It’s early evening on a Friday about 7.30pm and the end of a long week both for me and the poor student who’s ended up scheduling her lessons at a time when the only other person in the school is the receptionist who has to lock up after us.
We’ve been talking about presentations and leadership and the board is covered in useful expressions, reformulations, explanatory diagrams and the odd stick figure cavorting across the board an attempt to convey meaning. And now, having moved on to the next bit, I need some more board space so I ask “Is it OK if I clean the board?”. “Uh, can I write it down first?” she asks. Part of me thinks – well that’ll take us to the end of the lesson quite neatly. And the other part thinks – but then we won’t get to finish up this bit of the task. I think for a moment. “Have you got your mobile with you?” I ask. “Does it have a camera?” and we experiment with open and closed shutters, lights on and off, but we get a nice clear readable shot of the white board in about a minute and on we go.
Next lesson, the learner brings her notebook and pen, uses them intermittently, but clearly prefers to continue the discussion, using the board as support and occasionally taking a photo to record board work for later review. I become much more aware of the haphazard approach to boardwork that I’m currently using. After one photo and board cleaning, I divide the board up into clear sections.
“What do you do with the pictures?” I want to know. “I bluetooth them to my computer and then make a neat version in my notebook.” She replies. I wonder if this is what is truly meant by blended learning….
Next lesson we work on supra-segmental stress features in a presentation delivery. Out comes my phone this time and I record her delivering the introduction to her presentation. We examine stress and pause in connected speech and rhetorical pauses. We record a second attempt and play it back. She doesn’t like it, so we go for a third attempt. We listen to the first and last attempts and she sees where and how she’s improved. We bluetooth the mp3 files from my phone to hers so she can take them away and listen to them later. Homework is to work out the next bit of the presentation and record a version for review next class.
Tuesday 7 June 2011 at 20:52
See, this is exactly why I am not anti-technology, even though I don’t believe in using technology in the classroom just because it’s there. If something is useful in a unique way, then exploit it (but I don’t force it if I can achieve the same results in the same time using a different technique!) I think this is a really creative, helpful way of using current technology. I would hate to try it with a whole class because then I feel it would end up being more trouble than it’s worth overall, but for one-on-one lessons with students who are comfortable with the medium, it’s a great item to add to the ole bag o’ tricks.
Tuesday 7 June 2011 at 23:50
Shortly after posting this, I was working with another student, albeit lower level, but who clearly prefers the pencil and paper approach…
Also – it would be interesting to see whether getting a large class to take a pic would actually be quicker and more effective than them writing it down. The idea of transferring information from one medium to another, so that it has to pass through the brain is supposed to aid retention – so making learners write things down in class might be more of a guarantee than leaving it for them to deal with later?
Wednesday 8 June 2011 at 03:00
The thing that makes me hesitate with creating activities like this for a whole group is that I find there’s too much variability in the students’ skills/comfort level with technology. I have some students who have no problems whatsoever, and other students who can barely turn a computer on. A third group is of students who know perfectly well how to do a lot of things with smart phones and computers but don’t like to use them if they can avoid it.
I really have the same objection, come to think of it, with any teaching technique. For some, lecturing is great, and others want to claw their eyes out. Some students love online discussion and others take it as an excuse to just do the minimum.
I definitely agree that the transfer of information helps retention, which is another reason I don’t like students taking notes on laptops – I tell them they get a chance to study the information better when they transfer their notes to their computer at home. Well, that and because it’s too distracting – the student is probably also on Facebook at the same time, I’m now trying to teach AND keep an eye on that student, and other students just want to look at the computer.
Wednesday 8 June 2011 at 13:31
Possibly the best approach is, as you pointed out earlier, to view all this as an additional tool (set of tools) in the box. Part of what we do is labelled “learner training”, so we should make learners aware of the tools they have available and the most effective ways of using them. Let them decide what works for them best?
Monday 4 July 2011 at 18:09
I’ve been doing something similar recently, just for my own development as a teacher, really. What I do is use my iPod to take snapshots of the whiteboard, so when I came across your post the other day, it gave me some new ideas on how to use this idea. Here’s a short post on the subject at: http://news.gardnerenglish.com/2011/07/making-whiteboards-hi-tech.html.
Tuesday 5 July 2011 at 19:50
You clearly have a superior i-pod to me… mine is pre-camera!
Having read your post it occurs to me that you could start a class blog or wiki with your students and post the vocabulary record pictures up at the end of class for later review?
Thanks for taking the time to comment!
Wednesday 6 July 2011 at 16:57
Yes, it’s one of the new ones, but I’ve always tried to use some kind of PDA in my classes since the days of the Palm.
Put the photos on a class wiki? What a brilliant idea!