ELL iPad fun

I think I finally got it right: the near-perfect combination of engaging, educational, and fun.

Because I have been so swamped by my EdTech courses and other efforts, I haven’t taught the Access students as much as I would like. I was thrilled to meet with them again and see how much their English skills have continued to improve. They are awesome.

I’ve said before that they are great students: motivated and respectful. They are warming up to me, which means they are more willing to talk, discuss, and answer my questions. I’m also getting less nervous which helps. They work really hard, and I mean really hard. Tomorrow is Saturday, the only day off public schools in Nepal. It’s their only day to sleep in and yet they will meet for their Access class at 6:00. That’s a.m. Motivated! That’s in addition to coming after school during the week for 90 minutes each class. They told me tonight in their government schools they attend during the day there are between 50-70 students per class. It must be refreshing to be in a small class of only 20!

Their classroom is simple but fully functional. Its walls are covered by their recent writings and holiday drawings. Today one wall showcased handmade Valentines cards, since they also learn about American culture and holidays. Often they start the class by singing, “She’ll Be Coming Around The Mountain” or “Oh, Susanna!” It’s great.

I’ve tried different things with these students along the way. Some have worked, some haven’t. It’s always a struggle to figure out what I can teach that will really help them. None of them have computers at home. They have limited time at the Cyber. I think I’m finally on to something.

 

I decided to use technology directly related to their field of study: English Language Learning (ELL). If you’re wondering why I haven’t thought of this before, I have. I’ve tried. But this semester I’ve designed some technology integration strategies for ELL students that I thought might prove beneficial to them.

[I also received a different projector (thanks to a grant from GSA) that allows me to mirror everything on my iPad. The projector I’ve been borrowing is battery-powered, amazing HD quality, and the size of an iPhone. It’s still great, but it has two drawbacks: 1) it’s not bright enough for bright daylight, and 2) it only works through certain apps like slideshows or presentations.]

Lesson Plan
Student Worksheet

I began with what is, in my opinion, one of the best iPad apps released to date: The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore. This is an app that demonstrates what is truly possible with a tablet. It’s a phenomenal blend of video, eBook, interactivity, and sheer genius. If you haven’t experienced it, you really should. I used it to prompt a discussion on how they think such an app could help them boost their English language skills [it shows text on each page while it reads].

Next, I asked them to reflect on learning English for the past 15 months and rank the following concepts from hardest to easiest: conversation, writing, grammar, speaking, and vocabulary. Both classes marked grammar as the hardest with vocabulary as a close runner-up. Easiest was writing and then conversation. I was thrilled with their responses because the two hardest tasks, grammar and vocabulary, are the easiest two to support through technology. How exciting! My mind began racing with ideas for future implementation.

I divided them up, sending half off to the four computers in the next room to explore  websites listed on their worksheet. The others stayed with me and we explored some fun apps on the iPad.

They loved it! Everyone had a chance to interact with the iPad, which takes them all of one second to figure out. Just for fun I tried some really basic apps that I use with my young children. I took care to explain that even though I knew these apps are really easy and below their level, which they are, I still feel it’s helpful to hear native English speakers (which they hardly ever do), practice pronunciation, and review vocabulary. We practiced animals and colors using Fun English and Flashcards. They giggled and laughed and competed against each other. It was great. Then I moved up to SpeakingPal, which allows them to listen to a quirky video conversation and complete a quiz. This was more on their level and they enjoyed trying to beat their previous score. Just for fun, I tried a speech-to-text app called Dragon Dictation, which really struggled deciphering their accents but gave us all some good laughs. If we had time, I threw in a few extras (like Stack the States and Scribblepress).

Time flew by, they were active, engaged, learning, and having fun. I came home feeling like in some small way, I had made a difference.

As always, the honor is mine.

P.S. These are their new bags — aren’t they great? They gave me one too!

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The Whole World in my Bag

I returned to Gorkha for my second attempt at offering both ACCESS teachers and students some training on technology. It was good to be back and I felt I was more prepared for the scenario and the students opened up more this time. They treated me like I was an old returning friend, which I am.As I’ve said in previous posts, it is a challenge to teach technology to students who barely have life’s necessities, to make my time and theirs worthwhile. They came on Saturday, their only day off to attend. They go to school 7 days a week and many come from great distance on foot. It’s not easy for me to leave my family for the weekend, to give up family time with them to travel on a bumpy, dusty, windy, cliff-hugging road. But I do it because I care about these students. I want them to know that technology is an important tool — and fun. When I started pulling all of my gadgets out of my bag, one very wise teacher said, “You’ve got the whole world in your small bag.” So, that’s why I do this.This time we watched a movie I made about them and Nepal. They loved it and it got their creative juices flowing. I then told them that the Prime Minister is coming to Gorkha and he wants to meet the ACCESS students. He wants to see if the program is worth continuing. This is their chance to be proud of their town, their school, their academic achievements. I gave them five questions and they wrote the answers. Then they took turns filming each response and taking pictures. Keep in mind these students have been learning English for 5 months. Here are a few of my favorite responses among the 40 students:

I love Nepal because:

  • It is my motherland
  • It is beautiful country and has many resource of water and wonders. It is just like a heaven. It has Mount Everest which is highest mountain in the world. So I love Nepal and I proud of my Nepal.
  • I love Nepal because I born in Nepal and all my family live in Nepal.
  • It is smaller than America but it is so simple and beautiful. I like my country very much.
  • It is a country full of natural beauty and greenery. It is the place where Lord Buddha was born. It lies in the lap of the Himalayas.
  • There is many kinds of temple. In Nepal is many forests and rivers. In Nepal is very lovely place. They love each other. Nepal is my born place.
  • Nepal’s people have Nepal’s aim.
  • In Nepal every person lives together and helps each other.
  • There are many kinds of festival.
  • I love Nepal because Nepal is one of the most beautiful country in the world. All love their birthplace and I also love my birthplace Nepal by heart. The culture of Nepal is many and different, but by being different culture, the pople of Nepal never fight in name of culture but all the people share their culture to each other. Nepal is an example of peace and friendship. So, I love and never forget my beautiful country Nepal.

One thing I like about living in Gorkha is:

  • It’s my birthplace, where I get birth and enjoy every moment of my life. As well as many love of my parents it is one of the historical and important places of Nepal.
  • It is a district of Nepal and here are many religions and temples
  • It is not so big but naturally beautiful
  • It is historically important and here are many architecture, wood, and art from ancient time
  • It is so beautiful and unity
  • People follow heir traditional culture. The are cooperative and it’s full of natural heritage. It’s so peaceful. There is unity.
  • Clean environment and full of opportunities
  • Our forefathers Gorkhali are very brave, clever, and they became success to save their life and nation
  • All the Nepali people came to Gorkha and pray for their long life.
  • There is no crime and people help other people

When I found out I was accepted into the ACCESS program, I felt:

  • Very happy
  • Very glad and excited
  • I think I can learn many new things
  • Very proud of me
  • I think that I learn something from here to make my future bright
  • There was no boundary of my happiness
  • I’m very lucky because I got opportunity to learn about English language and American’s culture. I like American’s country very much.
  • I became so excited and I felt that I am the lucky student

Learning English has been:

  • Very useful and so important
  • International language speaking all over the world
  • Very important in university and college
  • Backbone of human being
  • We don’t know the English then we don’t do anything
  • I can express my view and expression with many people from different country. I feel more comfortable speaking English

To me America is:

  • The future career
  • Very beautiful. If I got the chance to go to America I feel I’m very lucky in the world. America has different culture. There’s language, style of sit, style of eat, style of clothes. I love it. I’m fan of America. So I love America.
  • Very developed country, rich in scientific area, powerful country
  • There are many facilities. We can spend better life there.
  • It’s ahead in every sector
  • To get entertainment
  • Richest and big country
  • One of the importance country
  • America is one of the gifted country for technology. For me America is one of the helping and loving country who help us like student for giving scholarship and help for making good in English
  • Is like a god because America helps to read at any cost. No any countries has been helping this way. America is my future.

As always, I am the one who gained. I am the one enriched. Several of the students drew me pictures, but the words of one beautiful girl will remain with me:

Gretel,
Thanks for your group and thank you for you
Great people like you is few
Thanks for being our friend
And trusting us like student
All the beautiful things is for you
I want to give many more thanks for you
And many many love for you.

So, maybe the whole world is in my bag after all.

[I went with 3 educators who did teacher training all weekend and distributed books donated by the U.S. Embassy to regional school teachers. I also donated a printer so that the students will be able to print, scan, copy, and fax. It was a successful weekend for everyone. Part of teacher training involves teaching American culture and traditions, so the ACCESS teachers learned about Thanksgiving and Christmas. Students (and teachers) don’t get enough opportunity to do arts and crafts as the supplies are too expensive, so it was fun to cut/glue/tape/color with them. I was the ‘puzzle expert’ and helped each teacher assemble their puzzle. All these years on the floor with my children paid off.]

Yet another benefit of technology

Last night we experienced an earthquake in Kathmandu, Nepal. It measured 6.9 at the epicenter about 150 miles away in Sikkam, India. While we were all ‘shaken up’ a bit, especially our four children, we suffered no bodily or property damage. I was reminded again of the positive and effective uses of technology in such scenarios. Of course, technology in the classroom is the main focus of the EdTech program, but technology in our daily lives is pretty great too. Here are a few examples:

  • Our earthquake alarm sounded about 15 seconds before we could feel the earth shake. Since our family had practiced drills recently, we knew to take cover.
  • Within minutes after the earthquake stopped, we were in radio communication with the embassy as accountability measures began and information relayed
  • Our Internet (which can barely survive a heavy monsoon rain) stayed functioning. Within minutes we notified our parents via email that we were OK. We updated our Facebook status. Ten minutes later, on the iPad we checked this amazing earthquake site for details on the quake so we could prepare for aftershocks (which thankfully didn’t reach us).
  • Since phones (land and mobile) were overloaded, we Skyped our neighbors to check on their status.
  • Today, the day after, we checked the newspaper headlines to learn any additional information and gain a better perspective of what happened.

Technology truly is a blessing that reaches into every aspect of our lives. I realize things would have been less functional in a more major disaster, but it was a reminder to me how many tools we have if we are able to utilize them.

At the end of the day, however, it’s having my husband and children safely sleeping next to me, that is the greatest blessing of all…