Sunday, October 28, 2012

A Wiki for IELTS Exam-Takers

At the conference yesterday I was presenting the wiki that I have been running for a long time for my IELTS students. Apart from the wiki itself I also presented a few tools that I incorporated into the wiki and suggested some other alternatives to the tools that I use to my audience.

The wiki my students have is a closed one so that my learners don't feel uncomfortable doing their writing assignments. It is linked to a talkgroup on Voxopop where they record their speaking tasks. Introduction to IELTS speaking section is an embedded Prezi presentation; the explanation of how to record on Voxopop is a screencast done with Screenr, the videos that I would like my students to watch and the tutorials about how to do the writing tasks are in a MentorMob playlist also embedded into the wiki. There are also some screenshots done with ScreenHunter to explain what the buttons on MentorMob are.

 When it comes to choosing which tool to use, I suppose, each one of us chooses the one that is more convenient for them. For example, I always use pbworks if I have to set up a wiki. I am not really sure why I prefer this site, because others do more or less the same. It may be a question of habit-formation or preference. The same is true for screencast tools: I always go with Screenr, but I know that other tools are just as good. This is the presentation of the tools and the wiki I gave yesterday. However, I would like to ask a question: Do you always use the same tools? Why/Why not?

Sunday, October 21, 2012

A School Project

In February a colleague of mine from Uruguay Claudia Carril sent me a message on Facebook asking me if it would be possible to start a project for 12-13-year-old learners from Uruguay and Armenia. I really liked the idea and agreed to it straight away. The only problem was that I didn't have any young learner groups and asked one of the teachers at our centre to involve her students. Diana agreed happily and it was time to decide what we were going to do.

Initially Claudia suggested having a skype question/answer session , but then I offered to start a blog project and Claudia added the idea of creating a voxopop talkgroup and this is how it all started.

Claudia and I got on skype to discuss the details of the tasks and the length of the project. We thought 5 weeks was long enough for the project but we were a bit too ambitious with the timing: the tasks took a bit longer than expected but we didn't mind that and the learners were happy for it to go on.

The project started on 09 April 2012 and for the first two weeks our teenagers were busy recording their introductions, listening to the introductions of their peers and recording their questions and answers to each other in the Voxopop talkgroup. After that the work moved onto the blog created for this project.

As the teenagers from both countries attended the lessons 3 times a week and some of them, at first, were having problems using the technology, Claudia and Diana asked them to script their replies on paper and typed/posted their learners' replies to the blog themselves. Later some of the learners became really confident bloggers and started posting themselves. The screencast that I prepared and posted to the blog might have helped with this.

So I assume with this project we achieved many things: the learners were involved in a project which required to write, read, listen and speak in English because that was the only language they could communicate in; the teenage participants learnt how to use blogs and voice-based tools (Voxopop); they learnt about a culture they knew nothing about and they made friends who they still keep in touch on Facebook (which means they still have to communicate in English).

Claudia shared our blog with some other teachers and posted their comments on the blog. All the comments were positive. There may have been some mishaps but I will let you be the judge of that. Any comments are welcome!

Below is the Prezi that I prepared to present this project at a conference in Yerevan.