In the world of social media, Tumblr lies somewhere between Twitter and a full-blown blog with interactive social elements that are similar to Facebook. This combination has lead to exponential growth.
To learn more, I created a Tumblr. So far, I’ve been using it to post links to relevant stuff I’m looking at, but may not be ready to create a long form blog post here at ESL Technology.com. (As an aside, remember when blog posts were considered brief? #solongago) Some of my posts there will develop into longer posts here, but many will not. You can follow my posts to both on Twitter: @eslchill.
So far, I’m not a full-blown, hardcore Tumblrer. Perhaps it’s because I haven’t sought out a network there, which is a potent part of the allure for most users. By reposting the posts of people you follow, Tumblr creates an echo chamber that allows popular media to spread exponentially.
One feature I like is the ability to queue Tumblr posts and release them a day at a time. I can post several items at once and release them one per day — thereby always having something “in the hopper.” In this way, I am contributing to the constant stream of consumable media and helping to build my brand, neither of which I’m sure I want to do, but Tumblr sure makes it easy.
As you would expect from a popular technology like this one, setup is free and easy, the interface is relatively straightforward, and there are lots of themes available so that you can change the look of your Tumblr.
Will Tumblr revolutionize language teaching? Probably not. Just about anything you’ve been doing with WordPress and Blogger, and even Twitter, can be done with Tumblr. The difference? If your students are keeping up with the latest online trends, they likely consider traditional blogs to be passé and already have a Tumblr.
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.
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.
Recently, as part of my final project for EDU P&L 823 – The Functions of the Computer in the Classroom, I asked the question “How is technology changing learning?” using six different channels of communication: on this blog, Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, via email and face-to-face. The question was deliberately very open-ended and I received some very interesting responses. But, perhaps more interestingly, were the differences between how people responded on each of these channels.
Obviously, the channels that reached people with whom I had close connections (email, face-to-face) received a lot of responses. Other, more ephemeral, forms of communication where connections are not as strong, received far fewer. In some ways, this was a bit humbling — I have a hundred followers on Twitter and even more on Facebook — but the response rate was very low. Perhaps the people with whom I communicate via these channels simply weren’t interested in this question?
Although these new channels (Twitter, Facebook) are changing communication, clearly they do not completely replace the others. And perhaps integrating them all is the most effective approach. Watch my final presentation below.