Providing URL to students, simple or not?

It is true that teachers are relying on computers more than ever. Instead of using it simply to do research, computers can now be turned into pedagogical devices. Internet became more than a tool; it is a now a guide.

My cooperative teacher uses Iphones in his class. Without a SIM card, the Iphone can be used as a laptop. Portable and easy to use, these devices are reliable and safe. Each student can pick his/her own phone at the beginning of the class. The phone becomes a map, a guideline and an instrument. While some of the crucial information is still written on the board, everything the students need is in the device. All they have to do is scan the QR code on their table, and they will see all the links essential to the class.

What if they need to reach the links outside the class? Do you want your students to copy this: iamastudentandineedtowork.com/asdj.39/pea329f0-ad-69/…? What if they make a mistake while copying the URL? Who is the person to blame?

URL SHORTENER

To answer the last question, the person to blame is the teacher. Since 2006, a free website is available for anyone who wishes to share URLs effectively. This website is called: tiny.cc. Not only is it free to use, it doesn’t even require an account to work. To shorten your URL, just follow those 3 steps:

1. Choose the URL you want and copy it

2. Paste the URL in box beginning with http://

3. Press  »TINY! »

Once this is done, you only need to give a name to your new URL. Instead of looking like this  »www.iamastudentandineedtowork.com/asdj.39/pea329f0-ad-69/… », your URL will look like this  »tiny.cc/xxxxxx ». If you do not enter a title to your link, the website will provide 6 random digits.

PROS

CONS

  • Creating individual links for every student can be long, even with a single click.
  • Most features are only available if you create an account.
  • It has a limited amount of URL titles available. You might run into a title conflict after using it for a while (two students with the same name, two projects with the same title, etc.)
  • The person opening the link never knows where it leads. While you shouldn’t have problems with this as long as you use it only amongst the class, this gives criminals the potential to send legitimate sounding links that actually lead to malicious sites.
  • Students can still make mistakes while copying a shorter URL.

ESL TEACHING

As a teacher, this website is essential to have in a class directed toward ICTs development. If you are a teacher who does not rely on Internet in class, tiny.cc won’t be useful to you. I will definitely use this tool in my teaching career. In fact, I am already using it in my practicum. When working with GoogleDocs or Wix, students need an easy access to their page. Using QR codes to transfer important links to students is reliable and effective. Most students are already familiar with the process of scanning and reaching link provided by the teacher. Students who have difficulties with link sharing can rely on tiny.cc to keep it clear and simple. It is a safe tool to use in schools and I know students will like having a website link with their name in it. If they don’t want to put their name, they can choose what they want (as long as they can remember it). Teachers and students save time and avoid errors while using an URL shortener.

Here is a video tutorial to help you!

 

What should teachers use to create websites or blogs?

Creating a personal website is a difficult task. You have to get your ideas together, think of a       template and arrange everything by yourself. It is possible to get help from a professional web designer, but it is costly. As an English teacher with a limited budget, you need to be able to create your website without requiring your wallet. There are a lot of softwares available to edit your personal webpage. Some of them are free, but some are not. In this article, I will only discuss about free softwares.

The question is: What are the best softwares to develop your own webpage?

 

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WordPress is a free online tool that allows everyone to create either a website or a blog. If you are reading this article right now, you already see what kind of blog WordPress can produce. Upgrades are available for people looking for something more professional, but they come with a price. You can still create an interesting website using the free tool. As a teacher, developing your website on WordPress allows you to connect your product with all your favorite social networks, for instance Facebook, Twitter and more. The design of your website is easily customizable. You can use the themes offered by WordPress or you could design your own. This means that you have full control over the appearance of your blog. Moreover, WordPress developped a mobile app (for Iphone, Android and Blackberry) to help you edit, publish or simply look at your website wherever you can.

In fact, Jill Duffy said:  »WordPress.com gives you the most control of any free blogging platform I’ve seen. »

Blogger is another free online tool to design blogs. It works approximately like WordPress, as it is a blog designing tool which uses themes already available on the website. These themes can be adapted to your interests. This tool was bought by Google, which means that you will need a Gmail address in order to work with the website. In fact, you can’t reach the homepage of Blogger until you log in with your Gmail address. Highly comparable to WordPress, Blogger is simple to use for beginners. After experiencing with the tool myself, I got familiar with it pretty quickly. The interface is clear and simple. You don’t need to look deep into the program to get what you want; everything is accessible.

Susan Gunelius brings an interesting point:  »Many bloggers love Blogger.com because it automatically integrates with Google AdSense, so bloggers can earn money from their blogs from day one. » It may look a bit greedy, but I understand that teachers must deal with a limited budget. If you get good with doing blogs with Blogger, the money acquired can be used in your class.

Wix is a free tool (with more than 60 million users!) used to develop websites. The two softwares mentioned above are mostly programmed for blogs. Wix is the perfect tool to design and to play with your own website. It offers a wide variety of templates, going from business templates to music templates. You can get access to other templates by buying additional fees. It comes  with a mobile app, which is always great. The only thing you need is an email address (similar to Blogger with Gmail). It is also possible to make money out of your website, but only if needed. For teachers, Wix allows you to do pretty much anything you want. You can create a website for your class to interact with or you could create a website where you let them publish and edit what they want. It uses a drag and drop method to edit templates. This is one of the most interesting features of Wix. It is really difficult to customize a webpage without messing everything up. However, the drag and drop lets you move pictures and titles around without being a professional web designer.

Michael Muchmore adds:  »As you build your site, Wix’s Feedback option can be a help: You send a short link, and a friend or colleague can comment on specific spots on your site. You’ll even get an email notification letting you know that comments have been submitted. »

WHAT NOT TO USE images

For this section, I will only refer to one software: Microsoft Expression Web 4. This is simply due to the fact that I haven’t work with any other website developing tool. What is important to remember is that this software, along with Adobe Dreamweaver and Espresso, is built for professional web designers.

Expression Web is now available for free since 2012. Although like I said, it is not for beginners. Expression Web designs website using HTML code as well as XML, XHTML and CSS. Programmers use these codes to create websites according to the requirements of a company or a business. Microsoft Expression Web 4 is an excellent tool to design high quality websites. It requires many competencies in programming, which is why I don’t recommand using such tools. As a teacher, web programming does not feature in our regular classes. It is tempting to use this software to create a website that looks and feels better, but it is not so simple to achieve. This is not made for English teachers, but for Web Design teachers.

When I tried to learn the codes and create my own website, I was highly disappointed. The coding was right and the website was working perfectly, but the appearance of my website looked like a PowerPoint slide. After using tools like Wix and WordPress, I will never go back to Expression Web 4. The templates are clean and simple to use. If you don’t trust me, trust Simon Williams’ review.

ESL APPLICATIONS

As a teacher, these tools allow you to create new activies and ways to teach your students. Instead of handing out papers each class, the teacher can post blogs on the website where students will find what they need to do before the end of the class. When doing reading activities, teachers can write their own story on their website. If the teacher has a SmartBoard in class, it becomes easier to show the story to the classroom. Creating their own story allows teacher to concentrate on what they want. If teachers want to focus on difficult words and sentence construction, they can write a story with these elements in it. The story can be adapted to the context of the classroom. For example, if students were working on celebrities in another activity, the teacher is free to create a blog or a story about those celebrities so that students feel comfortable with the text. The ESL teacher simply has to implement difficult words in the blog and student will be able to read it by going on the website whether in class or at home.

Audacity: Your Voice, Anywhere

It is important to motivate students in class. The lack of attention leads to lower results and failure. While it might be hard to bring a guitar in class and show off your skills, it’s easy to buy a microphone. Equipped with the proper recording material, anyone can turn a boring lecture into a wonderful show.
If you want to record your voice, you will need a microphone. If you want to record your instruments, you can either use your microphone or an audio interface plugged in the computer. When this step is completed, all you need is a good software to record everything. Audacity comes in handy.

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Description

Audacity is a recording software available on Windows, Mac and Linux. It is completely free and offers a wide variety of options for beginners and professionals. This software is open source, which means everybody can access the source code to study it (programs like Firefox and OpenOffice are also open source). Being open source allows the software to be upgraded by any programmer who dares exploring the code of Audacity.

Voice and music recording

When your microphone is set and ready to use, it is time to record. Audacity is used to record live audio performance. This can be done with your voice, your guitar, your piano and even your pets. There are no limits to what you can record on Audacity; the microphone will do the job. After the software is installed, press the Record  button and let it all out. Once completed, it will look like this:

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(Note: The interface can change depending on your operating system)

Now it is time to edit your recording. Audacity allows you to configure many things about your tape, such as: the pitch, the tone, the bass, the speed, etc. You can split, cut, delete and copy all the segments you want. It is also possible to record over your previous tracks (to simulate conversations for example). Most importantly, the software has a feature which reduces the background noise. This is important when you want your tape to sound more professional. The full list of features is available here.

The modifying features are great for voice recording, but they are weak when it comes to music recording. As a frequent user of Audacity on a personal basis, the features come short when I want to record guitar or bass tracks. Nonetheless, the sound quality is impeccable. If you wish to add some extra features to your guitar tracks, I recommend using devices like the Line 6 POD Studio (more information available on the website).

Voiceover and Video Applications

The recordings you make on Audacity can be used on their own. The tracks can easily simulate a conversation or an announcement to use inside your class. If you are willing to go the extra mile, it is possible to use Audacity in order to record over videos or images. You can easily become the narrator of any story you want to show to your students. Moreover, it is possible to do weird and funny voices over a video by removing the actual speech of the video used. All those possibilities can be done using the software called Windows Movie Maker (free and available for all Windows users). Here is a tutorial on how to create a movie using Windows Movie Maker. As I said before, this is useful for teachers who have a lot of imagination and spare time. Editing videos is difficult and time consuming, but incredibly fun when you become familiar with it. The best way to do so is by experiencing each software on your own!

Applications for ESL Teaching

Using Audacity increases the number of activities a teacher can use in his class. Relying on videos and audiotapes is an effective way to get students’ attention according to the National Teacher Training Institute. Instead of using the same repetitive paper tasks throughout the year, teachers can come up with new activities and lessons. As an ESL teacher in training, I would use this software to record music since I have been working with music for as long as I can remember. I won’t bring my electric guitar in class because of the amount of noise it produces. However, I can definitely record songs and musical arrangements at home using Audacity. If it does not please students, voiceovers and narrations will attract their attention more than regular lectures using the old schoolboard. It is not necessarily more effective, but it will help students who think plain lectures are boring.

Link to Audacity Official Website: http://audacity.sourceforge.net/
Professional Guidelines for Editing with Audacity: http://diyvideoeditor.com/cleaning-a-voice-track-with-audacity/