Archives for category: writing

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.

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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.

haiku deck

Long story short, a haiku traditionally refers to a seventeen-syllable type of poem. It is typically divided in three phrases of seven, five, and seven syllables respectively, and it usually juxtaposes two different ideas which may relate to a central image or feeling.

Running kids, memories of when the time stood still 

The visual power that such a simple-looking form of poetry can awaken in the reader,  inspired Adam Tratt to come up with Haiku Deck, a free ipad application aiming to enhance presentations with a large database of images which the user can access to illustrate a core idea. As Richard Byrne explains, Haiku Deck intentionally limits the length of a text, and the user can search images when typing a word on the slides. This platform allows  to upload images from the users’ ipads, Instagram and Twitter.  This tool can be used from any computer connected to the web, and creations can be shared via Facebook or Twitter.

In my opinion, it is the features promoting interaction which make this application stand out from the all-known Power Point slides, plus it is quite more user-friendly. While many students hate the feeling of standing in front of a class to deliver a presentation, and the pertinence of this teaching resource has become debatable, Haiku Deck is optimal for supporting the story creation process. To my mind, once students have used this app, they may feel free to present their work to the rest of the class or not.  If a teacher decides to have students work in small groups and come up with let us say, their conclusions on a previously assigned literary text, group members have the possibility to use a number of thinking skills to select from a wide variety of images, summarize with a few words, and share their findings through their social network tools or the class portal discussion forums. Making an advertisement for a new product, how your parents met, the greatest family vacation, life in Mars, global warming, a school fashion show, you name it.

A number of students and teachers like to share their haikus on the web.