I saw this post on Mashable the other day about the top 5 YouTube projects that are doing social good. These are all interesting projects that involve someone personally documenting a specific social problem or issue. Because YouTube can link the content creators to the content viewers, these projects offer an unvarnished connection to people struggling with these issues. These three are topics that can be very difficult to explain to ESL students (and native speakers, too.) I wouldn’t necessarily just begin showing the videos in a classroom, but they can be a very good resource for anyone exploring any of these topics.
Homosexuality can be a challenging topic, but it is often particularly difficult for international students to discuss. Given the recent suicide of a student at Rutgers, cyberbullying is very topical right now. This project aims to address this problem by reaching out to teens who feel like there is no end to the bullying they may be facing. I chose the above video because it challenges some stereotypical perceptions that some of my students have had.
Like the first topic, HIV and AIDS can carry lots of different stigmas, particularly for international students. The goal of this project is raising awareness, with people from many different backgrounds talking about this issue in very frank and forthright ways.
Invisible People TV posts interview with people who are homeless, such as Cotton in North Carolina, above. These videos are honest and raw and offer a wide range of perspectives and attitudes. Homelessness can be a very strange concept to people from outside North America. These videos don’t explain it, but they do personalize it.
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.
Last week, I listed the top 5 technologies that you should be using if you are an ESL teacher in 2010. Today, I present the list of the next 5 technologies I need to explore and possibly add to my bag of tricks. If you have experience with them, leave your opinions, suggestions, and tips in the comments. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the (near) future:
1. Google Wave – Occasionally billed as the Future Of Email, Wave combines email, IM, and the collaborative parts of Google Docs. Watch the full Google demo video or the lower resolution abridged version to get the idea. This is one of those really cool technologies that leaves you asking, “So what do I do with it?” I hope to have answers to that question soon.
2. Zorap– Like Wave, Zorap combines several disparate elements into one collaborative space. From what I’ve seen, a space can be set up for many users quickly and easily. That space can then be used for audio, video, and text conversations and files and documents can be shared to the group. See the demo for more. For a free application, it integrates a surprising number of interesting options for remote learning.
3. Ning– A social network akin to Facebook, but it’s not Facebook. There are many existing nings for topic areas such as The English Companion Ning (“Where English teachers go to help each other”) and Classroom 2.0 (“the social network for those interested in Web 2.0 and Social Media in education”). Plus, you can create a Ning for a topic that you like or a specific group of people, like the students in your class. Because it’s a closed system, Ning may be more useful to anyone who can’t (or doesn’t want to) use Facebook or other social networks with their students.
4. Screenr– A free, web-based screen recorder. Just drag a frame over the part of your screen you want to capture and Screenr will record a video of what happens inside that frame until you tell it to stop. Great for creating demonstration videos or capturing a presentation.
5. Prezi– When I first saw Prezi, I thought it was just another slide sharing application. Since then, I’ve seen some slick, remotely controlled presentations that use Prezi to great effect. One of the best features is the ability to smoothly zoom in and out on portions of the presentation. One large document can contain everything from headings to footnotes with each part zooming and snapping into place on the screen as it is selected. This works equally well if the presenter is guiding the presentation or if an individual wants to explore it on his own. For example, take a look at this Grammar Review Prezi. You can use the arrows to go forward and back within the presentation, but you can also take control by zooming in and out, dragging the page around, and clicking on the text to zoom to a specific point. Once you get used to this style of navigation (or, rather, every style of navigation simultaneously) many interesting ways to structure and organize information become possible.
Bonus: Sikuli– I’ve used applications with macros before, but Sikuli’s approach is unique because it can create a macro for any application using your computers GUI. Think that sounds geeky? Then the demonstration video might also be a little intimidating. The gist of it is, you can automate almost any multi-step task on your computer, just by writing a simple script for Sikuli to follow. While I can’t think of any tasks that are repetitive enough that I’d actually save time by learning how to use Sikuli (and, frankly, I’d rather play Bejeweled myself, thank you very much), the potential of this application is intriguing.