Friday, July 27, 2012

Gamification of Education

Gamification is the application of game design to a non-gaming situation. Gamification of various aspects of life has been happening for quite a while now. My interest is the gamification of education not only because I am an educator but also because I have seen it work.

I know that there are a lot of people who oppose the idea and say that people already spend too much time playing games so we shouldn't encourage them to do it even more. But as Jane McGonigal says in her book Reality is Broken if we play 3 hours a day we will succeed in saving the world. If we think of it, then some of us spend that much time playing games anyway and our children can spend even more than that playing video or online games.

I don't think I am good enough to save the world but I can at least try to make the lessons more engaging and interesting for my students because now I know that not only children but also adults can learn a lot through games. So why not use this to our advantage and ask our learners to play games which will teach them what we want them to learn?

I have already blogged about some games that I used with my students and also about the workshop in Gamification which I conducted here in Armenia. So today I would like to share a playlist that I created on MentorMob to share it with anyone interested in Gamification and with those ones who don't like the idea very much. In this playlist I collected articles, slide shows and talks which address the idea of gamification in different fields not only in education. I hope that after watching the videos, many teachers will realize that children can and will want to learn if their lessons are more engaging and exciting for them.

Create your own Playlist on MentorMob!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

MentorMob for Exam-takers

In my previous posts I have talked about MentorMob. I also embedded two playlists which were to show how useful it may be to have tutorials in one place.

This time I would like to talk about my idea of using this tool for students who are preparing for exams. Most of the students I have are preparing for the IELTS exam and I usually send them links to various articles and videos not only to develop their reading and listening skills but also to help them learn about IELTS common topics such as Technology, Environment, Medicine, Business, etc. This helps them to develop topic vocabulary for writing and speaking. The only problem with sending links is that when new students join the class, I start sending the same links to them as well as new ones. This takes a lot of time and sometimes becomes confusing because I may forget who has read or has not read an article and send it again or not send it at all.

When I discovered MentorMob, I realized that this tool could solve this problem. Moreover, it could help me test my students' comprehension of what they have read and heard. My idea is to create topic-based playlists, which I can always update, and add quizzes after each video or article to check understanding. Then the playlist can either be embedded into the wiki that my IELTS students have or just one link can be sent to them, which will save my time but at the same time will be very useful for them. The same links can be sent to students preparing for FCE or CAE as the topics are more or less the same for these exams.

This is the first playlist I created and shared with my students and they have already started watching the videos and doing the quizzes.

Create your own Playlist on MentorMob!

Create your own Playlist on MentorMob!

Create your own Playlist on MentorMob!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Translate or not Translate?

There have been a lot of debates around using L1 in the classroom. Some teachers think that translation helps our learners to understand texts better, and also that they become better at translation skills. In addition, they say that if grammar rules are explained in L1, students don't have problems understanding them. I have been in these discussions so often that I thought it is the very time to blog about it. 

When talking about translating texts, I do not necessarily agree that these texts need to be translated. Not all our learners are planning to become translators so this is not a skill they have to have. I understand that many teachers would like to teach an additional skill to their learners, but what if the teacher doesn't speak the native language of the students s/he is teaching? What does that mean? Does that mean that the teacher should be replaced? I don't think so. 

There is also another point that I would like to make. A lot of English Language learners nowadays are learning English in order to study in an English-speaking country. If these students become dependent on translation, they are likely to have serious problems with their entry exams (as there isn't enough time for translation in an exam situation). Moreover, they are going to have difficulties studying abroad, because they may have to read a lot of books within a short period of time but a translation-dependent student is hardly going to be able to cope with it.

I have prepared a Prezi which I presented at a conference in Vanadzor in July to illustrate my point that we don't have to translate reading tasks for our learners, we can only prepare some images or videos or definitions for them to understand what certain words mean (this would require an individual approach because it is only the teacher of the class who knows which words their students know, which they don't). The sample text I used is again from The Kite Runner as the book is quite easy for Intermediate level students to understand.

With regard to grammar, I would agree that students at low levels may have problems understanding grammar in English. However, at higher levels they should not have problems with it. So if at Elementary level students hear grammar explanation in English parts of which are translated into L1 because they are difficult for students to understand, these students should not have any real problems understanding grammar rules in English at higher levels, because they have the necessary vocabulary to understand it (words such as noun, verb, adverb, etc.)

I would be happy to hear your opinion about this.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Academy Island

Academy Island is a nice educational game developed by Cambridge ESOL.

The main character is an alien who is on an island and has to go through quite a few challenges in order to graduate from the academy. The island consists of a few towns: noun town, pronoun town, etc and each town has 2-3 shops and/or buildings which the alien has to enter in order to complete his challenge and gain a high enough score to be allowed to get into the academy building. In each shop and building the alein is asked to complete 4 sentences or answer 4 questions: these are all multiple choice. Questions cover grammar, vocabulary, phrasal verbs and idioms. Correct answers bring from 100 to 150 points. The level of difficulty is shown in the top right-hand corner of the screen.

The 4-question set is timed. The alien has 30 seconds to answer the questions in each building. If he runs out of time before he manages to answer all the questions, the session is terminated and the alien finds himself outside that building. However, he can go back into the building, but the questions will be different.

There are also some scrolls with 2 questions in each. Correct answers to these give 250 points. In the building of the academy the alien is asked to complete the final challenge, which is to complete a famous quote. If the correct answer is given, the alien can graduate from the academy. If not, then he has to re-enter the building of the academy in order to get a new question.

A fun game that I am sure all English Language learners will enjoy. They can submit their scores and compete with their peers.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Web 2.0 Tools with MentorMob

I wanted to blog about Web 2.0 tools  I use in my teaching and professional development when I discovered MentorMob. This is when I thought that instead of writing about each tool separately, I could just create a playlist on MentorMob with video tutorials for each tool I use: this would make the blog post more useful for people who would like to know more about how the tools work (if they don't know that is).

Here's my second playlist on MentorMob:

Create your own Playlist on MentorMob!

I really like this tool and now I am thinking of ways to use it with my learners.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


I found MentorMob by chance and really liked the tool. This is a great tool which allows a team to put articles, videos and blogs related to the team's subject of interest together.

I especially like how the end-product looks.

Create your own Playlist on MentorMob!

I created this playlist and invited some friends from different countries to add to it because, in my opinion, blended learning is a trend likely to continue in the future and also it would be interesting to see how it works out for us.

Signing up is free and you can sign up with your Facebook or Google account. It then asks you to invite friends to the team to work together on the compilation of the list that everyone deems to be good for a particular topic. However, it is not compulsory to invite anyone and you can skip this step altogether.

So what is MentorMob?

Watch this video to find out:

What is MentorMob? from mentormob on Vimeo.

Although we do have, diigo and pinterest to bookmark various sites, I think MentorMob is a fun way to collaborate with colleagues around the world to create a playlist of subject-related videos and articles which then can be improved and added to and be used by all team members.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Photopeach versus Educreations

In this post I would like to make a comparison of two online presentation tools: Photopeach and Educreations. I like both these tools but they have some similarities as well as some differences.

Both sites present images, so you need to have these ready. Another similarity is that once the presentation is ready, the slides change automatically so the viewer does not have to click on a next button to move to the next slide. All the viewer has to do is to click the play button and watch the presentation. Both tools allow sharing on various social networks and also provide an embed code for presentations to share on blogs and/or websites. That's all for similarities.

Now for the differences. First of all, Educreations can be used as a whiteboard on which the user can draw and write (writing requires a bit of practice). This option is quite useful when we need to draw our viewers' attention to a specific object on a picture. Drawing on the slides is not an option available on Photopeach.

Another difference is background music. Music file/video can be added to the presentation on Photopeach and it will automatically play throughout the presentation which makes watching it more relaxing. I personally like music very much so this is an important feature for me. Although it is not possible to add music files to a presentation on Educreations, the latter allows a voice-over recording, which makes it a bit more personal, especially if the viewers are not in the same physical space as the presenter. Recording a description of slides is not among the features of Photopeach. Here the description of slides is done in the form of writing.

I have created a presentation of Yerevan on both sites using exactly the same pictures. I think that the one on Educreations can be used on a website whereas the second one can be used in a lesson.

Yerevan on Photopeach

Yerevan on Educreations

All the differences mentioned do not mean that one tool is better than the other, they just mean that before choosing between these two tools we should think about what we want to do and what outcome we would like to achieve.