other social media, but I don’t have as much experience using them in the same way.

Among my own favorites are @LarryFerlazzo (and his blog), @TeachPaperless, @McLeod (and his blog), as well as blogs such as Six Things, Abject Learning, DigitaLang, and the others I have listed in my Blog Roll at right.

The purpose of this post, however, is to solicit other suggestions from you, the reader.  Is there someone you find especially useful to follow on Twitter?  Do you read any blogs that always inspire you?  Do you have a Facebook group that other ESL professionals should join?  Leave a comment below and share it with the world.

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