Showing posts with label google apps. Show all posts
Showing posts with label google apps. Show all posts

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.

Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 4.59.36 PM

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.
IMG_20160404_144108774_TOP  IMG_20160404_144606177  IMG_20160404_144050279

I hope this posts makes you feel like using Google Forms with your learners. Check some of the forms students made below.

Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 8.29.49 PM

Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 8.29.23 PM

Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 8.28.51 PM

Friday, July 31, 2015

Let's Make the Horses Drink : Bloom's Taxonomy and the App internet

Let's Make the Horses Drink

You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink [proverb]

         Or can we?  This little proverb seems to be an underlying reality in our experience as TESOL teachers nowadays.  It is well known that new technologies and new communicative tropes, mainly social media, have impacted our world and, consequently, teaching in current times has had an enormous amount of technological tools developed for that end.  However, there is also a constant feeling for many teachers that most digital work seems ''pegged on'' and basically an afterthought, focusing more on entertainment or as an ''extra'' to enrich the classes.  Additionally, the perception that students don't really engage with our extra-class work is also a common thread in conversations among teachers.  The experience I'd like to share with readers is one in which such technology is not simply complementary but actually an essential part of teaching and/or building rapport with students.  Engagement was my focus (to varying results) but much was learned about the process.  So, this article might help a novice teacher as a backdrop when planning a more digital-focused class, while the experienced teacher would benefit from reading this essay and contrasting their teaching with other points of view, thus also enriching their teaching experience.


            One of the most powerful mental frameworks in our profession as educators is Bloom's Taxonomy of Learning in Action.  A taxonomy is basically an organized structure in which a hierarchy of cognitive processes is ranked and expressed through measurable (assessment-prone) verbs which indicate optimum cognition processes.  It was developed by Benjamin Bloom and a committee of educators, and has served as a compass in teaching ever since.  It places the educators' objectives within a frame of work in three domains:  cognitive, affective, and psychomotor.  From there, it details the kinds of objectives and actions that could guide our teaching, and logically, our assessment of students' learning. 

            It needs to be stated that a more holistic approach to teaching includes work within all three domains; however, this article focuses on the Cognitive domain due to the nature of our most immediate work as TESOL teachers.  I do recommend, however, a deep reading of the other two domains, for their contribution to the learning process is essential and need focus, too.   Yet, for all intents and purposes, the cognitive domain is made up of six skill levels that the teacher needs to consider when planning the blending of digital and traditional teaching.  Being a hierarchy, these skills are ordered from lowest to highest order of objectives, and it is important to realize that there is a certain amount of skill required in the lowest order to move up to the next order less problematically.

            The cognitive domain is formed of the following six skills: 

  • knowledge of specifics (memory of learned materials)
  • comprehension: demonstrate understanding of facts and ideas by organising, comparing, translating, interpreting, giving descriptions, and stating the main ideas
  • application: using acquired knowledge by solving problems
  • analysis: examine and break information into parts by identifying motives and causes
  • creation/synthesis: builds a structure or pattern from diverse elements
  • evaluation: present or defend ideas by making judgments about information  

            These skills build upon the previous, as can be inferred from their nature.  Thus, we can immediately notice that our digital tasks must know very well what they're there for.  The skills needed have to flow hierarchically and not leave any step empty, for they build upon the other.  Each skill brings with it a series of "verbs" which are better suited for the processes that need to be developed and/or acquired, so using the proper ''verb'' (i.e. command/task) is essential.  One common mistake that is made in developing digital activities is skipping (or not considering) one of these rungs in the ladder, and asking students to perform tasks that are not naturally conductive to proper learning.  Therefore, a more attentive reading of the taxonomy (especially its more contemporary remixes) is fundamental. 

Figure 1: Categories in the cognitive domain of the revised Bloom's taxonomy (Anderson et al. 2000)

Tools and Instruments

            The simplest dictionary definition for "tool" reminds us of what we are working with:  a TOOL is anything used as a means of accomplishing a task or purpose (in:  This very simple line is the essence of this article:  the tool is a MEANS and not an end in itself, which has been one of the most common siren-call in our field.  Many unsuccessful teachers attack the tool (digital landscapes) as the end in itself, and not as means to get to the end (learning).  This has probably contributed to the amount of horses that refuse to drink the water, once led to it.  Many tasks designed by these teachers lack a reason to be; they are simply spaces to work, without much of a purpose, basically colourful animated nothings therefore missing their main goal, the spirit that would animate the learning in such spaces.

            Having said that, and keeping in mind that it its the purpose that animates the tool, the teacher may then analyse what are her options when it comes to digital work.  Granted, there is an infinite number of apps, sites, and programs which can be used to foster learning, but one doesn't NEED to use everything, but whatever tool is chosen must be in synch with the proposed task and level of learning.  There is a diversity of tools for us teachers, and any teacher who feels the urge to go digital will find their favourite tools.   In my experience, a very good starting point is the Google suite, as used by educators.

            Google has developed a large number of instruments which can be used by a teacher when properly developing digital activities for her learners.  All of the elements in the Google environment are free and the only necessary item in using them is a valid e-mail account.  Thus, here is step zero:  make a Google account for your teaching.  The reason for this is that in current times a teacher must take into account all the elements of privacy and personal-life representations.  It has been my experience that keeping things separate (you, the teacher, and you, the human) allows for more control of your work elements and also for your own privacy as an individual.  One does not need to adopt a robotic stance in the ''teacher'' profile, but the possibility of controlling the registers is a very welcome element on the long run.

            From their Google account, teachers are able to use all the elements of the suite in an organised and centralised "drive" (= a virtual disk drive from where all the work can be sent and to which students' work gets sent).   Also, the Google account (expressed mainly via a Gmail address) allows the teacher to integrate all the Google suite elements almost seamlessly, making it easier and quicker to navigate through many different tools without the need to input passwords at every turn).  The Google suite allows teachers and students to share written texts (Google Docs), spreadsheets (Google Sheets), photos (Google Photos), presentations (Google Slides), videos (Youtube), etc.   As they are integrated in one domain only, our work as teachers gains a multitude of directions which otherwise would take loads of work to make it proper were we using different programs or sites to switch from one aspect of the task to the other.  So, it is essential that a teacher who wants to digitally seduce their horses into drinking be aware of all the underlying work that must be done beforehand.  I'd actually consider this step one:  build and familiarize yourself with your Google Account.


            The real challenge for teachers, thus, is to use these aforementioned tools within the teaching/learning praxis in a way that fosters the development of the learners' process.  To do so, the teacher needs to take into account a variety of elements, of which the most important ones are: 

·      what do I need to teach? (syllabus, point in the course, topic)
·      which taxonomical steps will I ask students to perform?
·      which instruments are better suited for this?
            We can clearly see that when one is about to go digital for a task planning is the most essential step.  The teacher must know fully well what she is going to do, how she's going to reach that goal, and which instruments are the most suited.  Not doing this will reduce the impact of the task, and will basically leave students with the impression that they are just doing more of the same, albeit digitally.  There is much more to digital work than simply the content, as it has been made clear.  At this stage, the teacher must reflect on what Kathy Schrock points out as an essential point in task design:  how much are we really ''going digital'' and is this digital approach really diverting from the traditional approach?

            However, there is a constant in any kind of digital work:  even though the first step seems a bit obvious, there is a twist to it.  Bloom's taxonomy is one of skills, which see content as a vessel for the development of said skills.  So, at this point of the planning process, teachers must have this detail very well established in their strategizing.  The "learning" of facts (aka remembering/recalling) will always be the first rung of the ladder.  So, most, if not all tasks will start there.  Identifying and interpreting will be at the start, and one should never ignore this one fundamental step.

            Ms. Schrock has also developed an excellent table of resources for various Apps (all systems), Google Apps, and Web 2.0 Apps that work in tandem with Bloom's taxonomy.  For the intents of this article, I focused on the Google Apps, for the reasons previously listed.  Her table was my main compass in navigating these waters this semester.

Blooming Google in Action

            At this point of the article, I believe the best strategy is to bring forth a couple of examples of my working with these concepts in order to make it clear to the reader that this approach in no way brings any kind of difficulty of extra work to the educator.  The digital approach was certainly very successful when dealing with these cases.

1.  Advanced/Vocabulary/Technology

            In one of my advanced groups, the theme of the unit was technology and its impact on people's daily lives.  Having presented the vocabulary in the book in a more traditional way, I wanted the students to be able to incorporate that vocabulary into a more sophisticated analysis of the theme.  I first prepared a small vocabulary "quiz" online using Google Forms, the results of which I used to assess if students were at least aware of the vocabulary (I worked in a posto avançado, which meant we didn't have immediate online access, so this was done at home).  This took care of the ''remember'' skill level.  From there, students were asked to choose one of the words/concepts and try to read more about it from Google News (or just a plain Google search, organized by date).  After this step, I asked students to write me an email or a Google Doc on how they felt that technological element would impact their lives in the future.  This allowed me to assess their writing and their argumentative skills.  I also asked them if I could share their writings with other students.  Due to the fact that I didn't have Internet access in class, I printed a few copies of a few of the writings, and used them in class to spark debate.  I was impressed at how natural the vocabulary arose in the speaking moment in the classroom.  A simple task was able to incorporate many of the skill levels posited by Bloom, and the fact that student generated content was the backbone of the class not only made the debate lively but more importantly sparked students' interest in participating when I did this the second time.  The rate of participation in the second attempt at the activity was 150% larger.

2.  Teens/ Vocabulary/ Structure/ Disasters

            I had a teens group who were studying natural disasters as their theme.  As homework, I told them that they had to watch a Youtube video (immediate glee) and write down on paper all the vocabulary words they had studied and that they could hear in the video.  We checked it in class, went over the vocabulary once more, and then focused on a disaster that is familiar to us: floods.  The follow up piece of homework had them searching online (in Google/Google news) for information on floods in Brazil.  I asked them to find information on the year, number of victims, and where it had happened.  From there, I asked them to draw (on paper, or digitally) the images we would use in a newspaper report about a flood.  Each student would be responsible to come up with an ''interview'' with flood victims.  As a group, we came up with the questions (I made an offline Google Doc with their questions as they generated them, and then I proceeded to send the said Doc to the students for reference).  They used the target grammar structure both when building and when answering the questions.  After that, we wrote a ''report'' on a flood in Brazil, with images and all.  It was interesting to see and be able to assess students individually, as they each produced English in different levels, and were not hidden by their classmates' performances. 

The Engagement Issue

            The point that seemed as the most challenging one was:  I'm offering all this, why aren't they participating with the enthusiasm I imagined?  With time, and with some reading, I was able to understand a few points related to that, and they are mainly divided in two fields:  relevance and representation.

            Relevance comes from the points that I have espoused throughout this post:  what exactly are we doing? Are we going truly digital, or are we just using technology to substitute paper and pencils?  You see, there's an enormous difference between these two points of attack.  Simply transforming strips of paper into digital equivalents is a waste of potentials, but it its perhaps our first approach with technology.   Going digital implies more than just substitution, for it brings other praxes to the table, and we don't really work digitally as we work manually.  Students are highly sensitive to this, and they KNOW how it works.   There is nothing inherently ''wrong'' with using technology as a substitute, but the teacher must have it clear in their minds that what they're doing is this, and they should be forthcoming when that is the case.  I worked with "this is nothing different than what you've done before, but with technology" at times.  However, there were lots of moments where "this is something you wouldn't be able to do in class before" and THOSE were the moments they treasured.

            The second point is one of representation:  there is a natural rejection of students to anything that remotely smells of school (attention: this is true mostly of teen students due to the fact that adult learners of TESOL have different motivations and goals, making them less reactive to the homework/life dialog).  When a teacher thinks she will get full engagement because students LOVE gadgets, apps, sites, etc., she might be in for a unpleasant surprise: they will not come if you build it because IT LOOKS LIKE SCHOOL.  Here is where the "cool" factor comes to play.  Teachers can't simply have the luxury of not being actualised.   Teachers who work digitally must be prepared to awe students, surprise them and even give them memes, songs, virals and videos WHICH HAVE NOT REACHED THEIR PEAK YET.  For example, working with a 2 week old meme can actually smell of pre-history for these youngsters who are online all the time.  I, particularly, try to imagine what things will my students WANT to share with their friends and classmates.  Therefore, being current (actually, avant-garde) when it comes to memetic trends is of utmost importance. 

            In students' digital ecosystems your work cannot standout as something stiff and school-like.  It must integrate English into their ''timelines'' naturally and with relevance in order to foster sharing and pride.  Just imagine what your students would be willing to place in their Facebook timelines as a current measure, and you will start to find your way in the forest of digital TESOL.  In other words, our work manifold, but our Mecca is that ONE ''Facebook post" students would be proud to have in their timelines.   With that in mind, your students will certainly Bloom into English. 



Wednesday, May 20, 2015

2nd Planning Hub - 3rd Ed Tech in Action

In our 3rd Ed Tech Training/2nd CTJ Planning Hub, we had the pleasure to share with teachers some simple, practical, but super effective tools that can enhance the learning experience and engage students in their English practice.

Here´s what our guest teachers shared with the group. Check the ideas that use a tech twist to help students work in their language production through creative approaches to pedagogical practices:

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Google Classroom - The New Classroom

In the first semester of 2014, Casa Thomas Jefferson gained access to Google Apps For Education (GAFE). In August, 2014, Google released the Classroom App as part of GAFE, and so our journey began. 

In the month following this release, we started phase 1 of our New Classroom project. With the help and support of our EdTech Department Head, Carla Arena, and her team, we began using Classroom in two of our Advanced Course groups. We decided we would have our Advanced Course teenagers use it to write their compositions throughout the semester. Once the semester came to a close, we sat together and shared our experiences. We decided it was worth continuing the project the following semester, so we thought about getting more teachers involved and using Classroom. 

Phase 2 of our New Classroom project has been named 'Classroom Gurus' project. One of our goals for this next stage is to create and strengthen a core group of teachers who will become multipliers of the knowledge and skills they will acquire during their engagement with their students, using Google Classroom to optimize the writing process that Advanced students engage in throughout the semester. 
Our first Classroom Gurus meeting

A group of fourteen teachers were invited to join the project this semester, and just yesterday we had the chance of sitting together for a couple of hours to launch phase 2 and get the "Classroom Gurus" inspired and motivated with the project. Our main goal was for them to get a feel for the platform, the new possibilities, the challenges and opportunities ahead through a change to a paper-free paradigm for the compositions students write in the semester with a focus on feedback rather than on the bureaucratic aspects of the writing process, as now this is going to be taken care by Google Classroom. In the platform, much of the back and forth of papers are automatically handled by the system with the automatized creation of students´ papers in Google Docs and the creation of folders for each assignment.

Here are the teachers´ first impressions:

It is a brave new world ahead where we know adjustments, failure and new learning will take place as we move forward. We feel, though,  that it is time to experiment and move on. Another point of the project is to value the human resources we so highly consider in our Institution, Casa Thomas Jefferson. We have a very potent humanware, educators who are ready for the edgy jump into pedagogical innovations when they are recognized, treasured and supported in new edtech endeavors.

Last but not least, there´s the learner spectrum. By promoting a new type of process not only are we reaching them in different ways, but also helping them enhance their own digital literacies that will be so essentially demanded from them in their educational and professional contexts. We, as an educational institution, feel responsible for students´ success in their language learning and life in general.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Google Docs and Interaction

I have used google docs as a means of collaborative document for quite a while, but never thought of using it with my students.
After a meeting with Carla Arena, she inspired me to think about something I could do with my group. Something simple, yet challenging.

I decided to invite Teacher Henry on this journey with me. We have a Teens 5 group at the same time. My students are struggling with question forming using the simple past tense. So, here's what we did:

1. We created a document with some instructions for students. In class we gave them a shortened url as homework (each class had a different url).
2. They were supposed to make a question (using the simple past tense) to another student in another class. So, my students would be making questions to Henry's students and vice-versa.
3. On the following class, we opened the document in class and reviewed all questions. We corrected the ones that had mistakes and talked about how to make questions using their own examples. 

After the questions were all made, we gave them the other class's url, so that they could answer each other's questions. This was also done as homework. One of the challenges we faced after doing the activity was that some of the students weren't able to edit the document and add their contribution. So, we found out that goggle docs can only be edited through a mobile device (cell phones / tablets) if the person is logged on, otherwise he/she can only see it, not edit. However, if the student access the document on a computer, it requires no login. 

As a follow-up, many ideas came to our mind. Some of them are:
- print questions and answers and have students match them.
- have only the answers on a slideshow and then students have to come up with a correct question.
- pair-work where students would use the questions and answers as a conversation.

We decided to gather students in the school gallery. We printed the questions and randomly handed on question to each student. Then, we asked them to ask the question they had in hands to at least five students from the other class. It was fun and very meaningful! They had a very good time! 

As a whole, students got engaged and we felt this practice added value to their learning. It was a meaningful task and involved students in their own learning process, linking the subject with students' own realities. We were able to spot which aspects we still needed to work further on, creating an opportunity for students not only to gain knowledge, but also to be able to apply and use what they have learned in a different yet valuable way. Since students were exposed to the content in a surprising way, the language was possibly more vividly experienced and, therefore, better remembered. 

Here are the pages students worked on:

Click here to watch a nice video about Google Docs. 


     Lilian Marchesoni                           Henry Silva

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Google docs for synchronous or asynchronous collaboration

Most of us have used google docs to create and share documents with our peers. I myself have done that in several occasions. However, the mindset is always one so concerned with privacy that I had never hacked my google docs. I mean, I have always made them private and sharable with only the peers involved in a given project. That has changed after Carla Arena showed us that we could make it public and editable by anyone on the web.

Here are some screenshots to show you how you can do that. 

Once I discovered that (I mean, I kind of knew it could be done. I guess I was just concerned with privacy), I decided to try it out with my students. So, I went ahead and created an editable document for my 1B2 – English Access group. In that lesson we were working with describing people. What I did for this activity was to create a document with some pictures and some questions and fill in the blanks activities. In class I gave them a shortened url and  took them to the computer lab. They logged in and I asked them to work in twos assigning one page to each pair. Once a pair had worked on a page, I asked them to move to another page. They really liked it and I found it was a very effective way to teach and reinforce what they had learned.

Here is the doc

Another activity I did that was fun was with my Teens 7. We were working on passive voice. So, I posted some pictures and wrote a model sentence with a passive voice. When we got to the computer lab, they accidentally deleted some of the images I had posted. That was good, because it gave the excuse to ask them to add their own images by copying and pasting from the web. It was really fun 
Here is the link 

If you want to do it asynchronously, you can just give the link to students and they will do it from home. 
* I just removed permission to edit because I am publishing and I wanted to prevent unwanted changes to my students' original work.