Popcorn Maker

Popcorn Maker is a free web tool that allows you to edit, remix, and create mashups of online videos, images, and audios.

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Features and how it works

Popcorn Maker was created by Mozilla. The interface is fairly simple to use, after having watched a short tutorial on Youtube. There is also a lot of support provided on the Mozilla website. To create your video, the first step is to copy and paste the URLs of different multimedia content you want to add in your video, on the menu at the right hand side of your screen. Then, you simply need to drag the chosen multimedia content, and drop it in your project timeline. You can add layers over layers of content. For instance, on one layer, you insert a Youtube video, then you add some comments on a second layer, and you add background music on the third layer, and you add an online file or your recorded voiceover in a fourth layer. The layers each work separately. This means that you can choose to have some comments appear at a certain time in your video, and you can easily move the appearance as you wish, without having to change all the other layers at the same time.

All the content that can be added to the video projects have to be online. For instance, you can’t use one of your own pictures, unless you find a way to publish it online and then obtain a URL for this image. Same goes for voice recordings and homemade films: They all need to be put online before being able to add them in the Popcorn Maker project. For instance, private videos can be uploaded to Youtube and inserted afterwards, as long as you have the URL.

Many features are available for your video projects. You can drag and drop videos, audios, and images into your video. You can add popups in shape of speech bubbles or thought bubbles with your annotations into your videos. You can change the icons of these popups for thumbs ups, thumbs downs, hearts, earths, eyes, and many more, in order to code the type of annotation you are making.   Moreover, and unlike most of the other video editor softwares, you can insert Wikipedia articles in which you can scroll down at the same time you are watching the video. These articles will also update whenever the website updates. You can also add clickable links for the viewer to click and go elsewhere on the web, you can add real-time social media feeds, and google maps. Viewers can explore these maps in Streeview mode as they wish, during the viewing of the video.

Here is a short video that I have created with Popcorn Maker, to experience the kinds of features available.

Unlike most of the other video editor softwares, Mozilla Popcorn Maker allows you to save your project directly on the website, instead of saving it on your own computer. Therefore, you save a lot of time, because you do not need to upload your projects, and you also save great Disk space.

All of the sources used to create the videos are available to everyone, by clicking the “view source” button. For this reason, the videos created with this website remain copyrights free, and the concept of fair use is respected. According to Wikipedia, “Fair use is a doctrine that permits limited use of copyrighted material without acquiring permission from the rights holders.” This is an interesting concepts that could also be taught to the students by the teacher, before using Popcorn Maker. The teacher can take a few minutes to explain the importance of fair use, copyrights and plagiarism. The teacher can therefore explain how they are not plagiarising when they create their videos with this tool, but they always have to be careful with plagiarism and citing their sources when they do varied tasks and projects.

Videos created in Popcorn Maker can be shared online. As stated in this graphite blog article,

“Kids can publish their videos and make them available for others to remix as well.”

Indeed, students can remix each other’s work, building on each other’s ideas. In Popcorn Maker’s search gallery, you can also find projects created by people using the tool all around the world. Every videos are “remixable”. Indeed, by clicking on the “remix” button of a project, you can get starter ideas and remix these existing ideas and add your own details. As a matter of fact, every video you create with this tool does not remain private. Everything is published on the website, and is available for anyone who wishes to remix your work. Therefore, you need to be careful with personal details you put into your videos. Your personal pictures might end up being used by different strangers all around the world.


How to use it in ESL classrooms

Popcorn Maker is used by a lot of teachers in many different school subjects and in many different school degrees such as high school levels, college and university. Indeed here is a 33 minutes video about how two teachers of different levels and different subjects actually use the tool with their students. One of the teacher in Hawaii teaches at high school levels and she has her students create all sorts of videos such as a back to school video with pictures and videos about what they did during the summer. The other teacher teaches journalism and screen studies at the University of Michigan. She also uses Popcorn maker in a different way suited for university students. She has her students analyze details and nuances of a work of media (for instance “Vertigo” by Alfred Hitchcock) and describe the physical language from the clip by adding comment bubbles that pop up at the right instances.

There are so many ways and ideas on how to use Popcorn Maker in an ESL classroom context. This free tool is great for individual work, but it can also be used in teams. For instance, the teacher could ask students in teams of 2, 3 or 4 (maximum) to create a video. The students get to cooperate, share ideas, help each other with the technicalities of the website and collaborate to come up with a project which they are proud of. This is a great way to include the use of ICTs, as recommended in the MELS program. Also, the students will find the experience engaging and interactive.

Here are some ideas of types of activities to do with students:

  • The students could take a video of a music performance such as an American Idol clip and add their comments and critique of the performance. They could record their voices as if they were the actual judges of the show.
  • Students can be asked to demonstrate certain concepts they have learned, like the Water Cycle (as suggested in Graphite). Therefore, they need to find images or videos and they have to explain the concept either by adding their voice or by adding comment bubbles.
  • The students could be asked to create a news broadcast, in which they include a video of a news and they add a voice over with their own narration, they do a weather broadcast and they interview a movie star. They can easily cut and paste parts of an interview with the star of their choice. Therefore, they can record themselves asking questions, and they paste the actual star’s answers from the real interview. This can be a very fun activity for them, and it also allows them to practise their oral competency, as well as their writing skills, since they have to write scripts beforehand.
  • The students could be asked to put visuals over a song they like. The students choose a song they like and that has interesting lyrics to reflect on. By doing a personal reflection on the song’s lyrics, they have to create a video related to the content or the subject. They can find images or video parts that fit the story of the song. This is a great activity for ESL classes, because there are tons of English songs that carry meaningful messages. This type of activity is good for vocabulary skills and understanding, but also for critical thinking and serious reflections.
  • The students could also be asked to do a research on a certain subject (which is often the case in ESL classes, as it allows students to learn about varied new subjects of interest.) They could be asked to present a Popcorn Maker video of their research. For instance, if they do a research on China, they could provide a Google map link in which the viewers can explore in “Street view” mode. They could add pictures and describing comments, they could put a typical Chinese music in the background, and they could present various videos related to the topic. They could also add the Wikipedia window too.
  • Students can share their projects with each other and remix each other’s work. It allows them to build on each other’s’ ideas and do personal reflections on how they would change the video, what they will add, how they will comment, etc.
  • Finally, Popcorn Maker can be a wonderful and different way of introducing oneself. This can be an interesting way to present pictures of things representing you, to present videos of personal talents, to add comments on background infos, to add your favourite song in the back, etc. Really, this can be a very nice activity to break the ice at the beginning of the year, both for the teacher to introduce himself/herself, or for the students as well, to present themselves to the teacher and to other students which have never been in the same classroom before. This way of presenting oneself removes the stress, and it allows shy students to express themselves via their video creation about themselves. For instance, a student could show a video of himself/herself skillfully playing a musical instrument or performing a choreography or a sport. They can show valuable aspects of themselves and have other students discover unknown facts about themselves. This can help build their self-confidence. Moreover, being able to record a voiceover in English in stress-free circumstances will certainly help some students to develop higher self-esteem. By being able to show to others that they are capable of speaking in the target language they can present to the classmates an image of themselves as English speakers as they would like to be seen.

My personal opinion

Overall, I believe that Popcorn Maker is a great tool to use in a classroom context. It is fairly simple to use, and very nice projects can be created. I also like the fact that unlike most of the other video editing tools out there, Popcorn Maker allows you to insert hyperlinks that pop up into your video remix, on which viewers can click and visit in real time, while they are watching the presentation. I am sure the students will love it, in a few years, when I will be using it in my own classrooms. Notwithstanding, in my opinion, I think I would rather use this tool with higher levels of student, namely, high school students and higher. Although it would maybe be feasible with grade 6 students (elementary level), it would be too long and too complicated for some.

However, a downside of this tool was pointed out in a blog article for teachers. I find myself completely agreeing with this: Because the students have access to any videos, images or websites from the web to include in their Popcorn Maker project, the teacher must be very mindful of what kids choose to include in their videos. It is important to remind the students that the content has to be appropriate for school.

Another point which I think complicates how to create your videos, is that everything you put in your video has to be online (have a URL address). I understand that this is to respect copyrights principles, but it sometimes complicates the process. For instance, if I would like to use a picture collage that I created with a tool like “PhotoFiltre,” it would not be possible to include it in the montage, unless I published it online somewhere beforehand. This second downside is also mentioned by a teacher using Popcorn Maker in an Ed Social Media Blog article:

“Video must come from YouTube and audio must come from Soundcloud. Vimeo and other sources offer some wonderful content, and the added step of getting that content to YouTube is a deterrent to many students. Work-arounds certainly exist, but it creates a hassle that doesn’t really need to be there.”

Despite these two downsides, I will certainly use Popcorn Maker in my future career, and I might even use it for my next practicum, as a video profile to present myself to the students.

EasyTestMaker

EasyTestMaker is a tool for creating tests, quizzes, questionnaires, exams or activities. This online tool is fairly simple to use, and can be useful for any school subject.

How it works & Features

Here is a 10 minutes video tutorial and positive critique of how to use EasyTestMaker.

There is a simple menu on the left side of the screen. First, you have to decide the Heading of your test. You simply click the green + sign to add any type of question you want. You can chose within Short Answers, Multiple Choice, True or False, Matching, and Fill in the blank. You can also choose a question from another test, instead of having to re-write it.

When you edit your questions, you have an Advanced Options menu. You can specify the point value of every answer, add images, charts, graphs, gifs, etc. You also have a spell check icon that can be used.

You can format your test as you wish, adding instructions, dividing it into sections, decide if you want questions to appear on a different page, and change the questions’ order as you wish.

When you are done creating you test, you can generate alternate versions. This is done automatically by the software, which randomizes the questions, so they appear in a different order from version to version.

The tests and answer keys can be downloaded to your computer as a Word document or a PDF, for later use. It can be directly printed, but most importantly, it can be published online.  When the tests are published online, they can be automatically graded. The software can identify the answers from the answer key, and add up the deserved points, according to how many points were attributed in the Advanced Options menu.

EasyTestMaker is available in three different pricing plans. There is a free version, the Plus version at a 44,95$ rate per year, or the premium version, which costs 74,95$ per year.

The tool is recommended on different teachers’ websites, blogs or forums.

EdTechTeacher is a website that recommends online tools, applications or various technologies to use in a teaching context. EasyTestMaker was rated 4 out of five ans was considered easy to use.

Web 2.0 Teaching Tools, a blog for teachers, chose EasyTestMaker in a top 5 Quiz generators for online educators.

“This robust tool includes a spell check function, which comes in handy for those of us creating tests late at night.”

EasyTestMaker for ESL teachers

Using EasyTestMaker with the online feature enables the teacher to give quizzes for homework. For teachers of English as a second language, this can be a beneficial strategy. Since the English as a second language teachers do not see their classes as often as French or mathematics teachers do, assigning individual tests to be done at home can maximize the time spent in class to communicate and practise oral interactions with peers or whole group discussions. Evaluating the students’ understanding of the materials is equally important as oral practise, but this way, it can be done outside of the in class periods, which is not possible with oral interactions.

It is nice that students are able to take the test from home, and still be able to have an instantaneous feedback on how well they did, or what they did wrong. They do not need to wait for the teacher collecting it the next class, waiting for it to be graded and then have the answer key, so late that they do not even remember the questions, and are less inclined to correct themselves and learn from their mistakes.

Depending on the kind of tests you administer, EasyTestMaker can allow students to reflect longer before responding. In the case of a reading comprehension test, by doing it on a computer, the student has a lot of resources available to him. For instance, he could use an online dictionary, a thesaurus or a translating device. Because he has no specific amount of time to complete it, it can reduce stress, and provide more time to construct better sentences and well-thought answers.

On the other hand, if you administer a homework test that requires no processing like a reading comprehension, students may be tempted to cheat. For example, if the test consists of simple answers on vocabulary words or irregular verbs, there is a great deal of chances the student will get the answers online. These kind of tests should therefore be done during class, at a computer lab.

In these cases of short-answer tests, the automatic correction and alternate versions generator features come in handy. The teacher can save a lot of time correcting. Plus, if the test is done during a period in the computer lab, you can create 3 different versions of the same test, so as to reduce cheating. You just have to make sure that students seated directly next to each other have different versions of the text. This way, even if they peek at their neighbour’s screen, they cannot cheat.

My personal opinion

Why I like it…

I think that EasyTestMaker is very convenient, since it is very simple to use. I have experimented on the free version and had no trouble at all creating a test and an answer key without looking at any tutorial or reading instructions. It like it when things are simple and self-explanatory.

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Also, as a person who cares about the environment, I believe that taking tests online can be a very nice solution to reduce paper copies that are only going to serve once.

Furthermore, any tool that allows me to save time always has a great place in my esteem. As a future teacher, I will need to have concrete strategies and a very organized schedule in order not to lose time. Having tests automatically corrected will be useful.

What I dislike about it…

As useful as EasyTestMaker can be, I disliked the look of the interface. As a matter of fact, the design of the interface does not look up to date. One would use the site in order to integrate technology into their teaching practise, but the design looks old and too straightforward. It would add a dynamic value if the creators updated their graphical design.

Also, I find it disappointing that most of the interesting features are only available to the paying versions. The free version does not allow you to format your text (choose your font, bold, centre), to add images or graphs, to publish online or the automatically grade the tests. Furthermore, the premium version costs 74,95$ per year, which is expensive for the amount of benefits related to it. I’m not sure if I would devote a part of my budget to use this software.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DOGO News

DOGO News is a website with online news, book reviews and suggestions as well as movie reviews for children. (DOGO means young or small in Swahili.) The website was created in 2009 by Meera Dolasia in San Francisco Bay area. As a mother, she wanted a safe but interesting and educative site for her children. The word spread about her creation, and today, the website is used by a million students and teachers around the world.

How it works and features

The DOGO News section presents current news, interesting facts, funny stories, and current events all geared for kids. All of the stories presented are non-fiction articles about what is going on all around the world. Indeed, there is a world map function. By clicking on it, it shows you the location of the news on a world map. Therefore, the students develop their awareness of what is going on around the globe, and the geographical contexts help them to contextualize the articles.

You can browse articles according to the latest news, topics (science, sports, social studies, did you know, green, general, entertainment, international, Amazing, fun, videos, etc.), by grades (K-3, 3-5, 5-8), or by searching a key word in the search box. On every article page, you can leave a comment in the comment section, you can send the article by e-mail, and you can embed the article in a blog. Each article provides a lesson plan that can be used by the teachers, and a word search is also available. Teachers can also log in and create a virtual classroom.

Everything on DOGO News is divided according to the student’s grades. However, some of the ratings are not always appropriate. As stated in a Common Sense Media review of the website, “Although materials are categorized from grade K through 8, younger kids will need an adult to read the material and capitalize on learning resources”.

A very interesting feature is that in every text, complicated words are in bold and in blue. By simply clicking on the different new words, a definition pops up.  This allows the student to have a better understanding of the text, and avoids the teacher to explain tons of new words encountered in the different texts.

There is also a “DOGO Books” section. This sections presents recent to older children / teenage books. All of the books have a short description (summary), as well as information pertaining the genre, reading level, the interest level, the word count, the public rating, the reviews, etc. You can also click on a link to see a preview, buy or “wish” the book on amazon.com or to borrow it at a local library, if available in your region. You can search books by titles, ISBN, reading level or genre. Every book presented has a review section for kids to write what they thought about the book and if they recommend it. Students can also join the National Geographic Kids Book Club where they have fun activities, and cool prizes to win. In the DOGO Books sections, there is a “Giveaways and Contests” section where you can win free books from publishers.

For ESL teachers

What is so interesting about DOGO News website, is that it can be used by teachers and students in so many different ways. Here are a few ways to use it:

  • You can send students on the website to choose any topic of their choice for a writing assignment. An interesting aspect of this website is that all the news on the site are geared to kids. Therefore, the students are sure to find an interesting topic for them to talk or write about, but also, the articles available assure the teacher that the content will be appropriate for students and school context.

Victoria Santos, a teacher doing a tutorial on YouTube, talks about how she enjoys using DOGO News in her classroom.

“I enjoy using DOGO News with my students because the current events are geared for kids. It is much more interesting than the current events that adults read about. These articles will allow students to become creative and choose fun topics for their writing.”

  • You can also sign in with a teacher account and create a class page for your groups. You simply need to invite students to join your class page. On your class page, you can share videos, recommended books, add links to your favourite websites, show a class calendar with the different assignments, etc.
  • On your class page, you can create a reading list, and a list of recommended books for your students to read. You can assign students to choose a book from your list to read, and afterwards, you ask the student to make his own book review and post it on the website. The fact that the students’ work will be posted on the internet will surely motivate them to write a good text.
  • You can assign an article to read, and use the lesson plan suggested on the website. The lesson plans suggest different areas of activities, like comprehension questions, critical thinking activities, vocabulary activities, speaking and writing activities.
  • A teacher could also choose to formulate new comprehension questions about the text, since the ones suggested may not be adapted to the students’ level, or the teacher might want to have more questions, since there are only about 3 for each text.
  • The teacher could also assign a critical thinking challenge. For instance, you assign the same text for all of the students, and you have students reflect on what they read, and what they think. They could engage in a debate, where they argue and share their point of view, or a discussion in class where they share their reflection. The students may also be invited to comment on the text’s online page.
  • Each text also provides a word search with vocabulary words related to the topic. This can be a nice filler activity, for some students who finish their task early.
  • Another idea on how to use DOGO News in the classroom is suggested by Amy Lauren Botula. This teacher weekly assigns articles to her students as collaborative research projects. Every week, they work in group on a new article.
  • Finally, Teachers First blog recommends to create a class magazine with all the articles chosen by the students.

These are all interesting ways to use the free website with your kids, and get them hooked on interesting and sometimes unusual topics.

 

My personal opinion

As a future English teacher, I believe that it is important to develop the students’ critical thinking, and to increase their sense of curiosity and awareness regarding what is going on around the world. This is why I believe that DOGO news is a very interesting website to use in classrooms. It is really simple to use for children, and as mentioned previously, there are many ways to use it in a classroom. After reading a few suggested lesson plans, I can conclude that the ideas suggested are very interesting, and also very adapted to students. The news are fun and interesting. The subjects are always adapted to children’s interests. Indeed, they are even adapted to different school levels.

The only thing to be careful with, is that because this site is created for English as a first language learners, some questions, texts difficulties and vocabulary levels may be more difficult for ESL students than what is graded on the website. So, maybe adapt the chosen text to lower levels. For instance, a group of 6 graders may not be able to read and understand a text graded 5-8, but a 3-5 text would be more appropriate to their level of English.

I find it interesting that using the same website, the 3 MELS competencies can be integrated. For instance, students develop their oral abilities (C1) by discussing or debating a subject. Their reinvestment competency (C2) is developed when they have comprehension questions to answer according to a text they read. Finally, the writing competency (C3) is developed when the teacher asks the student to write about the topic.

There are only two cons about the web site. As stated in Common Sense Media,

“The Maps tab houses a world tour of geo-located one-paragraph articles that feels really cool at first but can’t be paused — a definite source of frustration for the majority of readers who will not be able to read all the text before the tour shoves off again for another spot on the planet.”

It is true that this function could be upgraded. Also, as mentioned in Graphite, the answer keys are not provided. So, the teacher needs to read all of the articles in advance to make sure he knows what the answers are. In a case where the teacher allows the students to choose an article of their choice, this lack of answer key can become problematic.

In conclusion, I will certainly use this website during my practicums and my future career.

Kahoot!

Kahoot! Is a free online game-based classroom response system. In other words, it is a website on which you can create quizzes, discussions and surveys. Then, you can project your quiz on a screen at the front of a classroom, and students can answer questions in real time on their own mobile devices.

 


How it works and features

Kahoot! is very simple to use, but most of all, it is really fun! It can be played in different environments, for instance in classrooms of any levels, during conferences or lectures, with families, at the workplace to check the understanding after a meeting, etc. The game master simply has to create an account (free) on https://getkahoot.com. Then, the game master can create as many different quizzes as he/she likes. After the quizzes are created, the game master can project his/her Kahoot! on the screen at the front of the group and invite the players to play via their own mobile devices.

The steps:

  1. First, after logging in your account, you select what kind of Kahoot! you want to create: A quiz, a discussion or a survey.
  2. You give your new quiz a title.
  3. You create your questions.

First, you type your question in the “Question box”. Then, underneath the “Question box”, you have another box into which you can drag or drop an image or video from your computer. If you choose not to upload one of your pictures, Kahoot! will put one of their own for you. This way, it makes the quiz more engaging. Then, you add as many multiple choices of answers in the little boxes underneath the image. You simply have to select which answers are true, and which are incorrect. More than one answer could be a correct answer. You can assign how many points the questions is valued, and the time limit for the participants to answer it (between 5 and 120 seconds).

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  1. Then, you can add questions to your quiz, delete questions, duplicate questions or save your completed quiz.
  2. At the end of the quiz creation, you have to set in what language it is, you have to choose the privacy settings (public or private*) and select the intended audience (school, university, business, event, social, etc.). You can optionally add a description of your quiz, and assign a difficulty level (beginner, intermediate, advanced). Finally, you can tag your quiz with key words like for instance the topic, the academic qualification level, etc.

* When you choose the public privacy setting, everyone using Kahoot! can play your quizzes and duplicate them and edit them. If you choose the private setting, you will be able to play with your whole class if they have the PIN, but everyone else using the website will not have access to it.

  1. Only if you wish to, you can give your quiz a cover image.
  2. At any time, you can go back to all of your different quizzes and edit them as you like.
  3. If you wish to, you can share your Kahoot! on the website community page, on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google Plus or by e-mail.
  4. Your quiz is now completed and ready to be played!

How to play with other people!

  1. Hit play now. You will get the a page with the name of your quiz at the top, and different choices of settings: Display game-pin throughout, randomise order of questions, randomise order of answers in each question, play music in the lobby while waiting for people to join the quiz, display your venue’s wifi details to players, etc,. After choosing your settings, click on Launch.
  2. The “Lobby” will now be opened for players to join in. You have to project your Kahoot! at the front of the class.
  3. Participants who have a mobile device and access to a wifi or their 3G have to go on the internet and go to the website: Kahoot.it
  4. Then, they have to enter the game-PIN showed on the game master screen. They choose a nickname and automatically appear on the “Lobby”.
  5. On the Lobby, you see the number of players logged in.

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  1. The game is now started! Each questions appear on the game master screen, with the different choices in different color rectangles. On their devices, the participant do not see the question, nor the answers. They only have the color-coded rectangles associated with the answers displayed at the front of the classroom. They have to select their answer by choosing the right rectangle on their devices, and fast enough so their beat the clock.
  2. When the time is up, the right answer is displayed on the game master’s screen, with statistics of how many people chose which answer. (For example, 10 people chose yellow, 3 people chose red, 6 people chose green and 12 chose blue.)

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  1. There is an icon “re-show image” that allows you to go back to the question and give the explanations for the right answer.
  2. Next, the scoreboard is shown on the screen, showing the 5 best positioned participants and their points.
  3. You repeat this sequence question by question until the end of the quiz.
  4. At the end, participants can rate the quiz on their devices, according to how fun they found it, did they learn something, and would they recommend it to somebody.

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Kahoot! for ESL teachers

Kahoot! is a very nice interactive way of teaching and learning. It can be a really fun way of checking the understanding of the students for many different levels. For instance, if you play with a group of second grade students who are learning English as a second language and are real beginners, you can play Kahoot! by showing pictures of vocabulary items they are learning as questions, and they have to match the correct definition. For instance, you show a cat, and they have to tell whether it is a cat, a dog, a mouse or a duck. You simply allow them a longer time to respond, according to their ability level. For a little more advanced group of students learning prepositions, you can show a picture of an apple on a desk. The answers should suggest: Is the apple on the desk?, under the desk?, beside the desk?, etc.?

English teachers can also use Kahoot! at all secondary levels. An interesting way of doing it would be for instance, if the students had to read a book, the questions could all be related to the content of the book. This way, by seeing the students’ answers, the teacher can easily check the understanding of the students, which part were more difficult, and which students in particular did not seem to understand anything, or even who did not read the book at all.

Using this tool once in a while keeps the students interested, and it can bring a less fun teaching topic (like grammar) to be more exciting and enjoyed by the students because of the interactive side and the competitive aspect. A teacher can use the tool to identify what is the hardest for the students and then go back to it and give further explanations. It is also very motivating and rewarding for the students to see their name in the top 5 on the teacher’s screen. The competitive aspect can engage students to do better and better. Also, you retain more information when you are engaged in the process. By remembering “Oh yes, I saw this question when we played Kahoot!” the student might remember more efficiently the material.

This latter idea was also mentioned on the Ed Tech Review website. The author cited an old Chinese proverb that well illustrates the idea: “Tell me and I forget, show me and I remember, involve me and I understand.”

An Edshelf review adds that it is a great idea for students to create their own quizzes. By doing so, they reinforce their learning because they are thinking of some tricky questions about the material, but also, they have to think of potential wrong answers, and this helps them get the hang of materials that could be confusing to them.


My personal opinion

I have discovered Kahoot! during a SPEAK on Campus conference at Laval University. The lecturer made us get our cell phones out to play the quiz. I thought it was really fun, because it is different from what we are used to in classrooms. It gave a different beat to the room: everyone who were sleeping in their seats woke up and were excited to play something different and engaging. I really like the competitive aspect, as it motivates everyone to answer well and rapidly, so as to find our names on the top 5 chart. I believe that using Kahoot! as a way to quiz the students is less stressful for them compared to a traditional test on paper, that has to be completed in silence in a certain amount of time. Students see it more as a game, but because they want to gain points, they respond thoroughly to the questions. I also liked the fact that it is very simple for all the students to log in. It takes maximum 3 minutes for everyone to join, because there are only 3 clear and concise steps. I will definitely use this tool in my future ESL career, and I find the invention very exciting.

The only pitfall of this tool, is that most of the time, cell phones are not allowed in classrooms. In this case, allowing students to play Kahoot! on their phones would go against the school rules, and I am not sure it is a good idea. But, it may be feasible if you have the principal’s permission, and if you are sure that your students are responsible enough not to take out their phones on “off Kahoot!” time. However, nowadays, some classes are provided with iPads for every students. These classes would certainly benefit from using Kahoot!.

Explain Everything

Explain everything is an app available for apple devices, android and windows. It is a great tool for teachers especially. You can create screencasts of yourself talking while writing and adding images to an interactive white board.

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How it works and features

 

Explain everything has many features. First, you can insert any images, videos, Powerpoints, Pdfs, screen captures, sound files or documents of your choice into your Explain Everything project. You can also record your voice and annotate anything on your screen and even add more pictures or files at the same time. Anything that you add to your screen is moveable, even the annotations or drawings that you make. You simply have to drag these items at the same time as you record your screen cast. When you play your final presentation, the audience does not see the cursor. As a result, we only see the different objects moving, like animations. If you wish to point what you want to emphasis or direct the attention to, there is a virtual laser pointer, which will be seen in the final project.  At the bottom of you project in creation, there is a timeline, which shows you the different steps of your recording with markers (when you hit pause, when you added an image, etc.). This allows you to easily go back and redo any part you wish to modify.

There is a crayon available, to draw or annotate, with a lot of colors available. You can also highlight texts, since you can vary the opacity degree. You can insert pre-made shapes, arrows, lines or even stars from the menu bar on the left side of the screen. You can insert text boxes if you wish to have typed writings instead of written ones. There are many fonts available, and you can vary the size too.

You can organize the order of all the different objects added on your screen to facilitate your work. This means that you can group some objects together, so they will all move together when you drag them. Also, you can set some objects as backgrounds, to prevent them to move inadvertently when you move other objects around. You can bring back previously added objects to the front, allowing them not to be hidden behind newly added images or objects.

There are multiple tutorial videos available on Morris Cooke website, to help you gain some expertise and tricks to well perform on your own afterwards.

Once your project is finished, there are many possibilities available to you to either export your projects or share them. You can connect to many cloud services like Dropbox, Evernote, Google Drive, etc. You can also upload you video on YouTube or Vimeo if you wish to make it public. Or, you can simply save your work on your computer and project it on screen to your class with a projector.


 Explain everything for ESL teachers

Explain everything is a great tool for English teachers. You can easily create all sorts of videos, either educative or for entertainment. Explain everything would be an awesome tool to consider for those who have flipped classrooms. As the time in class in flipped classroom is destined for communication and exercises, the lessons and explanations of grammar rules are explained outside of class. This app is perfect for this purpose. The teacher can give his lecture while recording his voice and writing and pointing on the screen at the same time. He can create templates, use different images and even videos over which he can write and comment.  The applications is well done as a kind of “animated slideshow presentation” which allows you to change pages and start something new, but inside of the same video. Also, you can save a lot of time, because you do not have to edit you videos. For instance, every time you want to, you hit pause and the recorder stops recording. Then, you can modify your screen or prepare what you are going to say. When you are ready for the following, you simply hit play again and the recording will be added right after where you paused. This interesting feature permits you to save a lot of time, and is a considerable advantage, for those (like myself) who are not that good with editing softwares! Teachers who use the flipped classroom method are known to be spending a lot of time creating the videos for their students to watch at home. The videos they make have to be very concise and clear, since the student at home cannot ask questions in real time, and the teacher cannot see the looks of incomprehension on the students’ faces as the lesson goes along.  So with this app, which is highly versatile and allows you to save a lot of time, it should be used by all these teachers.

As cited in an app review on edshelf, a discovery engine of websites, mobile apps, desktop programs, and electronic products for teaching and learning,

“Explain Everything is currently being used by thousands of teachers and students in over 60 countries. Hundreds of videos are added each week to YouTube”

According to Mark Fijor, a blogger on new school technologies, Explain Everything is a must for all teacher and students to have on their electronic device. He also mentions that Explain Everything is not only for teachers. In fact, he encourages teachers to have their students use the app in class, for their different projects:

 “Explain Everything is an app that allows students to create, collaborate, communicate and consume content at any age.”


My personal opinion

I think that the app is very useful. I have used the free version to create a video assignment in one of my class, and I have experimented on it plenty to understand all of the functions and features offered in the free version.

explaineverything

Explain everything is fairly simple to use because there are not tons of different features available. Personally, I have tried the Windows 8 version since I own a Surface Pro 3, and not an iPad. I think there is definitely an advantage to use it with the Surface, because you can use your Stylus. Since you use the app to write on the screen at the same time you talk, and for English teaching purposes, you might probably end up having to write sentences and words, it is much easier and naturalistic to use the stylus instead of your finger. I think it’s very pleasant to finally have an app that is not exclusive to Apple devices for once. A greater range of users can benefit from it. However, I have encountered a few inconvenient problems with the app. For instance, I had to start my project all over about 5 times because the application kept closing in my face while I was working on my video. It may be due to the free version, but I am not sure. Also, the app is not that user-friendly when it is the first time you use it. This may sound as a contradiction because I previously said it was fairly simple to use, but what I mean is: it is simple to use, but only once you are used to it. What I mean by that is the menu is not that clear. You have to use the tool bar which is made of symbols icons. However, when you pass your curser over the symbols, no written form appears to tell you what the purpose of the icon is. On the other hand, once you are used to these symbols, then it is very easy to use. I would recommend using it to all teachers of all subjects, and I am sure that I will use this tool at one point in my future teacher career. They make the videos very captivating to watch, and you can custom your videos and lessons without compromises.

Story Jumper

Story Jumper is a website on which you can create illustrated story books.


How it works & Features

With story jumper, the stories are very easy to create. The interface is simple and user-friendly. To create a story, you just need to click on the page you want to edit, and you choose whatever you want from the menu on the left. You can choose settings, characters, props, face expressions and many other things among a large selection. If you want, you can also choose from your own pictures on your computer, or from Flickr. You can move, rotate and resize your props however you want them on your page. You can also add text, in different fonts, colors and text box styles.  You can copy pages already done, and you can also interchange the page order as you wish. It is as simple as this to create a story. Here is a screen capture of the interface, with 2 pages from my own story.

Storyjumper_interface

The website offers many features. There is a Teacher’s Guide that helps you navigate through the site and explains every steps in details. There is also a video tutorial to help you with the steps in a more visual way.

There is also a worksheet that can be used by the teachers. This worksheet can be printed and handed out to the students, prior their visit to the computer lab. It has some guidelines to help students prepare and create their story.

There is an online bank of storybooks made by people using the website all over the world. These can be used to get inspiration, to use as examples, or simply to read interesting stories. There is also a translation feature. Any book can be translated in over 40 languages (Like Spanish, French, Hebrew, Chinese, and more.)

Teachers and students log in in different places. The teacher logs in as a teacher. He has to mention which school he works at, and must create a class, and add the students, in order to create them a session. The teacher can have more than one classroom, and every time the teacher adds a student, it creates a funny username like “funnygoat53”. The teacher also has the ability to see all of the students’ books, either finished or in progress. He can comment them and see the evolution. The teacher can also share the class collection, for the students to be able to see their peer’s work.

The students cannot create their own account. They have to log in on a school in particular. They absolutely need to be part of a classroom in which the teacher created a session for them. This is a security question. Once the teacher has created an account for the student, the student needs his/her parents’ authorisation to open his session outside of school. During class, the teacher activates a timer that allows students to log in on their session.

According to these two reviews, one from graphite education reviews, and one from Teachers first, Story Jumper works for a wide age range. Students can create a story according to their own level.

Pricing options

The website is totally free to use. The pricing options are for when you want to print out your work. If you are ok with reading your stories online, this is also completely free. There is a free printable version, except that there is a logo that appears on all pf the pages. If you want, you can buy the digital downloads version at 1.95$, which allows you to print it as many times as you want, with a higher quality. There is the paperback version that costs 12,95$, and the hardcover, which is 24,95$. There is a 10% discount that can be offered to teachers who print more than 15 copies.


Story Jumper for ESL teachers

Story Jumper is a great tool for English teachers. In fact, I had the chance to attend a conference given by Mark Miller, which was destined to all of the English teachers of a Québec schoolboard, about this particular tool. There are many ways to use this website in a teaching context. Here are a few:

  • Teachers can garnish their English books library by printing out copies of stories, either created by the students, or by the teacher himself/herself. If the books are created by the teacher, the teacher can construct his teaching around the books. Let’s say that he/she invents a character, and this character will be the class’ mascot throughout the year. The students will be very eager to read the adventures that happen to him, or even write new ones about him too. Also, the teacher can include whatever vocabulary or grammar forms he wishes his students to encounter and work on. It is a great way to find stories that are just the right level for where the students are at.
  • Writing productions can be hard and sometimes are a source of discouragement for some students. Using Story Jumper can be a great tool to motivate them. If the students know that when they are finished writing their texts, the group will go to the lab and put their stories on the computer, they will see it as a reward. Their goal will be to create a nice story on the internet, so they will be more motivated to write it in the first place.
  • Story Jumper can also be used as an ongoing project that lasts through the whole school year. Students may be allowed to log on their account and continue their story whenever they finish the class activities early. Or, they can be given a few minutes at the end of some classes to work on it. Teachers can also assign a schedule for every student to get one period on the class computer.
  • Story Jumper can be used as a team creative writing tool. For instance, the teacher can start a story and share it with his students. The students could be asked to complete the story, keeping the characters, setting and core idea of the beginning, but adding their own turn of events, as they imagine it.
  • When projects are finished, the teacher can choose to present them to the classroom using a Smart Board. This way is free and every student get to see their peers’ work. Teacher could also decide to print all of the books. Either to keep them in his library, and therefore have the students be proud to leave their mark in the school library. The other alternative, which is a little pricier, is to have the student’s stories printed into a hard cover book that they keep as a memory. Either way, the students get to be published, and that is a really rewarding accomplishment.

My personal opinion

As a future teacher, I was very happy do discover this tool, because I am pretty sure that I will use it with my future students. I think that it is really easy to use for the students, teachers and parents. It can motivate the children for writing tasks, by making them more fun and interactive. The only thing that is disappointing is the level of security measures that avoid children to freely work on their projects outside of school. Apart than that, everything is positive about the tool. I myself had a great time, and got to feel like a kid, when I experimented on the tool, creating my illustrated story on pirates and sea creatures at the conference! I recommend it to everyone!

Trello

Trello is a free internet tool to organize and manage projects of all kinds. It takes the form of a notice-board with various moveable post-its of reminders, lists, pictures, etc.

Features and how it works

Trello is very flexible on how you want to represent your work, in order to suit which kind of projects you are working on, what kind of processes it requires and with whom you want to work. First of all, you can create many different boards. The easiest way would be to create one board for every project you are working on. You can change the visibility of every board to private, available to members of your team, or public. You can create organizations (lists of members) so you do not have to write all of the names you want to add every time you create a new board. For instance, suppose you create a new project intended to be done with the same group of 8 person as the last time, in one click, you can add everyone from one organization and there you go! You just saved 16 clicks and a few minutes. You can also promote other members of your organization to be administrators of the board as well. Like that, they can add cards and lists to the board.

The most used way to organize your board is in 3 columns: “To do” “In progress” “Done”. You are also free to add a penultimate column which would be named “To revise” before switching it to the “Done” column.

You can add as many cards as you want and drag them from column to column, according to what you are working on at the moment, what is done and what still needs to be done. The cards are the moveable “post-its” if you want.

When you click on a card, it opens up and you can add further details to the task at hand. You can describe the task, attach pictures and files (For example the word document that is in progress for the task), hyperlinks, checklists, etc. You can also add a due date and a time, so it shows directly on the card when you have the full view of the board, as a reminder.

It is also possible to tag one or more members of your team onto a card to indicate that they are in charge of that part.

On the cards, there is always an activity log, where team members can add comments. It can be useful for questions regarding the task, or simply to indicate to your team what you have done. In the comments, you can identify a member by using @username. The person who is mentioned in a commentary will receive a notification by e-mail or pop-up on his portable device, depending of his/her settings.

There is a color-coded label system. You can pre-set your labels for the project with your teammates. Every time you add a new card, you assign the associated label. When you take a look at you board, you have an idea of what kind of tasks they are, without having to open every card. The color-coded labels is simply to help organize the labels, and it can be used in so many different ways. For instance, the colors could be associated with names of team members, or with priorities ranks, or types of tasks at hand, etc.

You also have the power-ups in the menu. The power-ups are the Calendar, the Voting and the Card Aging features. When you enable the Calendar feature, Trello reorganizes all of your cards into a calendar, according to the due dates you have. The Voting feature enables members to vote on cards, for example to decide which one should be the priority or else. The Card Aging gives you an idea on the activity done across time. When nobody works on a card for a long time, the card will visibly “age” (become transparent, or become yellow and cracked like old parchment).

What is really interesting with Trello, is that every activity on the board leaves traces so you keep track of who is working on the project, when, and where everything is going. When a team member drags the task he is working on to the “in progress column”, he is certain that the job will not be done twice, because his team members automatically see the notification in real time. The other team members will also notice that someone has been working on something, since every time you change something or drag a card from one place to another, everything appears in the activity log, naming the user and at what time it was done.

When you have questions about Trello, you can visit the Trello Resources page, which helps you with tips, forums and tutorials. Trello is in constant development to improve and add features for the users. You can actually see the web developers’ own public Trello Board to see what they are working on at the moment, and you can vote for different known issues you wish they ameliorate.

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Trello is available on the web, or as applications for iOS, Android and windows 8. Essentially, you have access to it from anywhere, anytime.

 

Trello can be very useful in many different ways:

 

Personal task management

Trello is also used worldwide as a personal task management system. Forbes magazine is known for its reliable and solid publications related to the business world. Tim Maurer, a contributor wrote an article about Trello, saying that he personally uses it and believes that it is the best organisation tool.

Aside from business, Trello can be used for personal projects. For example, someone could use is for a house renovation project. Use different colored labels for tasks by the painter, the plumber, or else. Julie Matkin, a blogger on creativity and productivity says:

“I can’t help but think this could be the productivity tool that suits my visual brain best…”

Trello for teachers

Trello can be used for personal planning of course materials, activities to prepare, homework due dates, appointments, course plan, group progress report, etc. But it can also be used to share tasks and lists with colleagues for different events, collective tasks, in the case of substitute teachers, and many more.

 

Beth Holland, in a Teachers’ technology blog, talks about the benefits of Trello for teachers. For her, it is important:

  • to access her to-do list from anywhere at any-time.
  • Some of her items need due dates and some other don’t.
  • She sometimes need to work off internet.
  • She sometimes need to share tasks with other teachers.

All these reasons led her to exclusively use Trello as an agenda.

Teachers can keep track of students’ projects

When a teacher assigns a big team project over a long period of time, Trello is an effective way of keeping track of the students’ work. Students could be required to use Trello for the duration of their project, and be asked to share their board with the teacher. By visiting every team’s board, the teacher can make sure that the students are in the right direction, by looking at which kind of tasks and to do lists they have. The teacher can also keep track of their progress. For instance, if the due date is coming and the teacher notices that nothing is yet in the “done” column, it would be necessary to remind the students to get to work. It can be pertinent also to check the amount of work done by each student. Is the work divided equally? Is each student participating in an adequate fashion?

My personal opinion

I have never used Trello for school projects before. A friend from another BAC told me about how he uses it for team work and how great it is. I was seduced at the first glance. I created an account, and I used the Trello Resources section to understand how it works. It is easy to use, and well organised. You are free to choose how you want to organize your columns and lists, so you can customize everything. I believe it is a great tool, and I will probably use it for the rest of my studies, but I will probably even keep the tool when the time comes for me to manage my English classrooms as a teacher. Teachers need to be well organized and I believe Trello is a great solution.  There is also the fact that English teachers are sometimes in charge of many different groups at many different levels. It must be hard sometimes to keep track of what has been done in the last classes, what is still in progress, and where you are going to do next. By creating a board for each group you have, you drag your tasks progressively and you easily keep track.

Web Search Engines

In this post, I will elaborate on a concept that I believe everyone who has ever touched a computer is familiar with… I am talking about web search engines. These engines are used in order to find information on the World Wide Web on any given subject. The most known are Google (of course!), Bing and Yahoo!.

How they work

How the search engines work is a very complex procedure, but here is a simplified way of understanding how it is done. Most of the search engines are similarly constructed, but I have based my research on Google, since it is the one that is used the most in the entire world. First, a “robot” navigates the web by following links from page to page. The World Wide Web is constantly changing and expanding, so the search (which is called crawling) is infinite. Then, the “robot” gathers information. He analyses the pages and sorts them by subjects, into an enormous database, which is over 100 petabytes (100 million gigabytes)! When a user writes what he wants to search in the search box, the complicated algorithms come into play. Before searching, Google (a.k.a. the different algorithms) verifies if he is on the same page with what you are looking for. For example, he corrects or suggests the right spelling, he autocompletes what you start to write, he looks for synonyms that could be pertinent, etc. Then, Google extracts the most relevant documents from the Database mentioned previously (which is called The Index). The algorithms rank the results according to different factors like the page quality, the popularity of the websites, how recent the pages are, your location, your language, how often the words you typed appear in the article, etc. For example, imagine you wrote part of a sentence in the search box. Google will rank in priority the links in which all of the words appear in the same order and next to each other. The pages that have the words, but only scattered everywhere in the page will also be extracted, but not in the higher ranks. If you only wrote a keyword, the pages in which this keyword is repeated the most often will be ranked first. All of this procedure happens in 1/8th of a second!

 

Assets

Before the internet was so common and advanced, the only way to gather information for projects and assignments was to search in a library. The process was very long and hard. First you had to leave the comfort of your home to go to the library. Then, find the right key words in order to find books or periodicals that were listed relevant to your subject. Then, you had to find these books scattered in the tremendous amount of book aisles. After finding the books, you had to actually read big parts of the books to find out if the sources could be relevant and where in the books could you use a passage that was related to the topic.  Now, thanks to the proximity and accessibility to computers and internet, and thanks to the algorithms used by the engines, researching is much easier and especially faster than traditional library research.

What is very effective, is that search engines have access to the content of the sources. It is not the case for traditional library search, where the books are listed under certain keywords, the content is not necessarily always relevant to the exact subject that you are looking for. The more keywords you put in the search box, the more the engine narrows down the results for you. That way, you do not need to read over a thousand pages before finding something interesting and relevant to your subject.

Pitfalls

  • As much as useful and fast they can be, web search engines have many disadvantages. For one thing, the information found through the engines is not necessarily true. Internet is a vast technology, and anyone from anywhere can write anything they want on sites or blogs. For instance, let’s take Wikipedia. Wikipedia is a nice tool when you want to get some information about a subject you are unfamiliar with. For the most part, useful information can be found on that site, but it is important to remember that it is people like you and me who can modify or add facts. If you believe you know something pertinent on a subject, you just edit the article and bam! It is there for everyone to see. This is just one example of site which could give mistaken information, therefore, you have to be very attentive to the reliability of the sources you use.
  • Another problem with the web search engines is the bias of the titles that come out. A study from Stanford University states that these engines are not neutral. In fact, they manipulate the results that come out by favoring certain kinds of websites. There are also advertising strategies from companies that pay in order to position their sites higher in the lists. Some other big companies are able to modify their pages to fit in the algorithms used by the search engines, so that their site will be a result more often than it really should.

 

My opinion about Search Engines for ESL classroom purposes

I believe that search engines can be very useful for students. It allows them to save time, but it can also trigger their curiosity and expand their knowledge over various new subjects. In fact, English teachers can give projects on either given subjects, or leave the subject to the student’s choice. The students will inevitably have to search info on the net. From browsing from links to links, they are bound to discover facts that they did not know about. If they are curious, they can always look further and further to learn more about subjects that interest them. Because they do not have to search for hours in the library, it can be a source of motivation for lower achievers, who dislike schools in general (Books!!) and are more attracted to technology.

However, I believe that it is very important to teach how to quote appropriately and cite the sources (i.e. where the ideas come from). Plagiarism is a big problem and it is very easy to copy and paste information that says exactly what you want to say. It is very important for the teacher to explain that even if you paraphrase, you have to cite your references. It is very easy to be a victim of plagiarism, even if you did not want to.

Other tools offered by web search engines that comes in handy for ESL classes are the translators. (Google translator and Bing translator). It can be a very fast and useful tool to translate words you do not know in the other language. Still, students need to be careful, because those translators do not replace dictionaries. These tools do not always provide the definitions of words. Sometimes, what you wish to translate does not mean the exact same thing that you want to convey. There are also the speaker pronunciation and the vocal recognition features that are interesting. The voice recognition allows you to record the word you heard. If the translator recognises the word (good pronunciation), it will then be translated. Also, when you ask for a new word in your new language, you can click on the speaker icon so an automated voice pronounces the word aloud. This is a great way to practice and correct your accent, and localize the stress patterns of the language.

The web search engines are great tools for teachers as well. They can quickly access to blogs or websites from other teachers of the same discipline from all around the world. They can discuss in forums or discover new ideas of activities or materials used.

Class Craft

Integration of a website or an educational content management system into teaching practices.

What is Class Craft?

Class Craft is an online educational role-playing game that can be played in any classroom, by students and teachers. It is a great tool for classroom management. The game lasts throughout the whole year, and it does not change what the teacher would normally want to teach. In fact, how it works, is that every student has an avatar, and during every class, the players gain or lose points, according to what is going on in the classroom. The students are placed into teams, and they want to gain as many points as possible, as they have real-life consequences. The teacher can also use the Class Craft platform to put interactive classroom content, keep track of the behaviors in class, to add forums for student/teacher discussions, online quizzes, and much more. There even is a function where the teacher can find out how many times each student logged in.


THE GAME

Students are paired into teams of 5 or 6. Each student in the team has to choose a category of character, according to what type of students they are. Each team must have a balanced number of character types, and they have to cooperate to succeed. There are 3 types of characters and each type has specific powers. Every power requires a certain amount of points in order for the students to use them.

The Healers:

The Healers have the special ability to Heal teammates, by giving them 10 HP points. They also have the Revive Power, which is when a teammate falls to 0 HP points, this student can avoid penalties and come back to life with 1 HP. Other powers are also available to Healers, depending on how many points they have: Ardent faith: Ask the teacher if his answer to one question is correct during an exam, Favor of the Gods: listen to his/her iPod during class, etc.

The Mages:

The Mage can use the Transfer of mana, so all his team members gain 7 AP, except the other Mages. The Mage can also Teleport, to trade place with a classmate, in order to save or help him. The Mage can also use the Time Warp (to have extra minutes to complete an exam), or the Clairvoyance (All team members get a hint on an exam question).

The Warriors:

The Warrior has the power to Protect a teammate by taking 80%, 50%, or else of his damage. He can also use special abilities like the Ambush, which is to hand in an assignment 1 day later, eat in class, or use the Secret Weapon, use a cheat sheet provided by the teacher during an exam.

THE GAME MASTER

The teacher is called the Game Master, he is the manager of the game. He manages the platform by giving and taking out the points.

Students gain points by having good academic results, by helping teammates with homework, by having a good attitude in class, or any other positive behaviour or acts that the Game Master (teacher) has set in advance. The points add up all along the weeks, and they lead to different powers. For example, with a number of points, a student could earn the right to bring a “cheat sheet” to an exam, have a homework-free pass, bonus points on an exam, the right to eat in class, purchase new costumes or pets for their Avatar, or any other special power chosen by the teacher.

On the other hand, the students loose points if they arrive late in class, if they do not hand in an assignment, if they cause classroom disruptions or else. Loosing too much points lead to “falling in battle” which has different consequences, such as detention, copy, or else.

The teacher can customize his own rules, his own rewards and his own consequences. He is the Game Master, he is in charge of everything, from what content he wants to put on the platform, to how long he wants to spend on the game during the class.

THE POINTS

 XP (Experience points)

Experience points are gained by having a positive behavior in class. They enable the students to unlock the different powers. Here are a few examples of how students can earn those points: Finding a mistake in the class notes, correctly answering a question in class, helping a fellow student, being positive and hard-working, etc.

AP (Action points)

The AP enables the students to use the different powers that are available (unlocked by XP points) to their characters.

HP (Health points)

Students start the year with a maximum number of 50 HP. Players loose those HP points whenever they have negative behaviors in class. For example, disturbing the class, arriving late to class, incomplete homework, etc. When a student loses all of his HP, he falls in battle. This means that he will have consequences in real life. (detention, copy, etc.)

GP (Gold pieces)

Gained when students have exceptional behaviors, these points can be used to purchase new costumes for the avatars, or train their pets. However, the GP are only available with the premium version of Class craft, not with the free one.


The Creator of the Game

Class craft was created in 2013 by Shawn Young, a secondary five Physics teacher from Sherbrooke. With the help from his brother’s and his father’s own expertise, they developed the game who is now used by around 7000 teachers over 50 different countries. The main goals who led Young to create this dynamic learning environment were to motivate his students towards school in general, to promote teamwork and to encourage the students to have a good behaviour in class. The game is constantly evolving and is starting to get famous all around the world.  Class Craft is now available in 7 languages!


Class Craft for ESL teachers

Class Craft was created in a way that it is not specific to one particular school subject. In this regard, it can be a very useful tool for English as a second language teachers. In fact, Alex Collard from Laval (Canada) and Jeroen Heremans from Belgium are two English as a second language teachers at high school level. They have both been using Class Craft for a while now, and they really appreciate how their classroom have positively changed since the implementation.

“It’s now a huge part of my planning, and I couldn’t teach without it,” states Alex Collard. In his testimony, he mentions how easy the game is to integrate. Jeroen Heremans says that it is a really big source of motivation for the students, because it actually rewards the students when they work hard. He also talks about how it is wonderful to see a silent student work up the courage to go and speak in front of the class, in order to get more XP. The rewards will certainly help to maximize the use of the second language inside of the classroom.


My personal opinion about Class Craft

In order to learn more about how Class Craft works, I have myself created an account. What is wonderful about this game, is that it is completely free! Of course there is also a premium version which is not free, but it does not have many more indispensable features. The principal advantage of the premium version, according to me, is that you can use the iOS app or Android app. The application is designed for mobile devices like tablets, phones or iPods, so the student can play directly inside of the classroom. They can keep track of their points, use their powers and even consult content put on by the teacher during the class. Of course, this depends if your school is equipped with such materials as tablets, or if you allow students to use their own iPods or phones in the classroom.

After I experienced a little on my new account, I had a few questions about the game, so I wrote an e-mail directly from the messaging box on the website. I was surprised to see that someone had written me back no later than the next day. I believe that their accessibility is very important and valuable, since it is a web game, multiple problems and questions can come up. It is always nice to know that you can count on the creator team to be there to help you in times of need.

Class Craft is very user-friendly. At first, you can experiment your role as the Game Master (teacher), by using a Demo Class. There is a section which is all tutorial videos that demonstrate every aspect of the game. The videos are very useful and complete.

I believe it is important to integrate technologies into nowadays teaching, since technology occupies a great deal of our everyday life. Class Craft is a solution that I would be very interested in, depending of what level I end up teaching. I believe it would be an effective way to deal with classroom management. Because there is a real possibility of reward, the students tend to behave as required, not to lose too much points. Also, I would certainly customize a section with rewards/consequences to deal with minimizing the use of the L1.

The two features that stroke me the most were the random events and the content section. First, the random event: At the beginning of every class, the teacher starts the class by generating a random event. The events can be positive or unfortunate. For example, “A student falls in battle”, “The player with the most AP loses 15 points”, “All Healers gain 200 XP”, “No one can fall in battle today”, “The player with the least HP must tell a joke”, “The player with the least XP chooses a song that the Game Master must sing”, etc. These events, either generated by the web designers, or customized by the teacher, are fun and they keep the students interested in the game. There is also the tool “Wheel of destiny” that randomly chooses a student, or a team, depending on what you want.

The second feature that I found interesting, is the content section. In the content section, the teacher can post whatever he wants the students to read. It could be a reading assignment, an interesting article related to what was covered in class that day, or anything else. What is very interesting, is that the website can automatically assign points to those who consulted and read the posted content up until the end.  That way, you can make sure that the students are up to date with their readings.

I did not think of any bad commentary about the game, except that the teacher has to plan a little amount of time during the period to manage the game.