Curriculet

Curriculet is an online app available compatible with Edmodo. It acts as an ereader and its main educational feature is to annotate texts and give assignments directly on the platform.

Curriculet is a fairly straight-forward ereading app. You first create an account, either as a teacher or as a student. As a teacher, you have access to your students, which you can assign to your different classes. Then, you can look in the store to find books to assign as an assignment. Once you selected your books, you can annotate them, and even add questions in the margins that appear at specific moments through the student’s lecture. Questions can either be multiple choices or short-answer questions. You can also highlight right in the text and assign URLs to the highlighted words. Urls can be links to websites or other medium. It is compatible with youtube videos; youtube videos can be played right from the margins. Curriculet also keeps track of how much time does each individual student spend on different tasks and keep track of their grades through different assignments done on the app. There is also a feature that allows the teacher to view the assignments as a student, so they can really know what it looks like from a student’s point of view.

Jason Shiroff from Graphite reviewed Curriculet 4 stars out of 5. He says that for a student who needs to develop close reading skills, the app can be a great learning tool. He adds that it boosts engagement and learning of students. The system of homework is also very well done and helps to check for completion in a second; which is far more efficient and time saving than having to pick them all up and then having to correct. The only counterpart he finds is that at the moment, the library is not as vast as some teachers might expect. However, teachers have the possibility to upload their own texts so there is something to do even when teachers want specific readings that are not available.

Elizabeth (Her last name is not mentioned), a teacher in highschool, wrote a review about Curriculet on Edsurge. She first begins by showing the price of the app, which is available in 4 formats: Free, a one year unlimited subscription that costs 49$, per book rental (between 0.99 and 3.49$ per book), or a premium schoolwide subscription that costs 4.99$ per student. As of 2015, 450 000 students and 50 000 teachers have been using the app. She also mentions it is easy to use and visually very appealing. However, she does not use it anymore because her school doesn’t offer one-to-one devices and she didn’t think it would be fair since the richer families would beneficiate from the app far more than the poorer ones with no device.

As an ESL teacher, Curriculet looks like a very engaging tool. However, I don’t think I would use it. If I was in an English school teaching English as a first language, maybe I would, but as a second language, I don’t think it would be very useful. First, because we don’t see students enough and giving them books to read is not really my way to do. Then, for 50$, I can show interactive videos instead of reading; which are far more appealing to a student than a novel. I would really go for a more technology-oriented teaching; such as showing videos or doing interactive activities on which we can discuss as a group.

To conclude, Curriculet is a great tool to use as a first language teacher, but maybe not as an ESL teacher since it would require students to be highly proficient and motivated in reading, which is not favorable to occur in the Quebec school system.

eduCanon

eduCanon is a free, online and very simple tool that enables their users to add interactivity to videos. It is available online directly on their website or as a google chrome widget.

To get started on eduCanon, you can either create a new and free account or sign up with your Edmodo or Google Plus account. You also have to select if you are a teacher or a student. Once it’s done, 4 small windows pop up; one to start customizing videos right away, another to assign your lessons/videos to specific students, another to link students to your classes, and the last one to see learning needs in real-time. The most interesting feature is definitely the editing one, so once you clicked on it, here is what happens. You first have to enter the title of your work. Then, you have to select the learning objective. After, you have to select the grade (for instance 6), the topic (for instance English), and the subtopic (for example irregular verbs). Once everything is set, you can select the platform from which you want to import your video. eduCanon is compatible with platforms like Youtube, Vimeo, Teachertube, Khan academy, and more. After these steps, you are free to edit! You can crop your video as much as you want to and add questions. The questions that you can add are either multiple choices, Fill in the blanks, Check all apply, or Free responses. All the questions are simply inserted by clicking a button and it is a very simple task to do so. In addition, you can also insert reflective pauses, audio-embed questions, media-embed, web content, printable worksheet, or even equations (and an equation editor). With everything you post in your videos (which are called bulbs once edited on the eduCanon), you can attach files so it can make the videos even more interactive. The app also provides instant feedback as it adds the possibility to give the good answer when students gave theirs. You can also set time limits for your assignments. It is a very complete app in terms of editing videos without breaking copyright laws.

Michael Karlin, from edtechroundup, reviewed eduCanon 4 stars out of 5. He says that it is an excellent tool to flip classrooms by adding interactive content from online videos since it is very easy to use. He precises that the app is free, but for the complete version (which allows more type of questions like the free response questions), you have to pay 48$ per year. Karlin adds that it has a very friendly interface and does a lot to make videos more engaging. Moreover, one feature he particularly enjoys is the fact that students can’t fast-forward the videos; which ensures the teachers that their students watch the complete video. The only reason why he doesn’t give it a perfect rating is because it lacks some question types. For instance, there is no survey, poll, or matching questions available. In the end, it is an excellent service offered even with the free version, but lacks some question types.

Amanda Finkelberg from Graphite also gave a 4 star rating out of 5 to eduCanon. The pros of the app according to her is that it is very simple compared to other tools so teachers can start editing videos and create a variety of questions and other web content videos in a short amount of time. On the other hand, the free version offers fewer features than other comparable free apps. She also adds that it is very simple to use key features like adding multiple questions, but the site offers few support for more complex web content videos. However, support is available through e-mailing and is fairly quick, but as a teacher we sometimes are in a hurry and do not have enough time to wait for an e-mail.

As an ESL teacher, there really is a lot to exploit from video activities. Students usually enjoy watching videos in class or as a homework assignment. First, you can show a video to activate prior knowledge. For instance, when you start a new unit, you can show a video and add some words or questions over a video to teach students new vocabulary. Then, it can also be used to activate critical thinking. Of course, some questions can be like: Do you know what that is? What did John do to get his medal? Or stuff like that. But, it can also be questions that encourage more thinking so that the student puts more emphasis on the message rather than on how is he going to pronounce the words; this makes the students’ environment less stressful. An example of that type of question would be: What would you have done if you were there? Or even simpler: What do you think is going to cause the problem and why? Moreover, it can be used for showing questions in front of the class so the students can discuss as a whole. For instance, you would put a statement related to the video and ask a student what is his or her opinion about it in order to create a class discussion.

To conclude, eduCanon is an interesting app for assignments associated in any way with videos. There really is a lot to do with videos when you are an ESL teacher and it definitely should not be a neglected media.

Notability

Notability is an app that is told to make you “feel in love with note-taking”. it is basically a note-taking app compatible with Apple products (Macs or iPads). It is a very versatile tool which is more and more popular amongst teachers in schools because of its tons of features.

Notability is fairly easy to use. First, when you open it, you can create a category, in which you can create subjects, in which you can create your notes. When creating your notes, you either have the choice to start writing down right away or to import pdf files from your device or cloud services (like GoogleDrive or DropBox). When importing PDFs, the app asks you from which page to which you want your document to be imported; that way, it prevents from importing useless page for note-taking like the title page or the references. After you imported your PDFs, several features are available to annotate. You can draw with different pen sizes, type in different fonts, and highlight in different colours on the document. You can cut or copy parts of the document too. You can also import pictures on the document and in the margins. In addition, there is a feature allowing to import Youtube videos on the document and in the margins. You can also record voice and import audio files; which you can play either at 50% of their original speed or at 150% or at 200%. To save the document, you can either do so on the platform or keep it in sync with cloud services that were mentioned earlier. Too see Notability explained in a video, click here.

According to Nik Rawlinson’s review on Maclife, Notability is an all-in-one variety of essential tools in note-taking. He adds that it is important not to have to switch between apps when taking notes and that is why he thinks Notability is very good; because it doesn’t lack any essential feature. The fact that apps are backed up within iClouds and backed up on Google Drive or DropBox ensures that all the work put within your notes will not get lost. On the counterpart, he adds that the text formatting options are basics; it covers bold, underline, and italic plus a range of font sizes but only 46 typefaces. Also, it is possible to search through notes, but not by using keywords. In the end, he says it is an inexpensive app that fulfill its promises and that has a smart drawing tool and audio recording built in. On the other hand, it has no free version like Evernote to rivalise with such apps.

On Graphite.org, Stacy Zeiger mentions Notability recognizes that students have different learning styles and note-taking differences. More auditory learners can record themselves (or others) while visual can type, photograph, draw, or highlight. Logic-focused learners can add graphs and create diagrams. Students are not restricted to one type of learning. She adds that it is not only a way for her students to take notes but also for teachers to organize and show notes. For instance, teachers can create a review sheet  before an exam and share it with their students. She concludes by saying it is also a good tool for cooperative work as students can brainstorm ideas, take notes and then share it with their team.

As an ESL teacher, there would be tons of way to use this app. If I would have the chance to work in a school with an iPad for each student, I could distribute a ton of files on this app rather than printing paper or using books. If it wouldn’t be the case, I would simply distribute my homework online and ask students to annotate the text and share their thoughts on the paper and in class the day after. I definitely feel that distributing the notes beforehand and allowing students to write over them is helping many students learn better. With Notability, they could do so fitting their learning style.

To conclude, Notability can change the face of note-taking and make it a lot more appealing for students. It can help students study and teachers share their notes. In my opinion, it is easier to use than Evernote despite not having a free version.

LightSail

With the appearance of tons of more and more entertaining activities nowadays, many children (and even adults) have simply put aside reading. Although many books are still released on a regular basis, it just doesn’t seem to catch the children or teenagers’ attention; many of them preferring video games, social networking or any more “technological” activities. Lucky for the desperate parents and teachers, LightSail is an app available on iPads and Android that is very interactive and suggests to increase the interest of younger ones towards reading! Does it really work? We’ll take a little deeper look into that together.

LightSail is an application offering independent reading; a little like an e-book, but a lot more interactive. Like an e-book, it is used to read books on an electronic-device. It is a paid-subscription app and it is usually linked with the teacher’s school digital library. That can be a little more complicated to set-up, since it is required to contact the company of LightSail to get the library linked and to get the monthly subscription price. In other words, if your school does not agree to give you a hand and to pay for the subscription, you will hardly be able to use the app. However, if you can use it, it has a lot to offer. First, students begin by picking a book they think they will like. All of the books are rated with a Lexile measure; students also have a lexile measure, which is updated in real-time as they are reading. When students pick books, they see other ones alike that are recommended and they can browse through them. Also, teachers can view their students’ data in real-time. Students can write notes on the book, to which the teachers can respond; so both can have a conversation. That way, it adds a whole interactive content to reading and can definitely arise a keen interest in students.

Graphite gave a 100% rating to the app, and all the 19 teachers commenting on it approved the review, also giving a 100% rating. They say it is a great tool because it is very responsive. The fact that a list of recommendations is made just for you feels valorizing and motivating for the students. Also, to know that the more you read, the harder the texts get is also a big factor of motivation since it means that you are getting better as a reader. All assessments are interesting and the fact that they answer correctly is a proof that they are getting engaged in the texts. Another great feature is that when students give an answer to the comprehension questions, they are given a standard of how the answer should be given. Moreover, they give a lot of credit to the developers’ team for their commitment. In conclusion, they mention that in the future updates, the app will have some more efficient dictionary features; which means that the app is only going to get better.

Another review by Lora Kolodny reminded first that LightSail helped raising 3.5 million in order to make education with applications better. They add that for children, the app is a lot similar by the look to iTunes or Kindle, which are applications they are used to work with. Also, questions asked are not only interesting, but they help comprehension. Teachers can look at either individual performance, or at group performances, if there are any trends in their learning. Schools pay around 75$ per year per student to use LightSail, which is expensive, but is also around the price it costs if they use paper books and other non-electronic stuff. On the other hand, they do not generate revenue from content sale or lead generation fees from publishers. In the end, they think the app is a lot of investment, but is definitely worth it.

As an ESL teacher, I already know it would be a real struggle to get this program established in non-English schools. The reason is that it is fairly expensive, especially when few students would use it. In fact, the majority of the schools in Quebec city don’t have iPads for each student; and the amount of English classes are fairly limited to make the app worth using. In addition, many libraries still don’t have e-books. However, if there would be at least three or four English classes a week, I am convinced it could be popular amongst students. The fact that students are always supported through their readings is a very important feature for them to stick to the reading. Children nowadays are surrounded with technological devices that allow them to be constantly in touch with the world. Some of them need to feel supported to be efficient in their work. Since it is impossible for teachers to watch over all of their students’ in real time, I really feel that this app would allow them to do so; that is when the app doesn’t take care by itself of supporting students. Since it is so engaging, I would probably leave some reading as homework so it leaves more time for actual speaking in class. Moreover, oral presentations could be done on the students’ favourite reading. I would really like to give it a try in a classroom in Quebec city.

To conclude, LightSail is an amazing tool that can build a strong interest towards reading into students. However, it is not the kind of app that is designed for ESL teaching in a French province like Quebec city because of its price and the lack of time to make it worth buying.

News-O-Matic for Schools

Nowadays, children are far more concern about their cartoons or video games than they are about actuality. It is not something on which we should blame them; newspaper and the news are designed for a much more mature audience. Nonetheless, it is important for them to know what is happening around the world; or only to have some reading that are not only about fictional characters. With children being born with technology in their hands, they now have the opportunity to read the news adapted for them on News-O-Matic School Edition!

News-O-Matic is a newspaper paid-subscription app adapted for children. Five new stories are published per day, which are written by experts and reviewed by a child psychologist. It offers a “read to me option” for the children with reading problems. Basically, what it means is that it allows children with reading problems to have a recording of a voice reading with them the news. It also has a location service, which tracks where is the reader. With that function, they took care of adding a silly distance tracker. For instance, there was a story about the Vatican and it would calculate the distance in pope hats between the reader and Vatican city. In addition to that, it proposes 15 features like stories, maps, discussions, timelines, a rating system, puzzles, some games like Hangman, labyrinths, and more. Moreover, they added some very interesting interactive content. Children can send messages or drawings to the authors of the articles. It is a great opportunity for them to practice their English as well as to practice their critical thinking. Most of all, it makes them feel valued and allows them to feel more interpellated by the newspaper. In Quebec, where English is a second language, it would fit most for the four, five, or six graders or elementary schools.

teacherswithapps‘s first thought about News-O-Matic is: “In my ten years of teaching, I have never come across a publication that was this effective in capturing the attention of the students, making them want to learn and understand more.” (Layla B) It is pretty self-explanatory. They say the app is amazing for teachers because each article is labeled with a precise lexile level and includes comprehension questions and graphic organizers. It is a great app for morning questions, small reading groups, themed discussion groups, writing assignments, and curriculum units. They also took care to justify reasons why the app is not free; simply because it is ad-free and its team contains many specialists and professionals. They conclude their article with a quotation of the Co-Founder, Lillian Holtzclaw Stern, which I found interesting: “We created News-O-Matic to provide kids with a news resource that they can read and understand and that satisfies their curiosity about the current event throughout the world.”

Graphite also reviewed the app. In their opinion, stories chosen are of high interest and appropriate for their target audience. They think it is an exceptional source to get kids interested in the news. They also think that the bright visuals, special ways to tell the stories, and extra content makes this app a must tool if you want your students to get in touch with what happens around the world. The only reproach they would give News-O-Matic is that some articles are very brief and are not deep enough. Also, in these articles, few sources are included, which renders the task harder if anybody would want a deep conversation on their topics. Other than that, they have a very high opinion of News-O-Matic.

As an ESL teacher, this app is very interesting for many reasons. I definitely feel that children in the second and third cycle in elementary schools should be a little more aware of what happens around the world. So, I think it would be an excellent opportunity to make them like reading the news as well as practicing their English. With five new stories every, every children can definitely find one he or she wants to read. If I would have a class that each child has his or her own iPad/tablet, I would ask them to read news when they come in in the morning and in the afternoon. Then, we could discuss some of the articles altogether. However, since it is more likely that we only one tablet or so per classroom, I would offer the possibility to read for students who finish first. Since the display is pretty big, I would leave up to three students read a news (and if they are not interested in reading the same, others could have other enrichment activity to do). The only downside being its paid-subscription; even though it is not expensive. However, considering all the pros, I would definitely give it a go despite its price!

To conclude, News-O-Matic is a great app to have if you are teaching at the elementary level and you are willing to spend few bucks a months. It will surely develop an interest in your students for a topic or an other. Not only teachers should be interested to this app, but parents too! If you are looking for a way to make your students/children read, it could be the solution.

Socrative

Evaluating homework can sometimes be a hard task for ESL teachers. Since there are already a ton of paperwork to correct, adding some more can render the correction tasks exhausting. On the other hand, students who don’t get rewarded for doing their work will sometimes omit to do them. Fortunately, there exists some free apps that allow instant corrections in order to help teachers. Socrative, an application designed to give real-time feedbacks to gauge students’ understanding is one popular app amongst ESL teachers. Several teachers have tried it and shared their experiences throughout the web.

Socrative is a fairly simple tool. It is designed for classes in which each student has access to either a computer or tablet (Apple or Android). First, the user has to create an account; teachers have teachers account and students have students account. Then, as a teacher, you have three choices; you can either start a quizz that you developed in advance, ask a quick question or do a Space Race. Space Race is a quizz designed for students to answer as fast as possible. They all have a spaceship racing along other students’ ones and when they get an answer right, their spaceship moves forward. Their goal is to make it to the finish line before the others. According to the Socrative‘s website, it makes students engaged and assessed with educational activities on interactive devices. It helps teachers gauge the students’ level through real-time quizzes and instant-results. It saves times to the teacher, so they have more time to discuss and develop their skills in their second language.

When making a quizz or question, teachers have 3 choices. They can either make a Multiple Choice question, True or False, and Short Answer Question. As an ESL teacher, it can be pretty useful when it comes to gauging the understanding of concepts. When teachers just taught their students the proper use of Simple Past, for instance, they can make a short and quick questionnaire about grammar rules. Teachers know instantly when students are wrong (students also receive instant feedback), so teachers can focus on weaker students to make sure they are on the same level as the others. It can also be used to run some tests as it keeps track of the results. It is an excellent app to test about grammatical rules or irregular verbs. The only downside would be that Socrative cannot be used to write texts or bigger assignments; on the other hand, there are plenty of other apps for that.

Doctor Yearwood, who did a review on Socrative, mentions that Socrative is of very good use since it does all the job a clicker does without the need of buying anything. In fact, even if the school doesn’t have portable devices for every students, students can use their own. Moreover, it does not require a lot of time to create quizzes. It is useful when he need to ask questions and have the students answer in real time to his inquiry. However, he thinks letting students use their portable devices is letting them use their “entertainment”. Without a proper plan on the way you are going to use the app, don’t think it is going to be efficient. In the end, he thinks it is a very good free tool and rates it 5 stars out of 5 despite its potential for distractions.

The website Graphite, which is known for reviewing apps related to teaching, also reviewed Socrative. They say that for a free tool, Socrative is simple and flexible. Again, like Doctor Yearwood said, Graphite mentions that if the students are willing to do the work responsibly, the tool is very good for learning. Feedbacks are very important in learning and Socrative is all about giving them instantaneously. In addition, they add that this system has the potential to support responsive teaching. What they found great is that instant polling encourages every students by giving them the opportunity to participate .

To conclude, Socrative is a very good application if you have responsible students. If your students understand it is a serious tool and that it is a privilege for them to use a mobile electronic tool, then Socrative will be of big help. As an ESL teacher, you seriously want to give it a try as it will make the correction a lot easier and may build an even stronger interest for your students in regard of your classroom.

ChallengeU: The Pedagogical Platform

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ChallengeU is a free online pedagogical platform that was created by David Chartrand, a teacher in Montreal. ChallengeU serves schools as well as businesses. It’s aim is to allow people to create and share learning content. It is easy to access since it is accessible on every devices, from computers to tablets as well as on smartphones. However, it does require an internet connection. During my first practicum at Les Prés-Verts in a 6th grade intensive English classroom, I had the chance to work with Manon Provencher, a teacher using this platform for some of her homework assignment.

ChallengeU is presented like a social network; its users are following each other and sharing their content with the entire population of the network. It is also using hashtags in order to regroup specific content altogether. However, it does not recommend posting all sorts of things like people would on other social network. In fact, it is designed mostly for teachers to post tests or homework assignments.

Miss Provencher, as a full-time teacher teaching three different classes (all 6th graders following intensive English format), wanted a platform on which she could put some homework assignments that would be more effective than handling some paperwork. As a primary school teacher, she ends up having a ton of papers in her binders, and by the end of the year, it becomes harder for her to compile results and to find some specific work by specific students. That is the main reason why she started using ChallengeU. On that platform, she can easily put her homework online for her different groups, as well as

For some students, but mainly for parents, using technology is a struggle. Fortunately for them, Miss Provencher found a good way for them to have to do only the minimum. She created accounts for each and every students before the year started, and gave her students a quick tutorial on how to use it. If the students were not paying attention, ChallengeU has the solution. On their website, there are some video tutorials of how to use the platform, why to use it, and also some testimonies of people using it. They also have a couple of YouTube channels in French as well as in English, which is perfect for parents or students to learn how to use it properly in the most effective way.

“The way ChallengeU works is fairly simple”, as mentioned Miss Provencher. First, you create an account. Then, you add your students in the groups you created, and simply have to post some homework on those groups after. It is pretty easy to use, and really allows teachers to design their homework exactly how they want them to look like. You can place worksheet with multiple exercises, some with short text answers, some with long text answers, multiple choices, any way you want them to be! You can also post videos or pictures for pre-task activities. What she also likes about this platform is that she can see when her students are online. She can also send messages to them if ever they need help. She even put some enrichment online, which are far more popular than she would have thought. That is a great indication of how appreciated this platform is by the students.

Julie Beaupré, another teacher in elementary school, says that teachers should use ChallengeU because it is very easy to use. She adds that it takes very few time to get used to the platform itself, so that teachers can start focusing on their content right away. For the students’ point of view, she mentions that students appreciate working with this tool because they are more aware on how important it is to provide some quality work because they can see their work on the wall of ChallengeU. She adds that they find it easier to submit their work on this platform and they enjoy they their work serves as creating revision content for other students; they don’t feel like they work for nothing. She concludes by saying there are plenty of advantages to use ChallengeU, mostly because of the variety of pedagogical uses it proposes; to consult them, visit her article here.

In my opinion, ChallengeU is an amazing platform to use as an ESL teacher. First, because it is available on every devices; making it almost impossible to not be able to use it. Then, it looks very good and is attractive for students. It is also designed to look like a social network, working almost the same way these network work. For instance, students can use the symbol “@” in front of usernames to publish something directly to that person. They can also use “#” for others to relate to a broader subject. For example, teachers would post an English grammar exercise with the hashtags #grammar #english. I am looking forward to using it in my own classrooms since I think it is a great way to make students do their homework, and also to keep track of their result and implication. It is easy to create a profile and link every students to it so they can access every homework. Moreover, if they need help, they can ask for support from their teammates directly on the platform.

Although I am amazed by with what ChallengeU has to offer, I find there are some counterparts to it. The biggest inconvenient I found to it is that it creates a public profile of the user on the internet. Children are not allowed on certain social network and there are a couple of reasons for that; mostly because they are not mature enough and aware of some consequences their actions could have on their lives. On ChallengeU, you cannot have a private account. It would be easy for anybody to look up anyone’s profile. Despite having most of your publications private, it is still possible for anybody to follow anyone else. Although it makes it easy for teachers to find their students and add them to their groups, it also makes it easy for any other bad intended person. I would have prefered a way to keep a profile private and having the opportunity to have a specific access code to access specific groups. Also, I think it would have been a good idea to implant a way to work offline. That way, teachers can avoid some poor excuses given by students who did not feel like doing their homework. In my opinion, it would be great to add a function where students can download tests and homework on their applications, which would be automatically submitted once they have any internet access.

To conclude, I think that ChallengeU is a well done platform with only few things to fix to be optimal. Such an easily accessible tool that is easy to use should not be tossed away by ESL teachers. I highly recommend you try it and make your own opinion of it; but I warn you: To try it is to adopt it.