SmartBoard, or the best teaching tool I’ve discovered so far!

ImageNowadays, children are surrounded by technology no matter where they are. They have HD T.Vs at home, laptops, IPods, IPhones, and probably a lot more. They now have access to information everywhere they go. Consequently, why not interest them in a classroom with a technology tool they do not get to work with anywhere else? Something that will interest them and make them want to learn and participate; the SmartBoard!

When I first witnessed what a SmartBoard can do, I was absolutely blown away. I was impressed to see how far classroom technology had gone. I knew from that moment that I would absolutely love using this tool in a classroom and make good use of it so it’s useful for the students.

“When students first come into class, and they’re exposed to a SmartBoard, their initial reaction is excitement because it’s technology and kids today are very technology oriented” (http://smarttech.com/Home%20Page/Solutions/Education%20Solutions/English%20Language%20Acquisition)
I believe this citation I took from the video on SmartTech’s website says it all.  Students will be willing to learn with technology because they are having fun while learning and it makes them want to participate. It is much more interactive than simply doing a worksheet individually and the same content can be learnt. I believe that this is the future of teaching and a very useful tool for teachers even though it does not mean that absolutely everything has to be done on a SmartBoard. However, the most important competency evaluated in schools is oral interaction and I believe this is a good way to make the students interact orally with others and also with the teacher.

Furthermore, having a SmartBoard in a classroom is a good way to use the same tools students are using at home such as YouTube and therefore catch their attention to teach the content. It is also good for every kind of intelligences considering it involves visual, tactile and auditory learning for the students. (http://www.ehow.com/about_5078772_reasons-schools-use-smart-boards.html) It is possible to reach more students’  attention than by, for example, simply talking in front of the class, in which case, visual students would have trouble following.

Obviously, if the teacher does not know how to use it properly or has not prepared his or her material before class, the SmartBoard becomes useless and a waste of time. The teacher needs to know exactly what he want to teach and how he or she wants to do it before to just use the SmartBoard because it’s cool and students love it. Organisation is extremely important before using any tool in a classroom environment. Once this is done, there are lots of ways to use the SmartBoard. He are a few ways suggested by Concordia University in Portland, Oregon (http://education.cu-portland.edu/blog/educator-tips/teacher-s-guide-how-to-use-a-smartboard-in-the-classroom/).  It keeps the class interactive and maximize the participation of the students in a the classroom; everyone wants to go in front and play with the SmartBoard.  Plus, it is way more colourful than a simple black board and white chalks, which catches the students’ attention. All these little tricks are simple but useful when it comes to teaching and keeping the class focus. I believe it is really efficient.

However, as a student who was raised with technology, it is more simple for me to learn how to use a SmartBoard than for example a teacher who has used a black board for 20 years before. Yet, this shouldn’t be a problem because YouTube offers a variety of very good videos to show teachers how to use a SmartBoard. Here’s a link of a good channel with multiple tutorials starting from the very beginning to help teachers become familiar with the tool.

Radford University’s Educational Technology Tutorials
http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL90EBA67C75535213

Finally, I believe that using a SmartBoard is very helpful in a classroom as long as the teacher uses it properly. I think it is worth every penny and should be included in every class and for every subject.

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YouTube, a useful tool to use in a classroom?

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YouTube is probably the most used website around the world when it comes to watching videos. With more than 350 millions views every months, the website can conquer anybody with all its different channels and categories. Personally, I use it to listen to music, watch T.V. shows, watch funny videos, and I also refer to YouTube when I don’t know how to do something such as find an option on my MacBook or learn how to cook something. That being said, I believe that YouTube can also be useful in classrooms, considering it offers such a variety of videos.

As an example, in about 1 minute, I found a video on YouTube that gives you good reasons to use it in a classroom environment. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NLNuv7jAIhg) As said in the video, it opens you on the world and helps you discover new cultures. It also teaches you things in a different way than just listening to the teacher. It obviously does not mean that everything should be taught by YouTube, but it might be a good tool to make research, clarify some questions students may have, or give them information about their future desired career.

Talking about career, I am currently doing my first practicum, and noticed that my paired teacher uses YouTube quite often. At the beginning of every class, he shows either a funny or a music video in English to break the ice with the students and catch their attention. He then has a little discussion with them about the video, which makes them talk in their second language about something they like and can refer to. Also, the 2nd grade students learn English mostly by singing, and the teacher can find a large variety of video for the children on YouTube. I believe that it is really interesting for them to have a visual support when they learn and to be able to watch it at home with their parents.

Also, by doing some research, I found websites giving really good ideas of how to use YouTube as a tool in a classroom. For example, on (http://www.edudemic.com/youtube-in-classroom/), I found ideas like giving the opportunity for students to go deeper. For example, a teacher could create a YouTube account that students have access to and post videos related to the content seen in class. This way, student could go and watch it either if they did not understand properly in class or if they want to know more about the subject. This website also gives a lot of other ways to use YouTube in education, feel free to have a look.

Another website, (http://edtechreview.in/news/611-tips-for-teachers-youtube-in-classroom) is very interesting because I learnt there that YouTube actually has an educational section to which teachers and students can refer to (http://www.youtube.com/education).  Everything is very well organised and there is a lot of very interesting stuff to use in class. As a future teacher, I would definitely try to use YouTube as a tool to vary my class content and give the students the chance to get very familiar with media such as YouTube.

Finally, I would recommend using YouTube in a classroom environment to teach the students and show them videos, or even for the students to go on their own and discover new things. Of course, everything has to be controlled by the teacher and by the parents at home. However, I believe that teachers should at least give it a try and see if it could be useful for them. They could be happily surprised!

Using Facebook as a Support Tool for Teaching

Using Facebook in a classroom can bring a lot of controversy. When I first heard Facebook could be used for educational purposes, I was surprised as some people might say it is not the right place for that and there is no way it could be useful for students to use in a classroom. However, after giving it a chance and doing some research about the subject, I discovered many amazing ways to use Facebook as a learning tool. Let me share my findings with you, I hope to make you change your mind if you are still skeptical. 

As mentioned in class by Mark Miller, doing a closed group with your students is a very good way to get the students to write something without necessarily realising that they are doing it as schoolwork. Also it is an easy way to share files, blogs, interesting articles, jokes (in English), and more. Another advantage is that teenagers nowadays are pretty much always on Facebook, which means the teacher knows they are going to see it if he posts something, unlike if you send them something on the school website. Another thing mentioned by Mr. Miller was the fact that a student will be more willing to ask a question to the entire group rather than just to one person, and other students might have the same question and actually be glad somebody asked it. It is then a good way to help each other and share information with the group. 

I mentioned the use of a closed group for a very good reason: you are doing a group for the class, and only the class. It needs to be a place where students know they can share information in a safe and confidential way. Also, talking about safety, it is important to know that it is not necessary to add the students to be in a group with them. As mentioned by Mr. Miller, teachers are responsible for what they see so they need to make sure they do not see things they would have rather like not to see. It is important to think about it before adding students on Facebook. I found a very interesting website that gives tips to teachers who want to use Facebook in their classroom, and also gives ways to use Facebook in class. (http://www.educatorstechnology.com/2012/06/ultimate-guide-to-use-of-facebook-in.html) A good way they suggest to keep some privacy is to create a different account for professional life. They also say that teachers should make sure that students know what they can or cannot share on the classroom group. Parents should approve the idea of using Facebook in class, and the list goes on. If a teacher plans on using Facebook in a classroom, he or she should definitely have a look at this website. I believe that it is extremely important to keep your privacy with students, it is important to make a bridge between personal and professional life. 

Also, concerning teachers, there are many different Facebook groups that can be related to teaching tips, teaching activities, and more. As an example, teachers from Quebec City have decided to create a group in which ESL Teachers can share different kinds of activities, questions and comments. It is very interesting for me, as a student who wants to become an English teacher, to see some tricks, activities or questions that experienced ESL teachers have. In other words, Facebook is a very good way to share experience as well. 

Coming back to ways to use Facebook as a learning tool, I found two different websites giving me 100 ways to use Facebook in class. Isn’t that convincing that there is a lot of ways Facebook can be useful in education? 

The first one (http://www.edudemic.com/100-updated-ways-to-use-facebook-in-your-classroom/), talks about using Facebook as a resource, to give projects and assignments, to share information, to have discussions, and even to do classroom management. The ways are endless! It can go from sharing personal journals in the L2 to simply highlighting some of the best work students have done and encourage them to keep up the good work. The main goal of Facebook being to share, why not use it in a useful way and share educational information?

The second one (http://www.onlinecollege.org/2009/10/20/100-ways-you-should-be-using-facebook-in-your-classroom/) brings up benefits of Using Facebook with students, which I find very interesting. It is said that Facebook has an inviting atmosphere, which basically means that students won’t see it as an educational task, but more as a place to share anything that can be related to English. It can be jokes, funny videos, and more. Also, using a school portal can sometimes be confusing for children and teenagers, mostly when the portal seems to have been created in the eighties. It is then easier for them to find their way on a social network that they use on a daily basis. Another good point is that is increases responsibility in the students, teaching them how to use social networks in a safer way.

However, after finding all these positive reasons of using Facebook in class, I thought: there must be negative points as well. I did find a few reasons and one of them caught my attention. It is said on (http://classroom.synonym.com/negative-effects-using-technology-todays-classroom-4130.html) that students can overuse social networks. In other words, considering that the tasks given to the students are on Facebook, they must go on the social network to find the information and can easily be distracted and go off-task. This is the only main negative point I found about using Facebook as a classroom context. 

To summarise, I am convinced of the positive effects of using Facebook in education and believe teachers should have a thought about using it. Obviously, it is not the kind of website you would use with an elementary school, it is important to know who you are teaching, but it might be a very useful tool. With a high school class, I would definitely give it a try!