Tuesday, 8 October 2019

Using Computer Games to Improve Students' English

I’ve had a long interest in the use of computer games for English language teaching and have looked at lots of games over the years that have huge potential for language learning, from platforms like Second Life and Minecraft to more structured educational games like PowerUp and Tyto, so when I spotted Real English for Gamers, a site that sets out to help students use a variety of multi-player games to improve their English, I was really fascinated.

What it’s about
Real English for Gamers isn’t a game but it is at the most basic level, a YouTube channel full of videos of game in game interaction between players that have been turned into learning resources.

The creators of the channel have taken clips of world famous gamers playing the games, transcribed them, analysed the vocabulary and interaction between the players and turned them into instructional videos that help students to learn English with the aim of enabling them to play their favourite games in English.

This is a great idea in many ways as so many students find playing video games so engaging and to combine this enthusiasm for the games with the chance to interact with other speakers of English can really be a boost for their motivation.

How to use it
The Real English for Gamers YouTube channel has around 130 videos at time of writing and these are mostly clips from multiplayer games. Their website helps to structure this collection of videos and make it more accessible. Some of the best places to start are:
  • The Basics: This section has a collection of useful language for gamers that they can use whilst playing the games.  This includes a section on questions they can ask their gaming partner during the game, common game related vocabulary and tips for how to avoid misunderstandings during the game.
  • Practice Listening: This section helps students to deal with fast authentic speech by using short video clips with video script annotation.
  • The Gamers: This section has information about each of the celebrity gamers featured in the video clips.
  • The Games: This section has information about each of the games featured in the clips.

The site is being regularly updated and apart form watching and listening to the videos, students can also leave comments and chat with other users using the comments feature in the YouTube channel.

Real English for Gamers is an interesting concept and a great resource to recommend to students who are interested in games or as a source of learning material for homework or the classroom. It is of course a good idea to select videos that you feel are age and culturally appropriate for your students. Due to the nature of the content, some games will have language related to violence in them and others may have some bad language, so you’ll need to decide whether your students are mature enough to deal with these elements.

For students who are already keen on games this could be a tool to help them to make the shift to playing them in English and for students who are interested in games the content could form the basis of some motivating lessons that exploit authentic materials.

I hope you enjoy Real English for Gamers and that your students find it useful.
You can find links to many more tools like this and activities for the digital classroom in my ebooks at: https://payhip.com/peacheypublications



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Nik Peachey


Monday, 30 September 2019

Redacto for Intensive Listening Practice

One of my first experiences of computer assisted language learning back in the mid 90s was of text reconstruction programmes.

My students would go to the computer room and spend ages trying to reconstruct a text they had studied, gradually typing in the missing words until the text was complete.
I always thought this was great practice for them and could see that they really enjoyed it, so it’s great to see Redacto has combined these text reconstruction activities with authentic audio to build a really useful suite of learning materials.

How it Works

The site has a range of different subjects that students can choose from.
Once they have selected the topic they have a range of article to choose from. These are graded according to the CEFR scale.

Once they select an article students can click on the play button to start listening.
They then type any of the words they hear into the field at the bottom. The words will then appear in the text.

It’s not necessary to type the words in the order they appear in the text and, for example, if students type in the word ‘and’ this word will appear anywhere in the text where it occurs, so these aren’t just dictation exercises.

If the student is using Google Chrome (recommended), and they have a microphone connected to their computer, they can click on the mic icon and say the word(s), these will then appear in the text search box.
Students can listen again as many times as they wish and can even slow the audio down if it helps them to listen for difficult words. In addition, they can click on the gapped word to get a hint, or to see the entire word.

All the time the students are working their score and the time taken is also being collected.

Once they have completed the transcript, there are follow up activities to consolidate the language they have listened to. There are also further vocabulary flash cards to revise.


Premium
Redacto also offers premium tools for schools, including a results tracker, and  a classroom mode where teachers can select activities for students and send them a pin. The students then log in using the pin and a name and they have a simple multiple choice clicker so that they can respond to exercises, in a style similar to Kahoot! These are mainly based on much shorter audio clips and students have to count the number of words or listen to see which words are included in the text.

Redacto looks like a great free tool for students who want to develop their listening skills and learn from authentic materials.


You can find links to many more tools like this and activities for the digital classroom in my ebooks at: https://payhip.com/peacheypublications


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Nik Peachey

Using QR Codes to Deliver more Effective Feedback

We all (I hope) know how important feedback is to students as part of their learning. Often though the people who understand this least are the students themselves and they can find it easy to overlook or disregard feedback as soon as they have seen their grade.

Qwiqr seems like a very good solution to that problem and is a great way to get students to take notice and follow up on feedback.


How it works
Qwiqr uses QR codes that you can attach to homework that provide digital feedback for students that they can access through their phone.

This feedback can be written, audio recorded or can come in the form of a web link or video.  Students just scan the code with their phone and they’ll instantly be able to access your feedback. This is an ideal system for language learning as the audio element enables you to provide models of pronunciation, target language and new vocabulary that students can listen to repeatedly.

Using Qwiqr you can even make feedback an interactive process and students can record a reply to your message and send it back to you.

Qwiqr is very safe for students, as only someone with the QR code can access the recordings.

To create your Qwiqr  QR codes you simply print and select the number of QR code stickers you want and then just print them off (using sticky paper will work best).
Then when you want to give some feedback, you scan the code with any scanner and then record and save your message. This will store the message on the Qwiqr server. Then you just give students the same QR code and they can scan it and access their feedback and review it at any time.

Qwiqr doesn’t require that students download a specific app and work in the browser with any QR code scanner.

This is a really great way to get your students really engaging with their feedback and to create a dialogue around their work so that they can check their understanding of anything they got wrong or still need to know.


Pricing
On the free account you can send audio, image, text or links as feedback and the feedback stays on the server for up to 3 months.

If you like it and find it works with your students you can upgrade to premium for just £1.50 a month (that’s about $2) and this will enable you to send video feedback and your students will be able to reply and your feedback will be editable, reusable and on the server forever.


Personally, I think this is a great way to get students to really take notice and engage with their feedback. If you have a collection of code stickers ready in the classroom you could also be recording individual feedback for students while you monitor their speaking activities or you could record an overall summary for the end of the lesson that all students could scan.

Qwiqr isn’t limited to being used only for feedback though. These are some other suggestions.
  • Record video of pupils talking about their work and put the QR next to the work on display boards.
  • Record spoken conversations that students can listen to at home.
  • Create treasure hunts using images and videos that give clues for students to follow.
  • Create ‘praise cards’ and let students take them home to play for parents
This is a really great tool and I hope you enjoy it and can use it with your students.

You can find links to many more tools like this and activities for the digital classroom in my ebooks at: https://payhip.com/peacheypublications

To sign up for my free newsletter and get a free copy of Digital Tools for Teachers go to: http://eepurl.com/dtgL79

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Nik Peachey



Wednesday, 25 September 2019

EDIA Papyrus - A Tool for Materials Writers and Publishers

As a materials writer, editor and publisher, I’m constantly looking for tools that will save time, increase quality, and make my life easier. One of the best of these I’ve found recently is EDIA Papyrus.

How it works
EDIA Papyrus is a very simple to use tool that analyses the level of any text I write against a target level and shows me how close to my target level the text is.

More than that, it can show me which words will be difficult for the level and if I click on the words it will offer me some substitute words and show me what level those words are.


The tool is based around analysing text in relation to the CEFR, so it’s great for TESOL and TEFL teachers who want to create their own materials and professional materials writers, but it can also cross reference to a range of other measures, so almost anyone who writes educational text should find this useful.

It is possible to write directly into the EDIA Papyrus interface, but I tend to copy paste between my own documents and EDIA Papyrus as at present there is no way for free users to save their documents there.

Pricing
EDIA Papyrus is a free tool for any individual teacher, but there is an API for any publisher or content production company. This is really useful if you use a number of writers and you want to help support them and standardise the level of their content across a product.

The API can plug into a number of different tools such as MS Word or Google Docs and this enables writers to check the level and change vocabulary and sentence length as they type rather than having to go to the EDIA Papyrus site to do it.

The API is based around a per-text costing and if you are interested in finding out more about the API it’s best to contact: walter [at] edia.nl

I have to say, I’m becoming a regular user these days, as it is a quick way to check the level of a complete text and get a really good understanding of how I need to change it.

I hope you find it useful too.

You can find links to many more tools like this and activities for the digital classroom in my ebooks at: https://payhip.com/peacheypublications

To sign up for my free newsletter and get a free copy of Digital Tools for Teachers go to: http://eepurl.com/dtgL79

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Nik Peachey

Tuesday, 24 September 2019

Hypersay - For Creating Engaging Training and Conferencing Presentations

Hypersay may well be my new favourite tools for going paperless in the classroom and ensuring conference presentations go smoothly.

For a number of years, I’ve struggled with a mixture of QR codes, Backchannels and shortened links added to my presentation slides, but with Hypersay those days may be over.



How it works
Hypersay is a great tool for making presentations both interactive, multimedia and digital.
All you have to do is upload your existing presentations (PDF, PPT or Google Slides) to the platform and then you can start to add interactions such as questions, polls and surveys to each slide as well as links to websites and embedded videos.
Drag interactions onto different slides

Once your presentation is ready, you just click a button to 'Go Live' and your audience can log in to the presentation and follow it on their device.
Presenting
This gives them all the links to materials and references as well as tasks to do and questions to answer as you move through your presentation. In addition to this, they can feed questions in through their device that you can answer at the end of your session, they can give you feedback and they take notes about each slide that they can then save along with the presentation for when they need to revise or review the lesson.
Students' Mobile Interface
In addition to this, you get a full report containing a range of engagement analytics about the presentation.

This includes the feedback and questions your students left for you as well as their answer to your questions and information about any notes they made or links they clicked on from your slides.
Reports
This is a really great tool to keep students engaged on their devices and give you some real data about the impact of your teaching.

It’s really easy to use, syncs your slides with your students’ device and you don’t have to convert your materials to make them compatible.

For students, it can help to make the lessons more engaging and enable them to streamline their note-taking and ensure that they have a voice and their questions aren’t lost during the lesson.

Pricing
There is a free version of Hypersay which you can use with up to 20 students.
If you have a larger class or a conference size audience you can pay a one-off fee (about $4) to upgrade your presentation for the larger audience size (up to 200 people). There are also plans for conferences and individual monthly plans. You can check out the prices at: https://hypersay.com/pricing

I’m seriously trying to get the courage to try this out at my next conference plenary in Turkey at the end of the week, so keep your fingers crossed for me.

I hope you find Hypersay useful with for your teaching and training work too.



You can find links to many more tools like this and activities for the digital classroom in my ebooks at: https://payhip.com/peacheypublications


To sign up for my free newsletter and get a free copy of Digital Tools for Teachers go to: http://eepurl.com/dtgL79
 
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Nik Peachey

Tuesday, 17 September 2019

The Virtual Writing Tutor - A Suite of Tools for Developing Students’ Writing

For tech-savvy students there are many ways to get their grammar checked, from online grammar checkers to the inbuilt grammar checks that they can find in MS Word or Apple’s Pages, so in order for another grammar checker to be useful, it needs to do more than just check grammar, and that’s what the Virtual Writing Tutor offers.

The Virtual Writing Tutor is more than a simple grammar checker, it is a suite of tools and activities that you can use with your students to help them improve their writing.
  • On the home page, there is a standard field where students can enter their text and get the usual kinds of feedback and analysis, such as word counts, vocabulary checks and punctuation checks.

  • When the students click on grammar check, they get a list of their errors with explanations. They can also get the explanations translated if they are lower levels.
  • Another nice feature is that they can actually hear their text spoken using text to speech and even download the audio file, so this is useful for helping to support pronunciation skills too.

Across the navigation menu at the top of the site, there are also some interesting features.

The Games section has an error correction game that shows students a number of random sentences with errors that they have to correct. Once they have corrected the sentence they click on ‘Help’ and this will give them some feedback on whether they have corrected the sentence.
  • There is also a ‘My error game’ which uses errors from the student’s own texts in the game, so if students are registered users and regularly using the site it also becomes a great way to review and try to eradicate regular errors.

Another interesting feature is the IELTS section. In this section, students can practice answering IELTS writing test questions. These tests include a timer so that students are working under test type conditions and when they have finished, they can get some feedback on their answer and an estimated band score.
  • The feedback is informative and tells the students the kinds of words and structure the examiner would be looking for. There is also some grammar feedback on the text the students entered.

The Pen Pals section of the site also looks really interesting. Using this, teachers are able to set up and manage their class and using some example templates to manage a range of tasks. The VWT then handles giving the students feedback, correction, and a score, so this is a huge time saver for teachers who want to do this kind of writing exchange.

Last but not least, there is a section of the site for developing Hypertext Narrative. These are the kinds of texts where students read about a situation and then have choices. Their choices can guide their path through the narrative which can have a number of different final outcomes.

  • Using this part of the site teacher or students can easily construct their own hypertext narratives using simple editing tool. You can also access a number of texts that have already been written, so this might be a good place to go to introduce your students to the concept or to find some content for your lessons.

As with most grammar checkers, The Virtual Writing Tutor looks like it’s still a work in process and the analysis of writing isn’t always going to be perfect, but this looks like a great suite of tools to try out and to keep an eye as there are obviously lots of good ideas here.

You can find links to many more tools like this and activities for the digital classroom in my ebooks at: https://payhip.com/peacheypublications


To sign up for my free newsletter and get a free copy of Digital Tools for Teachers go to: http://eepurl.com/dtgL79
 
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Nik Peachey



Wednesday, 7 August 2019

TeachVid for Developing Listening Skills

I've always been a huge fan of using video for language development, so I was really delighted when I was sent a link to TeachVid and asked to have a look at it.
TeachVid is a really great resource for developing listening skills multiple languages, not just English. The learning is based around short video clips but there are a whole range of different activity types that students can select.

The activities use a parallel text technique that combines the use of L1 subtitles with L2 transcription so that students can understand the content they are listening to even if they are quite low level learners.
At the most basic level students can watch and listen to the videos with both languages visible, but if they click on 'Activities' this opens a whole range of choices for different ways students can challenge themselves to reconstruct the text.
When the students are in activity mode they watch chunks of the video and then reconstruct the text. This could be line by line with the words jumbled up or they may have all the letters and have to find the word boundaries. Once they complete a line the video advances.

All the time students are working with the activity their progress is being tracked.

There is also a great LMS feature for teachers called 'Classroom'. This allows you to set up assignments for your students and track their progress. You can select a video for an assignment and choose the types and sequence of activities you'd like your students to do. You can even set a due date for the assignment.

There are quite a few video resources already on the site, but if you can't find what you are looking for you can also create your own resources using TeachVid's resource creation tools, accessible via the 'My resources' tab on the resources page.
TeachVid is based on a freemium business model, so you can register for free as a teacher and create five resources for your students and track their progress. Students can also register independently for free and access any of the featured resources on the site. Registering for a paid account gives you access to many more features and is very reasonably priced. The best deal though is to register as a school. Prices will depend though on the number of student accounts you create.

I really recommend TeachVid as a language learning and development tool. I used it to try to improve my Spanish and found the activities really motivating and engaging. This is a great tool to get your students learning independently or in class.

You can find links to many more tools like this and activities for the digital classroom in my ebooks at: https://payhip.com/peacheypublications

Sign up for my twice-monthly free newsletter and get a free copy of Digital Tools for Teachers at: https://tinyletter.com/technogogy/
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Nik Peachey

Tuesday, 21 May 2019

Building Quizzes with Artificial Intelligence

Back in December 2018, I reviewed an excellent web-based application called Quillionz. The site was developed using AI to instantly produce a wide range of questions based on any text of 300 - 3000 words.


Since then the tool has been a great success and I've had some very positive reports from many English and subject-based teachers who have used it to save time and create instant reading comprehension tests based around authentic content.

Quillionz has now released a Pro version, which I've just tried. I have to say it's really impressive.

These are a few of the new features the pro version offers:
  • Generate Wh questions
  • View the context of a question
  • Generate unlimited question sets per day
  • Save unlimited question sets
  • Input content as text and PDF
  • Export question sets as a text file or QuilliQuiz

The new feature that I like best is QuilliQuiz. This is a feature that turns the questions into virtual quizzes. Here's an example of a QuilliQuiz abut a newspaper article on Brexit:https://app.quillionz.com/Quiz/Index?id=UIi9wC


So once students have read and done their comprehension exercises, you can use this feature to have a group class-quiz or students can use it individually to review and revise the content.
They simply look at the questions, try to remember the answer and then click the flashcard to see if they have it right.

Quillionz Pro is priced at just under $10 a month, so if you are creating lots of materials based around text then it can be a really economical way to save lots of time.

If that is expensive for you, you can still continue to use the free version and quickly create some great quizzes and content for your students.


I hope you enjoy using Quillionz with your students.

You can find links to many more tools like this and activities for the digital classroom in my ebooks at: https://payhip.com/peacheypublications


Sign up for my twice-monthly free newsletter and get a free copy of Digital Tools for Teachers at: https://tinyletter.com/technogogy/


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Nik Peachey




Monday, 15 April 2019

Ediface - The Whole School Solution

Are you looking for a simple IT solution that can help drag your school into the 21st century? If you are then Ediface may be what you are looking for.

Ediface has been designed to support the complete curriculum and manage students across subjects. It's able to track students on their complete journey through the school experience.

Once students have been uploaded they can be easily added to classes and teachers can assign a range of digital materials to them.

As well as homework assignments which can be posted, tracked and marked through the platform, teachers can also set up their classroom materials and slides. These can be shared across the school, enabling considerable time saving and the development of a community of practise among your teachers.


Then it's easy for teachers to launch lessons which students can then work through on any digital device. lessons can be media rich and include video content, audio and images. Teachers can also set up simple test questions to check understanding at the end of each unit of work or at the end of term.

As and administrator, it's easy to come into the platform and see how students are doing across topics and as your bank of data grows you will be able to measure the overall impact of teaching within the school and make decisions about curriculum changes that are based on data rather than instinct.

Ediface is an efficient solution to what is becoming a complex problem. It isn't free, but they do have a very simple per student per year pricing plan and you can get up to 50 students registered before you have to pay, so that's enough for a pretty good trial or for a single teacher to run their class.

I hope you find Ediface useful and that it helps to make life in your school a little easier.

Sign up for my monthly free newsletter and get more tips and reviews like this one and a free copy of Digital Tools for Teachers at: https://tinyletter.com/technogogy/

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Nik Peachey


Sunday, 17 March 2019

Bite-Size Teacher Development from Language Fuel

Over the last few weeks, I have been looking through LanguageFuel's online courses for EL teachers.


They have a great selection of teacher development courses, around 35 at present, with some really interesting content and a great selection of different topics, that vary from basics like Using Flashcards to more complex issues like Intercultural Awareness.


The courses are ideal for short bursts of study on your laptop or mobile as they have been divided into bite-size learning tasks and input. To do a complete course takes between 15 mins and about an hour.

The main content is delivered through a mixture of text, interactive activities and animated videos which visually reinforce the concepts being introduced.
Many of the courses also include some useful practical tasks that you can try to do with students and some templates for classroom planning or activities.

What I particularly liked about the courses was that many of them integrated some digital skills development for teachers and links to useful web-based resources which can help save some time with the day to day business of planning and delivering lessons.

These courses are great for novice teachers or to fill in or refresh some knowledge gaps for more experienced teachers.

Language Fuel is still at quite an early stage at present so it will be interesting to see how they grow and what else they come up with.

You can join their community for free (https://www.languagefuel.com/community-membership) and this also gives you access to their facebook group at: https://www.facebook.com/LanguageFuel/

The courses aren't free, but they are very reasonably priced and one price covers all courses. You can get a free 14 day trial at https://www.languagefuel.com/memberships
If you sign up for premium membership you can also get private one to one training through video conference.

Language Fuel is a great way to boost your training, especially if you are working in isolated conditions as so many teachers do these days.

Sign up for my monthly free newsletter and get more tips and reviews like this one and a free copy of Digital Tools for Teachers at: https://tinyletter.com/technogogy/

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Nik Peachey

Friday, 8 March 2019

Creating Augmented Reality Experiences with Metaverse

Three types of technology seem to be creating a lot of interest in educational technology circles at present. These are AI (Artificial intelligence) VR (Virtual Reality) and AR (Augmented Reality).

Of the three I feel that AR is the most accessible for teachers and students. This is largely because of apps like Metaverse which enable teachers and students to quickly create enjoyable interactive games and activities that can mesh with their physical location.

For those of you who are new to the concept of Augmented Reality, at its most basic, it is the ability to overlay internet-based digital content onto physical locations. This process is usually enabled through a mobile device of some kind and triggered by either location or some form of digital code that your mobile device can scan, like a QR code for example.

Metaverse can use either of these techniques, so it enables teachers and students to create either location-specific games and activities or ones that are triggered by scanning a code.


The best way to understand what that looks like is to see it in action, so here are two VR experiences I created.

This first one is a tour of some of my work. You can either watch the video below or use this link to download the app and try it: https://mtvrs.io/LawngreenWigglyNutcracker


The second is an interaction with my fairy godmother! You can either watch the video below or use this link to download the app and try it: https://mtvrs.io/AngelicMagentaOcelot

Creating experiences like these for students is quite simple and there are lots of different types of interactions and characters you can choose from to build your AR experience.

Building involves selecting different types of interaction, adding images and buttons and connecting them together. There are some useful tutorials built into the platform to guide you along each step of the way.



Then when you have finished building your experience you can easily test it and publish it.

Then it's just a case of making sure your students have the app installed on their devices and pointing them at the QR code.
To make experiences location specific, be sure to click on the advanced settings when publishing and this allows you to put the experience into a group and add a GPS location for the group. This will mean that your experience is only available to students who are close to the location you specify. When using this feature with students you'll need to make sure the Metaverse app has access to their location through their phone.


This is a great tool for creating interactive engaging content with your students. It's especially great if you are taking students outside the classroom on field trips or if you just want them to explore their locale in their own time to do location-based homework assignments.

If you want to get your students creating their own AR experiences you can also use a new feature called 'Collections' this enables you to view, edit and manage your students' creations in one place.

Here's a video explaining how this happens.


I've really enjoyed using Metaverse and I'm sure I'll be using it a lot more. I also feel that I've only just begun to scape the surface of what it can do, so I'm looking forward to understanding more of the interactions and creating more innovative learning experiences.

You can find more tools like this in my article 'Getting into Virtual Reality Part 1: Creating Virtual Reality Worlds' and lots more tools and tips for training teachers in my ebook 'Digital Tools for Teachers - Trainers' Edition'.

Sign up for my twice-monthly free newsletter and get a free copy of Digital Tools for Teachers at: https://tinyletter.com/technogogy/

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Nik Peachey