ToonDoo: Not really working…

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Within the last few months within which I started studying to become an English teacher, I heard my teachers at school and teachers during my practicum rave about the benefits of having the children write as much as possible. Indeed, while it helps for the children to improve their ability to write and is a good opportunity for teachers to keep track of the students’ improvement in grammar it allows to see how well they are capable of expressing opinions in their second language that is English.
Although I strongly believe that writing is an incredible way of making progress while learning a language, I find that it is not the majority of students who is much enthusiast at writing. Either because the inspiration is not there or because it simply does not interests them. It goes a little bit along the fact that they nglish.

won’t be very enthusiast at the idea of reading a book. They would rather read a comic book, right? At least I remember that was my opinion when I was a child myself.

All this brought me to my search for ways to make writing less painful to them. Well, I found a very interesting website that would help making the writing not less painful but actually very fun. What I found is a website that allows the creation of comic stripes: ToonDoo!

The process to creating our own comic strip on Toondoo is extremely simple. After freely subscri

bing to the website, you can go ahead and start a first comic strip. To do so, you choose the layout of your strip, then you can customize it by either choosing an image from the bank of images that are available or upload one of your own, and then by adding dialogues, title, and other features that makes a proper comic strip.

There are many ways in which Toondoo can be used in teaching. As mentioned earlier, it can be used directly by the students. For example, I could simply ask them make a comic strip. But also, I could assign a specific story line that they would have to develop and make one comic strip in teams or individually. When the comic strips are done, I could put them all in order in a book, which is an option available on the website. Either way, the students would be given a chance to develop a story without feeling like they are working anyhow.

I also thought that Toondoo could be used to revise the materials covered in class such as past tense verbs. Indeed, the teacher can prepare a one or more comic strips before the class in which he or she would have left some blanks instead of past tense verbs for the students to give the right answer. It would be a good way to have them practicing while keeping them interested.

I strongly believe that Toondoo is a great way to create activities based on the student’s interest. It is often difficult to get every student in the classroom interested in activities, but this is just what Toondoo is for. It gives the opportunity to have the students interested in the activity by allowing them to choose topic they like and to have fun while creating their own comic strip. You can even add to it a bit of cooperative learning by having students share their work and make comments on them.

Prezi is here to save the… presentation!

Up to now, I probably saw dozens of PowerPoint presentations, yet none of them appeared to me as different and certainly not as innovative as it used to be just a few years ago. Powerpoints are boring to us people who had been taught with them since we entered school. Why not leave PowerPoint to our grand-parents and move forward with new techniques of presentation that WILL help make learning a little less painful to the students. There exist various alternatives to a PowerPoint presentation, my favourite being Prezi. Prezi is a website to which I subscribed in order to have access to an unimaginable number of different displays to which I can add texts and images. From this, it is possible to create a 3D presentation to which I can add any desired motion path such as zooming in and out on ideas or moving the screen in the desired direction.

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I think Prezi is a good presentation tools to use for educative activities. This program is extremely interactive as well as providing opportunities to be creative and innovative. Moreover, Prezi can improve the students’ comprehension of the material by providing a display on which it is easy to show the link between the numerous ideas, it is easy to follow, and it makes the retention of the material easy and fast.

As opposed to the traditional PowerPoint presentation usually consists of writing on slides, which is not personalized, each Prezi presentation is unique, there are dozens of different background that can be picked from, lots of choices of layouts and an infinite number of choices of sequences of motions.

A well made Prezi presentation will be created in a way that the sequence of motion will match the order in which a teacher releases information about the material being covered. I believe this can really improve the students understanding since the presentation can, as the teacher speaks, show what is important to understand, how an idea is linked to one another, and how they are linked back to the main idea. Also, the very fact that the student will be able to see the relationship between different ideas surely will make the retention of the material much easier. Indeed, a great part of a student’s ability to recall information is accountable to prior material comprehension.

I am a strong believer in visual support, as long as it is not a powerpoint. I myself used to look at PowerPoint as my one and only option whenever I went in front of the class for a presentation. I know, we are good at using PowerPoint, it is what we are USED to use. That is exactly what the problem is. Not only are used to using it, but everyone here is also used to SEEING it. I  think we have exhausted PowerPoint’s resources now and it would be a great idea to go forward a little bit. Whenever I must attend a presentation to which the teacher add visual support, my interest goes up when I see it is not a PowerPoint.

Let’s say goodbye to that old dusty blackboard

IWBTo the classroom in which every student works by themselves behind desks aligned in symmetrical rows, to the classroom where the teacher, in front of the class, writes extensive notes with a white chalk on the black board and to the classroom in which students spend time and energy copying texts and information with their pencil and lined sheet, I say it is time to change. Just like anything else, the way in which learners learn is in constant evolution process to which us teachers need to adapt. Black boards, chalks, sheet and pencils are not good anymore for what we call the era of digital learners.

Indeed, we are now facing generations of young learners of which the majority started using technologies before reaching the age of 2. In 2011 in Quebec, it was estimated that over 81% of Quebec families had access to Internet at home. I feel like it is a reality that really stands out in the classroom. Today’s learners already are advanced users of technologies, so why not make it to our profit and insert it into the school’s program? I don’t think it is any use to keep them so backward. Let’s all use technologies to reach out to the students and make them engaged and interested in going to school.

To do so, I came across many resources available out there to any teacher who desires to get involve in making the use of technologies in the classroom. One good starter would be to replace the traditional blackboard by an electronic device that can display anything we want; interactive white boards (IWB). As IWB are more and more popular in Quebec’s schools, I think it is worth taking a look at it.

I would describe IWB as giant tactile interactive screens to which teachers can digitize documents, and if connected to a network, navigate through the Internet from the device just like a computer or a tablet computer.

In my opinion, IWB provide me with limitless opportunities to be more creative in the way I teach. When I was first introduced this device, my initial reaction was to look at it as not more than an electronic version of the well famous black board. However, after looking up for more information about them, I realized that IWB could take me kilometers away from what the traditional board can do. Not only does IWB allow to gather all the class material in one place, but they are time saving, allow for a more organized teaching, create an atmosphere in which the students feel engage, and make teaching more creative.

I did not realize how much having all documents and resources gathered in one place could make much of a difference, but when you think about it, IWB make us teachers’ life much easier. It avoid lost of time setting up the projector and its screen. All that is needed is to power on the board and that’s it. Also, for quite forgetful people like myself, it allows to keep any document that is covered in class all in one place, which would eliminate the possibility of losing papers. I would not imagine myself losing my interactive board… The various functions available on IWB include the possibility to save class notes, to record you talking and to upload and save files to the board. Everything is stocked in one place and it is easy to go back and retrieve the information at any time!
One other thing that strikes me as time and energy saving is the fact that it allows teachers to prepare everything in advance…EVEN THE CLASS NOTES! Indeed, it allows me as an English teacher to prepare a document on which I put all the course materials, class notes, and digital copies of the sheets that are to be handed in to students. Afterwards, I will only have to upload it to the board in order to have it displayed on the screen and that is it! I can reuse the file from groups to groups, no need to rewrite everything on the board or to re-set the projector. How easy!
It also gives an opportunity to let on my creativity and create interesting class notes layouts that will catch the students attention such as original ideas organizers.

I also believe that IWB can help to create an atmosphere that will elicit students to feel more engaged in the classroom. Indeed, IWB put at hand a countless amount of resources that will serve to match the various kind of interest of each student in the classroom. I think that IWB allows for innovative techniques and tools to teach limitless amount of information coming straight from what the learners are well familiarized with; the Internet. With its easy access to the Internet, teachers can easily renew their information and material by presenting new videos to the student or simply by finding new useful educative websites that can be displayed onto the screen. Interactive boards allows for personalized and unlimited teaching methods that will arouse the attention of students. This new device is an excellent way to reach up to every student’s specific interest.

The interactive board is just what I need. It allows for multiple layout tools such as mind mapping software, which enable the teacher to create fun and attention seeking way to display course notes and new material for the course. In addition, the access to websites, videos, and images is easy; we simply need the help of Google, YouTube, and other similar websites. Such websites are usually well known by most learners and will contribute to engage them in the willingness to learn. They might even happen to teach us information as they are very knowledgeable with the Internet.