Thursday, November 08, 2007

Thanksgiving Alternate Reading

A few years ago, an article about a historical group in southern California attempting to recreate interest in a Thanksgiving event that preceded the one of the Pilgrims was published in the Los Angeles Times. I've used it ever since in my ESL classes and it's been very successful on several levels: a straight forward reading activity, a cultural lesson about Thanksgiving, and also a springboard for a discussion about who creates the "history" that we learn about in school.

Basically, the article describes a group of European immigrants/colonists who came to the "new world" to start a new life, experienced a very difficult journey, and when finally successful, held a feast of Thanksgiving. All of this was recorded in official journals and took place 23 years before the feast of the Pilgrims. Why don't we know about this group and how come we don't celebrate them as the group holding the "first" Thanksgiving? The answer lies in the fact that this group was led by a Spanish conquistador who led them through the Mexican desert to what is now El Paso, the official records were archived in Spain, and the Spanish history of the southwestern United States did not figure into the traditions of the English colonies. The story is that of Juan de Onate, an important figure in the Spanish development of the southwest, and the colonists that came with him.

I've posted the LA Times article at http://esl.adultinstruction.org/ActivityWorksheets.htm and you can find more information about Juan de Onate by googling him or at a Wikipedia article at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Juan_de_O%C3%B1ate (One interesting tidbit-he was married to the great granddaughter of the Aztec Emperor Moctezuma. Another is that apparently he gained a reputation later in life of being cruel and ruthless in his dealings with the indigenous people including one episode involving the amputation of the left foot of 80 surviving Acoma men after the killing of more than 800 villagers who resisted the Spanish military.)

The brutal later history of Juan de Onate not withstanding, the account of this other "First Thanksgiving" is quite fascinating and makes for a good comparison between the circumstances of the other Thanksgiving that most of us grew up learning about in school.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

First video uploaded to Teacher Tube

I've obviously seen a few videos on Teacher Tube but I finally was able to successfully create one using Camtasia Studio software and upload it myself. This is a short training tutorial about how to create a link from one wiki page to another wiki page using pbwiki.




To view the same video directly on the Teacher Tube website click here!

The uploading process to Teacher Tube was quite easy. Recording using the Camtasia software was also easy. Figuring out how to export the video was more confusing and I'm still not sure if I selected the best settings for optimal file transfer and viewing on the website. I still need to experiment with that!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Using a Wiki for a collaborative Project

Turns out that a former DACE teacher, Jennifer Gundy, is now teaching in Vermont. I found that out when I sent her an email inviting her to attend this year's series of technology workshops that I present. She wrote back saying the trip would be a bit much! I suggested that we work on a collaborative project using a Wiki as the means for posting and displaying student work. After a brief introduction to how easy it is to edit a Wiki we came up with some topics that our students would feel comfortable writing about and also have an interest in reading about. Both groups would write about the cities where they're living now, the places where they come from, and tourist destinations in both the United States and their home countries. They've been working on the pages for about two weeks and I think the whole project is going very well. You can see the results so far at http://coasttocoast.pbwiki.com remembering that this is a work in progress. The goal is to for student's to practice their English and learn some collaborative and technical skills at the same time.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Homework for OTAN online course

This is the homework assignment for the participants of OTAN's online course on blogging for October 5, 2007.

1 Continue to develop your new blog!

2 Post at least two new postings including at least one image to your new blog on a topic that interests you. Try inserting a link to a website as part of a post.

3 Visit my blog at http://www.tech4esl.blogspot.com and try to post a comment! (If you're reading this, you're already here! so just post your comment!) Include the URL of your new blog in your comment. This blog is “moderated” so your comments won’t automatically appear. I have to approve comments first.
4 Post a comment on one of the blogs created today by a participant in the workshop!

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Minor Frustrations: Vent! (People given the task of designing things who have never actually done that thing)

To its credit, the school district opened up a new computer lab at the main headquarters building where I work. A brand new room with 40 computers. When I first heard about it, I was quite excited because I've been delivering my trainings using laptops in a conference room. Using the laptops means a lot of setting up including rearranging tables and laying out electrical cords and powerstrips for the adapters since the batteries on the laptops don't carry a sufficient charge anymore. The conference room also feels very crowded when there are more than 15 participants. The computer training room must be reserved in advance and there's a bit of a procedure for that, but nothing insurmountable.

In any case, I walked into the room for the first time a few weeks ago when I first heard about it to see what the accomodations were like. It's a beautiful room of course and it even has a side alcove with a kitchen area that can be used for breaks. So what's the rant? I look up and there isn't an LCD projector hanging from the ceiling, nor a screen to project anything on. Just a couple of white boards hanging at the front of the room! Can any of you imagine creating a computer training room in the year 2007 without an LCD projector and screen? Of course not! But you weren't asked for suggestions when somebody decided that having a training room would be a good thing. Now it's not like there aren't other training rooms in the headquarters. Other departments have created small rooms for their use where they do training, just as I have done using laptops. And in every single one, there's an LCD projector hanging from the ceiling! It's just the brand spankin' new one that doesn't have one...

Now that I've given my first training in the room (yesterday) I have a few added comments. The rows of tables are too close together so that the presenter has a hard time walking between them when people are actually sitting down and using the computers. The tables themselves are arranged in long rows of 8 stations across with no center aisle and one end of the tables pushed up all the way against the wall so that the electrical and internet connections go directly from the wall to the computers without an aisle. For the presenter, this means that to take a look at a computer screen or to provide assistance means walking all the way to the other end of the row to the aisle and then returning the same way. Did I mention the rows are too close together already? So not only do you have to walk all of that distance you have to keep bumping people and saying "excuse me" the whole way!

Finally, the computers themselves are "old-style" large CPUs sitting right on top of the tables taking up space and blocking the line of sight.

Is using the room easier to make use of than setting up laptops on a conference table and running electrical cords? Yes it is, but not by a lot. Could it have been designed to be much much better? Yes again. I did get a chance to talk to the guy who was in charge of design and installation. He did say that there are plans to go back and install a screen and an LCD projector but that hasn't happened yet. I haven't had a chance to talk with him about the aisle issue or having the rows of tables too close together. I don't know what can be done about that at this point without re-doing all of the cabling. Nowadays, it seems like the installation method involves tying down every bit of cable without an inch of slack. Even if I wanted to move the tables (they're on wheels) there's no leeway to be had. I had a hard time moving a keyboard more than a few inches away from the monitor much less trying to move an entire row of tables...

Would it have hurt to try to find any of the individuals in the school district who provide training in lab situations and ask what makes a good training room?

Trying out VoiceThread

VoiceThread is a new site that allows you to connect your voice to images to make presentations. Obviously there are a lot of implications for language teaching. I have started to experiment of course. Here is my first presentation. Unfortunately, not a single microphone appears to be working correctly where I am doing this so at this point it's only text accompanying the photos. I'll try again when I'm "back at the office!" See it at http://voicethread.com/view.php?b=8547

Thursday, September 06, 2007

What did we do in class today? Watch a video and find out!

I've started a new experiment using short videos to tell absent students what the rest of us did in class on any given day. I now have a webcam and I've been making very short video clips announcing the assignments. I upload the video file to my wikipage and then put a link to the wikipage on my class pageflakes home page. I'm not sure that's the most efficient way to do this yet, but it seems to be workable. I'm going to introduce the class pageflakes page to my new group of students tomorrow. I'll keep you posted about their feedback. In the meantime, feel free to check out the first two video clips. You'll find the link in the left column under the calendar "flake."

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Web Cam?

I decided that it was time to move from text and photo-based blogs only to being able to include a video if I wanted to. I purchased a Logitech "Quickcam" and this is my first video... video

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Would your students enjoy creating a project like this?


More experimentation at PictureTrails!


A new student project

This is another way to share photos that while not as visually captivating as the rotating tube, does include a way to turn a photo project into a language project because you can include captions. This one is experimental. The captions are unfortunately limited in length or they run over the photo (as on the last page). Click on the page to see the next photo. Perhaps uploading a smaller photo will do the trick...


Exploring with PictureTrail

Saw an example of this on Hans Feldmeier's page at Classroom 2.0 and felt I had to get one too! Classroom 2.0 is an example of what's called a "social networking" website. One way social networking happens is when groups of like-minded individuals or individuals with a common interest use the new web 2.0 tools to communicate, and share information with each other about their common interest. Older examples of Internet-based social networking are listservs and email discussion lists. Today, newer "tools" allow for sharing information in new ways. The fact that I read about Classroom 2.0 on Marian Thacher's blog, investigated it, and eventually decided to become a member myself, is itself an example of the new social networking in action. Being exposed to some of the things Hans Feldmeier is doing on his webpages and with his students and then trying something out myself is another example. Classroom 2.0 is a social networking site of educators working to integrate technology, and in particular Web 2.0 tools, into their teaching.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Second Life in Education

On some of the discussion lists I read, there has been talk about the role of the virtual world Second Life in education. There's a wide range of viewpoints about whether it (or the version of Second Life meant for teenagers only) has a role as an educational tool or not. I just came across a blog (thanks to a mention on Classroom 2.0) by an educator (Kevin Jarrett) exploring with second life http://www.storyofmysecondlife.com/ that can certainly be of benefit to those wondering about whether or not to experiment with Second Life. Make sure you check out the video about the educational uses of Second Life that he links to on the page. (It's a youTube video so it will probably be blocked if you're accessing this from a school).

There's also a link to a video made by kids in Second Life that is quite amazing. The video the kids made is at http://youtube.com/watch?v=nK54WRu0jW4 It's also a youTube video so it will probably be blocked but it's worth watching from another location. The subject matter is horrific and moving (one child soldier's experience from abduction to rescue) but even disregarding the topic, it's a positive example of how virtual worlds can be used in education.

I'm not convinced yet that the positives of using Second Life as an educational tool so outweigh the negatives that I'm ready to invest the time and effort needed to implement doing so with my students, but this video certainly adds weight to the positive side of the equation.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Trying out Bubblr



Make a comic strip like this from flickr photos using an application called bubblr at http://www.pimpampum.net/bubblr/index.php Click on the comic strip and it will open up in a new window so the titles will be easier to read. When it opens in the new window, you can advance the images by rolling your mouse over them towards the right. Roll back to reverse! Click on create new strip to try it out yourself.

Cautionary Note!! Flickr, the photo website which is the source of the photos can be a source for risque or otherwise inappropriate images. Appropriate judgment on the part of the teacher is required before assigning this project. Are your students adults and have they signed the district's Acceptable Use Policy which warns them about that possibility and have you discussed appropriate actions to take if such an image appears? Do you work with students who are under 18?

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Congratulations to Larry Ferlazzo!

Larry Ferlazzo just won a nice award for his work with using technology in the classroom and for the benefit of the community. He has been awarded the grand prize for 2007 in the International Reading Association's Presidential Award for Reading and Technology. Information on the award is here http://www.reading.org/association/awards/teachers_presidential.html I visit his blog most often. When I visit Larry Ferlazzo's Websites of the Day for teaching ELL, ESL & EFL, I never fail to find something that could be put to use in the classroom. Today, for me, it's the Community Walk website which overlays a walk that you create onto a google map (I think the new term is "mashup"). The nifty feature is that you can add and save your own landmarks and descriptions (including photos) as you create your walk. Many beginning and intermediate level classes and textbooks feature lessons on giving directions. With Community Walk you can assign students to create a map with photos and descriptions of the neighborhood. As an example, here's a map I created in a few minutes using photos I already had on my computer: http://www.communitywalk.com/pacoima/ca/visiting_pacoima/map/153149, and here's a map I chose at random http://www.communitywalk.com/walking_westford.

By creating their own maps, students practice writing skills. By looking at maps other people have created, they practice reading skills. By giving the students a task, they can practice oral skills as they discuss a walk that they are viewing. (Give them a worksheet and ask questions about the locations on the map, e.g. When was the new library in Pacoima dedicated and who spoke at the ceremony? or have them describe their own walk to their classmates in an oral presentation accompanied by the map projected behind them.) More adventurous teachers (and students) could probably link their walk to a podcast so viewers of the map could listen to a description of each stop along the way...

For a wealth of good ideas, it never hurts to visit Larry's Websites of the Day...

Friday, August 10, 2007

Actual Email from student







More evidence of the importance of maintaining as many open lines of communication as possible. This is an email received in response to a phone call (left a message) this morning...

"G", another student who I know has serious health issues, hasn't been in class for two weeks because of a flare-up, but has sent in 4 separate assignments via email for correction. Why shouldn't I, as her regular classroom teacher, be credited the time she devotes to assignments out of class, as if she were enrolled in a distance learning program?

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

More Email Messages From Students About Attendance

Berenice wrote in an email message:

From: a7bXXXX@gaggle.net (Berenice)
To: bbakin@gaggle.net
Subject: (No subject specified)
Date: Tue 07 Aug 2007 04:47:21 PM -0700

Hi teacher this is Berenice. I have to be absent for a few days. My sister in law is pregnat and I have to care for her during the morning. I hope to be in class next week. Please, don't miss me a lot...

Sincerity.....

Berenice


Gloria wrote in a message the other morning:

From: a7graXXXX@gaggle.net (Gloria R) Add to Address Book
To: bbakin@gaggle.net
Subject: No attending classes
Date: Mon 06 Aug 2007 09:59:20 PM -0700
I'm sorry for not attending classes lately, I'm not feeling very well


Vilma is a student I had last year. She wrote earlier this week:
HELLO TEACHER I WANT TO BACK TO SCHOOL AFFTERNOON BUT I DON'TKNOW WHEN IS
STAR OF THE CLASS CAN YOU TELLME WHEN IS STAR, I TELLING YOU I CHANGE OF
WORK NOW I WORK IN THE UNIVERSITY ... .TAKE CARE SEE YOU SOO.......

After I responded to her message she wrote back:

Hello teacher thank you for answer my massege I am happy for back to school
I need to learn English. I'm nervous with my new job because many people
are speack English, so I don't nkow how can I speack with them but I nkow I
can do it if I go to school tanks again teacher ................. take care see you soon....................................

>VILMA



Email, while not the only option that students can use to communicate with a teacher, is simply another channel to keep the lines of communication open. Perhaps, in fact, students might feel more comfortable writing a message then speaking...

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Email and student retention

Once again, the efficacy of using email with students has interacted with the issue of student retention. After not having seen Luis in class for a complete week (one of the students who usually attended almost every day) I called (the more traditional method of student teacher contact) and left a message. A day later, I received the following email message:

From: luis c.
Sent: Tue Jul 24 17:29:43 PDT 2007
To: bbakin@

Subject: Hi Mr Bakin


Hi Mr Bakin,well, yesterday i recieved yor message and i call you at PSC but it was at 15:30 pm, I´m working in a factory ans this is the reason why i´m not going to school, thank you very much for everything, God bless you and I´ll see you in another time, but i dont´l leave the school completely, I´m now enrolled at PSc saturdays, you know, the education is the most important in my life, it´s my future and any day I´ll get a better job with of course with a better payment after to get my GED certificate in English, this is one of my first short term goals.


See you later Mr. Bakin. Good Luck.


Luis C.


Apparently, he tried to return the call, but I wasn't at the school, so he emailed me! Having a secondary information pathway kept me informed about his status and I know that he hasn't "dropped out," just changed to a different program.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Renewed Commitment to using language classes to inform students about necessary health and safety information

I repeated the online component of the nutrition lesson from the EL Civics program that got a positive response from my students a few semesters ago, and once again they found it fascinating that you could get so much information about calories and sugar, salt, and fat content from fast food companies' websites. They especially enjoyed comparing the calorie content of their favorite foods from the different restaurants and were very surprised to learn that a tuna sandwich from Subway (6" tuna - 530 calories) has about as many calories as a McDonald's Big Mac (540 calories) and more than a McDonald's Quarter Pounder with Cheese! (510 calories)

Along these lines, I've decided to incorporate more critical information about health and safety topics on a regular basis. I've created a new posting on the class blog about some consumer product recalls from this month, specifically flashlights that rupture and ignite, cribs that have slats that fall out from under the mattress causing a suffocation hazard, and Easy Bake Ovens that bake fingers of little kids to the point of amputation.

Thanks are due to my colleague Rega P. who sent me an educational video about how to put out an oil fire in the kitchen, that led me to the FEMA fire safety website (more than 950 fire related deaths in the U.S. reported in the media to date since the beginning of the year), that in turn led me to the article about the burn hazard from the flashlights.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Experimenting with Pageflakes

Pageflakes is the name of one of the new social networking types of web-based communication tools that are becoming known as web 2.0. Basically, it's a tool to create a new type of webpage that organizes all of the other webpages an individual or organization make use of frequently. Your Pageflakes page is made up of little movable segments that direct you to other websites or webpages you think are useful. Each movable segment is called a "flake" (like a snowflake). In particular, it's meant to be a way to organize blogs and podcasts that utilize RSS feeds or other technologies that "broadcast" new information to users or "readers" on a regular basis.

I've created an experimental page for the class that might replace my existing blog as the class "homepage." My thinking is that when the students open a browser, the first thing they'll see is one page that gives them some useful tools like a dictionary and calendar, links to frequent pages that they need to visit in class, a list of the day's assignments, and other useful links to webpages and blogs of interest that constantly update themselves. You can check out this first attempt at http://www.pageflakes.com/barry.bakin/12217248 and let me know what you think!

(The "flake" at the bottom right of the page is also an experiment. It's supposed to be a "mini" webpage. To see the complete page you have to click on the icon at the upper right of the flake to view it in a new browser. I'm comparing it to the "list of links" for ease of use by my students.)

Friday, July 13, 2007

Trying out tinyurl

So I finally tried out tinyurl which is just what the name implies! It's a free website http://tinyurl.com which helps you take your long URL and automatically replace it with a "tiny" one! I had heard about it but never tried it until now. I even was able to drag a "tinyurl" button onto my browser link toolbar so when I was at the webpage I wanted to convert all I had to do was click on the link and the tinyurl was created automatically. Then all I did was follow the instructions right there on the webpage and copy the new URL which in this case was a link to the presentation I mentioned previously that I created using spresent.com and can now be found using the new tinyurl at http://tinyurl.com/2ylvt6. So now, if you click on the http://tinyurl.com/2ylvt6 link, you'll go directly to the webpage that previously was represented by:
http://www.spresent.com/presenter/SimPView.swf?sDir=http://www.spresent.com/presenter/&p=/barry.bakin@lausd.net/Compare%20Shenandoah%20and%20Beijing%20draft
.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

spresent and The Principal Blog

Trying out the spresent presentation tool.

I learned about it from a posting by Cheryl Oakes on her Techlearning blog. spresent is a free presentation creation tool that is even supposed to give you the option of embedding a presentation into a wiki or blog. So I've been trying to create one and hopefully, you'll see it below.

By the way, Cheryl also led me to Melinda Miller's
The Principal Blog which shows that blogging is even for administrators!

If I did it right, you should see the first draft of a presentation about comparing Shenandoah,Iowa to Beijing, China by clicking here! (After the new page opens, click on the big "play" arrow in the center of your screen!) There is sound so put on your headset or make sure the volume is set correctly for your speakers.

I'm not sure if this is something that is easier to use than say PowerPoint software, but it is, at least, as easy to use as PowerPoint and it also demonstrates that some free browser-based software does have the potential to replace commercially purchased products. Being able to link to websites, flickr photos, and podcasts could also be useful and I don't know if PowerPoint has that capability or not.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Steve Gwynne's VESLCLASS podcast at podomatic

I'd like to recommend that readers of my Tech4ESL blog check out Steve Gwynne's VESL CLASS podcast at http://veslclass.podomatic.com/ as an example of creative ways to tie in podcasting and classroom practice in ESL instruction. Steve basically uses his blog as a way for students to access original audio materials that he's created, and then ties each podcast to some type of quiz or activity that can be completed or checked online. One really nice feature of Steve's podcast activities is that he has both colleagues and students record parts of the podcast. Besides providing variety in the listening selection, it must be very motivating for the students to hear their own voices as part of the assignments.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

TRIPLE FIRSTS: Using Audacity to record reading passages, pbwiki to create a webpage to access them, and Gcast to podcast 'em!

Marian Thacher and David Rosen keep reminding people about wikis and how easy they are to use so I finally decided to try my hand at one. I'd also been thinking about how nice it would be for my students to be able to listen to me read passages from the stories that I use regularly in class for reading practice. I've developed some quizzes (using www.thestudyplace.org) for certain motivational stories that are featured in "Everyday Heroes" (Beth Johnson, Townsend Press) so I assign the same stories every semester. Once a week, I have "reading time" where I read paragraphs aloud so students can listen for pronunciation (They only listen, I read and then discuss vocabulary and content paragraph-by-paragraph). Unfortunately, students who are absent miss out and I never repeat myself due to time considerations. It's always bothered me that the students don't get to hear the paragraphs as many times as they need to really grasp the pronunciation. (From what I've been reading about the latest learning theories, repetitive listening is important.) Sooooo, to make a long story short, I finally put into action some thoughts that had been bouncing around in my head.

I downloaded AUDACITY and a separate associated program called LAME MP3 ENCODER (the Audacity website explains everything) so I could record passages. I had seen lots of demonstrations of how easy it is to use at the CUE 2007 conference, TESOL 2007 and CATESOL 2007, and indeed, it really is easy to use. (Make sure the microphone is working, click on record, click on stop recording, trim the ends using a simple editing button, click on "export as MP3", save the file to a location on your computer and voila! you've created an MP3!)

I signed up for a free wiki at pbwiki (stands for peanut butter wiki because they say creating a wiki is as easy as making a peanut butter sandwich) and created a wiki page for the class. I uploaded the MP3 files of the first paragraphs I recorded directly to the page in paragraph order. (Also easy: click on "attach file", find the file, upload it, etc.)

I signed up at Gcast for a free podcasting service. I uploaded the same MP3 files to my podcast page there so that they can be downloaded to student's devices or computers. (Same story here: click on "upload new audio", find the file, upload it, wait a few minutes and refresh the page and your podcast is ready.)

So it's a start! I have three paragraphs done and available at this moment and hope to get the entire first story completed this week! Please check everything out at the following URL's!

My new wiki page is at http://mrbakinsesl.pbwiki.com

Mr. Bakin's ESL podcast is at http://www.gcast.com/u/MrBakinsESL/main

I'm using both because podcasts are displayed in reverse order and I'm not sure if that can be changed, whereas I can display the listings for each paragraph in page and paragraph order on the wiki very easily.

It's now 4:45 p.m. and I've been at this since about 1:30, but that includes downloading all of the software, reading about how to use it, recording three separate paragraphs, uploading them to both websites, and writing and editing this blog post! The nice thing of course is that the reading passages will be available for students to listen to on their own time. I'm hoping that at least some of them will be sitting on the bus sometimes, the text open in front of them, reading along as they listen....

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The world's smallest scissors!




Found a reference to an article about the "world's smallest scissors" on teentek which appears to be a blog about technology written by teens who use technology which in turn I found out about by reading Jeff Utecht's "twitter" blog thethinkingstick which in turn I found by reading Will Richardson's blog...

Lot's of reading, but since I've been working with comparatives and superlatives in the classroom this week, the "world's smallest scissors" article is a perfect "real-world" example of superlatives and comparatives for my students to take a look at. See the assignment that it became! You can find the link to the original article there as well.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Revived Classroom Blog

I've also revived my classroom blog. The classroom blog is at http://intermediatelow.blogspot.com/
The classroom blog serves as the homepage on the student computers. Whenever they open up a browser, they'll see the classroom blog first. I have used it in the past as another means of communication between myself and students and as a way to give new assignments. You can see examples of both uses in the two new postings. One posting is simply an announcement about the latest project that I have introduced, and the other is an assignment.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Storing Students' Flash Drives




You might be wondering how I manage the USB flash drives now that we've completely transitioned away from floppy disks. The school purchased about 40 32MB flash drives from an online provider at 3 for $10. I assign two or three students to a drive and they're stored in the hanging organizer that you see in the photos. Each drive is numbered and has its own slot. I can easily see if they're all present at the end of the class with a quick glance. The hanging organizer is easily available. You can usually find them online or in stores that work with sewing, crafts, or jewelry. Try searching for "hanging organizers"!

The new computers are set up (well almost)

Today was the first day that I was able to let students use the 6 new computers. They're not completely set up yet as not all of the software that I've gotten used to and is available on the other computers in the class has been loaded yet, but the basic programs are up and running and the Internet connections have been established. Tom Saeedi, our technical support person spent several hours making sure everything was working and will probably be spending many more hours to completely configure the computers the way I want. We're also trying out something new for the computers in my classroom. All of the new units are being protected with Deep Freeze; software that completely erases anything new that is saved to the computers at the end of every day. The idea is to maintain the integrity of the existing software and save downtime or technician or teacher time when students accidentally or purposefully alter basic software or coding. One new folder is created where students can save documents that is not erased, but it's isolated from the important areas of the computer so no damage or permanent alteration to the system can result. I have to train all the students in the new procedure for saving documents and I also have to get used to it myself! Eventually, the software will be loaded on all of the remaining computers as well.

I introduced one of my favorite projects today. One Word Poems! I learned about this project at the CUE conference in Pasadena earlier this year from presenter and consultant Tammy Worcester . I highly recommend her presentations for anyone interested in learning new projects that students can do using PowerPoint. She also presents and has written books about using other programs as well, but I've only attended the PowerPoint presentation to date. I learned several great ideas, but in fact, the One Word Poem project was worth the entire conference for me. It's been a big hit with my students.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Reviving Tech4ESL

Since finishing up my Masters in Educational Technology, I haven't really revisited the Tech4ESL blog that I created while in my course. I was inspired to revive it after reading Adult Basic Education instructor Delondra Williams' blog urbanreadingteacher and realizing that perhaps using Tech4ESL as a forum for sharing my ongoing experiences with integrating technology into an adult-level ESL Intermediate Low class would be of use to other instructors thinking about using technology. So here goes!

Two items of note today. First, my new computers arrived! The 6 older student computers (didn't even have USB ports) are on their way to salvage and have been replaced by lovely new Gateways with flat panel screens. It's easy to see that the stations that had been the last ones to fill up if at all (they'd become almost unusable) will now be priority destinations for my students! The truth is, they had become almost unusable, and a big headache as well since they had become so unreliable. I've also moved my students to using USB flash drives to save their work and since those computers didn't have USB ports I still had to create floppy disks everytime anyone did work at the older computers. Now, I can phase out the floppy disks completely and use them as a new example whenever I teach the word "obsolete."

Now comes a period of adjustment as I, with the help of our school technical support person Tom, go about configuring the new computers with all of the programs, settings and icons that my students are used to. These will be the first computers that I'll be using that have a "protection" software installed so I'm interested in seeing how that will work out. We're going to be using "Deepfreeze" to help maintain them. I'm hoping that I won't experience new difficulties and that it works as advertised.

The second item of note is a new online application called Bubblr that I came across. Bubblr is an application that works in conjunction with Flickr the photo sharing website that lets anyone browse through the photos at Flickr and add their own speech "bubbles!" You can turn any of the public photos at Flickr into a a little comic strip of one or more frames. I've been doing this project using Word and ClipArt for several years and it's always been popular. Now I can introduce an online version of the same project. You can see one of the first examples I created here:
http://www.pimpampum.net/bubblr/?id=9100