Monday, April 25, 2016

Gamification can be low-tech

If you keep up with education news, you might be familiar with the concept of gamification.  (If not, basically, it's applying principles of playing a game to something that isn't a game, generally to make it more interesting/fun/enjoyable to the audience.)  I've attended some talks on the topic, and have been intrigued by the idea.  Of course, as language teachers, we use games regularly to help students review; one of my favorite new tools is kahoot, which turns my reviews into a game, complete with timer and countdown music.  (Thanks to my sister, Becca, for telling me about this last semester!)

But games don't have to be high-tech to be useful and fun.  It's almost the end of the semester, and I'm going over the vocab in the last chapter for my first- and third-semester classes.  I already have a bingo game for clothing vocab (the theme for the first-semester class), but I've also already done enough bingo games this semester, and don't want to bore students by doing bingo again*.  I was also thinking that it might be nice to do a vocab activity where students were working on productive (rather than receptive) vocab knowledge.  So I started thinking about card games, and wondering if I could adapt a card game for Spanish vocabulary review.   I decided to use Go Fish, because students would need to be able to produce the vocab word in order to request the card, and today one class played Go Fish (¡Vete a pescar!) with clothing vocab, and the other played Go Fish with nature vocab.  I only used pictures on the cards (no words), so that students are not just reading the word from the card.  They either have to recall it from memory, or look it up so that they can request the card they want.  It's probably my most popular game so far, and students in both classes were able to play the game entirely in Spanish.

I've posted my Go Fish games here, along with templates that could be used to create custom Go Fish games.

*However, I also realized that it had somehow never occurred to me to create a bingo game for my phonetics class, so our end-of-semester review of phonemes and allophones is a brand-new phonetics bingo game!

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Making writing assignments more interesting

This one will be short and sweet.  I was rethinking my writing assignments this semester, after having students do blogs on Blackboard last semester, which may have been my worst idea ever. (Blogs in Blackboard basically don't look anything like real blogs.  They make it impossible to forget that you are only there to grade an assignment, not to enjoy what you're reading.)

So this semester, I switched it up a little.  Students can choose their format, and can submit a Word document, a PowerPoint presentation, an Adobe Express page, a video recording, or an audio recording for each homework assignment.  

What is Adobe Express?  It's basically a page that looks like a blog post, without the hassle of actually running a blog.  (It's also very easy to find nice images using their image search tool.)  The idea behind allowing a variety of formats is that students can feel free to be creative if they want. And I particularly like the PowerPoint and Adobe Spark options because assignments are visually much more interesting and appealing to me, the reader, when they include images (and when the text is broken up into smaller chunks).

Here are some examples:

Tarea de escritura 1 Tarea de escritura 2 Tarea de escritura 3 Tarea de escritura 3

Friday, February 12, 2016

Finding images for teaching

In the early days of the internet, before most people were thinking about copyright, if I needed an image for a PowerPoint presentation, I went online and downloaded it or did a screen capture and just used the image without attribution.  While that was certainly easy, it was more than a little ironic that I would have failed a student for taking someone's material and submitting it as their own, but didn't provide any attribution for work created by others.

So now I'm using images that are licensed for reuse, usually using a Google images search, because it's easy to specify permissions for image use (I use noncommercial reuse):

My own image, which you can use for whatever purpose you wish, without attribution.
There are a number of articles online for how to appropriately cite an image, which are very helpful if you're only using one or two images.  But if you're getting a bunch of images to present new vocabulary, properly citing every single one will take you a while (possibly the rest of your life).

That's why I try to use images from Wikimedia Commons (or any Wikipedia page).   When you open an image in the media viewer, it will give you the option to download it, and then tell you that you need to include an attribution.  But it doesn't stop there; it actually provides the attribution for you, so you can copy and paste it into your presentation.

By Dwight Burdette - Own work, CC BY 3.0,
See how easy it is?
By Dwight Burdette - Own work, CC BY 3.0,
You can also change the size of the file you'd like to download.
 So, in the spirit of making images accessible and not tedious to use, I offer my latest collection of images that I produced to teach location prepositions, starring Hello Kitty.  You are welcome to use/modify these images for any purpose without attribution.

Hello Kitty está a la derecha del reloj.