10 ways to use Explain Everything in the Languages classroom

jpeg-image-dbc4671fd4a5-1Last week @joedale and experimented with the podcasting app Anchor.  Our slow chat was called Explaining Explain Everything.  You can listen to the chat here please feel free to join Anchor and join in with the chat – the more the merrier!

This blog post is designed to accompany the chat.

  1. Mirror your iPad to the main board in the room and use it just like an interactive whiteboard. At the end of the lesson, save the slides and share them with your students so that they can review the work they did in class at home.
  2. Create a screencast.  Hit the big record button on Explain Everything and record a screencast for your students. By tapping the record button Explain Everything records every pen stroke/keystroke that you make as well as your voice.  Screencasts are a great way to provide grammar notes and resources for your students, they are also a brilliant when using the flipped classroom model
  3. Get students to show what they know.  Consumption is all well and good but in my view it is when creating that students have the most learning gains. Students can use Explain Everything to create their own screen casts showing what they have learnt in a lesson or series of lessons.  It’s a great way for a teacher to understand any student misconceptions.
  4. Animate.  Animation is relatively easy in Explain Everything; record your screen whilst dragging hand drawn images onto the slide and adding speech.  When drawing in Explain Everything be sure to tap the finger image at the top of the tool bar after you have drawn each image or all the pictures ‘stick’ together. If students keep forgetting to do this (and mine do) they could draw in Paper 53 app and then export to camera roll with the background off and then import into Explain Everything.  It sounds more complicated than it actually is, believe me!
  5. Annotate and explain. Annotating and explaining is simple in Explain Everything. Imagine that your students have not done their homework very well, simply take a photo of a piece of work and import it into Explain Everything.  You can now annotate this work using the pen, highlighting and pointer tools.  You could do this activity on the main screen in your classroom with your class present or record your thoughts and annotations and share them with your students via your school VLE, Google Classroom or similar.
  6. Students can complete a similar activity by talking through their thinking on a piece of work or an exam question.  They can explain how they tackled a homework or an exam paper and they share their video with you. It’s a great way to get inside a student’s head and discover their thought process.
  7. Explain Everything has an infinite canvas which is great for creating more complex animations but in doing so giving the students more scope to talk in the target language. My students used it to talk about their home and surrounding area.  They began by describing their bedroom and then zooming out to describe their home and finally zooming out yet further to describe their village or town. I wrote about this here
  8. I have already mentioned annotating in Explain Everything but did you know that you can import a webpage into Explain Everything? It will scroll just as a webpage should but you can annotate, highlight and make voice notes too. I use this facility when asking students to explain how they tackled exam questions.
  9. It’s easy to draw in Explain Everything  so why not try some  sketchnoting with you class you could even get them to record themselves explaining their sketchnote in the target language.  My classes and I have used sketchnoting very successfully when introducing new vocabulary and also for explaining grammar points
  10. Similar to above why not get students to label a photo in the target language again they could record themselves using the vocabulary on the photo in phrases or short paragraphs.

Creating with VR in the Languages classroom 

2016 was supposed to be the year for VR. I was unconvinced. VR in my view was an expensive toy that had classroom potential but the cost of headsets, cameras and the like put it out of reach for most classroom teachers. I, of course was wrong thanks to innovative apps such as Google Expeditions, Thing Link 360 and Nearpod 360 VR became accessible for most of us. VR was being consumed in classrooms across the world and it took our students to places that they would never have been able to go to. It help increase understanding by making tricky concepts very tangible but there is only so much consuming one can do and in my view it is creation that can really strengthen learning. 

As my friend Kelly Croy regularly states teaching is about creating memories for our students as it is through memorable activities that we can amplify student learning. It was my view that creation through the use of VR was nigh on impossible due to cost but my fellow ADE and Queen of all things VR, Sarah Jones introduced me to Cospaces. This platform allows students to create simple VR environments on a laptop or desktop computer and then consume them using an iPad or iPhone via the Cospaces app

My Y8 class recently used Cospaces when learning about bedroom furniture and prepositions in Spanish. To get started, students simply log onto the Cospaces website and select new project. They then have a variety of backdrops to choose from or they can import a Creative Commons image and make something unique. Students also have a wide choice or pre-made items that they can choose from or they an ‘buy’ items from the marketplace. Cospaces also provides them with blocks and shapes that they can manipulate to make items for themselves. The most important features of this platform for me, as a languages teacher, is the ability for students to be able to label items and also to be able to upload and MP3 file to accompany their creation. My class and I actually ran out of time when we created our Cospaces activity so we didn’t add sound but we got round this by students mirroring their screen to the main screen in the classroom and then talking through their rooms. I selected students at random so each person had to be prepared to speak. I also add another level of complexity when I asked students to speak about somebody else’s creation. Cospaces are easily shared. My students simply copied the link and then posted it on our Google Classroom site. 


The activity was very well received and it engaged all but I was especially pleased to see that it engaged some of my students who are less than enthusiastic about language learning. Did it make the vocabulary more memorable? I think it did and this was borne out by the class’ most recent test results. Would I use this platform again? I would. I loved the creative element and the ability to add text and speech is a real boon for any languages teacher. Moreover the team at Cospaces are keen to help and are very supportive on Twitter. They also have a great YouTube channel of great how to videos. 

Half a world away. VR helping to cross the cultural divide.

jpeg-image-643de29759b9-1

I live on the Isle of Man and this is going to be our year of going global and yet we aren’t ever going to leave our classroom.

I was fortunate enough last year to meet a fellow teacher Rosie Kolster, she came to the island from Muscat, Oman to see how we use iPads in our MFL classrooms.  It was a great couple of days and at the end we agreed to attempt a project between our students.

Sometimes with real beginners in second language learning connecting with native speakers can be difficult for them and as result I have found that making connections with other early stage language learners can be highly motivational. Rosie and I decided that our students would make ebooks about themselves and we’d simply swap them.  Rosie’s class filmed some fabulous videos using green screen whereas my class decided to show our Omani friends our school and our town through the use of 360 photography . Our work was added to bookcreator app and once complete, exchanged.

 

The mere mention of 360 photography or video is often followed by groans from educators around the world as it is seen as extremely costly.  The cheapest 360 video cameras come in around £300 and most school simply can’t afford to have sets of them in their classrooms but working with 360 photography needn’t be expensive and  it can still provide those wow moments for students.

When my students made their 360 photos they used 2 tools;

  1. Google street view app
  2. storyspheres.com

Making 360 photos using street view is very easy. Open the app and tap the big yellow camera. Next select camera; a white circle appears on the screen move your screen until the white circle aligns with a yellow dot, once aligned a portion of the 360 photo is taken.  Continue to do this whilst moving around in a circle; don’t forget to look up and look down so that you get a full 360 experience.  Once you have taken your photo it appears at the bottom of your screen, tap it and then tap the export button.  Select share privately and add the photo to your camera roll.

Now it’s time to add the photo to storyspheres.com

At this point I should like to point out that like all the best ideas, this one is ‘stolen’ When I say stolen, what I mean is that someone far more experienced and knowledgable pointed me in the right direction with easy VR for the classroom.  I’m lucky enough to be able to call her my friend and she is undoubtedly the person to follow on twitter for any help or advice regarding VR in the classroom so, stop reading for a moment and start following @virtualsarahj and tell her I sent you 🙂

Storyspheres allows you to upload 360 photos and add a sound file to go with your photo – which makes it perfect for use in the languages classroom.  You need to make an account then follow the simple steps and upload your photos and sound files.  Now that you have your story in storysheres you can share the link.

For our project with Rosie’s class we didn’t add a sound file as the children were adding voice recordings in the Bookcreator app. In order to share our photos the students took a still photo for each 360 photo and we used this in Bookcreator to link to our 360 photos in Storyspheres.  Rosie tweeted me yesterday to say that all she could hear in her class when her pupils opened the photos was ‘wow this is so cool!’ it enabled our Omani friends to become immersed in our world. They could stand on Ramsey beach or at the harbour or in out assembly hall and get a really good idea of what our town and school are like.  360 photos and VR can help to build empathy and understanding and help us to cross cultural divides.

Here are some of our 360 images made using Street View and uploaded to Storyspheres

School Playing fields

Mooragh Park, Ramsey

Ramsey Harbour

Ramsey Beach

Some of my students have never left the Isle of Man so projects like ours with the British School Muscat help to open their eyes to a whole world, one that they could never previously conceive and although VR is no substitute for the real thing it’s certainly one step closer than a still photograph or a film.

If you are interested in using VR in your classroom. There are a number of resources that are well worth a look at.  YouTube now supports 360 videos and there are  numerous videos worthy of a look.  Street view meanwhile, will show you how many 360 photos there are in any particular area.  So, you could look up the Eiffel tower and tap on a 360 photo and be taken there.  Google Expeditions ,a new kid on the block but brilliant for use in class.  This free app allows you to lead your class on an expeditions pointing things out as you go.

If you’d prefer your students to create rather than consume take a look at cospaces.io Here,  students can create 360  virtual worlds which they can then ‘walk’ through using the cospaces app.  Please note that students have to create using a desktop or laptop but they can add sound and labels. I have yet to use it with a class but it has great potential and I have booked our computer suite this week so that Y8 can give it a try another blog post will no doubt follow…

In the meantime enjoy throwing the windows and doors open on the world with your students using VR let me know how you get on!

Know knows and unknown knowns

jpeg-image-1c4feb1f7d03-1

I have always wondered if it’s possible for students to teach themselves a modern foreign language.  My concern has always been that it would be so tricky for students to find their way around the complexities of language learning without becoming frustrated or despondent.  Moreover, I always wondered how they would cope with trying to pronounce words that they had never come across before. With all this in mind,  I set about a little experiment.  I have 2 Y8 (students aged 12-13) classes.  I decided I would allow one class to teach themselves with guidance from me for one lesson and the other class would be taught by me.  It was hardly the most scientific of experiments but I was keen to see what would happen.

Prior to the lesson:

Each class had revised how to form regular -er verbs.  I felt that had they not had this grammar knowledge the task could have become overbearing for those that were ‘teaching themselves’

The lesson:

Objective: to be able to say where members of your family work and what job they do.

The class that were not having the traditional language teacher imput were given specific things to find out.

How to say he works/ she works as

How to say she is/ he is

How to say he works/she works in

How to say 10 places of work

The class could use whatever materials they needed.  I left them to it.

My classroom is set up with tables in groups of 4.  The class soon got to work looking for ways to discover the words required for the task.  Many used iPads but others rather more cannily selected text books and in a large number of cases traditional French dictionaries were used.  Inevitably some students declared the task to be easy and went straight to Google Translate.

After 5 – 10 minutes I started to discuss each group’s findings with them.  Most groups struggled with the tasks that included a verb (note to self, more verb work needed) but the discussion that ensued was really fruitful.  How do we work out each element of a regular verb?  What do we need first?  Where will we find the infinitive? All of this reinforcing work that we had previously done in class  and all very valuable.

When it came to the nouns questions arose about gender and how to find out if a word was a noun in the first place (further note to self more dictionary work required!) Some groups looked words up using an online dictionary and then double checked using a paper dictionary.  This gave them confidence that the words they had found were correct.  Google translate user largely found (mainly because I told them) that what they had written was nonsense.  Google translate was soon sidelined by most groups – this was a good lesson to learn!!

Pronunciation was the tricky bit, as predicted, for all groups.  The French word to work is travailler and is reasonably hard to pronounce. Most students tried to rely on their knowledge of French to get them through this element of the task some students used the accessibility feature voice on the iPad that enables text to be read out to the user.  Text to voice has come a long way and although the French accent isn’t perfect it’s pretty good. Try it out for yourself. In my view, students would need much more time with this tool in order to perfect the pronunciation.  In fact, activities would be required to help students achieve the pronunciation required and one asks oneself whether it would be worth giving up the required time to achieve this when it could be achieved in more efficient ways.

Conclusion:

Is it possible for students to ‘teach themselves’ French? Yes it is.  I say this with the caveat that pronunciation undoubtedly suffers.  The class that I taught in the traditional way have a better grasp of the pronunciation than the independent learner group.  Both groups of students retained the information well but I think the independent learners have shown better recall overall of all elements of the task especially the grammar aspects.  As a teacher, I enjoyed having the time to have the conversation with students and being able to push them in certain directions without giving them the answers, I think some really strong learning took place at these points in the lesson and I need to find more ways to ensure that this happens more regularly in class. The independent learners worked at a much slower pace and there’s nothing wrong with this, in fact I applaud this but the curriculum is packed an we have to get through ‘stuff’ in order that students can sit tests, exams and all the other usual education nonsense.

Would I switch to this method of working from now on? No, not all the time but it clearly does have value and I will continue to incorporate it into my planning from time to time. I enjoyed the discussions with students and they enjoyed the discovery element of the task but the poor pronunciation from the independent learners concerned me a little.  One thing this has made me consider more strongly is the idea of flipping my classroom which will enable the discussions but should cut out some of my concerns about pronunciation so, watch this space.

 

 

Sharing is caring


I love teaching grammar but this is an area of language learning that students often find tricky to master.  One of the things that I tend to do when teaching grammar is lots of discussion with students and worked examples on the board, I’ve found that this works well for students as we can discuss problems and misconceptions easily.  The disadvantage of this over a pre prepared power point presentation is that it all your lovely worked examples and discussion notes are tricky to share with your students.

This week Y9 were learning the future tense in order to be able to discuss future food habits and health.  For my teaching of this I decide to use the app Explain Everything and mirror it the board in my classroom via my Apple TV.  We discussed verbs and endings and infinitives and we did plenty off worked examples. The difference this time though, was that I could easily save the Explain Everything slides and whilst the students were working through some exercises in their books I could upload all of our ‘board work’ to Google Classroom before our atual lesson had even finished.  Now my students have a record of our grammar lessons with notes on all the problems and misconceptions that we discussed as well as worked examples.  

There’s a lot of hype surrounding the use of technology in the classroom but this week in my classroom technology helped to support teaching and the learning of my students, without it we’d have been resorting to taking notes from the board.  

ADE Institute 2016 – A Reflection

JPEG image-98C7FDA59EFF-1.jpeg

I’m writing this from seat 20D of my easy jet flight from Copenhagen after a fantastic 2 week family holiday in Denmark. I’m guessing most reflections have been written & read but family first and so 3 weeks after the event and with tunes from the ADE soundtrack blasting in my ear here are my reflections on a week of learning, laughter & friendship.

FullSizeRender 11.jpg

Those who want the world the stay as it is don’t want the world to stay. I found this quote as graffiti on the Berlin Wall, it sums up exactly what an Apple Distinguished Educator is not. ADE’s believe in pushing boundaries, collaborating not just within their schools or school districts but across the world. They want to put a dent in the universe, they truly believe that they can change education for the better. The first thing that hits you when you go to an ADE institute is the friendship. Our hotel lobby was full of hellos and ‘so pleased to finally meet you in person! You see, most ADE’s don’t wait until institute to collaborate most have been doing it virtually for years but it is at a global institute that they get to meet face to face so you can only imagine the force of nature that is a group of ADE’s working together.

Collaboration is key at these events. During the week we all work on a project of our choosing with other educators. My chosen group was the sketch noting group. We were made up of 2 Brits, 1 Irish, 3 Americans, a Canadian & a Colombian. Our aim is to show via an iBook how we have incorporated sketch noting into our work as educators both in the classroom and for our own personal use. I am not artistic in any way but I love sketch noting & I learnt so much from the many brilliant teachers that I worked with that week. I came away inspired by them with a real desire to try & improve my own sketch noting as well as trying to incorporate it more into my work with students. Thanks goes to Sharon Drummond who showed me her 100 days of sketching in which she learnt a new German word a day & sketched it. I’m definitely going to try that with students but we’ll start smaller 7 days of sketching most probably 🙂

IMG_0147

During the week we were privileged to be able to attend sessions given by our fellow ADE’s I was lucky enough to be able to attend firstly a session on podcasting and then a session on 6 word stories. The podcasting session was lead by Kelly Croy. Despite having listened to his podcast I have never previously connected with him online but as soon as I entered his ‘classroom’ I was bowled over by his warmth & passion. I have dabbled with podcasting in the past but thanks to Kelly & his fantastic presentation it is something I intend to persue with this coming school year! Thanks Kelly it was truly lovely to meet & chat to you!

My next session was lead by Don Goble another incredible teacher, like Kelly I really warmed to his generous spirit & enthusiasm. Don told us how he & his students went about creating six word stories, again this is something I intend to emulate in my foreign language classroom this year. Thanks Don for the inspiration – can’t wait to share our French 6 word stories with you!

During the week we were also treated to sessions from Apple experts on GarageBand, Keynote, Swift playgrounds, iMovie, iBooks and Final Cut Pro. I’m definitely going to animate using keynote this year with students & maybe see if we can enter Simon Pile’s school’s film festival with one of our films! Also watch out for more Dupstep MFL. I’ve use GarageBand live loops in class before but having had hints & tips from the experts expect bigger & better grammar songs from my foreign language classroom this year!

Collaboration isn’t just about work & you work hard at institute it’s also about getting out of your classroom with others and discovering and so on Wednesday we went out in groups to discover the amazing city of Berlin. Our group decided to create a BookCreator book about our adventure based on the ‘Where’s Wally’ books we called it where’s ADE, the basic premise being that an ADE hid in a crowded scene in Berlin, a photo was taken and readers had find them. It started as a bit of a giggle but by the end of our day we were all thinking that this project would work with students too! This is typical of institute, ADE’s just try stuff no matter how daft, after all it might just work!IMG_4322.JPG

Team ‘Where’s ADE?”

The highlight of institute for us all is ADE spotlights. Each morning starts with a selection of ADE’s telling their stories in 3 minutes, no more, no less. There’s a huge clock with 3 minutes on it that counts down as each ADE speaks and when 3 minutes is up the spotlight dies and the mic is cut whether they have finished or not! This year I loved  Shaun Kirkwood‘s 5 minutes of fun Brit Morgan & Cathy Hunt‘s art work Simon Pile & Stuart Hammersley‘s video work as well as my roomie, Sarah Jones‘ fabulous work with 360 VR. I loved the work of many teachers taking their students out of their classrooms & documenting their work via iPads.

IMG_4391.JPG

Spotlights are incredibly inspirational & scary as hell as I found out on the last day as it was my turn!!!! I can honestly say it was one of the best things I have done right from conceiving an idea to talk about right up to the presentation itself. It makes you focus & reflect on your work in the classroom. It makes ensure that your story connects and the your slide deck is of A1 quality – this is Apple after all!

IMG_4394.JPG

ADE’s try stuff, push boundaries, collaborate, inspire, share & support not just each other but all educators and that’s how we put a dent in the universe!

Let’s make some noise. Using GarageBand Live Loops to make verb songs

JPEG image-2046E0235DD3-1

In spite of being a lover of music I am not particularly musical and as such the app GarageBand has always frustrated me as, I am of the view that you need to be reasonably musical to make the best use of it.  Imagine my delight then when earlier this year Apple added live loops to the GarageBand tools.  So what are live loops?  Essentially Live Loops is a simple way to create DJ style music using loops and samples.  Apple have made it super simper for us non-musicians to use as the loops are laid out in a grid format. You can activate single loops by tapping the box or whole columns of loops and samples by tapping the arrow at the bottom of the iPad.  The good news for the non musical amongst us, you don’t need to worry about beats or timing as GarageBand does it all for you!  There are plenty of different styles of music to choose from.

To begin tap the plus sign in the top right hand corner of your iPad now tap ‘Create New Song’

Make sure Live Loops is highlighted at the top of the screen and scroll through until you find a style that you like. 

Now it’s time to start playing to stop a loop from playing simply tap in the box and it will stop tap it again and it will restart.  You can only play 1 box from each row at a time.

Recording into the live loops grid.  This is the important part especially if you are making a verb song like we did.

Firstly, slide your finger along the bottom row of the iPad where the arrows are until you find a blank column.  This is the column into which you are going to record your voice.  To do this double tap on a blank square and the option record into cell appears tap this and you are taken to a recording window.  From here you can choose a variety of effects to add to your voice, if you don’t want to do this then select the option dry.  I would suggest that you turn the metronome of at the top of the screen as you will hear this when you record.  The backward looping arrow, once tapped, allows you to re-record your voice.  Once you have done tap the little grid icon in the top left of the screen to return to your song.  Tap another empty box in the same column and repeat the whole process. It’s really important that all your voice is in the same column as this will give you flexibility as to when you play it. 

Once you have recorded all parts of the verb you can make your song.  Simply play your favourite loops adding in your voice as you go. 

http://www.slideshare.net/smith_rachel/slideshelf

Above is a link to a powerpoint how to guide

I complete this task with my Y9 classes this week it took 2 lessons but we all know the verb aller now!  They loved this activity even going as far as to say that it was cool.  I was pretty impressed because as far as they are concerned I am right up their with the kings of uncool themselves, their Dad’s most of the time!

Have a listen to one of my student’s verb songs