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Creative Applications of Web 2.0 Tools in ELT
By: Paula Ledesma Creative Commons License: CC BY Author contact: email@example.com Author Biography: Paula Ledesma is an online instructor and Learning Technology Consultant at Helping North. She currently resides in Argentina. Activity Summary
This paper examines a variety of Web sites and services that provide important tools for teachers engaged in English Language Learning. Class or subject area: Language teaching Grade level(s):All Specific learning objectives: • Teachers will learn about several web sites that can be used with students to facilitate English language instruction, particular for ELT
One of the alternative ways in which educators could apply some Internet applications to their teaching practice is by resorting to some simple tools at first. There is a large number of alternative Web 2.0 websites to be considered. These include all the websites that allow the creation of multimedia material such as audio visuals and which can eventually be used in combination with social networks, blogs or wikis. Although there are not many studies that show how instrumental these Web 2.0 tools have been to more effective educational processes, there are numerous websites and articles that suggest several possible uses to be considered and possibly adapted to curricular needs. Some of the websites that can be useful for teachers who need to apply technology in a creative way are suggested by Peachey (2009) in his e-book Web 2.0 for Teachers. Peachey (2009) suggests, for example, tools that require students’ production of interactive material online that can then be shared in different websites. One of the tools suggested is the movie maker website Dvolver (http://www. dfilm.com/live/mm.html). In his description of this website Peachey (2009) states that: Dvolver Moviemaker is a simple tool that enables you to create your own animated cartoons by selecting from a range of characters backgrounds and scenarios and adding your own dialogue text bubble. The movies can then be sent by email or embedded into blogs or websites for others to enjoy (p.16) As Peachey (2009) sees it, this kind of websites fosters students’ motivation and enhances learning. The kinds of dialogues students can create may easily be adapted to different school content and, thus, cater for different curricular needs. In a similar fashion, there are websites where students can create video presentations based on images. Websites such as Animoto (www.animoto.com) allow users to upload images they select and to create short video presentations accompanied by text and music. In other words: Users ... upload the photographs, graphics or images they plan to use in their video... [T]hey may choose background music that is already stored in the website and add it to their creation. Once all the images and music have been chosen, the video is automatically created by the application and users get the chance to download their creation as a video file or add it to their You Tube account if they have one (Ledesma, 2010. p. 270). Barns (2010) also considers that “Animoto is extremely user-friendly and empowers teachers and students to create movie-quality videos in a few easy steps”. Besides, when students are required to apply these tools to their school activities they have the opportunity to put several skills into practice, including those 21st century skills which were listed in the previous chapter. Interactive posters are also considered instrumental for some educators who have applied them to different projects. Rockwood (2010), for example, describes the use of a virtual poster maker especially designed for educational purposes which is called Glogster Edu (www.edu.glogster.com). According to Rockwood, this tool allows educators to implement projects using technology in computers in which students have to research and develop posters related to a topic associated to some content they have been studying in class. One of the suggested projects is the creation of an interactive poster associated with a book that students have read in class. The tool allows users to combine different multimedia elements such as images, audio and even video which can be placed on the poster template and which can also be accompanied by text bubbles or text boxes whenever needed. The final product is then a poster which can be shared online. Besides, as the tool offers a special account
for educators where all students may post their work, this allows the teacher to control content as students are creating their products. Further benefits of the use of this tool have recently been listed in an article published by Business Wire (2010): Glogster EDU has quickly morphed from just a “tool” to a digitally relevant, 21st century multi-media learning platform that goes beyond the teacher-student classroom relationship into a scalable school system network for educational communities across the world. That is to say, the new characteristics of this tool allow interaction and collaboration, which makes it a true Web 2.0 tool. Storytelling and story writing also play an important role in education and they can now be combined with Web 2.0 tools. Nowadays, stories do not necessarily follow the classical model of linear development. In fact, since the creation of hypertext, narrative is “often nonlinear and increasingly media-rich” (Bryan & Levine, 2008). Strahovnik & Mecava (2009) explain the benefits of storytelling when combined with technology, especially with Web 2.0 technology. As they see it, storytelling can help students develop communication skills as most of these tools facilitate the creation of user-generated content and its publication. Cao et al (2005) also refer to the possible combination of storytelling and Web 2.0 stating that: Non-linear storytelling has been an effective means of knowledge sharing and learning in organizations and societies for a long time. With the advent of the Web 2.0 user generated content like digital videos in YouTube and digital images in Flickr.com have become particularly interesting (p.1). There are different ways in which a story may be created using Web 2.0 tools. Some of the applications described so far, including Animoto and Dvolver, may well serve this purpose. Besides, there are other tools where stories may be built based on photos and other media. A good example to consider is Penzu (www.penzu.com). This application allows educators to upload different images to a blank template in the website where students will eventually write a story based on the images chosen. The writing techniques may vary but the tool is seen as instrumental by numerous teachers who have used it. Peachey (2009) refers to the benefits of using this tool when he says: What’s great about using a tool like this is that it makes students written work much more accessible, they can integrate high quality images with the work and it remains as a tangible record of their progress and achievements. It’s also very content focused and there is no fuss with formatting or different fonts. It’s just about the writing (p.7). Another software program that can be applied to storytelling is worth mentioning, Sketch Cast (www. sketchcast.com), which combines the use of oral language and visual media. In fact, users may record their voice at the same time they draw or sketch on a blank background. This work is recorded in the form of a video which can be shared online in different websites. This application may be beneficial to foster students’ creativity and to encourage an alternative way to communicate content. Akcaoglu (Cited in Fryers, 2010) refers to Sketch Cast as “podcast with a whiteboard”, but it is actually much more than that as it effectively allows for the development of all the possible kinds of stories involved in storytelling, ranging “from personal tales to the recounting of historical events, from exploring life in one’s own community to the search for life in other corners of the universe, and literally, everything in between” (UH, 2010) Crating animated avatars may also be a useful alternative when applying Web 2.0 tools to teaching. Mitchell (2010) defines avatars as “a graphical representation of a user … (which) can include user-
names and even the overall personality created by the user”. There are several avatar builders and in most cases the creation of the animated character is all in the hands of the user. That is to say, when students create an avatar they are in charge of choosing what appearance the character will have, what it will wear and even what it will say. Some tools such as Voki (www.voki.com) build avatars which are animated and which can talk. In fact, the user can record his own voice and have the avatar reproduce it. For this reason, the tool may be instrumental when students need to retell stories or any other school activity that requires oral production. For some commentators, talking avatars are also a good alternative to written messages posted in online forums or even in blog or wiki posts. Dale (2007) refers to the benefits of using talking avatars describing that they offer “new opportunities for language teachers wanting to extend their pupils’ speaking skills in a fun and engaging way”. King (2010) also refers to some possible uses of avatars stating that: Avatars can be used by classroom teachers when designing digital stories or delivering content. Avatars can represent a tour guide explaining travels along the Silk Road, or represent real life characters like Mark Twain giving a lecture on his home or Einstein introducing the solar system. In addition to the isolated talking avatars, some tools allow the use of speaking characters in specific context. For example, there are tools where the user may create an animated comic strip with the characters they choose and make them say what they need. Such are the cases of Go Animate (www.goanimate.com) and Xtranormal (www.xtranormal.com). Both websites provide users with alternative settings to choose from and with a choice of characters. In Go Animate the user also has a choice to create the characters in the similar way in which avatars are created, by selecting the desired appearance and even personality traits. Once the characters have been chosen, the user can type the dialogues and create as many parts for the story as they need. When describing the most common uses of this tool King (2010) states that: The templates allow project developers to create and edit speech bubbles, add characters, prolong the animation, add extra scenes, change the characters’ facial expressions, and add sound tracks. Once the animation project is completed students can save it to their account to review, edit, send a link by e-mail or to post on their project page such as a wiki later. As regards Xtranormal, the main attraction is that the software turns typed text into spoken dialogues. This means that the dialogues that the users type in the different scenes are reproduced in the form of computer generated speech. The software is considered to be user-friendly and several educators who are employing it refer to some of its possible uses including revision activities, storytelling, and even follow-up or assessment tasks. Tolbert (2010) describes the main uses of Xtranormal affirming that: Xtranormal provides many different scenes and characters. The students simply select the scene, cast their characters, and type their script. Xtranormal will then create a movie using those selections. As students become more familiar with the Xtranormal program, they can customize their presentation more by changing the camera angles, the facial expressions of the characters, or inserting sound effects. The array of Web 2.0 tools that could be suggested in this chapter is endless. And the possible benefits of their application to education may be conditioned by the decisions taken by the educators who apply them to their practices. As Burbules & Callister (2008) see it: “What is essential is to know how, who by and with what objectives the tools are used”.
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