Independent tutor and digital learning pioneer Lana Friesen explains how she is combining the best programs and apps to help her students meet their learning goals…
Including all components of communication can be tricky in classrooms, especially those online. Using the GSE Learning Objectives and five other useful tools allows teachers to plan a full-spectrum curriculum for their students, regardless of the setting.
1. Diigo is a tool that allows educators to smoothly incorporate online material into their curriculum and allows students to add content which they find interesting to their group. After simple registration and a quick tool installation, students and teachers can highlight and make notes about an article together. The students have access to all of the notes added to the article, and can add their own at any time. I have used this with GSE Learning Objective 59: Reading; Can interpret the main message from complex diagrams and visual information.
In class, the student and I look at graphs and diagrams in an article, and I ask the student to explain the graphs. I record their answers in a ‘sticky note’, so they can see what they said. After noting some corrections, we read the article together, making note of how the author has explained the graphs and diagrams; what words and phrases were used, and whether they conveyed their message effectively.
2. RSA Animate gives students the opportunity to listen to a variety of accents, rather than relying on a familiarity with their teacher’s accent. These videos use a whiteboard to animate popular TED talks with diagrams, drawings, and text.
The tool provides excellent content for listening exercises on complex topics with visual support. The student(s) and teacher can watch the video together, and answer questions prepared be-fore class. I have used this tool for GSE Learning Objective 60: Listening; Can recognise the speaker’s point of view in a structured presentation.
In a lesson focused on this objective, my comprehension questions centre on understanding fact versus opinion and we discuss how to talk about each.
3. Watch2Gether allows two people to remotely control the same YouTube video through their interactive website. With the teacher and student meeting each other in the Listening Room, they can both access the pause and play controls, and go back or jump ahead to a specific spot in the video.
This is a great tool to pair with the RSA Animate videos and any others – such as simple clips from TV Shows, movies, interviews, and so on. Using clips from popular TV shows works well for Learning Objective 51: Listening; Can follow many films in which visuals and action carry much of the storyline.
4. Keynote/Microsoft Office’s PowerPoint can be a great tool – especially for teaching basic phrases and grammar. Preparing a presentation in advance and sharing your screen with your student on Skype creates an at-home version of an Interactive Learning System. The teacher can take notes for each student on the presentation itself, tailoring the file uniquely for them.
As an example, I have used the image shown in the header above with students to brainstorm words that mean or imply a causal link between two variables.
By writing down everything a student can initially think of, then listening to a clip or watching a video in which causal claims are made, the student then realises how many more words or phrases they know that imply causation, and these words can then be added to the PPT. Now equipped with this collection of words and phrases, students are in a better position to speculate about the causes of an issue or problem (GSE Learning Objective 63: Speaking) and clearly signal cause and effect relationships in structured text (GSE Learning Objective 57: Writing).
5. Finally, Downcast is a terrific resource for listening to podcasts together. Although this tool doesn’t offer the same share of control over each podcast that Watch2Gether offers, it has some useful playback features that allow me to pause while a student clarifies something, and jump back in the podcast to review. This method and tool are a perfect way to develop the skills required for the GSE Learning Objective 57: Listening; Can generally follow rapid or extended speech, but may require repetition or clarification.
This medley of tools shows how teaching online can be greatly enhanced by dipping into pro-grams and apps. You might also say it shows that, to get the best online learning experience for students, teachers need to be something of a pioneer in using all the tools available – at least until someone comes up with the definitive program or app.
Do you have other tools or tricks of the trade that you’d like to share?