Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Embed with Madonna

Madonna Material Girl

In one of my former posts I mentioned a limitation I encountered when it came to using Blogger as a classroom resource and teaching prop - ie. not being able to add documents for quick display and easy download for my students. I figured a patchy way around the problem. I could create links from my blog (Dale's Free ESL Club) to Google Docs, the latter a wonderful facility - like all things Google - which allows the user to upload and publish a document online with a distinct URL . The document can effectively be accessed as a web page. You can make it available to anyone or else set privileges so only your students or trusted friends can read it.

Last week I came across ... an absolute cornucopia of a site storing millions of documents, books, notes, essays, journals, articles, power point presentations right down to the humble ESL worksheet - and it was a worksheet about Madonna that led me into this online El Dorado.

My students and I love to sing and if you visit Duke St you'll often hear us belting out a tune or two. 'YouTube Karaoke' is one of our favourite activities - this week I added a YouTube search gadget to the blog which allows students to play videos directly on the page ... so all sorts of Chinese, Vietnamese, Spanish and African pop is secretly being accessed when my charges should be studying the Present Perfect or various modals or moods! ;-)

My colleague Evelyn teaching in the next room ... poor dear ... says she wishes she could join us - "teaching Excel or Introduction to Word just isn't the same thing !!!" she says. The laughing, the sheer joy, the tacky pop blaring out of the big speaker attached to my laptop - it must seem like a mad house to outsiders. Most of my students are Asian so they really get into karaoke - even those who are normally quite shy and self conscious about their pronunciation and ability to compose the language through speech.

Karaoke is also a fun and suprisingly productive way of winding down in class - singing builds confidence, provides students with an opportunity to vocalise whether it be as a class, small group, pairs or even solo . Singing lends itself to other activities such as working with the lyrics. We explore vocabulary and learn new expressions, discuss slang, even do simple translation - and this activity is moreover very motivating.

So I thought I'd search out a few Madonna songs and see what Scribd had to offer in the way of worksheets ... ah 'Material Girl' ... perfect!

What's great about Scribd is that you can embed the document very easily (as above) - the interface requires the latest version of Flash/Shockwave and allows for easy navigation via the tool bar. There's the capacity to view in various ways, print, save and send, as well as embed, link and download.

This week I was teaching language skills related to 'Asking for Help and Permission' (see Week 9 of my ESL Blog). The powerpoint presentation below which I found on Scribd was a very successful way of getting a couple of students sharing a laptop to do some pair drills - ie. practise request /reply :

Do you mind if I . . .

Scribd is a site with a commercial and communal side - you can choose to buy or sell texts (eg. publications) or else you can exchange them. Uploading three documents allows you to download one (although at work I seem to be able to endlessly download - don't ask me why). I was stunned by what I found on Scribd - entire textbooks for download - so you might need to consult your conscience about the goodies on offer. I did notice, however, that some publications are removed if it is felt they violate copyright or the publisher has objected. I don't see how this traffic in documents can realistically be controlled considering the vast numbers of uploads/downloads occurring. Interested to know what others think about that.

I'm finding that the use of my ESL blog has really developed in the last ten weeks - it's interesting the way you learn how to cycle through the use of various technologies and classroom techniques, to blend more conventional practices with new ones which the technology facilitates or invites. Watching a YouTube video can eventually lead to the the class producing its own video. Discussing and viewing naturally lead into speaking which often invites the use of Voxopop to record opinions, dialogues or even do oral assessments. The Voxopop recordings then sometimes become listening material for another class or level where the language objectives are similar.

All of these connections, blendings and cross overs continually fascinate me as a teacher - there's so much to explore and develop.

See you in term 3

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