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.