Muddling through the blogosphere

November 25, 2011
by blogwalker

QR Codes – A whole new set of teaching & learning possibilities – for ELLs too

From websites to newspapers and magazines to museums, pretty much anywhere I look, I see QR codes popping up. So one of my goals this school year is to organize by grade level and subject area ideas for extending teaching and learning  with QR codes success stories.

My interest in QR codes started when one of my Merit colleagues mentioned an algebra teacher at her site, who compensates for outdated textbooks by pasting on selected pages notes with QR codes that take her students to dynamic websites to elaborate on and extend a particular algebraic concept. And a recent blog post from the Calgary Science School on Showcasing Student work with QR Codes really has me thinking about the possibilities.

For the past year, I’ve been hanging out virtually with National Writing Project (NWP) teachers in the Know ELLs ning. This talented, dedicated group helped prepare me for the CTEL exam and continues to keep me thinking about best practices for teaching English as a second language. So my focus this month will be on finding examples of how QR codes are increasing teaching and learning opportunities for all levels of ELLs.

A Google search on QR codes ELLs  (which yielded over 120,000 results!) brought up some good sites for background information, such as:

Leave it to the awesome Tom Barrett to come up with 40 interesting ways to use QR codes in the classroom:

Through my Google search, I did find a couple of useful resources for ELLs, such as this ELL Resources and Vocabulary PDF with QR codes for various ELL organizations, but what I haven’t yet found are tried-and-true ELL classroom stories of QR code successes, suggestions, etc.  Although I can certainly think of a few ideas where QR codes could make lessons more accessible to ELLs, what I’m looking for are actual “from the trenches” examples.  So please leave a comment if you can point  me to some!

February 6, 2011
by blogwalker

Why I Love Audacity

(Reposted from Know ELLs ning)

Do you have favorite technology tools for helping your students become more comfortable with their speaking skills?  I have a few favorites, but lately and for a number of reasons, Audacity has been at the top of my list.

For a starter, Audacity is  a free download and works both on PCs and Macs.  The program allows students to record and import audio files  – and edit them.  From a basic activity such as recording students’ reading fluencies to a  more sophisticated project such as Rob Rozema’s amazing collection of student-created (pre-service teachers) YA Casts, Audacity  offers many possibilities for ELLs to practice their speaking and listening skills.

Audacity is  also simple to learn. How many other software programs can you introduce with just a 1-page (double-sided) handout. And for those who want more involved tutorials, I’ve listed online resources on  a wiki, including my latest favorite, a very complete, well-explained Audacity Basics video tutorial from Mindy McAdams.

The appeal of  Audacity to students is that they can edit all or just parts of a recording. For the past few months, I’ve had the privilege of observing Teresa Cheung’s 4th graders delve into Audacity to edit their Stories from Heart audio interviews. Once students see how easy it is to zoom in and delete an “er” or “um,” or shorten a pause, or amplify a section that’s too low, or remove background noise, etc., they become active sound editors. I love watching the confidence level of ELLs grow, as they relax, knowing how easy it is to redo words or even a single word until they’re satisfied with the output.

But more importantly, as Teresa’s students listen, for instance, to Chase’s mother explain how she came to be born by a waterfall, or Devina’s grandmother talk about growing up in Berkeley in the ’50s, or Anthony’s mother talk about her childhood days escaping Laos,  the students take pride in sharing and preserving family stories, cultures, and languages. As the collection builds, so does the celebration of common threads and diversity in Ms. Cheung’s classroom, along with an appreciation for the power of the human voice.

Please join this conversation and share ideas and literacy tools that are working for you and your students – or questions you might have.

And please invite your students to leave comments on the Stories from the Heart posts!

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