ESL Listening and Speaking Practice and Assessment Digital Tools

Hi everyone! This is a slightly crazy post for me. I have been planning this post for a long time but am now in a career transition with a new position for me as an Instructional Technology Specialist for Accessibility! I am very excited and I have been very busy, but I still want to make time for interesting discoveries that will help ESL teachers. Who knows–I might still end up teaching a few ESL courses every now and then.

During the pandemic, as teaching has gone remote and online, how do we continue to assess students’ listening and speaking skills, and what kind of assignments can we give for them to practice these skills asynchronously? Fortunately, there are a few tools that can easily be used for practice and assessment.

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PDF Stamps for Digital Proofreading

For a long time now I have mused on ways to check my students’ papers on the computer, especially recently with all the remote teaching. For a good while during the pandemic, I was doing two things–either printing out a copy of their essays, editing and making notes by hand as usual, and then scanning the essay with my phone to give back to students digitally, or using my husband’s Microsoft Surface and pen to write directly on a PDF version of their paper. I really like using a pen, even if digitally, to take notes and edit papers. However, I realize that not every teacher has the luxury of having a printer and a Surface at home. So I was trying to think of ways to make digital proofreading symbols and notes that can easily be added to a Word or Google document.

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Games for Learning: Unpacking

A gif of how the game Unpacking looks and functions

I saw a “Let’s Play” of a game that recently came out that sparked a lot of ideas for the ESL classroom. In this game, called “Unpacking,” you are helping a mysterious person unpack in their new living space at different stages of their life. We never see the occupant of these spaces, but there is a lot that we can learn about this person by rifling through their items. We can assume that they are female, a wannabe artist, among other things I don’t want to spoil. The goal of each stage is to place their items in the correct room and in the right place, so you can already see how this could be an interesting tool for learning English and also about culture.

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Spring 2021 Pilot: Gather Town

Yesterday when I finished my post, something was lingering in my brain. “Didn’t I try two things last term? What was the other thing?” Am I losing it? (Probably.) Of course, right as I was trying to go to sleep, I remembered–

Gather Town!

Another new thing I tried out with my students last term was Gather Town–a video conferencing tool like Zoom, but more immersive. It features proximal audio with avatars you can move around and interactive environments. It sounds very sci-fi, but it’s easier than you think.

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Spring 2021 Pilot: Using Badges

It’s been a while, but due to low student enrollment, it has been difficult for me to try new things in the classroom, especially while COVID-19 is going on and everyone, including myself, are still in “survival mode.” However, having lower student numbers does free up some time to try to experiment and learn something new with lower stakes.

I have been interested in both gamification of learning and “ungrading” for a while now, but have never been able to figure out how to set it up. I am especially interested in microcredentials and badges. So as I was helping work on adjusting our ELI curriculum and student learning outcomes, it really made me think–why are we working on outcomes when we don’t really discuss how to assess students and whether they actually achieve these outcomes? And with my interest in badges, are they a better visual indication for both teachers and students of what students know and can do? Is a score of 80% on one test really mastery? What do scores or letter grades mean to students, especially from other countries which may have different systems of learning measurement? Would students feel they have accomplished more and feel proud to earn badges instead?

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2021? Year of Learning? Day 6–Articulate Storyline

As one of the most sought-after skills for eLearning, I knew I needed to take some time to learn what I can do with Storyline. I already have some experience with Rise, which is relatively easy to use. Storyline is a little complicated, but it is helpful having an interface that looks much like Microsoft Office products. Also, there are so many tutorials and helpful guides available for Storyline, especially eLearning Heroes, that also helped in the creation of my first Storyline creation.

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2020 Year of Learning: Day 5–Camtasia

For the past few days, I’ve been working to use Camtasia for a short tutorial video of an exciting feature I found in Zoom cloud recordings. Knowing how to use Camtasia seems to be a highly sough after skill for IDers, so I took the time to watch tutorials and check out some of the interesting features in Camtasia, such as the callouts, zooming into certain areas, and my favorite, mouse smoothing. I am surprised at how similar it is to iMovie and it was relatively easy to work with given my knowledge of how to use iMovie. Another thing I like about Camtasia is that it has a one time fee, so I went ahead and bought it. It seems like a useful tool for screencast tutorials and beyond! Here is the video I made using Camtasia:

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2020: Year of Learning–Day 4: The Saga of H5P and SCORM

Today’s learning would not be possible without my wonderful computer engineer of a husband. (So I guess this post is also sponsored by him, lol)

I have been wanting to learn how to use the eLearning authoring tool H5P for a long time. But everytime I went to the site, it wanted me to pay $500/yr for hosting. I just can’t afford that. With more research, I learned that like Xertes, another eLearning authoring tool that I’m interested in, it is open source and free to use. The problem is you need webhosting, and that is actually what the $500/yr fee is.

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2020: Year of Learning: Day 3–Animation Creators (Doodly and Vyond)

Subtitle: I made 2 videos in two days!

Yes, you read right. Including creating a script and ideas for the animations, recording, and putting them up on YouTube. They aren’t the greatest videos, but I am proud of them. As well as what I learned while making them.

For a while now I have wanted to play with making a whiteboard video. I jotted down some ideas I have been thinking about and then made a storyboard for one. I had been wanting to make a better description of strategies for annotating while reading, and figured this would be a good opportunity. I wrote down what kind of scene I wanted, but I was limited by what I had available with the first tool I chose, Doodly, but I made do. Here is the video I made with Doodly.

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2020: Year of Learning: Day 2: Not Just Yet (Beta)

Yesterday I read an InsideHigherEd article about two exciting Zoom replacers that could make synchronous classes more engaging, and today I attended a webinar about a more interactive lecture capture software–but none of them are available yet! Our university’s LMS Canvas will have access to Panapto in mid-December, and the two webcast programs are in beta. But they are exciting nonetheless.

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