Archive for the ‘Listening’ Category

So, this is the first blog entry I have done so far on a specific iPad app. I think several tools I have talked about now have iPad apps (such as Fotobabble, Popplet, Diigo etc) but Morfo is specifically for the iPad and iPhone. I have to say to start with that I have yet to use many apps actively in the classroom for anything apart from presentation  as part of the lesson since my school does not have a class set of iPads for instance as I know some schools do. Some pupils I teach do have them and I have suggested several apps for them to use and I hope they do for homework and so on. I have also used some iPad apps for adding to my department VLE and for my own work.

Morfo is a free app that can be used to take a photo and then this photo can be adapted and voices recorded onto it. You can have a look at the Morfo website here: Morfo website. With the photo you take you can make the person into various animals, superheroes, carnival characters, or into various musical styles such as disco glam, goth rock and the 60s. The end creation will also dance around amusingly!

This app is probably best used with young language learners, to help them forget any nerves they have with speaking the language and enjoy making themselves or their friends look silly or funny with the different disguises that the app offers. They can either read something they have prepared, or speak off the cuff in the target language. Topics that suggest themselves immediately for this app are personal descriptions (either what they actually look like, or what they end up looking like having been ‘dressed up’ by the app, but any type of speaking presentation can be done.

Creating a Morfo is very easy. Once you have downloaded the app from the appstore, open the application. To begin with click ‘Create a New Face’ and then either choose a photo that you have already taken or click the ‘Touch here to take a picture’ button. Either way, once you have chosen a picture, you will then have to fit the photo into the Morfo frame. Adjust the head, eyes, nose and mouth appropriately so that they fit over the photo’s head, eyes, nose and mouth. You can also adapt the light of the photo if needs be. Having then clicked ‘Finish’ you will then see your photo with the frame in place. At the bottom you have the following options: Record (click hear to record a voice onto the frame), Makeup (this is where to go to add the disguise / mask, and is probably your first stop), Morf (change the face shape to fatter, elf or hero), Dance (makes the frame headbang to a choice of music) or Share (email, facebook or save the video / picture). I will generally start with clicking ‘Makeup’, then I will click ‘Costumes’ to choose from the various mask options, and then click ‘Costume’ to flick between the various masks for that genre of costume. This is probably where the time wasting will take place in the classroom!

Having picked a suitably amusing disguise, then click ‘Record’ Click the red start button to start the recording and again to finish. You do no have an unlimited time to record (half a minute or a minute I think), so ensure your pupils know this and are prepared. The chances are that they will want to record two or three or more times until they have perfected their speech, which is obviously excellent for grooving in the target language.

Having stopped the recording, you can then listen to it by clicking ‘Play’ or ‘Share’ it. This is what you will want your pupils to do so you can see and listen to their work. I would click ‘Email a Video’ and then your video will be automatically saved and then you can send it as an MP4 file.

So Morfo is a free and fun way of getting pupils to speak the target language. You could also create homework tasks for your pupils by sending them a video of you telling them what their homework is, use it as an introduction to topics perhaps, or maybe even use it as a pronunciation guide. The finished products could also be used as a listening exercise.

Useful links to help you with using Morfo.

How to use Morfo YouTube video

Morfo forum

Xtranormal is another site that gives you the chance to make animated cartoon videos for free. In comparison to the other options I have already blogged about, it is more like GoAnimate than Dvolver, in that  you are much more of a director than you are with Dvolver, giving you lots of characters and options to be more in control of your animation. It is simple enough to use with some practice and at the end of the day, if you see the use of animations being useful for your teaching or for your pupils to adapt the language, then it will be a good option. Really, it only depends if you prefer GoAnimate or Xtranormal as to which one you use perhaps. Actually, at some point in a future blog, I may compare the two, as well as other similar tools offering similar services for ease of reference. Perhaps people might like to suggest some categories worth comparing? (Comment below!)

To use Xtranormal go to the webpage, http://www.xtranormal.com, and then register for free. As with various other sites, you can get enough out of the site without having to pay for the full licence that gives you more options and a greater range of characters, backgrounds etc. When you are registered, you will be directed to your ‘home’ and from there click on ‘Create’. The following screen below will be displayed.

As you can see below, there are a lot of character sets to choose from!

Once you have finally picked which characters you will use, you then have some further choices to make as to which, Sets, Actors, Sounds and Story you will use.

The sets option will allow you to pick a background or location for the story, the actors will be the main characters for thje action (you will be limited to start with as to who you can pick – to have more options you will have to upgrade your account – up to you of course if you need more characters), the sounds will allow you to have some atmosphere, sound effects or musical accompaniments to the action, and then you get to ‘Story’ which is the key element for you action.

You will see that you basically type into the box to allow the character to speak those words, and then drag various movements and actions from the left hand tool bar to add more realism and action to the scene. You can have camera movements, characters performing a variety of actions such as clenching fists, blowing kisses and ironic clapping amongst many others, having different emotive facial expressions and having basic interactions with the other character. Really it is best to explore the various options available, and use these to add to your dialogues to make the video more interesting. There should be plenty to give you or your pupils what you need for your films.

In terms of adding more speech boxes, you need to click the ‘+’ icon in the text boxes that will give you three options, either using a text bubble, uploading or recording your voice or adding a title bubble. The recording your voice option will obviously give your pupils the chance to practise their speaking and listening skills (it’s great how pupils will re-record themselves several times to get it right, thereby practising the language more than they would usually) or their writing and reading skills if you elect the text bubble option.

As you go along, you can click on the preview button to see how your video is coming along, and then go back and edit or change anything that you don’t like. When you are finished, click on ‘Save’ and then ‘Publish’ which will allow you to give your film a title, description and some tags to help people find it. It may take a few minutes for your film to be rendered which is worth bearing in mind if you want to show films made in class – allow time at the end of the lesson for this!

The completed video can be embedded or shared via a variety of mediums. To embed, click on ’embed the Xtranormal player’ on the right hand side of the video, under the video URL, choose a size for the video and copy the embed code. Then paste it into your blog or website, wherever you choose to use it. It can also be used on Posterous, something I intend to use a great deal this Academic Year. If you use Posterous, just put the embed code into the body of the email that you send to Posterous, and it will automatically come up! Fantastically easy! This could be the best way of your pupils sharing their own videos with the class if you have allowed them to become contributors to your Posterous space.

So, that’s it in a nutshell. Again, the best thing to do is explore and experiment. If you have any questions, please do comment and ask.

Here are some other links worth checking out about using Xtranormal in the classroom

http://joedale.typepad.com/integrating_ict_into_the_/2010/01/making-your-xtranormal-mfl-lessons-work.html

http://www.slideshare.net/digitalmaverick/how-to-use-xtranormal

http://www.boxoftricks.net/2009/11/xtranormal-in-the-classroom/

 

Today I’m going to blog about Lingt. Lingt is a worksheet creation site, which enables you to embed videos onto the worksheet, as well as spoken questions for pupils to answer orally or in written form. Therefore, it is possible to assess all four language skills, reading, writing, speaking and listening on one document, which is a nifty premise, a real interactive worksheet. The best thing about it at first glance is that you can really get pupils practising the vocabulary or grammar in every way outside the classroom, hence promoting the ‘classroom outside the classroom’ idea.

To use Lingt, go to the following URL: http://lingtlanguage.com and click on Signup. After signing up, you will be taken to your homepage. As a free user of Lingt you can only create a certain number of assignments (6)which is a bit of a shame. To be able to do more, you will need to extend your membership (click on upgrade your account). The price does not seem too exorbitant if you want to upgrade to say 50 exercises (currently $39 a year), but I’m not really sure I would need to upgrade to have all the features for a $79 per year subscription. This is just something you will have to decide for yourself based on how effective you feel Lingt is for what you need it for.

I would suggest the best step now is to watch the Lingt tutorial video. Click ‘Help’ from your home screen (or click HERE to watch the tutorial to get an idea what you can do.) This is a well made Screencapture video explaining how to do everything and I strongly recommend watching it and making notes. The video goes through how to create a class, and then how to create an assignment for the classes you have created. There are a number of other useful questions answered for you on the help page.

When creating a class, you do not need to input anything apart from the class name. There is no need to input all your pupils, or even for them to signup to Lingt, as when you have created an assignment, the pupils will simply just go to your Lingt page (more of this later) and click on the relevant assignment for them. They will do the assignment online (on the web browser, before filling in their name and their email address at the end which will alert you to the fact that they have completed the assignment.

When you create your assignment you have a variety of tool buttons to create the texts. You have Voice, Text, Image and Video  (YouTube only) options for teacher prompts, and text and voice buttons for when you want pupils to answer. I have created a Prepositions and Furniture work sheet for my 3rd form. I have a video from Youtube going through the prepositions to start with, with questions in English underneath. Then I have uploaded an image of a bedroom with questions in Spanish again underneath, and then I have finally recorded some questions requiring spoken answers, before leaving one final question for a longer written response, describing their bedroom.

I have yet to test this out with the 3rd form but there appear to be a couple of risks involved with Lingt. Firstly, many schools have blocked Youtube (in my school only the 6th form can go onto Youtube) and I don’t know whether by ’embedding’ a Youtube video into your worksheet on Lingt it will allow the 3rd-5th formers to watch it, or if it will be blocked still. Secondly, pupils will need to have the ability to record their own voice (necessitating a microphone) and not all school computers or pupils will have one, and it could mean them being excluded from a task, or being able to complete it properly. Hopefully they can upload / save their recordings on Lingt – I have experienced problems with Voki and GoAnimate with uploading recordings on a browser, and I don’t know if this would be a problem with this website as well.

Hopefully these problems can be overcome without too many difficulties as the IT technicians in schools become more aware of the potential uses of Web 2.0 tools and other sites for the classroom and education generally, and unblock and allow full or timed use of them. There are of course risks with using Youtube, but the benefits are huge as well, and this should mean that a more sensible policy regarding its use can be found.

I do feel that Lingt has much to recommend it, and after the exam period I will investigate it further and see if I and the pupils experience any problems with its use. It does seem particularly useful for speaking and listening practise outside the classroom, and providing a really interactive worksheet, something I feel would appeal to a lot of students of all ages.

I would be really interested to hear from anyone who already uses Lingt regularly or who has tried it out to see what you think and if it has worked well or not. Please leave a comment below or tweet me @pedroelprofesor.

Another little tool for helping make speaking a bit more fun is Blabberize. It is a little similar to Voki (see earlier post on this) but a bit more basic perhaps. Rather than creating your own avatar from a series of cartoony figures, the difference here is that you will upload a photo from your computer, draw a mouth that will then move around when you are speaking and then either record or upload a recording. It is a very simple tool to use, requiring little practise, simply follow the instructions on the page and press the relevant buttons, and you will end up with an amusing little photo speaking in your voice.

The uses for this should be fairlyobvious too. I actually haven’t used it with a class yet, but I think I will use it with my 3rd and 4th form groups and get them to make little recordings on topics we will cover in class. I think it will be a good way to do descriptions for example – pick a photo of someone famous and they can describe them. It is a good tool for readying pupils for presentations and so on as well

It is a free tool to use, but you will need to sign up in order to save your blabberized photos. After you have finished and saved the little video, pupils will need to copy and paste the URL that they have made and email it to you. Theoretically, you could then embed them onto a webpage and share them with the class and maybe use them as a listening exercise.

 

Voxopop is basically a discussion forum website with the distinction of being a spoken word discussion forum. What it allows a user to do is to add spoken comments to a discussion thread, as well as setting up your own groups for targetted discussion. Within a discussion group you can set up your own threads for specific questions or themes.

I have only just started exploring how this site can be used, but it strikes me as being a very good tool to enable pupils to do more speaking practise outside of the classroom, which is obviously a Great Thing. Not only will it be good for your own pupils, but it could also be an excellent collaborative tool enabling communicating between different schools, throughout the world, and it seems that this is the kind of thing it is already being used for.

So far, I have set up a group for my Lower 6th and Upper 6th sets. When you set a group up it can either be public (allowing anyone to contribute), restricted (anyone can listen, but must apply to be able to participate) and private (by invitation only). I have made both my groups private. Within the discussion groups I have set up subtopic areas for the various topics in the WJEC syllabus (alcohol, drugs, tourism, leisure etc). I have set up a few starter questions in a few of these subtopics and so far one of my pupils has braved this new technology and left some responses! Hopefully more will join in with the discussion, listening to what others have answered and getting ideas for what they can say in the lead up to their speaking exams. I can obviously hear what they are saying and can correct them and add new comments and questions to the continuing thread.

It strikes me that every year group can benefit from this. Pupils could create a bank of speaking answers to various questions within a topic that could help them when revising for a GCSE exam for instance. Role plays could be done between various people (though this could be a slow process if done outside the classroom). It is a way of communicating with penpals or exchange groups, and I love the idea of collaborating with schools abroad with English/Spanish exchanges of answers.

Following a discussion on Twitter yesterday there is now a MFL Twitterati discussion group that I have set up with @Chapeluser @bellaale and @spanishsam. Please do look this up if you want to join – at the moment we have set it up as a way of trialing how it works with the idea of a future collaboration between schools, but it could become a forum for discussion as well. Please contact me on Twitter (@pedroelprofesor) or through here, or the other twitter users as well.

Russell Stannard has done a very good video series on how Voxopop is used, so the best way to get an ideas is perhaps to watch this.

http://www.teachertrainingvideos.com/voxopop/index.html

One of the best bits about advances in IT and the internet is the chance to practise listening and speaking much more than was previously possible. With Voki and Goanimate, two tools already mentioned in this blog, pupils can upload recordings they have made in a more relaxed way. The two little tools I will introduce today, Vocaroo and Mailvu  are more direct methods of communication. Both are basically audio email tools, one simply with audio, one with audio and video.

Both are really simple little tools, but are very effective for getting your pupils to speak. I haven’t used mailvu really with classes yet, as I don’t really need to see a video of them, but I have used Vocaroo regularly for a variety of tasks. When preparing for presentation tasks for GCSE assessments, pupils have sent audio email via vocaroo of them speaking their presentations and I will vocaroo them back with corrections to pronunciation and any errors that they have made. My Upper 6th have sent me recordings of their presentations, and also to questions that I have set them both on presentations and also on their opinions on texts for the speaking and reading section. All kinds of speaking tasks can be set, but all importantly it gets your pupils speaking outside of the classoom.

With Vocaroo, simply go to http://vocaroo.com, and then click on the ‘record’ button to make your recording. Obviously make sure your computer has a mic, either internally or attached, and click ‘Allow’ on the next box that comes up. After this your recording starts and when done just press ‘stop’. You can then listen to your recording and redo it if you aren’t happy. (Pupils often repeat their recordings to get things right, which means they are practising even more!) When you are happy click ‘Click here to save’ and then either copy the URL code, embed or email. To email, just fill in the required details and addresses (note that you can send the recording to more than one person – so you could send a range of questions to a whole class for instance). You will get confirmation that you have sent the voice message when you have done so as you need to give your email address as well.

Mailvu (http://www.mailvu.com) works the same but withvideo, but with a webcam needing to be used. Here you are basically sending a video email, again with audio. Again, I haven’t really seen the need to use the video emailing, though I suppose it does give you certain opportunities to maybe show pupils which exercise to do for example. You can also get Mailvu as an iPhone app as well.

All in all, very simple to use and quick to do, barring computer problems! Luckily, I haven’t had any yet with Vocaroo with people who have their own laptops or pcs though I’m yet to use school computers with it. Hope it works easily for you as well.