Sunday, February 10, 2008

Best Practices for Educators Using Facebook

An excellent presentation on using Facebook for teaching. Here's the direct link to the pdf file:

It has a couple of very useful and practical tips and ideas. Highly recommended!

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Monday, July 09, 2007

Pownce: selective sharing

Pownce is going to be the next big thing on the Net, so let's be prepared and see how it can be used for teaching English.

But first of all, what is it? Pownce lets you share links, news, images, events, even files (up to 10 MBs in the free version) with your fellow Powncers (or the whole world). They will also be able to respond. The great thing is that you can create groups of your friends/partners and choose who gets to see what.

Let's see how Pownce is different from other, already existing services. You could use e-mail to send the information you want to share. But if you send messages to a lot of addresses, it can get cumbersome; plus, chances are that at least some of your recipients' spam filters will be triggered. In Pownce, you just choose the group "colleagues" to send a note about a staff meeting, "family" to share that photo from your honeymoon, and "hard rock fans" to show your fellow enthusiasts what you're listening to.

If you're a teacher and you already have a blog, of course, you can give your students all the links there. But file sharing is much easier in Pownce; plus, each group (or even student) only has to see what is relevant to them - they don't have to sift through all your posts for your other classes.

So, the uses of Pownce for teachers are obvious: create separate groups for all your classes and send them links you want them to visit. Prompt them for feedback - even shy students will be willing to respond, knowing that only you will be reading their responses, not the whole wide world. Or send them images or documents you want them to study and let them discuss them. You can also ask your students to find certain bits of information or the answer to a question and see who gets to post it first. They can also submit their files to you (compositions, writings of any kind) and choose to share them with other students who can reflect on them. Of course, you need to make sure that all your students have a Pownce account - it's free (the pro version for $20/year lets you share files up to 100 MBs and removes the ads). I'm sure you'll be able to think of other uses as well - please feel free to share them in the comments section below.

Links to Pownce-related posts and articles (plus a video):

TechCrunch post and comments

Mashable post and comments
DownloadSquad post and comments

Pownce is still in "invitations only" mode as it is very young (less than a month old!), so you should sign up for an invite at the site and wait or find someone who can send you an invite.

Update: I have a couple of new invites so send me an e-mail if you'd like to get one.

Disclaimer: probably needless to say, but here we go anyway: I'm not affiliated with Pownce in any way - I'm just a user there. Also, I don't have an invite to send right now as I've used all six I was initially given. Check back here for updates as more invites might become available and then I'll be glad to send you one.

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Saturday, May 19, 2007

Web 2.0 and Language Learning by Graham Stanley

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Tuesday, October 17, 2006

FlexLists - Online sharable lists is a Web 2.0 application brought to you by Moving Labs. It does what its tagline promises: "Create online lists, flexible, easy and fast!" I'm not sure if they had learners of English in mind when building this application, but the end result is nicely suitable for our purposes. Here are a few suggestions - I'm sure you'll be able to add your own to suit your needs:
  • The obvious: create and publish your word lists for your classes. Add definitions, synonyms, antonyms, sample sentences or more. Or add only the words and the categories you want to have and ask students to provide the rest. Note that supports uploading (and downloading!) in CSV format so you can easily use your existing lists. No need to type again, just make some minor changes if necessary and you're there. You can decide if you want to let your students edit and change the page(s) you created or only view them.
  • Variation on the above: ask your students to create their own lists and share them with all the others so that they can decide who has the best definition or sample sentence for each word that they can then take and use in their lists. Remember that you can easily download their words and use them in your Hot Potatoes or Moodle exercises to give students further practice.
  • "Getting to know you" with a twist: Ask students to come up with a few questions they would like to ask others (favourite film, place of birth, why they're learning English - or you can set some of the questions or the topics, if you think it's necessary). Have students set up a new FlexList and create the categories for their questions, for example "Name - Place of birth - Favourite film - Sisters/brothers". The next step is, obviously, getting the information and filling the table with it. Of course, you can prompt students to go round and interview each other but this might be inconvenient to do in a computer room - so why not use e-mail? Ask students to create their questions and send them to you first for review - you don't want badly formatted questions to be sent to the whole group. Once the questions are OK, students send them to the group mailing list (your classes do have a mailing list, right?), or, failing that, individually to everybody else in the group. When they get the responses, they fill their lists. Then everybody studies all the lists and creates quiz questions based on them for the whole group ("How many brothers does Maria have?" "Where was Paolo born?"). This final quiz can be organised in many formats - it's up to you.
  • Create a "Bio Data Sheet" on a couple of famous actors. You can very quickly and easily get this kind of information from the Internet Movie Database (IMDB) - visit Then ask students to choose a celebrity from your list and write their bio, based on the data you presented. You can make the task slightly more communicative if you tell students that their writings will be published on the class website or magazine. You can also ask students to include why they chose their celebrity. This can be a very useful controlled writing task; even shy students will feel secure enough to write their stuff and nobody can say that "I can't think of anything else to write about!" Also, you have to prepare this data sheet only once (shouldn't take longer than half an hour) and you'll be able to re-use it any time later in the future.
  • Variation on the above: Instead of the bio, students make an imaginary interview with their chosen celeb.
Notes on using the text of the site contains some really elementary spelling mistakes - but until they are corrected, you can ask your students to find them. Also, make sure that your students save their lists' addresses and understand the differences between "Read only", "Read/Write" and "Full Access" when sharing their list address with others.

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