TESOL Highlights 2016: Part 6

It’s time to post my final set of highlights from the TESOL convention held earlier this month. In Baltimore I felt there was a strong focus on the use of technology in and out of the classroom to support many skills.

A number of presenters even outside the Electronic Village addressed the use of e-portfolios. Jeannie Slayton and Cynthia DeRoma of the University of Connecticut (UCAELI) shared their ideas in the session Using Evernote as an E-Portfolio to Foster Autonomy and Communication. Originally designed for note-taking, the app can be repurposed for reflective and collaborative learning. Among the features listed on the Evernote description page are the options to discuss notes without leaving the app and share notebooks for team projects. Jeannie and Cynthia have found the platform to be very dynamic, as it allows users to go beyond text, adding audio, images, and web links. Their students’ e-portfolios facilitate an ongoing evaluation of proficiency.

How about video journals? Similar to e-portfolios, a collection of videos allows a teacher to evaluate language production. This was one of many ideas that came out of the session Using Mobile Technology to Enhance EFL Classrooms. Three members of the  EFL and Video and Digital Media Interest Sections presented. Vinicius Lemos of Casa Thomas Jefferson (Brasília, Brazil) was the one who recommended video journals. He shared a number of other ideas that were appropriate for learners of any age. First, he showed samples of projects created with Animoto, an easy-to-use videomaker. His students use still images taken on their cell phones, import them into the app, and produce 15-second videos. Vinicius inspired everyone in the audience with his “Bernardo” project, in which his young learners took turns photographing a beloved stuffed animal in their homes. Each shot showed Bernardo doing a different activity. You can imagine how the compilation prompted use of the present progressive. It also demonstrated how mobile technology can promote collective ownership.

Equally engaging, meaningful, and creative were the projects Vinicius’s students did with Tellagami.  This app allows users to produce Gamis, 30-second animated videos with customized avatars, backgrounds, and voice-overs. Like Zoobe, Tellagami is a good alternative when there are concerns about having students appear on camera.

Other apps mentioned were mailVU, through which Vinicius has revived the concept of pen pals, and Educreations, which turns an iPad into a recordable whiteboard. Visit Vinicius’s M-Learning page on Blogspot.

Vinicius at one point listed the numerous benefits of utilizing students’ cell phone cameras. The next presenter, Julie Lopez of the University of Delaware, demonstrated just how easy and effective the tool can be with apps like Portal FX and Split Lens 2. The first one quickly adds special effects to any video, from lightning to a vaporizer. Julie creatively used teleportation in a demo video to illustrate subjunctive structures, like if only I were…. For one assignment, her learners used Split Lens 2 to clone themselves and present the student who follows the rules and the student who breaks the rules. Other apps successfully used in Julie’s teaching include Text On Pictures, VivaVideo, and Video Star.

Scott Duarte, also of the University of Delaware, added to the list of possibilities. He’s brought Shadow Puppet Edu into his classroom as well as Split Lens. As an alternative to Portal FX, he’s used Action Movie FX. Most appreciated were his demos with Green Screen by Do Ink because they showed creative use of video on a budget. Scott suggested using green poster board if an expensive green screen kit can’t be bought. Scott has had students work in pairs, acting out exchanges in specific settings. Imagine just how much more real it seems when learners are asking for directions on a street scene. His students were visibly engaged and had fun executing these projects.

Thank you to all the presenters for sharing their ideas and resources!

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