Active Word Learning Using Web 2.0 Tools

A post from Jill

Jim Baumann (University of Missouri) and Ed Kame’enui (University of Oregon) are editing a second edition of Vocabulary Instruction: Research to Practice (forthcoming, Guilford Press) to be published in 2011. Bridget, Dana, and I were invited to submit a piece that addressed special topics in vocabulary instruction.

In our chapter, Using Multimedia to Support Students’ Generative Vocabulary Learning (Castek, Dalton, & Grisham, in process) we suggest that the use of digital media in vocabulary learning should not only be receptive (e.g., viewing vocabulary graphics), but also generative (actively engaging students in using language and media to express themselves and to create products that represent their new knowledge). We assert that the act of creation supports ownership, introduces authentic reasons for learning, and tangibly links reading, writing, and communication in ways that mirror learning outside of school. This post draws ideas from the chapter and suggests ways to promote students’ active word learning using Web 2.0 tools.

Create Vocabulary Videos:Today’s students have grown up with YouTube as part of daily life. As a way of extending word learning, consider having students’ produce their own vocabulary videos — 60-90 second videos that situate word learning in a specific context.  The varied student-created examples found at VocabAhead (e.g., the entry for amble, for headstrong, and fecund) illustrate how video creation and multimodal expression make the word learning experience more memorable for both the video producers as well as the viewing audience. For tips and tools for creating videos, see the VocabAhead Teacher Page.  Suggestions for video creation include incorporating visual cues and adding humor, dramatization, or emotions to help learners remember the word and its meaning more easily. There are plenty of free web tools available which can be used to create vocabulary videos such as Xtranormal (if you can type, you can make movies) and GoAnimate (make your own cartoons and animations using free tools that you don’t need to learn Flash to use).

Simulate Twitter to Promote Target Word Usage: Today’s widespread twitter phenomenon tells us something important about language use and engagement. In 140 characters or less, information about “what’s happening now” can be shared instantly with an online community. The defining characteristics of a ‘tweet’ are brevity, timeliness, and the ability to instantly respond to others. Educators can bring twitter-like experiences into the classroom to expand vocabulary learning, without actually creating twitter accounts. To simulate twitter, try Wallwisher. Once the topic themed-wall is set up, this free online application does not require individuals to login and everyone can post together in a shared space. Like tweets, comment space is limited (Wallwisher allows 160 characters).

To model a vocabulary related twitter, provide a target word or concept and challenge students to keep a related stream of tweets going as long as they can. Set the expectation that both target words and related words must be used in each post. Provide a context such as a breaking news event, a topic you’re studying in class, or a book you are reading.

The following interchange may serve as a tangible example. Imagine reading and watching online news reports about an oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico. Students could then create a twitter- like stream to express reactions and questions, using the target words pollution and disaster. Before beginning, discuss the words’ meanings. Then talk through a few examples, as follows.

Twitter-like stream

Student 1: Bad news. An oil rig blew up in the Gulf of Mexico. Pollution is going to be a problem.

Student 2: Oil will pollute the beaches. What a disaster!

Student 3: You can’t swim in polluted water.

Student 4: The seagulls and pelicans will be hurt by the oil. It gets on their feathers.

Twitter-like stream (examining the news event from the perspective of different stakeholders)

Shrimper: Major disaster. Oil rig blew and oil gushing in Gulf of Mexico. Pollution might wipe us out.

Oysterman: What about oyster beds? I have to fish. Polluted oyster beds mean no oysters. What a disaster for me and my customers.

Beach lover: Gulf Shores beach has black oil washing up. Seagulls coated. Can’t swim in polluted water.

Clean up crew: Dish detergent is the best thing to clean oil pollution from birds. Who knew?!

Oil company: The faster we cap the oil rig, the faster the pollution stops. 

Have Fun with New Slang: The dynamic and inventive nature of language is dramatically evident in the torrent of new words we manage to create each year. While we all may feel the need to chillax (calm down and relax) in the face of students’ often unconventional vocabulary use, seize the opportunity to build word curiosity and playfulness. Two excellent Internet resources for learning about words and language are the Visual Thesaurus and the Oxford Dictionary of English. The latter posts a list each year of new words added to the dictionary. Another excellent resource is the Cambridge Advanced Learners Dictionary.  Also, at Wordspy, Paul McFedries tracks published neologisms (new word creations, many of which are slang and/or linguistic blends).

Technology and media can play an important role in developing students’ vocabulary through generative, multimodal expression. Giving students experience with the digital technologies required in the 21st century will be motivational as well as academically beneficial. 

References

Castek, J., Dalton, B., & Grisham, D. (in process). Using multimedia to support students’ generative vocabulary learning. In J. Baumann and E. Kame’enui (Eds.) Vocabulary Instruction: Research to Practice (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Guilford Press.

eVoc Strategies: 10 Ways to Use Technology to Build Vocabulary in Feb 2011 Reading Teacher

A post from Jill

Fellow Literacy Beat bloggers Bridget Dalton and Dana Grisham have just had a new piece published entitled Voc Strategies: 10 Ways to Use Technology to Build Vocabulary in Feb 2011 Reading Teacher!  In this brilliantly insightful article Bridget and Dana invite teachers to ‘go digital with word learning’ and experiment with integrating technology. The piece draws on research-based principles of vocabulary instruction and features free digital tools and Internet resources that engage students in vocabulary learning. Bridget and Dana offer readers ten practical and easy-to-implement ways to develop students’ interest in words as they read, view, interact with, and create word meanings in digital and multimedia contexts. A listing of these ten strategies, a brief description of each, and live links to the resources included in the article follow:

The first five eVoc strategies focus on explicit teaching of vocabulary and helping students become independent word learners.

  • eVoc Strategy 1: Learn From Visual Displays of Word Relationships Within TextTwo of Bridget and Dana’s favorite word mapping tools that support visual representation are Wordle and Wordsift. Both tools help students develop visual displays that highlight the relationships between words.
  • eVoc Strategy 2: Take a Digital Vocabulary Field TripTeachers can create a digital version of a vocabulary field trip using a free online program called TrackStar. This tool makes it easy to collect a series of websites and annotations that together create a connected online journey.
  • eVoc Strategy 3: Connect Fun and Learning With Online Vocabulary GamesBridget and Dana recommend two sites that offer a variety of activities to engage students in playing with words and word meanings: Vocabulary Can Be Fun! and Vocabulary.com. Both sites feature games including crossword puzzles, picture-word matches, word scrambles, and other word fun. These sites offer hours of interactivity and enjoyment for students of all ages.
  • eVoc Strategy 4: Have Students Use Media to Express Vocabulary KnowledgeThis strategy focuses on students’ vocabulary representations in multiple modes—writing, audio, graphic, video, and animation. Bridget and Dana suggest that a multimedia composing and presentation tool that is often underused is PowerPoint.  However, they found that PowerPoint can be used creatively for expression and offer compelling and illustrative suggestions and examples in the article.
  • eVoc Strategy 5: Take Advantage of Online Word Reference Tools That Are Also Teaching ToolsMany online word reference tools, such as The Visual Thesaurus are also excellent teaching resources. This resources supplements its fee-based content with free information such as the Behind the Dictionary and Teachers at Work columns and teacher-created themed word lists. The Dictionary.com Back in School page can be accessed through a variety of platforms (iPhone, Facebook) so its always available as a support tool.

Strategies 6 and 7 highlight two online tools that provide just-in-time support while reading.

  • eVoc Strategy 6: Support Reading and Word Learning With Just-in-Time Vocabulary Reference SupportRather than using print dictionaries or asking teachers for help, students can learn to use online dictionaries and thesauri. Some word reference tools can be mounted on the browser toolbar, allowing students to right click on any word to look it up and have a brief definition display.  For example, see the Dictionary Add-ons for Internet Explorer and Mozilla. Merriam-Webster offers an online visual dictionary, and Enchanted Learning provides a picture dictionary for young children.
  • eVoc Strategy 7: Use Language Translators to Provide Just-in-Time Help for ELs The value of a translator is that it supports learning words as they occur naturally in authentic text and allows students to view bilingual versions of a text side by side so that they can use their first-language  knowledge to develop their English vocabulary. Babelfish,Google translator, and Bing Translator can be very helpful to English learners.

Strategies 8 and 9  help increase students’ volume of reading and, indirectly, their incidental word learning.

  • eVoc Strategy 9: Increase Reading Volume by Listening to Digital Text With a Text-to-Speech Tool and Audio BooksText-t0-speech tools such as Click, Speak for FirefoxNaturalReader free TTS utility, and Balabolka, allow students to listen to text with audio narration. This provides students with access to age-appropriate content and grade-level curriculum.

The last strategy promotes social learning and taps into students’ natural desire to create, to participate in communities, and to develop strategic competence.

  • eVoc Strategy 10: Combine Vocabulary Learning and Social ServiceFree Rice offers an opportunity to promote students’ engagement with words while contributing to the social good. For each correct answer, the United Nations World Food Programme donates 20 grains of rice to countries in need.

Join me in applauding fellow bloggers Bridget Dalton and Dana Grisham on a supremely well-done piece that offers numerous engaging ideas for expanding vocabulary using free digital tools.

%d bloggers like this: