Tag Archives: twitter

169 Interesting Ways to Use Technology

A wordle of this blog post.

A wordle of this blog post.

Recently, I’ve come across two excellent presentations for using both of these technologies. Both were created by Tom Barrett, a teacher in Nottingham, England, that I follow on Twitter, another technology I recently blogged about. (You can follow Tom on Twitter, too, if you have a free Twitter account.)

I’ve blogged for a while about Interactive Whiteboards now, especially the $50 build-it-yourself version which is based on the Nintendo Wiimote.  I’ve also highlighted Wordle as an interesting way to visualize language.  I’m going to focus on the presentations on these two topics, but Tom also has presentations on Google Earth, Google Docs, Pocket Videos, and Twitter if you’re interested.

Thirty-Eight Interesting Ways to use your Interactive Whiteboard focuses on Smartboards, but includes lots of great ideas for most IWBs from basic shortcut functions to advanced techniques such as having students write on the board and then, instead of erasing, creating a presentation on Slideshare.net or a Google Presentation that can then be uploaded to the class blog for students to review.  Great idea!

Thirty Interesting Ways to use Wordle in the Classroom covers a wide range of ideas appropriate for many different subjects.  Some suggestions are pretty obvious, such as doing a simple lexical analysis of different texts: student created, children’s stories, literary works, etc.  Others are quite innovative, such as photocopying a wordle with white words on a black background onto a transparency and having students come to the overhead projector and color nouns one color, verbs another, and so on.  This presentation is sure to spark some great ideas.

All of these presentations are Google docs, so you’ll need to sign up for a free Google account to view them, if you don’t have one.  Tom has compiled these tips and ideas from the suggestions of several teachers and even offers information on contributing your tips at the end of each presentation.  His contact information is at the end of the presentations.  Get in touch with him  if you have something to contribute.

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Everyone’s All a-Twitter

Twitter.com

Everyone's on Twitter, or will be soon, it seems.

Twitter is exploding in the way that the Web did at the start of the late-90s bubble.  Remember when every TV commercial had to include “www”?  Twitter is becoming ubiquitous in popular culture and, by some accounts, may not survive the coming wave of new users.

So what is it?  Twitter is a form of microblogging (there is a 140 character limit) which is akin to updating your Facebook status.  Many people use it to update friends on what they’re eating for lunch and other vapid topics.  But there are more constructive ways to use it.

One way to describe the various kinds of tweets (Twitter messages) is David Silver’s thick or thin analogy.  The more layers of information a tweet contains, the thicker it is.  Thick tweets can convey a remarkable amount of information in 140 characters.

For example, tags can be used to create channels of discussion.  Search Twitter for #calico09 and you’ll see all of the tweets related to the 2009 CALICO Conference that include that tag.   In this way, another layer of discussion can be added to the typical attend-a-session / discuss-it-in-the-hallway routine.  In fact, I had the experience of discussing a question raised in a conference session during the session via Twitter.  The same question was asked 20 minutes later, after the presenter had finished.

There is also power in the network.  A friend who is a webmaster often posts messages about trouble he’s having with various projects.  Because he has about 100 mostly like-minded followers (you can choose to follow others’ feeds and others can choose to follow yours), he often receives a useful response from this community.  These feeds can also be added to blogs and other webpages, as I’ve noted before.

By retweeting messages (rebroadcasting a tweet you have read, typically inserting RT at the beginning,) information can spread very quickly.  For example, after tweeting about my presentation on Interactive Whiteboards at CALICO, it was picked up by someone following the topic who retweeted it so that it could be read by the hundreds of people following his feed (but not mine).  So, my message (a thick one, with links to resources,) which was only read by my two dozen followers, became available to hundreds more.

If nothing else, Twitter’s 140 character limit is an excellent exercise in self-editing.  If you’ve read this far (all 434 WORDS!), you know I can use the practice.  So, as the popular media continue to become enthralled with Twitter, consider some of the ways it can actually enhance communication.  Or, just tell the world what you had for lunch.

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How Simple Is Really Simple Syndication?

Really simple syndication is simple.  Really!

Really Simple Syndication is simple. Really!

In a word, really.  Really Simple Syndication (or RSS) is a way of publishing online information that is frequently updated.  Think Podcasts and BBC News.  Or, more recently, Twitter and Facebook.

I’ve been experimenting with RSS on my blog recently, as you can see in the sidebar at right.  (Though if you’re reading this post in archived form far in the future, I may have moved, deleted, or in some other way changed them.)

Currently, I have my Twitter feed, my Facebook status, and my Del.icio.us links.  In addition to my tweets, my Twitter feed is updated every time I add a blog post.  So, in some ways, my blog feeds Twitter, which feeds my blog.

This process has me thinking a lot about my personal and professional presence online.  How much is too much?  How much do my students expect?  How narcissistic is it to post your Facebook status to your blog?  In general, I only use technologies like Facebook for professional purposes, but it can be hard to draw the line.

Perhaps the biggest question is, how can we, and why should we, use these technologies for language teaching?  In the business world, I think it is easy to see applications.  I read about a Silicon Valley tech firm that has a flatscreen next to the elevator door that lists employees’ Twitter feeds.  Seeing who’s doing what, can promote interaction in new ways.

Within the context of education, using these technologies is a way of meeting students in the digital world that they already inhabit.  I interact with more students via Facebook than email.  Being able to tie all of these resources together via RSS feeds can give students one place to look for everything (listening homework .mp3s, links to supplemental reading articles, information about extracurricular activities, etc.), which eliminates the excuse of having looked for an assignment in email, when it was posted to the Moodle, or vice versa.

Will these technologies change the way we teach our students?  Not all at once, but the process has already begun.

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Clickers

Clickers image courtesy telr.osu.edu.

Clickers image courtesy http://telr.osu.edu/clickers

Clickers are devices that allow students (or any audience) to interact with a teacher (or presenter).  There are many different kinds, but Ohio State has settled on one brand for consistency.  Lately, I’ve been thinking about how these devices might be used in an ESL classroom.

One way I would like to use them would be to poll my grammar students about the difficulty of the material we are covering.  Often when I ask if they understand, I am greeted by blank stares.  Are these this-is-sooo-easy stares, or I-have-no-idea-what-you’re-talking-about stares?  I can’t always tell.  Clickers might tell me.

During class, students clould indicate via clicker if I should A) speed up, B) keep this pace, or C) slow down.  Three bars (A, B, C) could grow or shrink depending on their latest response.  These bars could appear in the corner of the screen at the front of the class or only on my laptop screen.  I could then pace my class accordingly.

Maybe this is overkill in a small grammar class like mine, but the immediate feedback would be welcome (especially since students are not always very forthcoming with this information on their own.)  Of course, pop quizzes, groupwork responses, and more are possible.  Data submitted via clicker can also be compiled and analyzed very thoroughly, if necessary.

Finally, as with all new technology, the question remains: Is it worth it?  The cost in and money ($20-40 per clicker) time to set up is not insignificant.  And new technologies (Twittering via cell phone, for example) may soon replace this proprietary hardware.  But the availability of this kind of interaction raises some interesting possiblities.

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