My learning diary
Creative use of tablets in schools
Thank you for taking the time to read this learning diary. I hope you enjoyed it!
Who am I?
Hello! I am Régine Ballonad-Berthois, an ESL teacher working in a secondary school located in Brittany, France.
I have been teaching English for fourteen years and I have been training teachers to IT tools for two years.
I love working with school partners worldwide by using digital tools for my pupils to improve their knowledge and develop all the required skills for being responsible digital citizens able to make the good choices.
Module 1, Q1: why do I want to (or already) use tablets in my teaching?
I have been using a tablet in my teaching for two years. I started using an Asus tablet because I am part of a group called resENTICE in Rennes. In this group, all the trainers are provided with an Android or an IOS tablet to experiment apps and then be able to advise other colleagues about some possible activities. First, I realized there was a discrepancy between the personal use of a tablet and a professional use. So I started
exploring different apps and very quickly, I realized such a device could be a great help in my practice!
- A tablet allows me to have access to several tools with one device.
As an ESL teacher, it is important for me to be able to film my pupils, record their voice and take pictures from their work. It is time saving and so easy to use.
- A tablet helps me with class management
First, I used it in my class management because I like it when my pupils work into groups to produce something and I have never been able to limit the noise until I discover this free app on Android: Too noisy lite. Thanks to this app, I realized it was much easier to have my pupils be less noisy. I no longer had to shout to be heard because my pupils wanted the smiley to be happy! When the needle was in amber, I told my pupils to be careful because they were starting to become too noisy. This use was a success!
- A tablet is also a wonderful access to information offline!
We often speak about the importance of having access to the wifi to be able to use a tablet. Thanks to the app Pocket, I can save the internet pages that interest me and read them later offline. Such a functionality would have been impossible on a computer.
- App for teaching: Edmodo
I discovered Edmodo last summer and I started using it at the beginning of the school year with all my classes. I teach with pupils aged 12 to 15.
First my pupils were very enthusiastic about using Edmodo because it looks like facebook. They were happy about creating their avatar image but very quickly, when they realized they could not get in touch privately, they did not use the platform at its utmost. Eventually, Edmodo became another means of communication and exchange
between my pupils and me, whereas I wanted them to use Edmodo as a learning community. My pupils did not try to get more involved into the lessons. They did the strict minimum, that is to say the quizzes I put online for them to get ready for their tests, they consulted the links but they were not at the initiative of posting links or information. The badges did not change anything because they knew there would be no impact on their English results. I think that next year, I will take into account all the badges they will collect to turn them into a mark. I will also take into account their posts. The more they will write in English, the more points they will get at the end of the term. Edmodo is a great plateform for pupils to practise their English outside the English class, but I will have to mark their engagement on Edmodo.
Module 1, Q2: What whole-challenges do I foresee/am I already facing using tablets?
For my colleagues, my head of school and for the families, asking pupils to use their smartphone or bring their tablets for the English class is not something natural!
Who is responsible if the device is broken or stolen? What if another pupil is bullied if he cannot afford the same device as his classmates? What if a pupil does not use his device to improve his English but to play, take pictures or film without permission for facebook? What if a pupil from another class who is not allowed to use a tablet in his lessons brings his device to school? It is important to draw very clear lines from the beginning with everybody: why a tablet? What for? When? What if the rules are not respected? Before thinking about an access to the wifi for the use of some apps, I think it is essential to set a framework for the use of tablets or smartphones. This is a prerequisite for a success in the use of tablets in my school.
Module 3, Q3: What classroom challenges do I foresee/am I already facing using tablets?
BYOD can be a solution when you are in a school that cannot afford buying tablets. The first challenge I can think of is how to deal with pupils who would have different devices and different OS. Not all the apps are compatible with Windows 8 for example. What if a pupil cannot set up the app I advise because it does not fit with his system? I do not want some families to feel forced to buy an IOS tablet or an Android tablet just for the English lesson! I have to admit that I do not know much about Windows 8 tablet. I think that to deal with this situation, it is important to find a solution by using an online service on a computer depending on the result you want your pupils to achieve.
Ressources to explore
What kind of content can you produce with your class?
Depending on the activity I want my pupils to work on, I choose the appropriate app. It is very important for me use apps which are free and available on IOS or Android tablets, because most of my pupils have got a smartphone or a tablet operating under one these two systems. Moreover, these apps must be very intuitive and pupils must immediately understand what they have to do when they start the app.
One of my favourite apps for my pupils to explain orally what they have understood is tellagami.
There is a free version and an edu version. The free version is enough for my needs and this app can be used in different ways. Here are some examples of what my pupils did.
1) Reflecting about grammar: the pupils create a gami and speak French to explain what they have understood about a grammar rule.
Example: How to build questions in English?
The pupils really like this activity because they choose the character, the clothes, the background and the mood. Then they record their voice and watch the result. Tellagami is very simple to use!
Moreover, several gamis can be put together, so that you can have a longer presentation. When my pupils worked on apartheid in South Africa, they used pictures studied in class and used them as a background in their gami.
I also use tellagami when I want to explain the use of an online service. The pupils can watch the video whenever they want to if they need some help.
Once the video is created, it can be used with other pupils and it can be shared. It can watched from anywhere anytime and it can give others inspiration.
For this school year, I have been given an Ipad and I have not found a better app than Imovie. Thanks to this app, you can create films that really like professional and my pupils really enjoyed creating book trailers.
After writing their scary stories, I asked my pupils to find images illustrating their story in order to create a book trailer. After watching the book trailer, you will have to read the story to know more. Here are some examples.
Thinglink is an online service and an app too. It is very important for me to use tools that are also available from a computer. I only have my personal tablet to work with my pupils and some of my pupils use their smartphones during the English class. With the rest of the class, I use the laptops or computers.
Thinglink makes it possible to create an interactive image. From the book cover of the ebook "Scary stories", I added my pupils' videos but also audio recordings and a link to a padlet. My pupils knew that they wrote for an audience and that the entire world could read their stories, watch their trailers and listen to them. Plus, people could leave comments on a padlet. All of this was possible in less than a month, which is very short! I would have never been able to have my pupils produce such a work without having at least one tablet.
Publishing pupils' creations for an audience
Thanks to Edmodo, I could get in touch with a colleague working in Florida. We have been working together since September 2014. First, we started with a padlet for our students to introduce themselves. Then we decided to work on a long term project with our pupils and with other colleagues from around the world. All of this became possible thanks to blogger. The aim of this project is to show what we eat in our respective countries. Some colleagues from France, the USA, Turkey, Romania, Kenya, Nicaragua, Senegal and India accepted to join this adventure. It was very easy to add other colleagues as authors on the blog. Let's hope that all of them will publish pictures, videos, articles or photos about what their pupils eat in their country.
Again, my pupils use my tablet to create videos or take pictures that are published online.
Using tablets for collaborative learning
1) How do you form groups of students for group work and why do you take this approach? Based on your experience what strategies of forming groups work and which do not work? Why?
I am used to asking my students to work in groups because I think that when several people work together, they can go further. Indeed, you can share ideas and find others you would not have thought of if you had been alone.
When I started to ask my pupils to work in groups, I formed the groups. I wanted different pupils with different abilities to work together. Yet, I realized things did not run smoothly. In some groups, the pupils were in the same group but they did not work together. They wanted to do the activity alone without sharing anything. So I decided to change my strategy and used a fun way to form my groups by using the following site:
To use the wheel, you just have to type the name of your students and spin the wheel. Then the names are picked up and you can form your group. If you use a tablet in class, you can also download the app Decide Now that is available on IOS or Android, but it is not free.Then, you will show the result with your video projector.
In spite this playful way, my pupils did not collaborate as I would have expected. So I decided to apply a tool created by Stéphane Côté. It is a diagram allowing the teacher to see the connections between the pupils. Thanks to this tool, it is very easy for the teacher to know who the leaders are and which pupils are less popular in the class.
Thanks to this tool, the pupils are happy because they can collaborate with pupils they want to work with. The teacher does not have to deal with problems of relationships between the pupils and collaboration becomes easier.
Here is an example of a comic-strip created by my 12-year-old pupils in 2014. They wrote the scenario, took the pictures and created the comic-strip by using the website http://www.storyboardthat.com
2) How do you keep your students focused and on track during collaborative projects? How do you ensure all students contribute to the task?
To keep my students focused and on track during collaborative projects I try to find engaging tasks. I try to find projects not too challenging but fun to accomplish so that they work, learn and enjoy what they do.
From the beginning I tell my pupils how much time they will have to accomplish their task. I give them all the criteria on which they will have to focus their attention on and I insist on the fact that their work will have be high quality. I tell them that they do not work for me or just for themselves but to be seen, read or watched by the others.
To make sure that all students will contribute to the task, I create a pedagogical scenario that requires different abilities. For example, the pupils will have to create, speak and write for example. Then they will choose what they prefer to do and at the eI nd, the project will have to be coherent. I give them a check list so that they correct or improve their work.
Collaborating to create a comic-strip with pictures
Collaborating to create a magazine
In this example, my students had to collaborate to share the different tasks to create a magazine.
My pupils wrote the articles and I used Canva to create the cover of the magazine. In the magazine, there are QR codes I created. When scanned, you will see the videos or documents they had to consult to be able to write their articles or quizzes.
I also used the app Aurasma for an interview you will find at the end of the magazine. If you scan the picture of Tenzin, my pupil, you will see her speaking! Her task was to explain the reason why she wanted to be the future royal baby's nanny.
School to school collaboration with tablets
I have never taken part into an Etwinning project, but I am used to practising project-based learning. Thanks to Edmodo, I have been able to find a reliable partner to exchange. I think having a serious partner is an important factor for a project to be successful. The teachers need to be as motivated as the pupils about a project.
Moreover, both schools need to have the right tools and a good access to the Internet to be able to collaborate.
With my project Show me what you eat : http://showmewhatyoueat.blogspot.fr
I realized that it was not necessary to have plenty of partners if they don't publish anything... For a project to be a success, it is important to agree with the different colleagues on the tasks that will be accomplished and on a common schedule for the teachers and the pupils.
3) What strategies have you used to assess group work? What are the main challenges for you when it comes to assessing group work?
When the task is accomplished, I give a global mark. During the different steps of the project, I will assess each pupil. For example, the person in charge of writing will have a mark for his writing abilities and the person in charge of the oral part will have an oral mark.
Using tablets for personalising learning and flipping the classroom
How can tablets be used to personalise the learning experience of my students?
In my opinion, this cartoon is a good representation of what learning style is. All of our pupils are different and we cannot teach as if they were all similar and thought the same way as we do. It is as if we expected from a bird to be able to swim! It is absolutely preposterous! So the teacher needs to adapt his lessons to the different learning styles and a good way of doing it is to use the tablet.
As we have already seen, the tablet allows the user to read, write, draw, speak, listen and touch. Creating a task making it possible to combine different strategies becomes very easy.
Etigliss is a free app available on Android that I would like to use with my pupils when they will be provided with a tablet. Indeed, for the pupils who have a kinesthetic approach, it is a good thing for them to be able to manipulate words and images, or images and sounds for example.
For the moment I use learningapps with my pupils to differentiate my lessons and I also ask my pupils to create games on learningapps to check their understanding of a lesson.
Food memory is an example of an activity I created for my pupils.
How would I start to implement the flipped classroom in my school and classroom context?
I know what the flipped classroom is and yet, I have never tried to implement it in my class because I think it is not obvious to flip a language class. Indeed, there are 5 language activities: writing, reading, speaking, listening and interacting. To be honest, I do not know how I could flip these different skills.
After watching this video, I realized it was possible for me to flip my class by creating content about methodology. Let's take the example of reading. I could create for an example a video explaining my pupils what they have to focus on when they read a text. For each skill, I will have to find content about the way the language works on the Internet or I will have to create short videos responding to the needs of my pupils.
To find inpiration to create content for my pupils, I have looked for English teachers' blog about the topic and I found this blog:
One sentence in particular has drawn my attention: "(...) flipped learning is first and foremost about understanding your students, and meeting their needs."
In conclusion, I think that we cannot flip all the classes in the same way and it is very important to adapt the content of your flipped class to what the pupils really need.
Flipping is a challenge for both, the teacher and the pupils!
What are the key challenges to implementing the model in the classrooms?
Many of my pupils have had difficulties learning English and do not like English. So why should these pupils watch a video to prepare their English when they do not like learning English? I think that my key challenge will be to create attractive videos. Indeed, speaking about how to read a text, how to listen to a text, what to focus on when you write are not thrilling activities! My key challenge will be to find the best tools to create videos that are fun to watch.At the beginning of my school year, I created a video with Powtoon because I wanted to present the class project in an original way.
What is interesting with Powtoon is that it is a very simple tool. Different templates are available and you just have to choose the one fitting with your project. You can also add your voice.
Tellagami and wevideo are good tools too. As I prefer to create videos by using an avatar, I use Tellagami and then I edit the video by using the online service wevideo. I created an example a few months ago to explain my pupils how to use the service epals.
There is a wide choice of free tools allowing to create attractive videos.
VideoScribe is an online service I would like to try. In my opinion, it is very important to create engaging videos to flip a class.
When the video is ready, it is important to have a platform to host it. Edmodo can be the appropriate place. The pupils only have to click on the video to watch it. Yet, however engaging my videos can be, I think that I will always have pupils who will try not to do anything. Some of them will say that they have no access to the Internet at home for example. I will have to plan my lessons so that all the videos are ready for my pupils to download them on a memory stick if they cannot access the Internet at home. I think it is important to give an offline access to the ressources.
At school, when the pupils are free, they must be given the possibility to watch the videos. If a pupil encounters a technical problem to watch a video, he must be able to find some help at school. One of the first thing I will do will be to train a team of techs at the beginning of the school year, so that these pupils will be available to help the people who will face technical problems.
Eventually I will say that it is very important from the beginning that the pupils, their families and the school accept the required conditions to settle the flipped classroom. When a new approach is used, it is essential to communicate and answer the questions from the pupils and their families. If the families do not accept the conditions, the flipped classroom cannot be successful.
My lesson plan
Please click on the link above to access my lesson plan entitled "Create a 3D virtual museum about women who changed their society."