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.