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 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 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 and can now be found using the new tinyurl at So now, if you click on the link, you'll go directly to the webpage that previously was represented by:

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 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.