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Tweet it with Twitter

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Twitter is one of the most popular social network these days. However, I personally never really got into it because it seemed too complicated at first and not many people I know used it.I thought I should give it a try, and even if I might not see a function for Twitter in my personal life, I believe there are many ways to use it in an ESL classroom.

First, in order to know more about Twitter before starting to find its uses in education, I watched a YouTube video in which the basics of this social network were explained. Then, I had a friend show me how she uses it. This way, I was more than ready to find and understand how to use Twitter in an ESL classroom, and personally, I recommend anybody who would like to use Twitter to start by doing this basic step. Twitter is nothing like Facebook or other social networks.

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Basically, twitter is a social network in which people can have real-time communication. It was created in 2006 and, since then, is used by millions of people to either share or discover information. The website was named after the sound made by bird to represent their chirping. It illustrates the simple communication between them. On this website, it is possible to create “tweets” of a maximum of 140 characters to express opinions or ideas. Then, your followers can see your “tweets” and “retweet” answers or comments. To create or follow a topic, a system of hashtag is used in order to tag keywords or topic in a “tweet” to make it easy to identify or find. As a user, you can follow your friends or any subjects that interests you (celebrity, politic parties, business, etc.). To summarise, Twitter is a platform in which people can “tweet” their ideas or follow people such as their friends, celebrities, designers, marketers or businesses. It is an excellent information source and an easy way to share information quickly and in an effective way.

How to use Twitter in an ESL classroom

Now that we now more about the basic uses of Twitter, let’s see how it could be used in an ESL classroom. As said before, Twitter is a way to have easy real-life communication. It can then be used for the students to connect with you and with each other in the target language. As an example, you could simply ask a daily or weekly question to your students about a certain content you saw in class and have them reflect and comment on the subject. They could then answer and share their opinions. Also, it could be used at home for the students if they have questions about the homework or anything they did not understand properly. It is an easy way for them to help each other.

In order to create a class “group”, teachers should create an “hashtag” for the class. For example, if you create a hashtag called ESLClass201, the students will be able to go on this hashtag and tweet to the class. It would then be easy to see their tweets and to follow what it is happening because everything would be on the same page.

There are a lot of ways to use Twitter. One of them could be to make announcement to the class such as exams, tests, class content, material to bring, and more. Obviously, you might have already said all this in class, but a reminder when they are at home could be useful. Another way could be to have them write an essay with the help of Twitter. With this social network, not only they could ask their classmates for their opinions, but they could use this website to find experts on the subject. They could then participate in a discussion on the essay topic(s) to be able to come up with their own opinion. I would for example take a controversial subject an have half the class in favour of the subject and half the class against the subject. This way, the discussions would be very interesting and diversified.

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Why use Twitter

You might wonder why we should use Twitter an not any other websites. My opinion is that Twitter is pretty simple once you understand how it works and it is used by a large number of people. That being said, as mentioned by teachers from University of North Carolina, Twitter is a perfect tool for students to get to know each other outside classroom and also for the teacher to know his or her students better. Anderson and Ducate from the University thought that the subjects talked about by the students were very interesting and they were even using them to start the classes. She also said that it gave the students a chance to express themselves more than they would have done it in the classroom, and obviously, it practices their writing skills. Finally, they also mentioned that it was good because students would go and write on the group page freely and they wouldn’t see it as a homework. They simply enjoyed it.

My personal use of Twitter

I had a closer look at Twitter and tried to come up with original activities or project possible to do with Twitter. The first one I came up with is pretty simple. I had the idea from a friend of mine who had the chance to do it in her classroom. Basically, the students would write a story all together. Since one student can only write a 140-characters tweet, he or she would only start the story. Then, another student would continue it, and so on. It would than create a very creative and interesting story in which every student would participate. It would make all the student feel involved and I think they would have fun writing and reading it.

A second idea I had is to create a role game. It could be a murder mystery in which every student would have a role. I would previously give them card saying what they were doing at what time and all the information they need to know. I would probably also provide them questions they could ask. They would then need to ask each other questions to find out who is the murderer. They would accuse someone every week and if the murderer manages to fool everybody, he would win a privilege. I believe the students would participate and enjoy it.

Twitter applications

Twitter itself can be very useful in a classroom. However, there are also applications linked with Twitter that are possible to use in order to have more options with the social network. For example, Tweetpic allows you to share pictures and videos on twitter, which gives more possibilities for the students or the teacher to share information. Also, Twtpoll is a tool to create surveys and for example ask your students their opinion on either a topic or the course content. Finally, GroupTweet could actually be a very useful tool because it allows teachers to create a group in which students can post anything. Unfortunately, I did not have the chance to experiment it, but I believe it would be a similar concept than using a hashtag for the group.

My opinion

After having a good look at Twitter, I believe it gives a lot of opportunities of project, activities and communication amongst a classroom. It is a tool everyone as access to from their phones, laptops, iPads, etc. Plus, since students are probably already using the social network, they won’t see it as an educational tool and, chances are, they will feel free to write on the group and talk about any subject you give them. As an English teacher, I won’t mind about what subject my students are talking about, because as long as it’s acceptable in an educational context, they are learning the language, and that’s all that matters.

 

 

 

Scoop it!

As a future teacher, I would like everything I teach my students to be related to the real world, to content they could face in a normal English environment. This way, I would know that what they are learning is useful and relevant. Now, my questions was, how can I make them read something related to the real world? A book? That’s good, but there must be better than that! What about articles? Articles are related to real people doing real stuff, that’s about as real as it gets! After doing some research, I found the perfect site for anyone to read about articles of any subject. Then, they can comment on it, and post it to their own page. It’s called Scoop it!

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What is it?

Basically, Scoop it is a website that allows you to create your own web page in which you share topics and article you find interesting. The website has organisation tools to make it easier for the users to gather content on their page. Also, it gives users the possibility not only to share the content on their page, but also on many social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.

How to use it?

When I first wanted to know more about Scoop it, I did my usual YouTube research and found Jack and his passion for electric guitar. Have a look at this video which will explain you how Scoop it works in a funny and simple way. Scoop it also has its own YouTube channel in which you can find tutorials and more information about the website. According to me, the website is not the simplest website to use, but once you have understood how it works, it’s not too bad. To summarise, once you go the website, you first need to subscribe. Then, the website asks you to enter topics you like, so you enter for example education, learning, teaching, etc. When this is done, the website will “curate” articles that might interest you. You can then go through them, find the ones you like, read them, comment them, and post them on your page for your followers to read them. To understand it better, I myself made a page that you can have a look at. You can see under the articles that I could have wrote my impressions on the subjects.  As a users of Scoop it, you could also right your own comments about the article I scooped. This is where is gets interesting to use it as a teacher…

What can you do with it as a teacher?

With Scoop it, you can create a webpage for a topic in particular. For example, if in your class you are discussing about a specific topic such as countries, you can put articles about the different countries you want your students to talk about and have them read the articles on your webpage. Also, you can do it differently and ask the students to create their own webpage about articles related to the country they chose. You can have them right under the articles either their impressions or what they learned. This way, they practice reading skills, writing skills, and reinvesting understanding skills.

Also, you can publish a magazine for colleagues or people who share your interests on what you think are interesting or pertinent topics.  As a teacher, it can be very interesting to receive articles scooped by other teachers and share articles you like with them. You can never learn to much from others.

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Another way in which Scoop it is interesting is that uou can use a Scoop it page to share educational videos, online quizzes, spelling resources, etc. and have your students find everything at one place.

Also, every week, you could have your students read an article of their choice, comment it and share with you. Students could follow each other and read the content scooped by their classmates.

My Opinion

In my opinion, Scoop it is a perfect website to have the students improve every competency. If I were to use this website, I would first ask them to chose a topic they like (I might give them a list to make sure it’s appropriate). Then, I would ask them to read a few articles and find one they particularly like. They would have to right a comment on it about their impressions and what they learned in the article. Finally, they would be asked to present it in front of the class to share their knowledge of the subject they chose.

Obviously, Scoop it is a relatively complex tool to use for students, which is why I would use it with students from secondary 3 to 5. I would also make sure to explain them properly how it works and have them practice in class so I can help them. It is probably not the kind of website they are used to work with and they might need help to understand its functions. However, if it is to be used every week, it is definitely worth showing them.

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Finally, Scoop it is a very interesting website for students to create their own “magazines”, share their interests while practicing the target language and share their knowledge with their peers. My goal of teaching them real world content would definitely be achieved if I were using this tool!

SmartPen: Smart tool!

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In my last article, I mentioned going to SPEAQ Campus conference, which is, as I said before, an ESL teacher conference in which teachers come and talk about either special activities they put in place or their different way of teaching. In my last blog, I also mentioned a seminar called “An old story made new”, in which two teachers were talking about integrating technologies in their classroom. Another tool they came up with and I had never ever seen before was the SmartPen. I was blown away when I first saw what it could do!

What is it?

To summarise, the SmartPen is a tool that has two main functions. The first one is to remember important things for you. It records something while you write something else or simply because it’s faster to record it than writing everything. For example, as a student, I could use it when a teacher says something very important in class and I don’t have time to write everything down. As a teacher, I would use it to evaluate C1 and C2  (interact orally and reinvest understanding). By using this SmartPen, you don’t always have to be with the students and you know they are making efforts even if you are not right behind them. Also, I believe it gives you more opportunities to hear them speak English than simply a few times in the year when you try to hear them and it might not be representative of what they can really do.

The second main function of the SmartPen is Capture, Replay, and Send. Basically, once you have written or recorded something in the special book going with the SmartPen, you can listen to it simply by “clicking” on the related words in your book. You can also connect it to your laptop and transfer all your writings and recordings. Then, not only you can replay everything, but you can also share it. As a teacher, it might be very interesting to send the students what they talked about to either explain them why they had a certain grade or simply if they have to do a written task related to what they talked about and they would like to listen to their conversation again.

Ways to use the SmartPen?

Obviously, using these two functions, there are a lot of possible uses with the SmartPen. As I said before, students can take notes or  record a teacher an listen to the class again when doing their homework. Also, it can be useful for the parents to know how their child is doing in English, and why he had a certain mark. It can also be useful for students who have more difficulties at school and need to listen to something many times. This is why the sharing part of it is very important. All students do not need to have a SmartPen, the teacher can simply have someone in the class record, and send it to the class after. Another really important thing to know is that the pen is a bit like a USB key, so you can empty it in your computer to put more recording in it.

How much does it cost?

Obviously, this unique tool comes at a price. According to me, it is not too expensive considering all the uses it has and how much people it can help. You can find it between $150 and $200, depending of the memory size of the Pen, I believe.

My Opinion?

There is a very simple reason why I put my opinion after the price. Considering I am a student at the moment, I did not have the chance to buy it and have a real try at it, so I had to base my opinion on what I saw and heard at the SPEAQ conference, and what I saw on my favorite source to learn new things: YouTube.

At SPEAQ campus, the teacher said she was using it because the way her class is organised is that students are separated in competencies. Every class, students do something different, related to improving a particular competency. For this reason, she cannot always be with the students practicing oral skills, which is why she decided to buy the SmartPen to follow what they talked about and to make sure they did not lose their time. Also, every task they were doing in the different competencies were related to each other, so she sent the conversations to the students so they can use it for the written competency.

I believe the way she used the SmartPen was clever and useful. However, I didn’t see how I would use this pen at an elementary school level. I thought students needed to have a certain level of maturity and autonomy, but a YouTube video changed my mind. A teacher had his or her elementary students draw a rain forest and, with the help of the SmartPen, they added sounds of the rain forest, vocabulary words, etc. It is very interesting to see how much possibilities there is with this pen. On this website,there is a lot of different ways to use the SmartPen, not all related to ESL teaching, but it gives new ideas. For example, there is an video called audio study guide, in which a science teacher printed a skeleton and had students study the bones with it. As said in the video, this way of studying might not be useful for all students, but some of them benefit of hearing the words more than reading them. As an ESL teacher, I could do the same thing, simply for the students to learn body parts for example.

Finally, I think I would not buy the SmartPen straight away after finishing school, I would wait to have a bit more experience and see if the students would respond well to using the SmartPen. It is not free and, before buying it, I would like to be sure I would use it properly and students would benefit from it. I need to know it would add something to their learning before simply buying it because it’s cool. However, I thought it was worth making an article on it to inform people of its existence and of its possible uses. I will let you on this video, which is more of an advertisement for the SmartPen, but it shows you how to use it, and it is well-explaned.

Socrative as in Innovative

A few weeks ago, I had the chance to participate in a very interesting ESL teacher conference called SPEAQ Campus, which took place at Laval University. In this conference, I had the chance to meet teachers with different and very interesting ideas. One of the seminar was: “An old story made new”. In this seminar, the teachers introduced us to online material they were using and one of them caught my attention: Socrative.

What is Socrative?

Socrative is a student response system created by the teacher in order to engage the students with educational interactive games and exercises.  On Socrative, there is a large variety of exercises students can do: quizzes, games, start tickets, exit tickets, and more. The good thing about Socrative is that it can be used on any devices from Laptops to smartphones and Ipads. (http://msfhamiltontechinclass.weebly.com/socrative.html)

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Why use Socrative?

Socrative is a very simple and smart way to engage the students and either have their opinion and then discuss a certain subject or simply evaluate them on something they have already seen. With Socrative, you can receive by email the answers of the students with the percentage and all the necessary information. You can evaluate them with multiple choice questions, True/False questions, short answers, etc. It is a quick way to have the students opinions or to see if they understood a certain content you taught them. Plus, it is very simple to use and to install on any device.

Also, since we are in a technological era, Socrative is a very good way to engage the students in learning through technology and show them all the possibilities technology gives them related to their education. Another good thing about using technology is that they have access to it everywhere, and quickly. Students will probably be more willing to do a quiz on internet rather than going in their school back pack, trying to find the sheet you gave them,  realising that they forgot it at school and then probably forget about it. It might not always be the case, but you get my point, it’s easier online.

What kinds of activity to do?

Sometimes, it can get a bit boring for the students to always do the same kinds of activity. This is why Socrative gives a large variety of possible activities. You can do simple quizzes, or multiple choice activities, but there are more complex activities you can do with Socrative. For example, the teachers I met at SPEAQ Campus had a great idea. Basically, before the academy awards, they had their students watch videos of the nominations and vote for who they thought would win. Then, students had conversations about why they thought that, positive points, negative points, etc. Also, the teachers mentioned using Start tickets simply to know how the students are doing and have them write a short paragraph, and Exit tickets to know what the students thought about the activity. As you can see, you can use Socrative for any competencies (Interact orally, write texts and reinvest understanding).

Another activity you can do in class with all the students is a space race. How this works is that students take a quiz on their own devices in class, and, on the board, you can see space ships going forward depending of how many answer were good. The team with the most good answers wins the race. This game makes the students participates and want to have the right answers to win, which is good to review content and see if the students understood well. In this youtube video, there is a short tutorial on how to use Socrative, and at the end, the speaker does a demonstration of a space race with his classroom.

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My opinion

I believe that Socrative is a good tool to use in class, but it’s important to remember that sometimes to much of something makes it boring. However, a good use of Socrative in class will be interesting as much for the students than the teacher. I gave it a try and created a multiple choice activity in about 10 minutes, it’s that simple! I also think it’s a good way for teacher to save a bit of time on correction, considering it does the correction for you and sends you a report. Finally, as a future teacher, I believe I will use Socrative in order to bring discussion between students and to see how well the content I taught was understood.

Integrating iPads in a Classroom

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When I first heard about schools integrating iPads in their classrooms, I was not sure if it would actually work. I thought that students would be very excited and distracted with such a tool in their hands. It is hard to keep their attention when they have a pencil case in front of them, and now you want them to stay quiet when they have a multitude of games and apps in from of them? I was sceptical! However, after listening to Mark Miller in class and making some research, I found good tips to manage the classroom using iPads, and good apps to teach them effectively.

As mentioned in class by Mr. Miller, teachers should not expect iPads to teach for them, but should use them as a tool for their teaching. For example, you might not have a tool that will teach students grammar, but you can teach them grammar, and then ask them to put it in practice by writing a text or creating a movie using a particular sentence pattern. There are tons of possibilities with the iPad for English teachers. Students can read texts, articles or books, create movies, commercials, and plays; they can also take notes and share them, create stories, and I could keep going.

With the use of iPads, you can bring every lesson to life.As mentioned on apple’s website, the iPad is something students use in their daily life for a multitude of tasks. Therefore, when they use their iPad in class, they feel like it is real and useful for them. Moreover, all the different applications can reach different kinds of intelligences and different levels of learning.They have access to images, texts, videos, articles, games, and more. For these reasons, iPads are technically very useful in a classroom. However, the issues can be linked to the way teachers use iPads and the way students respond to using iPads.

Teachers using iPads in a classroom should make sure that users know the instructional expectations and the rules before even showing them the iPads. Also, the setting of the classroom should be changed in order to give the teacher access to every iPad screen at all time. It is also important to set limits regarding the resources they can or cannot use during class and make sure they respect them. If you are a teacher using iPads in your classroom, you may want to have a look at this website. (http://ipadintheeslclassroom.weebly.com/common-ipad-classroom-management-tips.html) You will find a lot important tips to use in order to have a certain control in your classroom.

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Obviously, if all the rules are respected and teachers use iPads efficiently, they should be very useful in a classroom and students should benefit a lot. However, it does not always go this way. In Los Angles, a school decided to buy iPads for 30 000 students in 47 schools, and before they knew it, students had found a way to unblock Facebook and were spending all their time on it. According to the students, not using Facebook makes the iPad being the same thing as an old book. (http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2013-10-24/the-ipad-goes-to-school-the-rise-of-educational-tablets) The schools then had to send the iPads back. For this reason, schools should talk about it to the students and the parents to know if it is worth the money and if students are ready to make efforts regarding using iPads as an academic device.

I believe that iPads can be very useful in the classroom, but two things have to be respected. Teachers must use it as a tool to put the material they taught in class into practice, and students must respect the rules and focus on academic projects, even thought they have access to internet at all time. It is important to talk to the students, the parents and the teachers before taking any decisions regarding iPads. Buying them involves that everybody will change their attitudes toward education. It might be the futur of education, but it takes time and adaptation for everything. For my part, I believe organisation is the key.

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Storybird: Simple, creative, and fun

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As a future teacher, I want to find modern and creative ways to help the students develop their different competencies. However,  a competency that can sometime seam boring for the children is the C3: Write and produce texts. By doing some research on the internet, I believe I found a very interesting tool for them to develop the C3 while having fun. The tool is call Storybird, it is basically a very simple website where students get to create a story using images and texts. They have the opportunity to choose the kind of images they like and use their creativity to give life to pictures which were created by artists all around the world.

At first, I thought it might be a bit hard for the students to use it and to understand how the website works but I gave it a try and quickly got the hand of it. It is very clever, clear and effective. The children only have to chose a picture and the text box appears on the side so they can write whatever they like. They can then add a title, a cover and share it with the class. It is also possible for teachers to create a class account to which all students can have access. The teacher could, for example, start a story and every student has to add a page to continue the story which would made a very creative and colourful reading to share with the class at the end. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T00YjRBIcIw)

Also, as mentioned in the video I previously linked, this website is as useful for younger students as for older students. It could be used with older students to see their understanding of the parts of a story (introduction, plot, climax,etc.), as much as with younger students to practice simple grammar content seen in class (the dog likes apples, the men is wearing a brown hat, etc.). It pushes the students to a higher level of thinking and easily shows their understanding of the content seen in class.

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Also I believe that technology nowadays is perfect to develop the student’s creativity in a new and modern way. They could obviously have just drawn a story and add some texts to it, but the possibilities when doing it online are endless. As I said before, they could share the story, create a story for all the class in which every student add a bit, and they can continue or finish a story at home, which makes it even more interesting. Plus, the teacher doesn’t have to carry around 50 stories of children to correct them at home.

From a competency point of view, I believe that this website can bring the students to develop equally C1 (interact orally in English), C2 (reinvest understanding), and C3 (writing texts). They can share their story with the class, which would help them develop oral interaction skills, as much as, obviously, writing skills when they are creating their story. Also, the C2 can easily be developed if the teacher gives the students specific content and ask them to put it in practice in their story. The possibilities are endless!

Moreover, to give you a good idea of what storybird really is, here is an example of a story created with the website, which will, at the same time, give you many good reasons to use Storybird. It mentionnes students collaboration, students developing their creativity, the possibility for students to use it personally at home just for fun, and a lot more. (http://storybird.com/books/storybird-in-the-classroom/)

Finally, as a teacher, if you need your students to practice writing texts and want to find an orignal way to do it, I would definitely recommend you to use Storybird. If you are still not sure about, just give it a try, you will see by yourself.

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Prezi as in Creativity

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In ESL classes, one of the most important competencies is C1: interact orally in English. To develop this competency, the students are asked to do team work, cooperative learning activities, and also, oral presentations. When it comes to do oral presentations, everybody knows the famous PowerPoint program with key words and images. However, there is much more than that, once you get to know Prezi, developed in 2009, every other oral presentations program loses their sense. Prezi is, according to me, the most original way to present a topic to a classroom and catch the attention of the students and the teachers.

Prezi is more than a simple oral presentation tool, it’s a way to connect your ideas together, make links and avoid boring lists of key words. Instead of simply writing key words down, the students can make links between each point and have the possibility to interconnect concepts that are better captured as a whole with many parts.In other words, students have more flexibility with their presentations. They can choose to make the slides come one after the other, but they can also go back to a slide and make links with two themes. Prezi becomes a map for the students, it is designed like a graphic more than like a linear presentation.

Also, not only it is well organised for the person who presents, but it is visually interesting for people who are watching. There is a gigantic variety of backgrounds people can choose to go with their particular subject, and they also have the possibility to create their own presentation if they prefer. Once the background has been chosen, you can add pictures, videos, PDFs, and more. Then, you can zoom them in and out to show images or a texts closer to the class and put emphasis on a particular thing. Plus, prezi can be very interactive in a classroom because it is compatible with SmartBoards, which means that students can stay in front of the class and click on the SmartBoard while doing their presentations.

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Now, I’ve mentioned all the benefits students can have by using Prezi, but teachers can also use it in a classroom environment and make classes and homework more interesting. Since Prezi is an online tool, students can have access to it at home, which means that teachers can, for example, give a presentation with Prezi in class and put it online so students can study the material with it. A teacher can also decide to give homework on that, but it might not be the best tool for this purpose.

If you are still not convinced of the use of Prezi in a classroom, you can have a look at this YouTube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YIo1RoRs3k. The idea of Prezi is simple according to them: Ideas matter. Also, talking about YouTube, Prezi might seems a bit complicated for beginners, mostly if people are not used to working online. It is however easy to find answers to your questions on the Prezi channel on Youtube. It gives advices and ideas to use Prezi in a useful and interesting way.Also, you can click here to find the steps to start using Prezi easily.This link also gives you goods reasons to use Prezi in education.

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Finally, I definitely recommend teachers to try using Prezi in a classroom, simply because it is creative, colourful and dynamic for the students and it gives people freedom to deliver their content the way the thought of it at first. As a future ESL teacher, I will definitely suggest my students to use Prezi rather than a simple program like Powerpoint. I like modernity and creativity; two things that can be found in Prezi!