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2011 Presentation Wordcloud

I was just updating my portfolio website, and I decided to create a visualization from the summaries of my conference presentations for the year. I gave nine presentations last year. I travelled across three of the four main islands of Japan, Okinawa, Korea, and I even spent some time in France. It was a busy and exciting schedule.My plans for 2012 are not as exciting, but I have already presented in Hiroshima and Nishinomiya in the past two months. I have a few more conferences scheduled in Japan, and even a trip to a conference in Russia on the books for November. I am looking forward to another rewarding year of academic presentations and discussions.

Book Group Day

Book Group Day

An exploration through sharing

While this is not really an EdTech lesson, I thought that I would share this lesson here nonetheless.

I have always been a firm believer in the power of Extensive Reading (ER). At our university we have an ER program integrated into our curriculum. More accurately, it is an SSR (Sustained Silent Reading) program, and one of the big questions is always:

“Are the students actually reading?”

While there are some great solutions out there, such as Moodle Reader, I have always shied away from quizzing students on their ‘pleasure reading’, as I did not want to taint the practice with the idea of assessment. Of course, there must be some accountability, but I have always tried to allow the students to demonstrate their progress in ways that involved sharing and creativity. This is why my central ‘assessment’ of our SSR program is Book Group Day. It is an activity that I often squeeze in between units in a textbook to give the students a change of pace.

Book Group Day is an activity which is completely student-centered, and facilitates the discussion and sharing of ER books.

The set-up

 

The first step is to prepare the students to succeed in the lesson. During the class before the first Book Group Day, the students are given Book Group Day booklets to use to prepare to share their books with each other. These pages are duplex printed, and folded in half to create a four-page booklet. The first inside page is for the students own ER book, and in addition to the title and author includes three questions:

  1. What was this book about?
  2. What was your favorite part of the book?
  3. Would you recommend this book to a friend? Why? Why not?

BGD Worksheet

The last two pages include four sections; one for each book shared by other group members. (I usually use groups of four, so there is one extra spot to allow for the odd five-person group.)

BGD Worksheet2

Once the students understand the booklet, and the expectations of their group discussions, they work in groups on the task of thinking of questions to ask about books. The students work together to create a list of questions, which are then shared with the class while the teacher types them into a text file projected on a large screen.

~ I had to sneak some EdTech in there. This was done on my iPad 2, using my Zagg bluetooth keyboard. ;^) The use of the large screen allows students to see which questions have already been shared, which helps to prevent duplication.

The list of questions was later parsed, categorized and printed as a booklet on B5 paper to be given to students on Book Group Day.

Book Group Day

On the day of the lesson the students were immediately put into groups and given their Book Group Day Questions booklets. The students were given a task time limit of 40 minutes, and the teacher posted a digital timer on the classroom screen to keep students on pace. They were given about ten minutes per book, but offered flexibility to account for differences in plot complexity and levels of interest. The students started each ’round’ by introducing their books to the group. Once the student had finished introducing the book, each of the other students were to take turns asking questions about the book. This is where the Book Group Day Questions booklet came in handy. The students were each expected to ask two questions about each book, and to take notes on both the questions they asked and the responses. Additionally, they were tasked with answering a question about whether they would like to read the book discussed.

While not all students remained focused and on task, the lesson generally goes well. The students demonstrate comprehension of the books which they read by summarizing them for their peers, they share opinions about their books, the plot, and the characters, and they learn about interesting books from others.

This is a great activity for taking the primarily receptive task of reading, and making it a four-skills activity.

  • Reading: Students must read a book to complete the Book Group Day booklet.
  • Writing: Students must write short summaries and ideas about the book.
  • Speaking: Students must introduce their book to their group. (Special stress is put on the importance of eye-contact to keep students from simply reading their responses from their booklets.)
  • Listening: Students ask questions about each book, so they must listen to prepare their questions.

What do you think? Is there room for Book Group Day in your course?

Teacher Travel 2.0

I recently returned from a trip to Paris for the TESOL France Colloquium for a poster presentation on my cross-cultural blogging project, and I had an extra day on the end of my trip.  The trip required that I miss a few classes in my teaching schedule, but I decided that it was also an opportunity to involve my blogging students in my travels.  Instead of cancelling their class on Monday morning, I decided to do the lesson via Skype. I woke up early and initiated a chat with them from my hotel at 5 AM on Monday (1 PM Japan time). I talked with them about the lesson, and gave them the task of researching Paris and writing a post on their personal blogs with the following prompt:

“If I had one day in Paris, I would…”

90 minutes later I had a pile of blog posts to sift through, and over breakfast I planned my day using their suggestions. I used my camera and my iPhone to document the day, and the following video is the result.

Thoughts?

If teachers must travel for conferences, why not involve the students? Why not give them an opportunity to share in the experience?

My students often pester me for souvenirs from my trips, but there is simply no way that I can bring back gifts for all of them. Why not allow them to take part in your travels instead?

How else could you involve your students in your conference travels?

Mojibake on the iPad

I am sitting on the Shinkansen from Kurume to Hiroshima, and I just discovered that the web site with the bus schedule for the last leg of my return home has an encoding issue on the iPad. I tried to visit the site to find out when the next bus is, but all the text was garbled.

Luckily, I don’t give in easily. I have more than a handful of browsers on the iPad, so it was just a matter of time before I found one that would work.

Opera seems to do the trick. So, if you find yourself having trouble reading Japanese on your iPad, try using Opera. Unfortunately, now that I can see the schedule I realize that I will arrive in Hiroshima just a few minutes before the next bus leaves. It looks like I am in for one of those “OJ runs” through the crowded station…

For the record, the browsers that did not work with the Hiroden bus schedule site were:

  • Safari
  • Atomic Web
  • iChromy
  • Knowtilus
  • Mercury
  • Rikai
  • Terra

Working on the bus

I am polishing up one of my presentations for JALT-CALL this weekend while traversing the Chugoku mountains by bus.


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Keynote Remote with an iPad

KeynoteOne of the things I love most about using an iPad in the classroom is that in unchains me from the “PC on the podium” model of using technology in the classroom. I like to be mobile while teaching, so the ability to carry the device with me is central to its value in the classroom.  That said, I have also taken to using the iPad to completely replace my laptop in the classroom, so it is often used for giving Keynote presentations. The thing that always bothered me about this was the absence of a remote control for Keynote on the iPad.  This “mobile device” was now changing my presentation practice, as I found myself stuck at the podium using the touch screen to advance the slides. No more.

Apple updated their iWork apps for iOS today, and one of the most exciting improvements to me is the ability to use Apples Keynote Remote iPhone app ($0.99 in USA store/ ¥115 in Japan store) to control your iPad presentations.  I tried it out in class today, and it works perfectly.  KeynoteRemoteThe connection is via WiFi, while Bluetooth is also available for back-up, and the response is quite good.

Control your iPad Keynote presentation with your iPhone or iPod Touch.

The interface is actually quite nice.  You have the option between using the iPhone in Portrait or Landscape mode when using it as a remote.  Landscape mode will give you a view of your two slides, or slide builds, at a time.

Landscape

The downside of this layout is that it will take two hands to work the iPhone, and there are no speaker notes on display.  I could see this being useful if you were to present from a podium, while your iPad was off-stage, but I can’t see using this in the standard classroom.  The loss of access to the speaker’s notes is also a negative point, as it is nice to have those in hand, so to speak. Although I have never used a remote with a built-in “cheat sheet” before, I am looking forward to trying it out this weekend at JALT-CALL in Kurume.

iPhoto using Keynote Remote in portrait view (left) and iPad display

Portrait iPadKeynote

Add to this set-up the Chronology timer running in the background on the iPhone, with the timer alerts set to vibrate, and you have a nice little presentation device.

What do you think? Not bad for $0.99.

Keep your class on pace

ChronologyI try to keep the number of apps I use in the classroom to a minimum, but there is one application that I have used since the first day I brought my new iPad to the classroom: Chronology. In all honesty, I started out with the free version of the application, and used it up until fairly recently.  Whether you choose the paid version, or the free version, this is one app that every teacher should have on their iPad.

While most university courses in Japan meet once a week for 90 minutes, I find myself in the situation of teaching 45-minute classes twice a week for my first and second-year courses.  The move from my previous position, where all classes were 90 minutes, made this a challenging transition.  Chronolite – Timer was indispensable in helping me to get a grasp on this new accelerated pace.  I started my setting up the app with a 45-minute timer for the class, and then other timers for group work activities.
Classroom Timer

Each timer is set with a custom audio alarm, which the students have become accustomed to.  While the screen to the right, in landscape mode, only shows two timers, the app can have many more timers lined up and ready.  You can simply scroll down to the others, or see up to four (Free) or five (Paid) in portrait mode.  One of the advantages of upgrading to the paid version is not only that you can create a set with more than four timers, but you can create custom sets.  For example, I now have the following timers sets:

  • English Communication:
    • 45-minute class timer
    • 3-minute “group work” timer
    • 2-minute timer for shorter activities
    • 5-minute timer for longer activities
    • (These are all available for on-the-fly adjustment
  • Book Group Day (A 45-minute classroom activity  based solely on group work)
    • 45-minute class timer
    • 7-minute “group work” timer set to loop (This “looping” timer sets of an alarm after the set time and then resets and repeats.)
  • Presentation (I just set this one up for my JALT-CALL presentation
    • 40-minute timer for presentation
    • 10-minute timer set to loop for audio reminder of pace

Although I was completely happy with the free version of this app for almost a year, I finally decided to buy the paid version out of appreciation. The new-found ability to create timer sets now has me wondering why I waited so long to upgrade.

Overall, this is a great app which does what it says, and does it well.

  • Chronolite – Timer [iTunes: USA, Japan] Free: Test drive it.  You will find this version quite useful for keeping your classroom on track.
  • Chronology [iTunes: USA: $2.99, Japan: ¥350]: About the same price as a cup of coffee, and infinitely more useful.

Set up your site to work nice with iPhones

Tonight I adapted my site for the iPhone (or other smart phones) with a simple plugin addition to my WordPress installation. On the left you can see the “Before” image, and on the left the “After”. The plugin, WPtouch is simple to install, and there are quite a few settings which allow for personalization.

The plugin comes with a collection of icons, such as the calendar icons used for posts in the images to the right, and you can even upload custom images to match your blog. I took a quick click over to Wordle.net to create the icon used for this site.  I am sure that I will tweak that a bit in the future, but it was good to test the concept.

In addition to adapting your site to work well with handheld screens, the plugin also allows users to create a desktop “App” link to your site.  This is where the icon I created using Wordle comes into play.  Readers can click the bookmark link in Safari on the iPhone and choose to “Add to Home Screen”.  An App link, using your custom icon, is then added to the reader’s smart phone desktop.

What do you think? Useful?

Link to Full Browser YouTube Videos

I just came across an interesting post on the SearchReSearch blog about how to force YouTube links to open full screen.  (Almost.  It actually opens in a full browser window.) Apparently, all you need to do is to replace the “watch” in the URL with “watch_popup”.  As an example, here is a link to a quick video I did for this site last week: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XbsknyHYqEo

If you click that link, you will see the video in the middle of the page and it will be surrounded by other images and text (see right).  This is potentially distracting to students, as they may choose to click a “more interesting” video and end up off task.  On the other hand, this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch_popup?v=XbsknyHYqEo, will bring you to a full browser version of the video.

This is obviously something that would be useful in education, as  you can help to reduce distraction.

I generally use embedding to add YouTube videos to my blog posts and Moodle courses, but I can see where this would be useful.

What do you think, interesting trick?

Uploading to Moodle with an iPad

I have been using my iPad with Moodle quite a while now, and like many others I have been frustrated by the inability to upload files.  A recent update to the Dropbox app for iPad gave me an idea, so I tried it out today on the Moodle.org forums.  It seems that Dropbox can be used as a nice work-around to resolve this issue.

Just a few days ago, Dropbox updated their iPad app to allow for bulk image uploading.  Once you upload these files you can easily get the “public link” to the file, and then simply embed that into Moodle.  Sure, this is not a perfect solution, as the files are not actually in Moodle, and their is also the limitation of your Dropbox account, but it is a nice trick. All you need to now is a little HTML code, as Moodle’s rich text editor does not seem to work with the iPad just yet…  The HTML is simple enough:

img src="LINK TO IMAGE FILE.jpg" alt=""
(Of course, that needs to be enclosed in the "<" and "/>" pair.)

As much as I love using my iPad to interact with Moodle, it will never become my only interface with the Moodle sites I work with.  I don’t think that many others will use their iPads as such a device either, as most people will use their desktop and/or laptop for the heavy lifting.  The iPad is only for the time sensitive (read on-the-fly) changes to your Moodle course, so this Dropbox method works for me just fine.

Find an image online which you want to upload to your Moodle course.  Touch the image to get the pop-up menu and save it to your iPad.

 

Open Dropbox, and use the Upload icon to choose the image from your iPad’s library.  Click the “link” icon and copy the public URL to the iPad’s clipboard.  Now you just need to use the IMG code above to insert it into your Moodle post.

What do you think?  Useful?