Tuesday, April 19, 2016


Patrícia V. C. Ferreira

When I decided to embrace my PhD studies, there was only one topic that interested me, as a teacher: ADHD, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. It happened that I began to read articles and books mentioning the various positive characteristics of ADHD. Then I focused my studies on the relationship between ADHD and creativity.
It is well known that various specialists and doctors consider ADHD a mental disorder that begins in childhood and can continue through adolescence and adulthood. The use of the word disorder had always bothered me and it sounded too much of a weigh for the various very interesting people I had met with such a syndrome. Of course I realized that these individuals had trouble to focus and pay attention. Some of them were also hyperactive or had trouble being patient. And it is a fact that ADHD can make it hard for a child to do well in school or behave at home or in the community.
But these individuals also:     
  • prefer exploring new ways of doing things,
  • take more risks than the average person,
  • challenge the status quo,
  • want to try new things,
  • delight in solving problems,
  • prefer to research and continuously learn new things over implementing routines."

So I realized there was an undeniable power in that condition, which could be used for the student´s and community´s own good. Finally, there is still a lot of research to be carried out, but meanwhile, I prefer to address ADHD individuals as attention different. They do not have their attention impaired, but actually, they have attention for everything, which makes it harder for them to focus in only one aspect of life or learning. Our challenge as teachers and educators is to help them focus and not lose interest in the learning process.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Bitsboard: a teacher's Swiss Army knife

How many nights have you spent preparing PPT games and vocabulary presentations wishing you were watching Netflix? And you really could not surrender to temptation because you knew you would hear that question. My fellow teacher, I have great news for you that might give you just enough time to catch up with the Walking Dead. There is an amazing app that turns one virtual board into over 20 different games. And it gets even better: it is free and available on CTJ’s IPads.

Bitsboard is very user friendly and does not require internet connection to work, although you will need it just to download or create new boards. This means that, once the gadget has the board, it can go offline. The boards can be downloaded from the huge free catalog it offers or created from scratch.  It has very interesting tools, such as selecting the flashcards you want to use in each game, allowing audio hints or not, adding new cards (called Bits) or deleting others and adjusting the level of difficulty for each game. It also gives students feedback on their results. It seems great, right? And if you are not familiar with this amazing app yet, here is a quick tutorial to help you get started.

How to download or create a board

To download a board, Go to Catalog/Shared/Search box and type key words related to the topic you are teaching. Click on the results to see the flashcards it contains and click on Download. Remember you are free to edit it, deleting unrelated words or adding others.

To create a board, go to Settings/Boards/Add Board. Add new cards by clicking on the add button. It opens a window that shows a slot for pictures and a type box. Type the word first if you want to see options of images that are already on Bitsboard. You can use any of them to make your card. It automatically gives you the recording to that word if available. If the play button does not go green, it means you might have to record it yourself by clicking on the red button. If you want to add images from your picture gallery, click on the picture icon.

Selecting the Bits you want to use

If you do not intend to use all the bits on a board, go to Settings/Board/Board name (e.g. Action Verbs)/Select and mark the pictures you want.

Game Settings

        To start playing, go to Home/Boards and select a board.  A window showing the games available opens automatically. Once you choose it, select the number of players. Click on More/Game Settings and adjust the level of difficulty to that game and if you want audio hints or not.

Sharing your boards and downloading to other devices

      Whenever you create a new board, the app opens a dialogue box asking if you intend to share it on the catalog. If you do, click on Share. I suggest that you name it very specifically so you can find it easily on the catalog. You can also upload it to Dropbox and Quizlet or share it via Airdrop by clicking on Share.

Skills to practice in each game

This app is really good for vocabulary practice at the word level. I divide the games into these categories according to the way they can be used in class and the skills they focus on:
  1.     Vocabulary presentation => flashcards (use the projector adaptor to turn it into a whole class presentation), explore, puzzles.
  2.     Vocabulary Practice =>

  •      Listening:  photo touch, memory cards, bingo, photo hunt, explore.
  •      Reading: reader, word search, side by side, pop quiz, match up.
  •      Spelling: spelling bee, word builder, unscramble, word chunks, missing letter( pre-writing stage), trace it (pre-writing stage).
  •      Critical thinking skills: Odd one out, sort it, sequences.
  •       Writing clues/review: story time, review game.

I hope you like Bitsboard as much as I do. Cheers!

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Google Forms

There many ways to promote engagement and making in the classroom, and using gadgets to give students the opportunity of being producers of content is a not only effective, but also very relevant nowadays. I am teaching a group of 12 very active teens, who are constantly talking about their idols and favorite songs. On the very first day, I asked them to make a list of singers they enjoy listening to. When I realised that the book I am teaching - TimeZones 2 by National Geographic had comprehension questions about a teen fashion idol, I guessed it would be a good opportunity to engage students in a sentence level grammar practice.
The first thing to do was to make a Google form myself, for I needed to understand how it works. I resorted to the list of students` favorites, and made an example form- a quiz about Ariana Grande. I loved the possibility of adding videos and images straight from the web, but as any other digital project with kids, I faced some challenges. I made a list here so that you can learn from my experience and have a wonderful digital maker learning experience with your students too.

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Internet was slow
I could not get my students to open the form in class because the connection was slow and many iPads were not logged in to the right account. Fortunately, I had saved the link, and I projected the form using the classroom`s  projector. The result was an engaged group of students performing the task I had given them.
I decided what would engage students myself
Some of my students were really excited, but I also had some not so enthusiastic since they do not like Ariana so much. The result of my making a form about a person I assumed students would like could have been catastrophic, but, as it turned out, I was very lucky. Students asked me if they could make their own questions about their own idol, so the activity moved from students answering questions on a form to having them actually make their forms, practice language, and  learn a digital skill.
I did not know how to facilitate students` making their own forms
Having set the model, I wanted my students to make their own forms because I was aiming at having them produce digital content and language, but I had no idea how I would do that. I learned from Thais Priscila, the Information Technology team member at Casa Thomas Jefferson,  that students would have to access GoogleForms using the web, not the app. We had emails and logins ready for each group, and all they had to do was  login - one Ipad per group and start typing the questions and answers we had been working on.
I had no time to spare
To make sure everything would work smoothly, I made sure I delivered clear instructions and monitored the group closely.
Even after proofreading, students kept making new mistakes on the forms.
When students are ready to share, make sure you tell them to add you as a collaborator so that you can also edit the forms after they have finished. I took notes of their mistakes, provided corrective feedback, opened the forms, and we edited their language mistakes as a group.
Students made the forms. Now what?
language teachers know how to take advantage of learning possibilities. I will share with students all the forms so that they will be exposed to correct language and  have meaningful exchanges of information in the target language.
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I hope this posts makes you feel like using Google Forms with your learners. Check some of the forms students made below.

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