The new tools of our trade?

I want to start by saying hats off to my peers, Amy, Krista, Luke, Elizabeth and Rochelle who presented on the topic of educational software and media. I have to admit that although I am familiar with a lot of different great software and media tools I don’t often integrate them into my classes (insert red embarrassed face here). I can’t say for sure why I haven’t integrated the tools in my classes yet, but a big part of it is the fact that I was out the classroom on mat leave all of last year, so having just been back to work for a month and a half I still feel as thought I’m adjusting to the new routine. When I’m talking about not using the tools, I guess I’m talking about tools like Kahoot, Socrative, Quizlet or Explain Everything. I do use other media in the classroom so I will talk about the tools I do use as well as touch on some of the tools I have spent some time exploring in hopes to integrate the into my classes in the future.

One of the tools I use is Edmodo. I enjoy using Edmodo for a variety of reasons. The first is because the interface is similar to Facebook and students so it’s easy to navigate and students feel the same way. One of the biggest benefits is the increased level of communication between students, parents and the teacher. I’ve made a screen cast of my Edmodo page that takes you through some of the features as well as discusses some of the pros and cons of using Edmodo.

I have some EAL students in my class and they spend time working with a language app called Duolingo. I was introduced to this last year when I used it to try and learn some Italian. It has a gaming feel to it and makes learning fun, but the quality of the learning isn’t the best. I used it a lot, but I wasn’t able to actually remember or recall much of the language when I wasn’t using the app or website. To get a feel for how the program works check out my screencast from when I did my post-assessment. During the video you will hear the chime when I respond correctly and a green banner appears. Duolingo is very stimulus-response based lending itself nicely to the behaviourism theory. When I played it was really motivating and the game like features kept making you come back. You can earn badges, points and your progress is tracked making it rewarding to play and learn. The downside to the app is that although there is a lot of repetition it doesn’t allow for deeper connections and learning. To truly learn a language I believe you must converse with people using the language and Duolingo doesn’t provide these types of interactions. Users may chat with others on a forum, but there is no opportunity to speak with others and practice.

Duolingo is a great tool for EAL learners to get additional practice as it is engaging and fun. In order for students to practice outside of the classroom, students need to have access to the website or app. This makes it difficult for students who don’t have access to technology to practice when they are not at school. As a mentioned above, the app itself is not enough for students to master a language, but it is helpful. Language Surfer provides a great list of ways to get the most out of Duolingo and most of them go beyond just playing “the game”. Students who use this need to go beyond the app by writing down new word they learn on paper, writing sentences that they struggle with, reading the hints given by the program and working with others to practice speaking the language they are learning.

Other tools that I have explored for past classes with Alec are Socrative and Explain Everything. Socrative allows you to create quizzes and use exit slips to assess student understanding. I don’t think I would use this tool for summative assessment purposes but I see it as a great tool to get some feedback of learning throughout the unit. Students need to have access to computers, tablets or phones in order to participate so it is difficult to use in a classroom like mine where some students don’t have a phone. I feel like getting computers for everyone would be a lot of hassle to complete a short exit slip or a quiz that will give me some feedback. It is much easier to do a paper exit slip and have students complete it…however not as fun. Explain Everything is an interactive whiteboard app and I have thought about using it in my math classes. I see students using it to walk me through a question while they explain the steps they are using to solve the problem. I see it as an excellent tool to evaluate deeper understanding however it takes time for students to learn how to use the tool so that is something that would need to be considered before it is used in the classroom. You can check out my youtube channel to find the video tutorials I have created for both Socrative and Explain Everything. The videos will give you a better idea of how they work if you are wanting to learn more about them. A few classmates have included great reviews of Plickers and Seesaw; both tools seem beneficial in their own ways. Be sure to check out Plickers as reviewed by Liz and Seesaw as reviewed by Erin (great job guys!).

As I stated earlier, I tend to stay away from many of these question-response type tools because I don’t see a whole lot of value in them for the amount of time it takes to implement them. I do see it as a fun way to review and see the value in using these tools to differentiate the teaching methods. How often do you use these tools? Can you sell me on the value of these tools? I’m not saying I will never use them, but I don’t see myself using them on a regular basis…but maybe I should? Are these the new tools of our educational trade?


Itlaian 101: And the award goes to…

This semester I was given the opportunity to learn something – just like I am given the opportunity in any other class. However the opportunity was presented much different than it has been presented in any other class. I was given the opportunity to pick something that I was interested in and learn about it using technology and online connections to help me along the way.

Obviously when you are given the opportunity to learn about anything a lot of possibilities run through your head. I wanted to choose something that I would enjoy learning about. I wanted to learn something that I could use at some point in the future. I would have loved to pick something creative like sewing or knitting, but I didn’t want to spend a whole lot of money purchasing materials along the way (especially with my limited income on maternity leave). So I decided I would learn a language.

The language I decided on was Italian. Why? Well I didn’t want to do French because I already have some experience with speaking French having gradated with a French 30 credit (even though that credit is from way back in 2004). I wanted to start with a clean slate. In my travels I have spent some time in Italy and I just love everything about the country. The food, the culture, the scenery, the cities and of course the language. I have always thought that it would be great to learn a language and be able to travel and use it someday. Now that I have been learning some of the language maybe it’s time to go back.

Throughout the semester I found a lot of resources that are very useful in learning a language online and found even more that seemed to be of little help. If you want to check out all of the resources I  reviewed in detail look back at some of my previous posts. But here is a quick list of my top resources for learning Italian online broken down into categories.

To practice site words, memory work and phrases.

WINNER: Duolingo – great tool for rote memorization and practicing words & phrases. Uses audio, text, written and spoken language. The biggest negative is the sentences that are used to practice sometimes – they don’t make a lot of sense and you wouldn’t use them in daily conversations very often.

RUNNER UP: Babbel – similar to Duolingo but is a paid service. This focuses on themes for each lesson and can be helpful in learning phrases for basic conversation or travel. Uses mostly writing and listening to complete the lessons.

Honorable Mention: Mango – A free online service provided by the library in Regina. Similar to Babbel in the sense that you practice basic phrases and conversation by listening and repeating the audio.

To listen to audio.

WINNER: News in Slow Italian  – provides slower audio with text to read along. The text is also translated into English to help with further comprehension.

RUNNER UP: The Italian Experiment – this site is good but provides limited resources. There are three audio books you can listen to and follow along with text. The text is also translated into english. It is a great site but would be nice if new material would be added.


WINNER: Learn Italian with Lucrezia  – most of her videos are fairly short and very informative which make them really nice to watch. The lessons range from beginner to advanced. She also has an instagram and twitter account that I would suggest following.

RUNNER UP: Learn Italian Words App – this app works offline and has a large variety of video lessons ranging from beginner to advance.

Social Media

WINNER: Twitter – @italianlanguage Instagram – italianwordoftheday – both accounts provide you with one word a day to practice and learn. The Twitter account gives you a word and a sentence most days to learn. The Instagram account gives you a word with a picture each day, but no sentence.

RUNNER UP: Twitter @ItalianLearn this account also gives you a word a day and you can click on a link that will take you to a sentence that uses the word and audio for the pronunciation.

Speaking with Others

WINNER: WeSpeke – a great tool to connect and chat with others online.



Italian 101: There’s an app for that.

Imagine you decide to book a trip to Italy. You’re super excited to go and figure that it would be fun to learn the language before your journey. So, you do what anyone else trying to learn a language does…you buy some books, you download some apps, you listen to podcasts and you practice, practice, practice. But let’s say you’re like me and have great intentions of learning the language but you can’t find the time needed. Maybe it’s harder to learn a language than you thought. Are you going to cancel your trip?? Heck no! You’re going to board that flight and take your phone along. If you haven’t mastered the basics, don’t worry. There’s an app for that.

After thinking about some comments made by Kristina on my “Italian 101: Italian on the go? Not so much” post and reflecting on my experience with trying to practice but having limited access to the internet I decided to see if I could find any apps that would be useful offline. Most of the apps I found I would recommend mostly for travelling as opposed to learning by using them, but you could certainly make use of them to learn from. Almost all of them are available with no internet connection which is very helpful for anyone with no internet connection or limited connection.

Screen Shot 2016-04-03 at 5.15.37 PMLearn Italian Words – Must have internet connection, it’s a free app, recommended for learning, beginners to advance

The app is full of lessons ranging form beginner to advanced. Lessons consist of videos with pictures, audio and text. There are comprehension lessons in which you can listen to dialogue and answer the question asked at the end to check for understanding. At the end of the comprehension exercise it plays the audio again with the Italian and english text showing on the screen. I found this to be really helpful. I am still not strong enough with my listening skills to understand everything that is being said, so seeing the text while listening is really beneficial. This would be the only app that I am reviewing today that I would recommend for learning and not for travel.

Screen Shot 2016-04-03 at 5.10.49 PMSpeakEasy Italian – Free, can access with out internet connection, recommended for beginners, recommended for travel more than learning

This app would be extremely beneficial while travelling for a couple of reasons. The first reason is because it works offline meaning you don’t have to use any data to use it. This would be really helpful when travelling abroad if you are in locations that don’t have free wi-fi. The second reason is that it provides you with the essential phrases that you would need to get around and ‘survive’ while travelling in Italy. I put survive in quotations because if like me your native language is English 34% of Italian people can speak English as well so chances are if you need help you would be able to find someone who also speaks English. However if German is your native language this app might be more handy because only 5% of Italians speak German. I was able to get around Italy twice without knowing anything more than Ciao, Grazie and Arrivaderci but it would have been way more fun to use some more language and learn along the way. This app would be a big help in practicing the language while travelling.

Screen Shot 2016-04-03 at 7.56.59 PMItalian Verbs – $1.99, access with no internet connection, recommended for advanced learners, recommended for learning not travel

This app was basically useless to me. It is strictly a verb conjugation app which for me has a little purpose in my learning. I would say this is for more advanced learners. The biggest downfall is that you can’t search for a verb using the english translation. You need to know what the english verb translates to so that you can find it on the app. Having not a lot of language skills this made it very difficult for me to use. I wouldn’t recommend this to any beginners.

Screen Shot 2016-04-03 at 7.56.54 PMItalian English Dictionary – Free, can be used without internet access, recommended for beginners, recommended for travel more than learning

This app is a mix between the Italian Verbs and SpeakEasy Italian. You are able to search for any word you want to in English and it will provide the Italian translation. You can also see the conjugates for each verb which is helpful too. There are a variety of phrases that are included in the free version which would prove to be very useful when travelling. If you were using this app to learn the language on it’s own it might not be that useful because there isn’t really any way to practice without simply reading the phrases over and over. But for travelling I would give this a huge thumbs up!

Screen Shot 2016-04-03 at 7.57.50 PMBravolo Italian Phrasebook – Free, works without internet access, recommend for travel, recommended for beginners

This is a great app that includes a variety of useful phrases. Just like the others that can be used offline it would be really helpful when travelling. You can select the theme for the phrases and select the phrase you want to see in English. It will then give you the translated text and provide audio to hear how to say it in Italian. You may slow down the pronunciation as well but I find that it actually pronounces it nice and slow to begin with so I don’t usually have to slow it down. Another highly recommended app for travel. I would recommend purchasing the full app so that you have access to more phrases though.

If you are travelling to Italy I would highly recommend downloading some of these apps. I would suggest the Italian English Dictionary and SpeakEasy Italian the most.

Major Project Update: Socrative

I am happy to say that my final project is nearing completion. Okay maybe that’s being too optimistic, but it really is coming along nicely. I have spent this past week really looking into Socrative. I must say that I cannot wait to get back into the classroom to test this out with my students. The app is extremely user friendly and I can see so many uses for it in the classroom.

I recently came across this resource explaining 3 ways that open response questions can be used in the classroom with Socrative. I am a really big fan of gathering student questions using the quick response option. It would be an easy way for students to ask questions from their homework that they need help with. Once students respond with questions they are struggling with, students can look at all of the options and vote on the questions they want answered so that it prioritizes them for me allowing me to answer the question most students have. I really like the voting option for the quick response short answer questions.

I also like the idea of using the quick response short answer questions for brainstorming in class. It is a great way for students to get involved and provide answers as opposed to just shouting answers out. I like that you can have student names be anonymous so that they don’t have to be scared of sharing their answers. Names will appear for the teacher when you run a report so you can see who submitted each response.

I have been busy making tutorials for Socrative today and have a few more to go before I am done. I haven’t started my Explain Everything tutorials yet, but I don’t feel like they will be as in depth and hopefully won’t take me as long. I still have some Evernote tutorials as well. Hoping I can get things done within the next week so I can focus on my summary of learning.

Major Project Update

I took a break from my major project this past week as I was visiting family in Vancouver and had a hard enough time reading the articles and making sure I was available to connect in class this past Monday. Since being home I have had a opportunity to look at my progress again and reevaluate where I am at and where I need to be. Here is where I am at with exploring each of my apps.

Evernote – Done exploring the app as well as looking into ways it can be used in the classroom by both me and the students. I have also finished looking over and summarizing the terms of service and privacy policy. My look at ‘the medium is the message’ is also completed. I have made some tutorials, but I need to finish the rest of my tutorials.

Explain Everything – I have spent some time playing around with the app and thing I have the ins and outs figured out. I have learned how to upload documents from Dropbox to the app so I can write right onto the documents. I have created some videos to test it out. I will be working on my tutorials this week by using screen shots of the app. I need to look at the privacy issues as well as the message for this app.

Socrative – I have spent some time creating quizzes and checking out the other feedback options. I was hoping that I would be able to create my own question using the exit slip option but it appears that the three questions offered are the only questions that can be used as exit slips. If I want to do a short answer exit slip I will have to create a one question quiz for students to use. I haven’t been able to explore the whole app yet and haven’t created a student account to see how it works from a student perspective.

If I had to give each app a percent based on completion I would say that Evernote is 95%, Explain Everything is 40% and Secretive is 20%. There is still a lot of work to be done which makes me a little nervous as there is only a few weeks left in class. I will really have to focus and get things done!

My project will be presented in the form of a weebly webpage. You can check out my progress by clicking here.

Two Steps Forward…One Step Back

I have once again made a change to the apps I will be doing for my final project. I have been finding that a lot of the apps I have come across are not as user friendly as I thought they would be (although they had good reviews). If I want to find an app that I will actually use in the classroom it has to be user friendly no questions asked! I also found that a lot of the apps require you to upgrade to a paid version to really get a useful app.

After spending some time looking at BaiBoard I decided that it’s just not what I thought it was. I liked that you can share the whiteboard allowing more than one user to work on the whiteboard space at a time, but I was hoping you would be able to use real-time audio while working on the whiteboard. I thought that you could share the whiteboard and talk at the same time so that you and others could collaborate more easily. You can only record your voice by holding down the recording button which will then send a message to the user you are sharing the board with. I was hoping that students would be able to share the whiteboard and help each other out with math homework while at their own homes.  It looks like it would be a really good app to collaborate to make a poster or create a slide to share in class, but it just wasn’t what I had hoped it would be. I think that I will be using Explain Everything instead of BaiBoard because it seems to be much more user friendly.

I also spent some time looking at Pear Deck. It is a great platform, but you have to make a slideshow in order to use the platform. You would have to develop your lesson using the platform or download existing presentations from Google Drive in order to use the interactive features of the site. Again, it just didn’t seem like it was user-friendly enough for me.

I was lead to Socrative and Kahoot through the Google+ community and comments from Amy and Rochelle. Kristina also shared a link on Twitter that brought me to Socrative. I think that I will spend some more time looking at Socrative to replace my original though of Pear Deck.

I know that time is ticking away and I need to make my decision and get started learning how to use the app. I also need to think about it’s use in the classroom and consider privacy issues. It is a little frustrating to have already explored quite a few apps only to find that they aren’t what I was hoping they would be. Hopefully these new apps will allow me to make a lot more progress. I don’t want to end up sticking with an app simply because I am running out of time and need to get the work completed. I want it to be meaningful. If I find that I can’t find an app that is useful in the classroom I will probably change my attack and focus more on social media apps such as Snapchat and Instagram.

On a more positive note I have almost completed my Evernote exploration. I have a few more tutorials to make and then I need to finish off the privacy aspect of it. Here is one of my tutorial videos that I made. 

Major Project Update

Here is an update on where I am at with my final project.

I had originally planned on doing Evernote, Explain Everything and Snapchat for my app review but realized that I had somewhat randomly selected those apps. I thought I would do them because I had heard of them before and even have the snapchat app (although I certainly am no expert). I decided that it was silly to just randomly pick apps and did a little bit more research thanks to the help of classmates like Shaun who shared some great app review lists. After looking through the resources that were shared by classmates I decided that I wanted to stick with Evernote but drop both Explain Everything and Snapchat. I wanted to select apps that would help me in my flipped classroom and also allow students to work collaboratively with one another and engage in the lesson with a device.

Photo Credit: Barrett.Discovery via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Barrett.Discovery via Compfight cc

I have decided to replace Explain Everything with BaiBoard which is more of a collaborative whiteboard than just a screen capture. I went a completely different route from Snapchat and decided I wanted to focus on something that can be interactive and provide feedback from students during class. For my last app I have decided on Pear Deck. It allows students to anonymously answer questions using their tablet, phone or computer during class. I am really excited to use this one because I think it can be a great tool for students who are maybe too shy to speak out in class. It could also be used to encourage students to respond using their device as opposed to just blurting out answers so that everyone gets a chance to speak. There are so many other awesome features that I won’t get into right now because I don’t want to spoil it for my final project.

I am just about done with my first app review, Evernote, but still feel like I have quite a bit of work to do before the review is completed. I have started a Weebly webpage that I will be using to present my final project. The website is FAR from being done, but you can check out what I have done so far here.

On my website you will see a homepage with links to other pages on my website for each app that I will be reviewing. If you check out the Evernote link it will take you to my Evernote review. You should be able to see that I have a lot of video tutorials that I plan to make using a screen casting app. Those will be uploaded to the site and you will be able to see how Evernote can be used in the classroom.

I hope I am on the right track. The biggest issue for me right now is determining how to interact with others using the websites and apps. I have had to use my work email and personal email to see how things are shared with others within the app. I don’t know if I have provided enough information or if I should elaborate more. Obviously the tutorials will add a lot more to the page. Let me know what you think so far. Any feedback or suggestions would be greatly appreciated!