Friday, May 20, 2011

Warning:  this post is quite long!

OK, so as I'm feeling very far behind, I'm going to jump right on the next challenge!  #4 is  I had perused it ever so briefly several weeks ago, so this is a good opportunity to revisit and rethink.  I'm going to briefly review template by template.  Please keep in mind that I will do so through the lens of a high school French teacher, so where I find something useful or not, may be completely different in your subject area.  My overall opinion of the tools here is that for the most part there are other tools that do the same job either more simply, more effectively, or more professionally, and in some cases I think low-tech is best.  Below is a brief commentary of each of the 23 tools (whew!).  My personal favorite (Random Name Picker) is in bold.

1.  Fakebook -- I truly love the idea of this!  Our school continues to block Facebook (although just about every student knows how to get around the filters even if we teachers don't) and I think it could be a great tool to get students using the target language in an authentic setting.  Here are my criticisms -- first of all, I wish the template were available in French (as the real Facebook is) second of all, even though it acts as a social media tool, students would be using it exclusively for class assignments, which takes away some of the authenticity.  Personally, I would prefer to be able to find a way (convince the powers that be) to use "the real Facebook" as a classroom tool.

2.  Arcade Game Generator -- Gotta admit, I'm not a fan.  The graphics are almost as prehistoric as Pong, but not in a way than makes me nostalgic for anything.  It seems as though the games require more effort to learn how to play the game than to learn the information.  Not my cup of tea

3. Random Name Picker -- a really simple but really cool tool.  How often are we doing a class activity when the same kids volunteer every time, they've been organized alphabetically since kindergarten, so that gets old, and we just need a way to even out the chances and -- just be random!  Really simple, and I really like it.  I used the kids' nicknames, so I felt OK embedding the tool into the class website for easy access.

4.  Twister -- Last night's Twitter #langchat dealt with authentic assessment, and what qualifies as "authentic" .  On that note, Twister could not be considered "authentic", because it is not real.  For that reason, I would much prefer to use "the real thing" with my students, creating a class hashtag for discussion.  However, sometimes we have to use what we have at hand, and Twitter is not functional with our school's filters, so this could be a good substitute.

5.  Keyword Checker -- Less applicable to my content area as far as I can see, as my writing assignments typically don't require use of keywords.

6.  Plagiarism Checker -- see above.  In FL our main concern is misuse of online translation devices, for which this tool would not be useful

7.  Dustbin Game -- could be useful for reviewing picky grammar points.  The game I created (and then promptly lost because I played before I saved) was to review the partitive article.  My 4 dustbins were de, de la, de l', and des.  Different food words were dragged into the dustbins based on gender, number, and starting letter.  Might be a cute way for students to practice on their own, but I don't know as it would be an effective use of class time in a HS FL classroom.

8.  Telescopic Topic -- seems like....much ado about nothing?  Or am I missing something??

9.  Post-it -- again, I think there might be more effort required to mess with the lines and boxes than needed to learn the language.  I would do this with real, hands-on paper Post-it notes.  Sometimes low-tech is the way to go.

10.  Diamond 9 -- Looks like a pretty neat tool, but probably more involved than a begginning-intermediate FL class warrants.

11.  Fishbone -- see comments for Diamond 9

12.  Venn Diagram -- Now we're talking!  I have always been a huge fan of the Venn diagram when comparing a target culture to American culture.  This version is very easy, interactive, and I would replace my paper version with this in a heartbeat!

13.  Animated book -- See comments for Telescopic Topic

14.  Timeline -- seems relatively a FL teacher I don't frequently use timelines with my students, and I think there are some better tools out there for timeline creation, but not a bad tool for the sake of simplicity

15.  Lights Out -- I just don't get the point.  :(

16.  Target Diagram -- Could be a useful mindmapping tool, but I'm not sure there aren't better ones out there that are more versatile (Mindomo comes to mind)

17.  Burger Diagram -- I have seen similar graphic organizers in B & W, and I think I prefer them simply because the colors are very distracting to me.

18.  Living Graph -- I am not a math person.  I am not a graph person.  Data makes my head spin.  That said, I am not the best person to judge this tool.  I really like what collaborizeclassroom does for me regarding data from student polls taken in the target language -- it makes me nice, simple little pie charts that I can understand!  :)

19.  Learning Cycle -- A bit too complicated for what I think it's supposed to do...then again, maybe I'm not understanding it.

20.  Jigsaw Diagram -- see comment for Dustbin Game

21.  Priority Chart -- see comment for Target Diagram

22.  Source Analyser -- I can see this being a very useful tool for teaching students how to do research, and how to evaluate research materials.  More in depth than what I do as a FL teacher, but I think English and Social Studies teachers could easily incorporate this.

23.  Countdown Timer -- I can definitely see this as a useful tool -- for someone who functions well in structure.  I am not that person, so this is not for me.

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