Welcome to Google Hangouts for English Language Learners

Going to a conference is always a good professional development experience. Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to attend the CATESOL Regional Conference in Southern California and attended a great session I had chosen for two reasons: (1) I am always interested in the use of technology for instructional purposes and this was a session on using Google Hangouts, and (2) as co-author of a recent book on translanguaging (Lubliner & Grisham, 2017) I love learning about ways we can serve our emergent bilingual students more effectively. The intersection was highly beneficial and I made the acquaintance of two colleagues working toward the same. The result is this invited blog (and stay tuned for one next month. I hope readers will find this useful and gain some instructional ideas from Kate and Kim! ~Dana

Google Hangouts

Difficulties presented by disengaged, shy, or unmotivated students in an English language learning environment can be detrimental to achieving learning objectives which are necessary for building student confidence in their language skills. Teachers can use multiple techniques to motivate learners, but some students, especially younger learners, do not flourish solely in a classroom setting. They crave and are distracted by the immediate gratification and acceptance they receive through the internet and social media platforms. Furthermore, beyond homework, students tend to disassociate their school life from their personal life, leaving little time for reflection or applied learning in the world beyond the classroom doors.

For younger students, who Twenge (2009) refers to as “Generation Me,” disengagement can be directly linked to the fact that they don’t solely exist in a real world setting. They learn and live very much in an online world, where they work endlessly to project idealized personas as a true extension of themselves. The implications of this technological reality for teachers is that they must not only tap into the real self students bring into the classroom, but also the digital self they work so hard to build to communicate who they are online.  Thus, by creating a space for the digital self in the learning process, teachers will find more opportunities to hold their students’ attention and promote meaningful learning. By creating an online community alongside the real world classroom community “Generation Me” students can build what Coleman (1988) refers to as social capital through negotiating meaning, sharing information, and demonstrating their own knowledge and value to their classmates. This type of communal and shared learning increases learner autonomy and authentic use of classroom knowledge inside and outside of the classroom.

This raises the question, how do we get our classrooms to straddle the worlds of digital and reality? How do we bridge the gap to effectively improve student learning? In this 3-post series, we will provide one way of addressing this question by introducing you to the multimedia communication app Google Hangouts and illustrating multiple methods of using the app to take your classroom into your students’ digital playing fields.

BASIC USES

Classroom Management

Google Hangouts is foremost a tool for communication. As a modern messaging app, it is intuitively used by most students. Once you create a group, your students have access to their peers in a unique way that you can use to your advantage. Students quickly become engaged with this tool as it mimics the social media platforms they use outside of school.

  1. Communication
    1. Teachers can send reminders to students about homework, community events, and other opportunities for students to practice English outside of school.
    2. Students can easily ask the teacher or their classmates questions relating to course content and language learning.
    3. Students can snap and share content in and out of class by taking photos and sharing them to the group. While we encourage note-taking, a quick photo at the end of class can ensure they have the material before running to their next class.
  2. Increase Language Output
    1. Shy students come out of their shell and are able to show off their grammar expertise in this low stakes environment.
    2. Conversations go beyond classroom walls, as students interact with one another for assignments or for fun.
  3. Build Community
    1. Giving students a safe space to practice English with one another relieves the pressure from becoming “friends” on other forms of social media.
    2. Students can easily share interesting things they find with their classmates, from language practice tips to cultural nuances. Teachers can encourage sharing articles, videos, and other relevant links as appropriate to their situation.

Classroom Enhancement

Bringing students’ digital selves into the classroom is an effective way to bring their attention to a lesson. Although students are inside the classroom, it allows them direct access to the outside world, endless realia, and personal examples. The ease with which the app allows you to share and view posts builds learner autonomy by giving students an active role in building the lesson around their interests and experiences.

Warm Ups

Google Hangouts can be a useful tool to help ease students into a lesson using realia and their own interests to get them focused.

  1. Emoji Story: Put students in pairs. Have students tell the story of their previous day in emojis and post it in Hangouts. Then, have students guess their partner’s activities.
  2. Class Poetry: Going around the classroom, each student can add a line to a poem in Hangouts (this could be based around the theme of the lesson or include review points from the previous lesson). When you’re done, post the poem on Reddit.com and see how many likes it gets by the beginning of the next class. This is a great one for building camaraderie.
  3. Create a daily challenge: This can be as simple and fun as giving students 2 minutes to post the cutest baby animal picture or funniest meme they can find and voting on the best one. On the other hand, quotes, pictures, trivia questions, riddles, music, and so much more can all be used to introduce the topic of the lesson in a fun way. Sharing so much content right at the beginning of class is going to inspire conversation and activate background knowledge around a topic.

Grammar Lessons

After teaching your grammar point, students can use Google Hangouts to show their comprehension. Instead of asking students to give you verbal or written examples individually or at the board, have all students send an example of the grammar point to the Hangout. This allows you to view all students’ work at once, and to easily correct it as a class instilling the good habit of proofreading, and reading aloud to check for errors.

Building upon this, you can connect it to the outside world by giving students a few minutes to search the Internet for examples of the grammar IRL (In Real Life), and then identify the various uses of each point.

Reading

Teaching students to be active readers can be quite the challenge, but Hangouts can help. First, assign a short silent reading assignment at the beginning of class. You can even post the reading in the Hangout to keep your lesson paperless and eco-friendly.

  1. Vocabulary: As students read, ask them to use the dictionary feature to look up words they don’t know, and have them post those definitions to the hangout. This creates an automatic vocabulary list for you to use for quizzes, homework, review, writing assignments, and other activities. Furthermore, it lowers the students stress levels because they will see that everyone has questions versus only one student being brave enough to ask.
  2. Summaries: Read together as a class, but after every paragraph, have students summarize the paragraph. As a class, students can review the summaries and decide which ones are most accurate. You can then piece the most accurate ones together to create a summary of the whole reading for the class to keep for review or a study guide.
  3. Questions: Good readers ask questions and make connections. When reading in class, you can focus on teaching students about using different types of questions to help them be better independent readers. Focusing on one style of question at a time, you can ask students to create their own questions to discuss the reading in small group. This can range from pre-knowledge and comprehension questions to evaluation and synthesis questions. For example, first, walk students through a set of questions designed around using context clues to help find the meaning of a word. Then, have them do the same with a word from the reading they were unsure of while posting the questions they used to find the meaning in hangouts. This is an effective way to emphasize the benefits of slowing down, asking questions, and realizing you can find the answer without anyone’s help or a dictionary.

GET STARTED WITH HANGOUTS

Signing Up

Google Hangouts is free to use, all you need is a Google account. If you already have a Gmail account, you can use it or create a new account just for use in your classroom. Don’t have a Google account yet? Follow the instructions below.

*All students must also have a Google account to participate in Hangouts chats*

  1. Go to www.google.com
  2. Click “Sign In” on the top right hand side of your web browser:

    Hangouts 1

    Signing in

  3. Click “More Options,” then, “Create an Account”
  4. Enter your desired login information.
  5. You now have a Google account.

Signing On

To access the Google Hangouts app on your web browser, follow the steps below.

  1.  Go to: hangouts.google.com
Hangouts 2

Go to Hangouts

2.  On the left side of the screen, click “New conversation”

Hangouts 3

New Conversation

3.  Select “New group” and enter the Gmail addresses of your students. You can give your group a Name. When you have all the addresses in, click the green check mark.

Hangouts 4

New Group

4.  A chat box will appear on the right side of your screen with all of your participants.

 

Hangouts 5

Chat

5.  Send your first message! Try “Hello, class!”

 

Hangouts 6

Hello Group Controls

Using the App

Now that you have your group set up, there are a few key features to notice. Note the colors on the image below, as their functions are described in detail below.

RED: This icon shows how many people are in the chat. If you click on it, you can see a list of participants. In this list, you can add or remove participants.

BLUE: These are your chat settings. In this menu, you can change your group name, set up notifications*, archive your conversations, and adjust your joining settings. (*If you do not want to receive an alert every time someone posts in the group, uncheck the “Notifications” box.)

BLACK: Live video chat. This calls everyone in the group and uses your webcam or cell phone camera.

PINK: Send pictures or videos to the chat.

GREEN: Emojis! Students love to express themselves with emojis.

Reminders:

  • Set ground rules for your Hangouts groups. Include students in the process of rulemaking, but be sure to include one that defines what is appropriate (example: Do’s and Don’ts for Hangouts)
  • Determine ahead of time how much you will commit to using Hangouts outside of class with students, and make it clear to them. Example: “I will only check Hangouts until 4 pm, and then I will turn off notifications,” or, “I am not available to respond outside of school hours”
  • When using Google Hangouts you will need wi-fi, and we recommend always providing an example of exactly what you want students to do in the app, versus a written or verbal direction
  • Screencasting or projecting Hangouts for the whole class on a larger screen still allows for a main focal point and creates a sense of responsibility for the students to provide good content
  • Be flexible. Technology in the classroom doesn’t always go as planned, so make sure you have backups or alternatives for when this happens.
  • Get creative. Have fun, think outside the box, and enjoy using this free tool in your classroom!

Stay tuned for our next blog for more ways to use Google Hangouts in your classroom!

References:

Alptekin, C. (2002). Towards intercultural communicative competence in ELT. ELT Journal, 56(1), 57-64. doi:10.1093/elt/56.1.5

Brindley, J.E., Walti, C., & Blaschke, L. (2009). Creating Effective Collaborative Learning Groups in an Online Environment. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 10(3). doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.19173/irrodl.v10i3.675

Coleman, J. S. (1988). Social Capital in the Creation of Human Capital. American Journal of Sociology, 94. doi:10.1086/228943

Lin, J., Peng, W., Kim, M., Kim, S. Y., & Larose, R. (2012). Social networking and adjustments among international students. New Media & Society, 14(3), 421-440. doi:10.1177/1461444811418627

Lubliner, S. & Grisham, D.L. (2017). Translanguaging: The key to comprehension for Spanish-speaking students and their peers. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

Tang, Y. (2006). Beyond Behavior: Goals of Cultural Learning in the Second Language Classroom. The Modern Language Journal, 90(1), 86-99. doi:10.1111/j.1540-4781.2006.00386.x

Twenge, J. M. (2009). Generational changes and their impact in the classroom: teaching Generation Me. Medical Education, 43(5), 398-405. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2923.2009.03310.x

About Kate and Kim 

Kimberly Guppy

Kimberly is an adjunct ESL instructor at Los Angeles City College in Los Angeles, California. She received her M.A. in Curriculum & Instruction (TESOL emphasis) from the University of Kansas in 2015 and began teaching at an IEP in Los Angeles. As a professional, Kimberly is a member of both CATESOL and TESOL, and is the coordinator-elect of the Technology-Enhanced Language Learning Interest Group in CATESOL. She is also developing the new catesol.org website, which is set to launch in Fall 2017.

Kate Lulinski

Kate is the Academic Coordinator for the IEP program at Cal America Education Institute in Koreatown, and recently started teaching ESL for the Los Angeles Community College district.  She can be reached at mskatelu@gmail.com

Kate and Kim

Kate and Kim

La Asociación Española de Lectura y Escritura – Vocabulary

Literacy Beat blogger Dana L. Grisham and guest blogger Linda Smetana will be presenting strategies and techniques for vocabulary learning at 4:15 on July 5, 2017 in Madrid, Spain.  Some of their resources can be downloaded from Literacy Beat. Be sure to check these out!

conferencia-inglc3a9s-negativo

READING AND WRITING WITH NEW TECHNOLOGIES TO SUPPORT VOCABULARY LEARNING

Frayer Model [Frayer Model]

Vocabulary Self-collection Strategy + [VSS+ Worksheet PDF]  [VSS+ Word worksheet]

V-Tweets [Vtweet blank Worksheet PDF] [Vtweet blank Worksheet for Word]

Session description:
Effective vocabulary instruction for all students has gained importance over the past decade. Graves (2016) reminds us that vocabulary learning is of enormous significance, that we cannot teach all the words that must be learned, and that it is even more challenging when we teach students who come from varied backgrounds and languages (p. 4-5). Effective vocabulary instruction provides access to academic text for all students and technology is an effective tool for vocabulary learning, particularly when students are engaged in generative and active learning (Grisham & Smetana, 2011). Effective vocabulary instruction promotes a lively interest in words through student expression, playing with words, building on individual interests as well as curriculum needs, and emphasizing self-efficacy in word learning (Beck, McKeown, & Kucan, 2008; Graves & Watts-Taffy, 2008). Researchers conducted several studies designed to test the efficacy of three generative technology strategies for increasing the academic vocabulary of K-12 students. Each study built upon the one prior to refine the strategies. They were based upon the idea that technology should be generative in the sense that the children should create some authentic product from its use.

Technology in the K-12 classroom is no longer optional; it is imperative that teachers know how to teach with it and students know how to learn with it (Tondeur, et al, 2011). Thus, teachers must be prepared to address content standards with useful technological tools. The workshop consists of two parts beginning with the presentation of research on the strategies and the increased emphasis on disciplinary literacy and academic vocabulary (Wolsey, Smetana & Grisham, 2015). Students who are more engaged with word learning and who make connections between words necessary to understand text make deeper conceptual learning (Castek, Dalton, & Grisham, 2012). Repeated encounters with words in various contexts and modalities, social interactions while learning new words, and meaningful generation of learning products (Coiro, Castek, Sekeres, & Guzniczak, 2014; Leu, Kinzer, Coiro, Castek, & Henry, 2013; Marzano, 2009) assist in vocabulary learning. Linking images and linguistic information in the brain aids such learning and retention (Sadoski & Paivio, 2007).

In the second part of the workshop, participants are invited to learn to use the strategies themselves, so that they may use them and/or incorporate them into their instructional practice. Strategies include technology-rich versions of the Frayer model, Tweeting for vocabulary learning (V-Tweets) and Vocabulary Self-Selection Strategy Plus (VSS+) all of which are situated within the challenges of academic texts and the need for close reading. Participants are provided with 21st Century strategies that connect to and engage today’s diverse student population and provide access to content.

Read more on Literacy Beat:

Frayer Model

VSS+ here and here

 

 

Zooming in on Vocabulary: Prezi and the Frayer Model

By Thomas DeVere Wolsey and Dana L. Grisham

Graphic organizers have helped many students grasp vocabulary for years. The most effective uses of graphic organizers require students to use vocabulary, often through engagement with text, peers, and teachers in multiple ways.  In other words, it won’t do for students to simply “complete” a graphic organizer. Rather, they must use the organizer to explore the concept or vocabulary term under consideration.

In this post, we share the tool Prezi as a digital home for the Frayer model of vocabulary learning. Prezi works like traditional slide deck programs, such as PowerPoint or Google Slides in some ways, but Prezi does not rely on linear presentation models. Rather, you can zoom in and out to different parts of the Prezi or follow a prescribed path. Prezi allows the creator or user to zoom from area to area by dragging or by following a pathway that may or may not be linear. The user can zoom in to closely examine one aspect of the show, or zoom out to obtain a broad overview.  This aspect of Prezi makes it a perfect digital tool for the Frayer model.

Click the images to be taken to the Prezi templates you can reuse in your own classroom.

Prezi Frayer Template

Prezi Template for Frayer Model

This version uses a picture as one element of the Frayer.

Frayer Picture Prezi

Prezi Template for Frayer with Picture

We have found that the strength of the Frayer model lies in its requirement that students explore “non examples” of the target term.  The Frayer is a simple graphic organizer with four quadrants and the word in the middle. It is similar to word maps and other vocabulary learning organizers. However, the Frayer asks students to dig more deeply into what they know and can discover about the term by examining critical attributes.  This is where non-examples come in to play.

A non-example must be more than just an opposite or something generic that a target word to be learned is not. That is to say, that if an astronomy target word is “eclipse” then the non-example cannot simply be “galaxy.” The two terms share a topic in common, but they do not share some attributes that lead to great depth of understanding. As students become increasingly familiar with the target word, they should also explore attributes of the term. Once they are familiar with the attributes of the target, they can identify non-examples that might be confused with the term because the non-examples might share some, but not all, of the target attributes.  Through discussion and exploration of internet resources, students come to a much deeper understanding of the concepts represented by the target word.

Using “eclipse” as a target word for Frayer, students might realize that the attributes of the concept of eclipse include one celestial body, such as a moon, passing in front of another, such as the Earth blocking light from reaching an observer. While celestial bodies pass in front of each other regularly, the key attribute of an eclipse is that light is blocked from the point of view of an observer.  A non-example of “eclipse” is “lunar orbit.” In a lunar orbit, the moon routinely passes in front of an observer on Earth, but only periodically does it also block the light from the sun.

In our work with vocabulary, we have found (see our article on Vocabulary Self-collection Strategy in The Reading Teacher) that a search for relevant images is a powerful way for students to make sense of the words they encounter. For this reason, we have changed one quadrant of the Prezi’d Frayer to include an image representing the target word. Finally, we suggest that students post links to their Frayer organizers on a class blog or other website.  Activities asking students to view and respond to each other’s Prezi’s further improve the possibility that students deeply learn the target words that are so important in many content areas.

We have made the two Prezi templates public and reusable. You can share these with your students to save as one of their own, or you can redesign our templates for your class needs.

The Whole-Class Great Debate: A Discussion Strategy for English Language Learners

By Thomas DeVere Wolsey & Dana L. Grisham

A rule of thumb we have come to find helpful in any language learning environment is that the more one uses a language, the more likely it will be that proficiency develops in that language. Of course, effective instruction, useful models, and other resources are all important, as well.  A resource from the Common Core State Standards website suggests that English language learners, among other things, should have:

  • Opportunities for classroom discourse and interaction that are well-designed to enable ELLs to develop communicative strengths in language arts;

  • Ongoing assessment and feedback to guide learning (p. 2).

Recently, we had the opportunity, as part of a delegation to meet with education leaders in China, to observe a class of middle school age students debate a topic as a way of integrating speaking, listening, and presentation tasks at Tiantong Education Group’s teaching center in Shenyang, China All of the students are English language learners.. The teacher called the process “debate” but we have modified this title a bit to differentiate it from other debate protocols to “Whole-class Great Debate.”

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The students had just returned to class after a national holiday, and, as you may be aware, China is grappling with pollution that causes health problems for many citizens (for example, read this news article about pollution in Beijing).  Students were asked to “state up their opinion” as to whether it was a good idea to stay home during the holiday or to go somewhere, such as the beach.

Students sat in rows, two on each side, facing each other. Initially, a student on each side states an opinion that staying home or going out for the holiday is their preferred option.  Each side then adopted one of the two stated positions.  They met in small groups to come up reasons in support of staying home or going away. Next, a student stated the opinion to which the other side responded. Students they returned to their group to determine counterarguments to those they heard. The process began again. A selected student (a volunteer in the class), then summarized the group’s position.

So far, this seems much like a typical classroom debate. However, to keep the students engaged in the discussions and to encourage them to listen to one another, the teacher developed protocols for speaking to the class. Students were encouraged to stand up and speak up taking turns from one side or the other. The spontaneous nature of standing and speaking motivated students to listen so they might speak. However, at times, more than one student from a side might want to speak. They learned to call “I’m, first” but sometimes it was hard to tell who was actually first. To keep everything moving and in control, students could use a version of “rock paper scissors” to decide who would actually speak first. Finally, each side met again to review their opinions and the counterarguments to their opinions, and a final summary speaker was elected.

ELLs at Tiantong Education Center

The teacher did choose a colleague to come in and evaluate the debate and select a winner based on a rubric for developing and stating an opinion, but it was clear that the debate’s main goal was interaction in English requiring students to listen carefully to each side, discuss their opinions and those of the other side, then speak publicly about it.  The teacher recognized the strengths of each team’s presentation. We hope you enjoy watching this video of the Whole-class Great Debate.

IAIE Representatives

Representatives from IAIE include Jin Zhang, Dana Grisham, Thomas DeVere Wolsey, Marc Grisham.

Reference

Common Core State Standards Initiative. (2012). Application of Common Core State Standards for English language learners [PDF]. Retrieved from http://www.corestandards.org/assets/application-for-english-learners.pdf

Literacy Beat @ IRA (Sunday)

Last year at IRA, Dana was awarded the TILE-SIG Research  Award. This year, she is the keynote speaker. The title of her keynote is “Changing the Landscape of Literacy Teacher Education: Innovations with Generative Technology.”  Congratulations go, also, to our friend and colleague, Denise Johnson at the College of William and Mary, who is the TILE-SIG Research Award recipient this year and next year’s keynote speaker.

Bloggers Dana and DeVere with colleague Linda Smetana discussed their work with Vocabulary Self-collection Strategy Plus (VSS+) at the Meet the Researchers Poster Session on Sunday. Their poster (via Slideshare) you can view here:

VSS+ Poster Session at Meet the Researchers
Learn more about VSS+ on this blog here and here.

View video examples of students’ VSS+ work below.

Dana and Linda Smetana presented research on the manner in which preservice teachers approached and used ebook formats.

And great news! Bloggers Jill and Bernadette with colleague Colin Harrison wrote a new book that debuted today.

image

Colin, Bernadette, and Jill presented shared resources and ideas excerpted from their new book published by Shell Education.  The IRA session entitled Transform Your Literacy Practice Using Internet Tools and Resources: Meeting Students’ Instructional Needs while Addressing the Common Core State Standards.  Click here to access the presentation materials and website for the session.

In the book, readers will discover how to effectively use technology to support students’ literacy development. New classroom uses for technology are introduced in this easy-to-use resource that help educators enhance students’ attention, engagement, creativity, and collaboration in reading and learning. Great for struggling readers, this book provides strategies for making content-area connections and using digital tools to develop reading comprehension.For more information about the book, click here.

 

Literacy Research Association Conference 2013

All five authors of this blog on literacy attended the Literacy Research Association’s 63rd Annual Conference in Dallas, Texas this past week. All of us are long time members of LRA, with my attendance dating back to 1992. This year’s conference theme was Transformative Literacy: Theory, Research, and Reform, a theme to which the five of us can really relate.

In our posts over the past three years, we have discussed many of these issues and contributed what we can to the discussion. The conference offered a broad spectrum of literacy research–from more traditional elements to the latest thinking in technology applications for literacy. The conference was amazing–the Omni Hotel is new, clean, elegant, and most important–FRIENDLY. There were numerous instances of kindness and care from the staff of the hotel that touched us–particularly as we all became somewhat “housebound” by the freezing weather front that swept down from the arctic.

When most of us arrived on Tuesday, December 3, the weather was a balmy 79 degrees Fahrenheit, but by Thursday, the temperature never rose higher than 27 degrees and by Friday, the high was 23 degrees with winds that exacerbated the cold. It was ironic to look out at the heaters on the outside patios and see icicles!  Contrast these two views  a view from the hotel. The first is Wednesday and a similar view on Thursday. Brrrr!

photo(1)

photo(2)

Inside, it was another story. This conference was put together with wonderful sessions–thanks to all the Area Chairs and Reviewers who selected the sessions and to all the presenters for their literacy research!

A highlight of the conference included a Presidential speech by Rick Beach of the University of Minnesota on the possibilities and affordances of online literacies. In addition, the speech was broadcast live to YouTube and links were provided during the speech so the audience could follow along. http://tinyurl.com/pgnbp2u Log in an take a look at a very valuable resource for online and multimodal composing! If you want to try Google Hangouts, go to Ian O’Byrne’s test flight at https://plus.google.com/u/0/111576401886299659895/posts/aKsxDawviHA?cfem=1 

The President’s Reception was held on Wednesday evening and the Literacy Beat bloggers were there. In addition, many of the people who work hard to make the conference a success, such as Board members and committee chairs were in attendance. Ian O’Byrne and Greg McVery, both essential to the new technologies for communication at LRA and Andrea Boling (Chair of the Technology Committee and e-Editor at LRA) at the President’s Reception on Wednesday evening.

kThree Tech

The next picture is of the five of us–Literacy Beat authors:  from the right, is Bernadette Dwyers, Bridget Dalton, Jill Castek, DeVere Wolsey, and yours truly. We always treasure the opportunities to interact in the same space and time (as we mostly always communicate from afar) and this conference was no exception. It should be noted that Bernadette is on the Board of the International Reading Association and that DeVere is the incoming LRA Publications Committee Chair. photo(4)

We all made presentations at the conference, caught up with our colleagues, and participated in various interests group throughout the conference.

Because of the freezing conditions, getting out of Dallas was somewhat challenging. One group of colleagues from Vanderbilt University, their flights cancelled, rented a car and drove home–a trip of 12 hours! Almost everyone experienced a delay, a cancellation, or a complete disaster. One colleague went to the airport in the middle of the night, put herself on the standby list and waiting almost 12 hours, eventually making it home.

For those of our readers who attend conferences, we’d like to encourage you to attend next year, if possible–on Marco Island in Florida, December 3-6, 2014. Hope we won’t have snow and hope to see you there!

Vocabulary Self-Collection Plus, Part 2

By Linda Smetana, Dana L. Grisham and Thomas DeVere Wolsey,

Last week, we introduced Vocabulary Self-Collection Plus (VSSPlus). Our goal in modifying this time-tested approach (Haggard, 1982) for the digital age (Grisham, Smetana, & Wolsey, in press) was to create an intersection where students might interact with each other in face-to-face spaces to add depth to their vocabulary and concept knowledge. At the same time, we wanted to use technology in a generative way (Grisham & Smetana, 2011) so that students became proficient users of technology while learning academic vocabulary related to their science lesson. This week, want to introduce the technologies we used, and share some lessons learned.

We chose two presentation methods, PowerPoint® and Thinglink, for the students’ e-dictionary entries.  However, many other tools are possible options.  Students might use Voicethread, Prezi, or Popplet, for example. In our work with these fifth-graders, we chose to limit the tools to one that is more familiar to them, and one that would be new.  Embedded in the technology task, we also helped students create audio recordings and showed them how to further deepen their word learning using the Wordsift website.

Wordsift

In Wordsift, students type in a word and produce a visual that links synonyms and related words. For example, “melting point” is a science term students in fifth-grade might be expected to know. By entering “melt” into the Wordsift visual thesaurus, students see related terms including Latinate versions and synonyms.  Please see figure 1.  In addition, Wordsift has many other capabilities including creating a word cloud, executing an image search, or sorting words according to academic word lists. Students in our exploratory group did not have access to screen capture tools, but a few used drawing tools to recreate the visual thesaurus they created in Wordsift.

Figure 1: Wordsift Result for “Melt”

Wordsift-melt

Wordsift

PowerPoint

While PowerPoint is a familiar tool to many, some features are not widely known.  We recently asked a group of teacher candidates if they knew PowerPoint could support narration they created, and only two responded that they knew of this feature. In our work with fifth-graders, the students use voice recorders to create the audio, and then they attached those to the PowerPoint slide.  We found that saving the slide as a PowerPoint show (rather than a regular PowerPoint) kept all the audio intact and could be used on any computer using free PowerPoint Show software if the regular version of PowerPoint was not available. Many of the students in the class started out exploring Thinglink, but because they were more comfortable with PowerPoint and recognized the time constraints of the task, switched to that format.

Learn more about adding audio narration to PowerPoint by clicking here.

Thinglink

The Thinglink tool intrigued students, but it required some playing around as they tried to figure out how best to use the tool. In PowerPoint, students could add text and images in any order, but in Thinglink, they needed to locate an appropriate image first.  Then, they could use the editing tools to tag the image with the text such as their definitions and rationales.  Find out more about Thinglink and view some examples by clicking here. An additional challenge was to upload the audio portion of the VSSPlus presentations to a podcast sharing site (we used Podbean), then link the podcast to the Thinglink.  To save time and avoid student frustration, we did this for the students.  For this reason, it was very important that students included their group names on the Thinglink as well as in their audio narration making it possible to easily match up the files.  Figure 2 is an embedded Thinglink created by students you can try.

Figure 2: Thinglink: Boiling Point (Click the image to view the interactive Thinglink)

The E-dictionary

We used Wikispaces to create the first page of the e-dictionary which you can see in figure 3 below. Additional pages for future learning can be added easily.  Students and parents can view the work at will, and learn from each other’s presentations. Other wiki tools, blogs, or even a learning management system (Canvas, BlackBoard, etc.) might be used to host the e-dictionary.

Figure 3: E-dictionary on Wikispaces

edictionary

E-Dictionary

Moving Forward

The first time out took a little over three hours because students had to learn to use certain aspects of the technology (inserting images, finding images, creating audio files, and so on). However, in the future, they will not have this hurdle, and the task will proceed much more rapidly.  The important aspect of this task is that students had to discuss the terms amongst themselves, evaluate the relevant aspects of images they chose together, plan their audio components, and work as a team to assemble the final product. Throughout the process, they became deeply aware of the relevant attributes of the concept represented by the term and also what it was not, in some cases.

For future VSSPlus projects, we would appoint a Wikispaces librarian whose job is to put the final presentations in the e-dictionary.  Some students were more adept at using the audio recording tools, and would become the audio engineers.  Thinglink aficionados are appointed the go-to person for Thinglink questions, and PowerPoint specialists who know how to link or insert audio, use the drawing tools, and save in PowerPoint Show format would have a place to shine. Finally, a means of sharing the work is needed.  A data projector with each group presenting their work to the class is a good start. If the classroom has a few computers or laptops, students could rotate through stations viewing and listening to the presentations at some stations while doing other academic work at different stations.

We hope you will try VSSPlus. Let us know what ideas you have to change it up and how well your students learned from the experience.

References

Haggard, M. (1982) The vocabulary self-collection strategy: An active approach to word learning.  Journal of Reading, 26(3), pp. 203-207.

Grisham, D.L. & Smetana, L. (2011) Generative technology for teacher educators. Journal of Reading Education, 36, 3, 12-18.

Grisham, D. L., Smetana, L., & Wolsey, T.D. (in preparation).  Post-reading vocabulary development through VSSPlus. In T. Rasinski, R. Ferdig, & K. Pytash, (Eds.). Technology and reading [working title]. Bloomington, IN: Solution-Tree.

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