Archives for the month of: March, 2013

Moon+reader is a free Android application which allows users to download e-books, and virtually any type of electronic files in  mobile devices. Essentially, it enhances a cell phone to be used as an e-reader. The use of a cell phone to complement and possibly eventually substitute what I still consider a ground-breaking gadget such as electronic readers, seems to go a step beyond in information management technological development. In my opinion, the introduction of e-readers represented the most important revolution in book conception since the XV Century and the arrival of the first printing machines. While it is true that the use of electronic books encounters a relatively important opposition from traditional book readers who do not seem to get used to the idea of consulting texts in a small screen and turning pages digitally, e-readers seem appealling to an increasing number of ecologically concerned users, and students who desire to enjoy the advantages of having access to a virutally unlimited number of texts from electronic libraries, at their own time convenience. Additionally, most e-books are rather inexpensive, classical texts are available for free as they do not count with authors ‘ copy rights, and students can download powerpoint presentations from their teachers, class notes in pdf format, and even save their own work in their portable devices. Moon+reader offers a wide range of page formating and font types which make reading sessions enjoyful.

The first idea that comes to my mind to be able to use this application in my classroom, is the mandatory fifteen-minute reading period which takes place at schools around noon. I have observed during my practicum that several students sometimes forget to bring their books with them. Carrying a number of books in their cell phones at all times could help avoid this inconvenience.  I would also use this application to be able to share with my students electronic files which they could access at all times. With the additional use of epub bud, which is another great application which I may discuss on a different post, I could have my students create their own digital books and share them with the class through their cell phones, as suggested by Heather Parris. On the other hand, I believe that a cell phone book format may provide students with a  necessary amount of interactivity for students to develop a positive attitude towards school texts and English readings. I would also use a number of websites which offer free electronic short stories and reading worksheets designed for ESL learners at various performance levels.

I recently attended an inspiring lecture on creative writing in the context of  SPEAQ conferences at University. One of the activities that I enjoyed the most consisted of writing a number of words related to our own passion/favorite activity/hobbie in a way that these words took the shape of an object related to this leisure activity. Being an enthusiastic rated chess amateur, I wrote words such as study, self-confidence, discipline, focus, will, competition, preparation, analysis, calculation, intuition, and pokerface  in the shape of a chess pawn. The aim of such an activity was to present a sort of mind map which may help a student visualize a topic and find concepts related to it in a creative fashion. The idea of being able to visualize the concepts might enhance memory skills and may provide better  focus and concept associations. On the other hand, “word drawing”  stands out of the more common linear outlines used before starting a written draft.

Tagxedo is an application designed to create word clouds, and I tend to believe that it fits perfectly with the idea of creating visually attractive outlines before starting written compositions. Personally, after I put myself in the role of a student who was about to write a paper on chess and I had to immerse myself in the task of drawing a chess pawn as described above, I literally felt that my train of thoughts started taking a defined direction. On the other hand, it proved useful to relax and focus. Besides, the kind of concepts that I came up with ended up being meaningful, personal, and worth of analysis and introspection. I believe this is the kind of ideas and state of mind that a student might aim to get to during the usually demanding writing process. Beautiful examples of student topic-based word clouds are available in this gallery. I believe that if I were to write a paper myself, I would probably stick to drawing a shape by hand, as it helps me feel connected with my ideas in a rather organic way. But it is important to consider that young learners are used to working with digital tools, and I can only assume that they may feel as comfortable and focused as well. Here are a few more ideas about this tool. I recently observed during my practicum an activity where the teacher asked students to deliver a presentation on themselves. Several students had a hard time coming up with ideas on how to get started. Something like this may have been helpful.  Additionally, students are asked to read a novel and they may have reading control exams once in a while. The idea of summarizing the content of a book chapter in a word cloud seemed appealing to me.

The first time I ever asked someone what Twitter was all about, I remember she told me something in the lines of “Oh, it is about your life in 140 characters”. I was not impressed. Back in 2008, when I first heard about this website, I did not see the need of opening an account, as I was already using Facebook, and I could not grasp the difference between them. Four years later, I have tweeted three different hashtags and it appears that I count with four followers. Except Twitter keeps me informed. In real time. An anonymous community which tags world events and makes them trendy worldwide. I do not follow my friends on Twitter. I do not think they know that I have a Twitter account. I do follow dozens of newspapers, magazines, teaching websites, actors, city mayors, national prime ministers, political parties, rock bands, chess players, film directors… To my mind, the so-called 140 characters are typically an excuse to share a hyperlink, which will take the user to a related news, then to another interesting website, and so forth. This is the way I personally use this tool, and I think that I had underestimated its communicative potential. So why not using Twitter in class?

In spite of being accused of having short attention spans, according to Nicole Melander, students do not like Twitter (based on the concept of microblogging) and prefer blogging instead. However, I tend to believe that the preference for a given tool may be related to the meaningfulness of the tasks associated with it, rather than with the tool itseif. Some interesting insights of the use of this site in class are shared by David Parry, being the idea of plugging Twitter to your telephone what I find the most powerful one.

At least for a very first classroom experience with this technology, I would keep it simple and  stick to the creation of a class Exquisite Corpse based on a top-ten trending hashtag: Teacher may select a topic based on class votes/interests and tweet the first phrase of the story including a hashtag known by every member of the class to keep everybody connected. Students would continue the story building on the last line revealed on a “first come, first served” logic, until everyone has participated. The story may be brought to the class for further analysis/feedback/follow-up activity.

Tim Burton‘s tweet-based story is a fun one.