Archive for the Uncategorized Category

Lino: Because Mind Mapping Software is Boring as Boring Gets

Posted in Uncategorized on April 24, 2013 by teachermariannebard

Good evening fellow living things with arms, legs, heads, hands, feet… Can you tell I’m tired?

Well, welcome to the last week of class. Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!… I thought I’d find an image to illustrate how I feel as the end of the semester gets nearer and nearer and here’s the image that best suits how I feel:

Okay, so even though I’m near total exhaustion, I must still bring you la crème de la crème of web teaching tools. One evening, as my mind drifted from one of my research projects to videos of baby birds and comedians on the internet, I stumbled upon something quite nice on this website called The Teacher List.ca (which you should take a look at, it’s quite interesting for web tools and general discussion regarding technologies in teaching). It’s called Lino.

DID YOU MEAN ”DINO”? HECK YEAH! DINOSAURS! WHAT ABOUT THEM? THEY’RE STILL DEAD, AREN’T THEY?

Well, yes they’re still dead. I doubt that this is going to change any time soon but this is not what this tool is about. Now, now… before you express your utterly extreme disappointment, let me tell you more about this darling.

Before anything, we’ve all had to make some concept maps as students. Making them by hand takes forever and, let’s face it, how often do they look even near the aesthetically tolerable? That’s right. Never. Nevertheless, they’re still pretty useful study tools for many students.

But for the love of N.W.A., is it just me or is all that mind mapping software really boring and messed-up? I’ve tried a few myself and they generally respect at least one or all of the following criterion:

  1. The aesthetics are impossible to figure out. Why the hell is this line red and this one blue? Can’t they be all the same colour? And why is there a smiley face here? What’s this arrow about?
  2. You can’t move stuff where you want it to be moved.
  3. You can’t get past the freaking automatic configuration of those freaking treasure hunt trails (I’m talking to you, people who made iMind Map … that is indeed what your mind maps look like) in order to print something that fits into a single sheet.
  4. Why can’t those lines be STRAIGHT?????? I’m not a graphic designer for God’s sake! I want those lines to be straight! Screw the visual effect!
  5. And so many more frustrating features…

Here’s where Lino comes to the rescue.

RESCUE? AM I DROWNING? OH NO! SAVE ME! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!

Calm down. Here’s the deal in a nutshell, according to the people who made that tool:

  • It’s basically a blank canvas that allows you to make up your own sticky notes and drag them wherever the Hell you want to create you own concept maps, note pads, schedules, etc.
  • It’s freaking free, unlike a lot of mind mapping software which often requires paid membership after the trial period.
  • You don’t need anything else than a web browser to work with it. Now… I know what you’re thinking…

THIS WON’T WORK FOR THE LIFE OF ME IF I USE IT ON MY IPAD! OH NO!

Well, darlings. It turns out that it will (That’s right, there’s an app for that). In fact, it works with pretty much any electronic device and much more. It turns out that you can use this baby quite everywhere with pretty much any electronic device. Check out the advantages listed on the blog of Dreamcss:

  • You can attach files to sticky notes, such as ”Hey do not forget to print that thing for tomorrow (include the important file in the note)” or ”It may or may not be a good idea,depending on how much you care, to check your course syllabus (insert link to syllabus here).”
  • With the free membership comes the possibility to add 100MB of small files within a month. Pretty sweet, uh? For most of us, that’s fairly sufficient.
  • All the notes you take can be shared on a group page. Exam reminder for all made easy!
  • Let’s say you just made up a bunch of notes and, for the love of God, you can’t find that note you’re looking for. Don’t you worry darling because there’s a search bar that allows you to enter keywords and search through your notes to find the one you’re looking for.
  • I know what you’re thinking… It’s an online tool. You can’t save anything, right? Well, it turns out that you can. You can even select favourite canvases that you’ve made, chose the ones you want to share, etc. Thank you Lord. It doesn’t have to get lost in the infinite and endless world of the internet. You can all save this as part of your free membership.
  • Remember just a few lines ago when I told you that you could insert a link to your syllabus? Well you can insert HTML codes of all kinds in there.

But wait, there’s more!

I CAN’T HANDLE THIS MUCH AWESOMENESS! MAY THE LORD TAKE MY SOUL FOR I CANNOT HANDLE THIS INTELLECTUAL COMPLEXITY OF THE UTTERLY INSANE!

Hold on a second. With all of that goodness come what I consider to be Lino’s best features:

  • You get a whole bunch of free layouts to use. That’s right. It doesn’t have to be boring, yet the aesthetics of it all can be pleasing and easy to use. They’re already made for you!
  • You can insert pictures, videos, anything into your notes.
  • It’s all online, so you can access this from freaking anywhere. If that’s not sweet enough…
  • You can change the colours of your notes and place them wherever the Hell you want. There is no automatic bullcr*p that prevents you from building your own design.
  • You can create an e-mail message including one of your notes and send it to lino. This bad boy will post it as a sticky. I know, right?

And there is so much more that I will not discuss because it would take hours and hours, but you can follow Lino’s blog for more updates and info on how to use its features.

That’s it folks! I most probably will not be back here in a while so have fun this summer!

IT THIS ALL? ASIDE FROM CRYING BLOOD, I’M GOING TO CRY ACTUAL TEARS OUT OF ACTUAL SADNESS?

Farewell! But remember, it’s not over until I say it is…

Quizlet: Because Flashcards Can Do More than Simple Maths for First Graders

Posted in Uncategorized on April 18, 2013 by teachermariannebard

Hello fellow human beings (the bugs in your home ought not to read this)!

The end of the semester is way too close. My first practicum in high school barely had the time to end that I am already planning my second practicum in elementary school. It’s crazy how time flies. I am one more homework assignment away from gauging both of my eyes out in the most violent way I can think of.  I’m not generally like this but the sheer exhaustion that I feel right now makes me want to engage in the following process:

It wouldn’t be too wise though. So, instead of throwing it all away to go do the wackiest job out there, I am here one again to bring you another piece of my newly acquired knowledge of the forever expanding internet. I want to present my newest discovery, which is called Quizlet.

WHAT IN THE WORLD IS THIS FABULOUS OBJECT OF FANTASY ABOUT?

As mentioned on the technological blog EdJudo, this baby allows you to create your own flashcards that you can customize with your own terms and definitions and freaking share them with your friends like it’s their birthday. We all remember those ridiculous flashcards that we had when we were kids that were supposed to help us learn additions, simple multiplications, etc. Well, back then they weren’t even flashcards, just old, stinky, boring cards made out of cardboard. I couldn’t stand the hell of those. For me, they were useless as they weren’t challenging enough, but they were still useful for most of us students so… what if we could do more with them? When I came across this, I thought ”This darling is just what I’ve been looking for all along!”

But hey, guess what? There’s even more that can be done with this darling.

GET THE HELL OUT OF HERE!! I HAVE LOST ENOUGH BLOOD FROM READING THIS BLOG!

Yeah, I’m a teacher. Of course, I’d like to find one way of learning and studying that works for everyone, but the reality says otherwise. This online tool gives you so many options for studying, it’s insane. You get six main cuztomizable ones:

  1. The first one, of course, is flashcards. This one is a great way to test our students’ memory of vocabulary terms, I think. But hey, not to be excluding other subjects, who said it couldn’t be used by history teachers? Or Geography teachers? You can create your own flashcards with the content that you want to practice, of course, but you can also share them with others and use ones made by other people to help you study (Of course, everything’s organized in categories. So you don’t have to wander around the website for hours looking for whatever you’re looking for. Everything that is created on the website can be saved online).
  2. The second one is called the Speller. Basically, it allows you to spell what you hear. This darling works in freaking 18 languages baby. That’s right. I remember somewhere along the course of my practicum, I was helping this young girl spell ”you”. The first time, she wrote ”why o you”. That kid was great with sentence structure but, let’s face it, spelling is harder for some kids than others. We all have our own areas of difficulties.
  3. The third option is called Learn. This one basically tracks your progress and identifies the things that you tend to get wrong. I can think of so many students who just can’t seem to find what they need to work on to first to give themselves a chance at success. It sounds silly to some, but they can easily forget that they tend to have difficulties remembering that the past tense of ”eat” is ”ate”, not ”eated”.
  4. The fourth one is called Test. This one allows you to actually create your own test and get a grade on it. We’ve all had THAT feeling: It’s time for the exam and boy did you wish you had taken more formative quizzes before. Well, there you go. It’s that simple. By the way, as mentioned of EdShelf, you can create multiple types of tests, depending on what you need.
  5. The fifth one is called Scatter. That one allows you to match words with definitions, events with dates, capitals with countries, etc. There’s no limit darling!
  6. The last one is for our hyperactive darlings, it’s the Space Race. This one allows you to get points by typing in words before their definitions disappear off the screen. Some kids prefer competition. If you ask me, it’s perfect for that purpose.

What’s nice about it is that you can freakin’ print those babies. Yup, if you want to carry them with you, you can. No need for a computer. What’s even more awesome, as I found out on TRT (Technological Resources for Teachers), you can print everything in condensed tables or individually, in glossary, table, or index card format.

What’s nice also is that you don’t need to install anything. This darling is all online baby. Students will certainly appreciate that. So, it’s easy access to all kinds of study material for all.

IS THIS LIKE A FREE FOR ALL BUFFET FOR STUDYING?

I guess you could look at it this way…

WeVideo: Because Windows Movie Maker screwed us up

Posted in Uncategorized on April 9, 2013 by teachermariannebard

Hello [insert original form of greeting here…Hey, I may be a young teacher, but it’s still the end of the semester for me!] all!

Yesterday was the end of my first practicum. I’d like to tell you I did not cry like a wimp when I got home, but I did. I’ll miss my little (horned) angels. During my last class at the college, I saw videos that the students had made as a part of one of their projects. As I was watching the incredible result of their efforts, the products of hours and hours of blood, tears and dedication to their studies, I couldn’t help but think… WHAT THE HELL IS THIS??

Seriously, the montages that they had made were worthy of Windows Movie Maker, which in itself is pretty bad, so far from me the idea to hold such poor results against them. What’s a kid supposed to do when asked to produce and edit a music video? They’re not cinematographers.

It reminds me of when I was in High School, because the videos for my school projects were most probably just as bad. I just didn’t realize it back then because Windows Movies Maker was all that was available to edit videos. It was bad back then, it’s bad now. So I was pleased when I stumbled upon WeVideo.com.

WE VIDEO.COM? IS THIS PORNOGRAPHY MATERIAL?

Well… no, not at all. Briefly, the website describes itself as ”an online video creation platform”. No need to install anything on your computer. It’s all accessible online for free. Let me take you through the good stuff…

  1. Now take a deep breath because this baby works in ANY BROWSER. Internet Explorer? Sure. Firefox? Love it. Google Chrome? Go on. Safari? Party hard darlings because there’s practically nothing holding you back. That means that it doesn’t matter whether you’re using a MAC or a PC, because this little piece of fairy dust works with both… for real. This reduces a great deal of compatibility problems.
  2. There are three modes, depending on how good or bad you are at video editing. The three modes are borderline retard, struggling cripple, or mastermind of the universe. Ok… I’m kidding. The modes go from novice to expert. Thank goodness. Even our most stoned students can figure it out!
  3. You get all sorts of themes, effects, and styles to edit your video so it doesn’t look like crap and/or a RAINBOW PARTY. That’s pretty self-explanatory.
  4. There are features for school and business. So, it’s not just sparkle and glitter. You can create professional-looking products. THANK YOU LORD. No more animated Paint drawings.
  5. You can collaborate on videos and manage videos online. That’s always nice considering that most students’ projects tend to get ”lost” along with their USB devices. Yeah, right. Save it online. It’s that simple fellas!

I CONSIDER MYSELF BORDERLINE RETARDED WHEN IT COMES TO VIDEO EDITING. IS IT REALLY THAT EASY?

Actually, I was surprised to find that it is even easier than I thought. As Jennifer Jacobson explains on the WeVideo blog, this baby does a lot, and I mean A LOT of work for you.

  • It freaking FINDS where you posted your videos even if you didn’t save them on your computer. Yup, that’s right. It doesn’t matter if they’re on Facebook, Dropbox, Google Drive… WeVideo allows you to synchronize your accounts together so you can find your videos anywhere. That’s right. This baby is cloud-based. So students can’t use ”I don’t remember where I saved my video” as an excuse anymore.
  • With each theme comes thematic music, titles, special effects, so it doesn’t take hours to get an aesthetically pleasing result. Let’s get real… not all students are patient with technology. It doesn’t matter if they’re in the so-called technological era. Trust me, they still want to get it done quickly and easily.
  • Think about it. Since you can synchronize your Google Drive, Facebook, Dropbox, etc. then you can access your files from anywhere. Students won’t fall asleep while their friend is looking for their video presentation. BOOM. It’s that easy.

MY MIND CANNOT WRAP ITSELF AROUND THIS AMOUNT OF GREATNESS! I’M GONNA NEED THERAPY.

But wait! There’s more [insert bad paid advertisement product here] it! Just as I thought I was done with this baby, I found one more advantage that made me cry tears of blood out of sheer shock. Guess what? As mentioned on the Cosmoreport blog, this darling doesn’t mess with your computer’s performance.

Ok, I know a lot of kids are born with MAC computers in their crib, but hey, it’s not everyone’s case. Most of us, teachers and students, know the pain of trying to work on your computer with a memory intensive  editing program. The other programs go bananas! For your computer, it may be too much to handle.

So it’s quick, easy and it doesn’t get your computer as confused as you are.

WHAT?

That’s what I thought.

Google Drive: Cripples Edition

Posted in Uncategorized on April 2, 2013 by teachermariannebard

Hello my dearest little ducklings (What? I have to change things up every now and then..)!

It’s almost the end of the semester! For that reason, I figured out it’d be smarter for me to write this blog post now, before stabbing myself in both eyes out of sheer exhaustion. I hear you all:

WHAT IN THE WORLD OF TECHNOLOGICAL WONDERS ARE YOU BRINGING TO THE TABLE TODAY?

Oh, have no fear for I shall bring you a piece of my forever expanding knowledge of the internet. I’m not an technological mastermind yet, but let me tell you about my latest object of interest: Google Drive. Doesn’t it sound awesome?

GOOGLE DRIVE? I ALREADY HAVE A DRIVER’S LICENCE. CAN YOU EVEN DRIVE GOOGLE? IS THIS A TRICK QUESTION?

Well, not in that sense. Briefly, as described on Google Drive’s homepage, this baby allows you to do several things:

  1. You can access Google Docs files anywhere and from any computer. If I didn’t know any better, I’d assume I had ultimate power over Google. My practically inexistant salary proves otherwise. But wait, there’s more!
  2. You can also store all your fabulous Google Docs in Google Drive’s cloud. This is similar to Dropbox in that way but I find that Google Drive brings one more lapdance advantage to the table. That being said…
  3. You may collaborate with other people with a Gmail account on the same Google Doc, at the same time AND save it in the cloud

CONTROL YOURSELVES. I know this is a lot of power in our hands but let’s take the time to look at what this baby has to offer to us, people whose mental state sales is on the bordeline between that of the sheer genius and that of the vegetative type (again, most people tend to call us teachers).

I CAN BARELY CONTROL MYSELF!

I couldn’t list all the possible tools that Google Drive offers in line with that I’ve just told you, but here are my favourites. Just so you know, I base my criteria for my any of my favourite web tools on the two following statements:

  1. It doesn’t take a master’s degree to figure out how in world I am supposed to use it and what I am supposed to use it for. Let’s face it: Students won’t want to use it if it’s too complicated. That’s just reality.
  2. If he was still alive, my parrot could probably figure it out because of how freaking easy to use this tool is. Just sprinkle some millet on the keyboard and boy, are you in for a ride! (Note: this criterion is meant to be a joke, but I do look for web tools which require minimal motor control and intellectual capacities to figure out.)

With no further due, here is a list of my five favourite Google Drive tools (as mentioned on Google Drive’s blog and how I’d abuse the Hell out of those with my students:

  1. GoogleKeep: Say your students keep ”forgetting” their homework assignments’ due dates, project guidelines, class notes etc. What are you gonna do? Beat them to death with a crowbar? Tempting, I know. But GoogleKeep is another reminder that we can introduce to them. Since most students have given up the project of taking notes of what they have to do in their agendas, this baby could pretty much serve as an electronic notepad. Notes, photos, checklists.. you name it. And guess what? You can sync them to any devices so that they can be accessible from anywhere. Forgot your assignment’s guidelines? Oopsies, no oopsies. Attractive visuals make it the Gucci of notepads.
  2. GoogleForms: This one is pretty simple, in my opinion. Basically, it allows you to create questionnaires and surveys and automatically collect answers in a spreadsheet (That’s right students, you have no other choice but to participate.) Grammar quizzes, comprehension tests, self-evaluation spreadsheets… You name it. And what I absolutely LOVE about this tool is that you can sign documents electronically using HelloFax. Oh no, this student’s parents didn’t sign his exam. Oopsies! It’s not possible anymore. They can now access the file online and sign it so the teacher can know they’ve seen it. Mouahahaha!
  3. Google Slides: Another alternative to Powerpoint (just thinking about it makes me want to engage in an involuntary act of regurgitation, a.k.a. vomit). Thank the Lord. Again, just like you can with any Google Doc, you can work on these presentations offline and save them online at the same time, without even having to press the button ”save”. That’ll save us a great deal of trouble in terms of losing work in progress. So, if you accidentally click on the ”X” button while working on your presentation, it’ll save your document automatically, which Powerpoint (Gosh, this name stimulates my gag reflex…) doesn’t do.
  4. Gone Google Story Builder: You could already collaborate on Google Docs, but a few months ago, Google Drive came up with a feature especially for collaborating on stories, whether it’s novels, poems, short stories, etc. There’s even a tutorial that you can follow to get started, but it’s really easy. I’d have students collaborate on all kinds of stories, poems, scripts for video recordings, even guidelines for a debate! Again, students can collaborate on their story at the same time from different computers because they can see what the other student is doing as he is writing. No more sheep commotions around a single computer.
  5. Research inside Google Documents: Little did I know, Google Drive has recently included a research pane that allows people to search through existing Google Docs,  maps, quotes, images, and much more. Students can access the work of other students (and so can teachers…) and use it to find information for various assignments. Simple, easy, doesn’t require an IQ that’s much higher than the one of a plant. Just how I like it.

Those are my favourite but there are so many others. I would again, advise you to look at Google Drive’s blog for more tools and ideas on how to use them. There’s so much to look at, it’s worth giving it a try.

WILL I EVER STOP BLEEDING FROM BOTH EYES?

Not as long as you keep on following my blog.

Dropbox: Your dog can’t eat your homework anymore.

Posted in Uncategorized on March 28, 2013 by teachermariannebard

Hello fellow earthlings!

So, here’s what happened to me quite recently: I lost my USB device. Of course, I was stupid enough to think ”Nah I won’t put my files on my computer. I carry them with me all the time! I won’t LOSE THEM.

Yeah sure. It turned out I did lose quite a few files. Unfortunately, some of them were valuable. A wash of reckless stupidity and tremendous shame showered over me. I always lose my USB devices and end up having to redo hours of work that was perfectly valuable HADN’T IT BEEN LOST. Ok, let’s calm down. For the past few days, I have been searching for a solution to my apparent inability to not lose my USB device.

While searching for web tools for teachers, I stumbled upon something that I did indeed make the mistake to overlook for too long: Dropbox.

DROPBOX? WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DROP IN THAT BOX ANYWAY? NAME TAGS? MARBLES? BEATS? YEAH, BEATS! LET’S PARTY!

Not exactly. But when I got reminded of the existence of Dropbox, it struck me that this could be useful not only for me as a young teacher but also for students. Honestly, whoever you are, if you are in a classroom setting, chances are you’ve heard the following sentences more than once:

”I forgot to print my homework.”

”I forgot my USB device at home.”

”I lost my files because my computer crashed. I have to redo it all over so I’m not ready to hand it in.”

”I don’t have a printer at home.”

”My dog ate my homework.”

”I tried to light one of my farts on fire. I didn’t calculate my angles quite properly and ended up setting my homework on fire as well.”

”I lost my homework in the fiery depths of Hell.”

Ok, this is getting out of control. It turns out that Dropbox’s main founder, Drew Houston, himself said that he got the idea for Dropbox after several computer crashes and bugs and after repeatedly forgetting his USB device as a student.

SOUNDS LIKE A FAMILIAR STORY.

Thanks for reminding me. let’s get to the point. In short (praise the website’s straightforward ”About Us” section), Dropbox is a free file hosting service. Don’t you worry my dearest collegues for this little darling allows you to share all kinds of files.

Want to share Word documents? Go ahead.

Want to share images? Your eyes won’t be able to handle how many images you’ll put in your Dropbox.

Want to share videos? Well, buy yourself a damn video camera cause’ you’ll be sharing those videos like there’s not tomorrow!

Want to share Powerpoint presentations, Excel documents, pictures of your grandmother knitting sweaters? There’s nothing stopping you, darling.

Hell, you can share practically anything you want and access those files ANYWHERE and at ANY TIME.

MY GOODNESS! DOES IT MEAN THAT…?

Yes, my friends. Finally, students have no more excuses not to hand in their homework, assignments, and term projects of ANY kind. Mouahahahaha! No more excuses!

I JUST HAD A MINI HEART ATTACK. NO.. WAIT. THAT DOESNT’ SOLVE THE PROBLEM OF BUGS AND COMPUTER CRASHES… STUDENTS WILL STILL BE ABLE TO GET AWAY WITH NOT HANDING IN THEIR HOMEWORK…

Actually, it turns out that there’s more to this baby than meets the eye. As I found on French technological website, PresseCitron, there are ways to reduce even more the risks of losing files due to bugs or crashes:

    1. You can synchronize Word Office files with your Dropbox so that it automatically recuperates files if you encounter problems. What’s really sweet about it is that you can choose how often you want the Dropbox cloud to save your files. Do you want to synchronize your files every minute, every 30 minutes, every hour? The choice is yours. Praise the Lord this feature.
    2. Say you’re thinking ”Ah, but what if I forget to put some files in my Dropbox?” Well, you can choose to synchronize entire folders on your computer with your Dropbox. It’s even safer and you don’t even have to think about putting specific files on the cloud. Problem solved!
    3. Thanks to the IFTTT (« if this then that ») feature of Dropbox, you can create connections between pretty much any of your services (e-mail, evernote, dropbox…). There is not a file that cannot be put on the cloud.
    4. You can receive BIG files directly into your freaking Dropbox, darling. Using the free Dropitto.me, it’s easy to retrieve even large files in your dropbox.
    5. The possibilities are endless. You won’t lose your files anymore.

So, teachers. It sounds to me like trying this out would be worth a while. No more getting away from duty on the part of the students… and on our part as well.

OOPSIES!

Everybody makes mistakes. This just reduces risks of making some of them.

Make Beliefs Comix: Making it Fun

Posted in Uncategorized on March 19, 2013 by teachermariannebard

Hello fellow earthlings,

I’m back in town…and sick! There’s always a downside to every thing. Don’t you worry my dear friends of the web, I vow never to fail to fulfill my duty and always serve you the best of what I have to offer. It’s just what I do.

So, I’ve been looking at my students (which is kind of useful when you’re teaching them something) and I’ve been thinking (which can’t hurt either). I always try to identify what it is that makes it hard for them to figure our English, and one of the clues that I seem to observe is that many of them often can’t visualize the language. They just get lost in an immense jungle of suffixes, affixes, and syntactic puzzles. They end up feeling like there’s too much to handle.

You know I always like to encourage students’ creativity, so I was very happy when I found a web tool that linked creativity and concrete visual support. This baby is Make Beliefs Comix.

Prepare yourself for some modernized oldschool goodness!

YAY!

Ok, so let’s think back to when we started learning English. It all sounded kind of weird and seemed like an alien language to many of us. Visuals are important. In that sense, learning grammar doesn’t always reflect that. That is what attracted me to Make Beliefs Comix in the first place.

WHAT THE HELL IS THIS SILLY CONCEPT? WE’RE TEACHERS, NOT COMEDIANS.

Let’s be honest: Learning grammar is no fun show. It often feels heavy and difficult for second language learners. They may come to resent the entire language as a result of painful grammar lessons. The first main thing that this tool brings, in my opinion, is laid-back visuals in the style of the comics which young students read. Yes, we’re teachers and yes, we want to be taken seriously. That being said, we’re not helping ourselves if we’re losing the students in our overly structured and strict perspective of how teaching should be. Dedramatizing can be our friend, if we know of to use it smartly.

OK. SO WHAT DOES THIS BABY BRING TO THE TABLE?

There’s a lot more to this website than meets the eye. As explained in the About Us section of the website, this tool can serve not only regular students and teachers but also students who are homeschooled and ones with special needs. Yup. There’s actually a portion of the website that’s dedicated to special needs students. At the moment, the section is still under construction, but it’s definitely a nice touch to those students whom, all too often, seem to be left behind.

I’M NO PICASSO. I CAN’T DRAW FOR THE LIFE OF ME. CAN I USE THIS?

Here’s the good thing: No need to be an artist to work with this tool. With a video tutorial on how to use it, it’s easier than drawing a straw man. The thing I like is that students can choose from a wide variety of settings, characters, times of the day or night, moods, shapes, etc. to create their comic strip. So, it’s versatile and it doesn’t require too much effort on the part of the students to express their ideas. Students are free to create little illustrated stories that integrate new vocabulary that was learned in class, to practice conversational skills by creating a fictional dialogue between characters, to illustrate their life story using the target language, or just to create comic strips for the sheer fun of it.

OK. BUT WHAT ABOUT RELUCTANT LEARNERS?

I do think that it’s essential to draw students to English outside of the classroom to maximize the efficiency of their learning process. What I love about this, and this has also been pointed out on the oh-so-amazing technological blog put together by Richard Byrne, is that it attracts reluctant writers to the world of creative writing. Let’s get real: Chances are they’ll be more likely to work if they’re having fun along the way. In that sense, comic strips are appealing. For anyone who’d like to explore other ideas, the Teacher Resources section of the website, offers many other interesting ideas.

SWEET, BUT IT DOESN’T SOUND VERY PROFESSIONAL TO ME…

You may think this isn’t the most pedagogical tool there is and I’d have to disagree with you. Students often don’t see opportunities for using English outside of the classroom. No student ever sits at home, thinking ”I’d like to do fill-in-the-blanks grammar exercises right now.” It just doesn’t happen. The point is it, no it’s not always fun and games, but it can be sometimes, and this is one occasion to make it a little less painful for them.

After all, we should always be looking for new ways to stimulate the students’ interest towards English. That is a much more pedagogical perspective, in my opinion, than drilling them with theory.

Weebly: Because We’re That Easy to Confuse.

Posted in Uncategorized on March 13, 2013 by teachermariannebard

Hello fellow Earth walkers, I sure hope you’re enjoying yourselves.

WHAT IN THE WORLD? SHE’S STILL ALIVE? IS SHE EVER GOING TO LEAVE US ALONE??

Well, I’m currently in my hometown, a lovely little town on the countryside with a population of roughly 3000 people and about the same number of wild animal species and crawling insects. Peace.

Luckily enough for me, about 6 months ago, electricity found my shed hometown and we now have computers! Ok, let’s get as serious as this blog allows me to be.

Alright, prep yourselves fellas because I found a blogging solution for all of us (teachers and students) with enough hands and fingers to write but not enough patience and/or easiness with HTML codes and/or motivation to write. It’s called Weebly, more especially its version for educational purposes.

ALRIGHT. ENLIGHTEN US WITH YOUR KNOWLEDGE.

Roughly, the website describes itself as ”the easiest way to create a website”. Oh, and it’s free. That’s right, people. As long as you have two arms (preferably with hands connected to them), a functional brain, and a computer, you can create your own website. But what interests me the most here is that they’ve thought of something especially for us lunatics (most people call us teachers). That’s right, there’s even a version for educational purposes (if you recall what I wrote just a few lines above).

FOR REAL? WHAT COULD I USE THIS FOR?

Well, as suggested on Richard Byrne’s lovely technology-related blog, because it’s one of the easiest blogging platforms to understand, it can serve as a digital portfolio for classwork. Why not have the students communicate with us through it? Hell, they’ll be on their computers anyway. Asking them to submit work through their blog makes it much easier for them and, let’s be honest, I believe it enhances the chances that they’ll even hand in the work. I may be a young teacher but I’ve already learned one major lesson: NEVER UNDERESTIMATE A STUDENT’S LACK OF MOTIVATION.

Of course, you can have you students create a blog that’ll allow them to post homework, various assignments, stay updated on the course, etc. but you can even create your own website for the class. It even turns out that the people who designed this little baby thought of features specifically for educational purposes AND that can be useful for both teachers, students, AND their parents.

WAIT. I HAVE TO CLEAN THE POOL OF BLOOD THAT I JUST CRIED OUT OF SHEER AMAZEMENT. OK, CONTINUE. WHAT’S SO NICE ABOUT THOSE FEATURES?

Well, as mentioned earlier, not only is it easy as pie, but it’s also customizable. CONTROL YOURSELVES. That’s right, you can customize that baby. Thank the Lord. It’s not a mere online replica of a word document. It can LOOK great too. That’ll attract a great deal of students.

I would like to highlight that it’s a risk-free, safe, and ad-free web tool. No ads do not guarantee that our students’ pure and innocent hearts will not be corrupted by the vicious world of online advertisement and irresponsible online behaviour, but I think it minimizes the chances of having to handle such situations. Plus, who said we couldn’t use it to promote safe online behaviour?

Privacy setting can be adjusted. What happens in class can stay there. Again, let’s be honest.. Do you really want to have your unmotivated student’s defamatory essay on the class’s obligatory reading for the world to see?

NOPE.

That’s what I thought.

Plus, because we’re not all Picasso’s of the internet, the website offers over 70 built-in designs that can, again, be customized indefinitely! For class purposes, I’d ask the students to pick one that the website offers. I’d like to reduce the risks of having to deal with some Playboy bunny background.

The multimedia features (pictures, videos, audio players, documents, maps, and even photo galleries!) allow both teachers and students to submit all kinds of work assignments. It’s a heck of a universal platform. Don’t we all hate to have to go through e-mails, loose sheets, class notes, online portals just to find out when is the due date to hand in a piece of work?

Thank goodness, there’s finally a one-stop shop for sharing classroom documents and information.

LIKE STARBUCKS?

Not really but my favorite part is that it allows the students to be creative. Honestly, they have enough rules to put up with. Let them put that rainbow at the end of their homework assignment. The best part is that (as mentioned on Wikispaces’ digital tutorial for Weebly), because it’s creative, students can actually enjoy what they’re doing while working in a pedagogically-controlled environment, while working in their natural habitat  online environment.

IS THIS HEAVEN?

Not quite, but it’s not that far away from it.