Sunday, 11 March 2012

A task I designed using QuestGarden
What is QuestGarden? What does it do?

QuestGarden is a website designed to help users create a WebQuest [note] without fear of not knowing how to edit web page. By following the examples and standard procedure offered by the QuestGarden, users can attach or embed their photos, worksheets in the WebQuest they make. They can also play with the font, background color and create their own stylish WebQuest.

QuestGarden is also a community that allows users to share and comment on one anothers' work.

[note] Here is a link if you want to explore more about WebQuest.

Why is QuestGarden relevant to language learning?

Teachers can find a variety of well-designed WebQuests on QuestGarden and are free to use them in their own teaching context. They can also adapt WebQuests to suit students' needs such as culture, background, English level, interest, etc. Most important of all, students can benefit greatly from meaningful and interesting learning process.

How can we use QuestGarden to foster language learning in class or outside class?

1. Teachers are free to choose sample WebQuests that suit their teaching contexts.

2. Teachers might be inspired by other teachers' ideas of teaching and want to create their own WebQuests, which encourages creative teaching.

3. Teachers might learn from one another through the process of evaluating others' WebQuests. 

What are the limitations with the use of QuestGarden?

1. It takes a lot of time and effort to carry out a well-structured and comprehensive QuestGarden work.

2. As the main idea of QuestGarden is to build up learners' English repertoire through meaningful and step-by-step tasks, it might take a certain amount of time to see their growth in English.

3. It might be difficult to assess how much learners have learned from the tasks.



What is MailVU? What does it do?

MailVU is a website that offers free video e-mail service. It allows users to record up to 10 minutes and they can send their video e-mails directly by a simple click. Users do not even need to sign up for an account to use MailVU; however, they can play with more functions once their accounts are set. For example, they can set a self-destruct time to the video, or instantly delete a sent video from the dashboard so that the recipient can no longer view it. They can also get a short link to the video and post on Twitter, Facebook or blog.

Why is MailVU relevant to language learning?

MailVU is a great tool for strengthening students' English speaking ability. In order to carry out a successful video recording, they might need to compose the draft and practice saying it a lot. Once they play and watch the video they have made, they still might find it necessary to correct their pronunciation and rerecord it. Through this kind of task completion process, learners can really exercise their communicative skills.

Owing to the immediacy, accessibility and friendliness of MailVU, both teachers and students can use it to achieve teaching and learning goals on a daily basis. For example, teachers can ask students to send a video of them pronouncing the new words they have learned in class, and teachers can give immediate feedback as well.

How can we use MailVU to foster language learning in class or outside class?

In class

In a classroom where access to the internet, computers and microphones is available, teachers can pair up students and ask them to take turns to describe or introduce each other for 5 minutes. They need to send the video e-mail from MailVU to their own e-mail address (so that they can view it from anywhere). Then for homework, teachers can ask students to watch the video from home, note down things that can be improved, redo the recording task and send it to teachers for assessment. 

Outside class

Teachers can give students different kinds of tasks such as talking about your dinner, describing the weather today, sharing your happiest/saddest thing today, etc.

What are the limitations with the use of MailVU?

1. It might be both mentally and physically demanding for teachers of large class to give feedback to every student.

2. Users cannot download videos from MailVU unless they pay for the business account.

3. All video e-mails on MailVU will be kept no more than 365 days.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Listen and Write

What is Listen and Write? What does it do?

Listen and Write is a great website designed for dictation practice. It provides learners with a variety of authentic listening materials such as news, songs and TED talks. Learners can choose topics that interest them, listen to the audios and key in what they hear. A sentence repeats itself again and again until it is completed, and if learners get stuck, they can always get the answer by clicking the Hint key and move on.

The coolest function of Listen and Write is, if learners click the "ABC Review the lesson" icon, they can get the transcript of the audio, and they can listen to each sentence by simply clicking on it. However, it is a shame that "ABC Review the lesson" section is not always available in every audio.  

Why is Listen and Write relevant to language learning?

Listen and Write is a great website for students who want to improve listening and spelling skills. Learners get a huge amount of language input through immersion in authentic listening materials. They need to focus not only on the words they hear but also on how they are spelled. Students also get to learn more new words in a meaningful and well-structured context such as news, speeches and songs. The transcripts of audios make great reading materials too. With Listen and Write, learners can decide when, where and how many times they want to practice, which encourages shy students to work on their own and fosters autonomous learning.

How can we use Listen and Write to foster language learning in class or outside class?

In class

In a classroom where access to the internet, computers and headphones is available, teachers can ask each student to choose a topic according to his/her interest. Then each student will be asked to finish one dictation of an audio in the time given. Next, students will be divided into groups and asked to retell the story of their audio individually. (They are allowed to take notes while their teammates are telling the story.) Finally, they are expected to choose the best one and share it with the rest of the class.  

Outside class

Teachers can ask students to do the dictation as assignment. They can pick any topic they like, note down at least ten new words when dictating. Next, they need to look up the ten new words in an on-line dictionary and make 10 sentences based on the ten new words.

What are the limitations with the use of Listen and Write?

1. Transcripts of audios are not always available on Listen and Write. You can only have them when you see an "ABC Review the lesson" icon.

2. When a user finishes a dictation of a sentence, it just switches very quickly to the next sentence so the user might not have enough time to read the sentence again.  

3. Students need to have access to the internet, computers and headphones to use Listen and Write successfully.

4. Most of the audios are articulated with American accent, which might not be good for learners who want to learn British accent.

5. The difficulty level of audios might be confusing to users because it ranges from 1 to 24 (as shown below), and no instructions on how the audios are graded can be found on the website.

Monday, 27 February 2012

Learning Chocolate
What is Learning Chocolate? What does it do?

Learning Chocolate is a website designed for vocabulary learning. It functions as a picture dictionary, allowing learners to learn English words with an interface of five languages. The illustrative pictures of words are attractive and, what is more, learners can listen to the pronunciation of each word by simply clicking the cone icon below it.

Why is Learning Chocolate relevant to language learning?

Learning Chocolate is relevant to language learning as it provides a much more fun way for students to memorise vocabulary. Words are grouped into different categories, and therefore, students can learn and memorise words systematically instead of randomly.  

Another compelling reason why Learning Chocolate is good for language learning is that it provides a lot of interactive quizzes, which helps students learn autonomously.

How can we use Learning Chocolate to foster language learning in class or outside class?

Learning Chocolate is particularly suitable for teachers to use to encourage autonomous learning as they can deploy this website as a supplementary teaching material outside class. If students learn some new words about animals in class, teachers can encourage them to know and memorise some more words about animals outside class. Students can listen to the sound file and do the quizzes as many times as they want without fearing being heard or laughed at by others, which fosters their confidence in English learning.

What are the limitations with the use of Learning Chocolate?

 1. Learning Chocolate focuses on American English instead of British English in terms of pronunciation, spelling and some language usage. For example, 'bonnet' is the British way to refer to the metal part over the front of a vehicle while 'hood' is the American way. 

2. Learning Chocolate provides an interface of five languages (English, simplified Chinese, traditional Chinese, Japanese and Spanish), however, it does not provide the corresponding meaning of each word in those five languages mentioned above.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

What is Wordle? What does it do?

Wordle is a website made by an IBM software engineer, Jonathan Feinberg. Users either type or copy-and-paste text into the system, which then creates a corresponding 'word cloud' from it. Words that appear more frequently are made larger than others and users can play with the clouds using a variety of colour schemes, layouts and fonts. Wordle is a free tool and the pictures users create with Wordle are theirs to keep. Users can print them out or save them to the Wordle gallery to share with the public.

Why is Wordle relevant to language learning?

Wordle is relevant to language learning because it is visually attractive and thus can boost students' motivation. It can, moreover, show word frequency and highlight the key words of the texts given.

How can we use Wordle to foster language learning in class or outside class?

In class

Wordle is a great tool for teachers to use to engage students in pre-reading activities.

1. Teachers can show students a Wordle created from a text and ask students to guess what the text is about. For example, if I want to use Wordle to teach an English song, I will first show the Wordle I have made from the lyrics of a song and ask students to discuss what they think the lyrics are about.

2. Teachers can then ask students to find words they already know in the Wordle given and have them read those words out loud for practice.

3. Following that, students could be asked to find 10 words they don't know in the Wordle (or those they are least familiar with) and make a list of them.  

4. Before the class is dismissed, students could be set homework, making 10 sentences based on the list of 10 words.

Outside class

Teachers can ask students to go home, find texts that interest them, make their own Wordles, and then write 10 sentences, each containing a word they previously didn't know. By doing so, teachers encourage students' autonomous learning.

What are the limitations with the use of Wordle?

1. A Wordle file cannot be saved in a JPEG or PDF format directly from the Wordle website. You have to use other tools or apps to do that.

2. Despite the fact that Wordle makes gorgeous word clouds and can really draw students' attention in the beginning, they might not find Wordle interesting any more if teachers keep using it in class.

3. If the text is too long, the Worldle created might seem a bit disordered and cluttered.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Dvolver moviemaker

What is Dvolver moviemaker? What does it do?

Dvolver moviemaker is a very interesting website that allows users to create their own mini movies in just six simple steps:

1. Select a background and a sky that you want to use in your mini movie.

2. Select a plot.

3. Select two characters for your movie.

4. Type in the characters' lines.

 5. Select the background music that suits your movie.

6. Key in the movie title and the director's name.

After the six steps, your movie is now done. You can preview your movie and send it to your friend.

As soon as you press the SEND key on the screen, you will get a code so that you can embed the movie in your webpage if you like.

Why is Dvolver moviemaker relevant to language learning?

Dvolver moviemaker is relevant to language learning for the website itself provides students with a variety of adjectives and nouns to learn. As the students go through the Background, Sky, Plot, Characters sections, they can largely increase their vocabulary because they need to know the meanings of the words to make better choices for their movies. Furthermore, Dvolver moviemaker enables learners to create their own characters' lines, which strengthens learners' ability to make sentences and construct conversations in a variety of language settings. Most important of all, Dvolver moviemaker provides is fun and easy to use, providing an interesting way to learn English with creativity.

How can we use Dvolver moviemaker to foster language learning in class or outside class?

In class

Firstly, teachers need to demonstrate to students how to use Dvolver moviemaker to make mini movies step-by-step. Secondly, get pairs of students to discuss and make their own mini movies. Finally, students are asked to send their mini movies to teachers and they should also hand in the worksheets which contain 10 new words and example sentences they have learned from this movie-making activity. Teachers may as well ask students to practice the conversations in their movies face-to-face in class if time permitted.

Outside class

Teachers can ask each individual student to make a mini movie and complete the worksheet for homework.

What are the limitations with the use of Dvolver moviemaker?

 1. Learners can only choose two characters and type in six characters' lines in each scene, which might lead to a monotonous atmosphere and a quick loss of interest for higher level learners.

 2. Dvolver moviemaker can stimulate learners' creativity, foster their sentence-making ability and increase their vocabulary. However, it cannot help them improve their listening ability.

3. Some spelling mistakes can be found on the Dvolver moviemaker website.

4. Some characters which Dvolver moviemaker provides might not be suitable for young learners, for example, the character Hottie.  

Monday, 6 February 2012

Lyrics Training 

What is Lyrics Training?

Lyrics Training is an amazing website which provides an easy and fun method to learn and improve English language skills through the music videos and lyrics of a variety of songs. This website is perfectly suitable for learners to work autonomously. 

What does it do?                                                                                                                    

 1. Learners can search in the search bar and choose the songs they want to learn.

2. If the song is completely new to the learner, he/she can choose the karaoke mode first instead of entering the game mode directly.

3. After playing the whole lyrics for a few times, the learner then can select beginner, intermediate or expert mode from the game mode section, according to his/her familiarity with the song.

4. The learner then keys in the missing words as he/she listens to the song.

5. The learner can easily go back to the previous lines by pressing the Line Up key, replay the line by pressing the Backspace key, or skip the word and move on to the next line by pressing the TAB key. The instructions on how to play the game are very easy to follow, and the learner can know the number of words he/she gets right or skips as the result is shown simultaneously in the bar below the lyrics section. 

Why is Lyrics Training relevant to language learning?

Lyrics Training is good for language learning because it provides an interesting option for learners who love listening to or singing along to, music. When learning a new song, a learner is totally engaged, as he/she needs to listen to, read, and type the lyrics (and may well want to sing along to them too). 

How can we use  Lyrics Training to foster language learning in class or outside class?

In class, we can introduce the Lyrics Training website to students and teach them how to find the songs they want to learn on the website. Then we can ask students to go home and practice songs they like. In the end, we can ask students to do a presentation in class. With the help of Lyrics Training, the learners can learn English both in class and outside class.

What are the limitations with the use of Lyrics Training?  

1. There are some wrongly-spelled words in the lyrics provided.
2. Low typing speed might discourage learners from accomplishing the tasks.
3. Not all the words or phrases used can be found in a dictionary.
4. Not every language learner likes to listen to music or sing.
5. Computers are not always accessible at school.
6. It takes a long time and a lot of practice for learners to master a new song.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

My BrainShark

What is My BrainShark? What does it do?

My BrainShark is a great tool for making video presentations. Users can easily upload their PowerPoint files, Word documents, photos and video clips to My BrainShark and add audio to them. Users can also share their presentation links via email or embed the links in their websites or blogs and watch the presentations at anytime.

Why is My BrainShark relevant to language learning?

In order to carry out a successful presentation, a student first needs to make a PowerPoint document. Then, for the audio commentary that My BrainShark allows users to add to it, they will need to talk about personal experiences and describe the photos they have included. This would be written as a script, which the student would then read out loud and record. This process would greatly contribute to each learner's writing, storytelling and speaking abilities.

Additionally, a student could then monitor his/her own speaking habits, accent, pronunciation, stress and intonation by re-watching their own presentation.

How can we use My BrainShark to foster language learning in class or outside class?

In class

Teachers can divide students into groups and ask them to discuss and give English presentations on topics such as "ten must-see places in Taiwan", "five tourist spots in my hometown" and "three bank holidays in the UK" by using My BrainShark.

Outside class
Teachers can ask students to make audiovisual presentations as assignments on topics such as "my best friend", "my pet" and "my favorite singer." Students would need to finish the assignments at home and send the link to their teachers by email. By giving these assignments to students, teachers get students to practice their speaking and writing and thus foster their English learning. 

What are the limitations with the use of My BrainShark?

1. Basic computer skills in manipulating software such as PowerPoint and Word are required, otherwise students will fail to complete the tasks.

2. It takes some time for teachers to explain the process of uploading files to the My BrainShark website, adding audio to the files, and arranging the order of the slides.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Breaking News English

What is Breaking News English? What does it do?

Breaking News English is a website run by Sean Banville, a dedicated and experienced English teacher. All the lessons on Breaking News English are free and new lessons based on stories currently in the news are released every three days. Teachers and learners can download all lessons and listening files for free and adapt the lessons to suit their own teaching/learning purpose.

Why is Breaking News English relevant to language learning?

Breaking News English is relevant to language learning as it provides both teachers and learners with the most updated reading and listening materials. A lot of interactive activities such as sentence jumbles and matching are designed for learners to use anytime they want, which elicits students' autonomous learning.  

How can we use Breaking News English to foster language learning in class or outside class?

In class

Teachers can select news articles that suit students' English levels and then download the PDF and sound files in preparation for English lessons. They might follow the procedure suggested by the author; however, I recommend that teachers adjust their lesson plans according to the time they have and the suitability of the context.

Outside class

Teachers can encourage students to do the interactive quizzes at home so that they can practice as much as they like, which helps them memorise the meaning of the words and familiarise themselves with sentence structure more easily.

What are the limitations with the use of Breaking News English?

1. Breaking News English shows a lack of interesting and colourful layout and photos.
2. There are not enough interactive and interesting activities provided on this website.
3. Few spelling mistakes can be found in the handouts.
4. As all the sound files are recorded by the same native speaker with the same accent, students cannot expose themselves to the diversity of international English.
5. Some students are not interested in news at all as the topics are sometimes boring and related to serious issues.
6. Students might not know how to use the handouts were it not for teachers' help.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012


 What is TED? What does it do?

TED is a non-profit organization devoted to ideas worth spreading. It started out in 1984 as a conference bringing together people from worlds of Technology, Entertainment, Design. All TED speech videos were recorded from the two annual TED conferences where the world's most innovative thinkers and doers give the talk of their lives (in 18 minutes or less). All of the talks on TED website are subtitled in English and texts of the talks are also available. Everyone can download the videos  from the website for free, share them with friends, or embed them on their website or blog for non-commercial purposes.

Why is TED relevant to language learning?

TED is relevant to language learning as it provides authentic listening and reading materials for both language teachers and students, moreover, the speeches there are inspiring and creative, and thus very suitable for teaching purpose.

How can we use TED to foster language learning in class or outside class?

In class

Teachers can use TED to foster students' listening and speaking abilities. Firstly, they can show students an inspiring speech and ask them to jot down the words and sentences as much as they can when watching the video. Then students will be divided into groups and asked to discuss what they have picked up from the speech. They will need to reconstruct the speech together and share their result with the rest of class. 

Apart from listening and speaking activities, TED can also be deployed in reading and writing activities. Teachers can hand out copies of a selected script and use the script of the talk as an authentic reading material. After the script is taught, teachers can ask students to make sentences based on the new words or sentence patterns they have learned.

Outside class

Teachers can foster students' autonomous learning by giving them a link to a specific talk on TED and encouraging them to listen to it at home. Students can read the script and look up words they don't know in the dictionary if they want. When they feel ready to test how well they have learned, they can try to complete the blank-filling worksheets provided by teachers when listening to the talk.

What are the limitations with the use of TED?

1. Teachers cannot always find speeches that suit both students' language competence and interests.

2. Due to the content and language complexity of TED speeches, it is not suitable for learners with low English level.

3. TED speeches vary in length, so teachers need to choose the ones that are not too long.