Guest Blogger Eoghan Evesson: 3 Juicy Ways to Engage in the Classroom

Guest Blogger Eoghan Evesson: 3 Juicy Ways to Engage in the Classroom

3 juicy ways to engage eoghan evesson

My name is Eoghan Evesson and I work as a Second-level English teacher in Ireland. I first discovered Voki, as with most things that improve my teaching, on Twitter. I was researching ways to give my pupils’ work a voice beyond what was written on the page. That’s exactly what Voki is: a safe, convenient and engaging way to bring written work alive. As I started to use Voki over the subsequent weeks and months I discovered Voki’s unique talking avatar style could be applied by teachers in many ways. In this blog post I’d like to outline three ways that teachers, primarily but not exclusively English teachers, can use Voki in their teaching and learning.

1. Deliberate Mistakes

Can teaching grammar to First Year pupils (13 Years old) be fun? Absolutely. There are lots of innovative and engaging ways to help pupils improve their writing ability and Voki is one more. One such exercise I used with pupils was how to use apostrophes when contracting words.Voki 1

This is an example of a Voki with

deliberate grammatical mistakes.

Can you spot them!?

http://www.voki.com/pickup.php?scid=10910221&height=267&width=200

I would start by creating five Vokis with misused contractions, five times, in the  your text section. Pupils then work in groups and listen to the Voki avatar talking. Groups are awarded one point for noting a mistake and another point for explaining on their page how the word should be used correctly. It’s fantastic to hear a table explain to each other the difference between it’s and its!

This task encourages active listening, understanding context and identifying key concepts. This task could be easily adapted into other subjects by deliberately misspelling or deliberately misusing key terms or concepts in the avatar ‘type your text’ box.

2. End of Project

Like most English teachers, I like to teach that good writing requires a process. You go through a process of analyzing the task, first draft, second draft, and then editing the piece. I’ve found that Voki is a great way for pupils to present their final piece of work. This term I asked one of my Junior English classes to write a short news report from the perspective of a person on the island from The Lord of the Flies

The pupils planned their work and made a first attempt in their copy. We then discussed the first attempts and realized that we were writing fun news reports, but we were not really capturing the mood, details or atmosphere of the novel. Having written and discussed our pieces a second time we decided to create Voki characters reading out their work.

 Voki 2

This Voki was created by a pupil speaking

from the perspective of a character on the

island from Golding’s ‘Lord of the Flies’

http://www.voki.com/pickup.php?scid=10799672&height=267&width=200

Voki acted as a way for the pupils’ hard work to be given more validation than it would have received by leaving it in the copies. You might consider Voki at the end of your next class project.

3. Announcements/Homework

One of the most common ways I use Voki is to create an avatar on our English http://newenglishirl.blogspot.ie/ Every month I create an avatar that discusses recent blog posts. I feel it gives the blog page an interactive and engaging element.

Voki 3

This is a Voki that was used as

a monthly update on our English

Department blog

http://www.voki.com/pickup.php?scid=10871042&height=267&width=200

Voki can be a great virtual assistant in your classroom for the day you are out of school or it can be placed as a QR link in your pupils’ copy or the Voki character can be the bearer of bad news: homework!

Your Voki avatar can also assist with correcting of homework. If you are using a VLE with your pupils you can write the feedback for the task into a Voki avatar. Using the Voki avatar gives great immediacy and presence to the feedback but it has the added benefit of never getting lost. If you have a class for an entire year or perhaps two years, your pupils will begin to gather a collection of feedback on their work. This is obviously invaluable for the pupil’s development as they can hear common mistakes in their work and improve.

Conclusion

I hope you found these suggestions helpful. The ease of access, engaging and intuitive nature of Voki make it a fantastic tool in many different types of classroom. As an English teacher it encourages a better understanding of voice and audience. Often, not always, when we write, we write to be heard. Voki is a safe place for young writers to start to hear their words come to life.

Me

My name is Eoghan Evesson and I’m a teacher of English to Second-Level pupils in Ireland. I work in the fantastic Newbridge College, Co. Kildare, teaching pupils from the ages of 13-19. I’m passionate about using ICT to help pupils engage more, enjoy more and most importantly learn more in my classes. You can find me on Twitter @JCenglishNet

Test Prep: Can It Be Meaningful and Fun?

Test Prep: Can It Be Meaningful and Fun?

canva

Heather here.  I want to start today’s blog post with that enormous elephant in the room: Test Prep.

Oh,Test Prep. It strikes fear into the heart of students, teachers, and principals alike. It certainly did for me.

Some teachers believe testing is important. Others believe it takes away from authentic learning time. Whatever your beliefs about testing, we have to come to the understanding that, for the time being, these tests are here to stay.

So, what can a teacher do to help his/her students feel confident during the testing months?  One way is to utilize relevant content to teach test sophistication and critical thinking.

What does that look like in a real-world class setting?

Let’s say your first grade class has been learning about animals and their habitats for the past month and you want to know if they can use what they’ve learned and transfer it to an entirely different task.  What you can do is make your test prep questions all about the different habitats you’ve studied. Not only are you teaching meaningful content, but you are also giving them more time to explore the content and possibly acquire additional knowledge on the subject. Yay!

Now, let’s tackle the second problem with Test Prep– its boring factor.

Test Prep is widely recognized as the epitome of boring. Teachers hate teaching it.  Students hate doing it. Nobody wins.

Unless, of course, you can utilize a stimulating and engaging vessel from which to deliver said Test Prep strategies, then maybe, just maybe, your students are in for a treat.

Today I’d like to share with you a presentation (created in Voki Presenter) that I believe is engaging and fun and teaches precise listening skills. The NYSESLAT is an ESL state exam that my students used to take.  So, I used this exam as fodder for my presentation.

First,  I downloaded the NYSESLAT  sampler for grades 1-2.

I picked one question type that I wanted to practice:

L1

And then created my objective based on the strategies I wanted my students to practice and master: Students will practice great listening by scanning the pictures and listening for keywords.Capture I began creating my lesson on Voki Presenter. I made sure to choose an interesting and appropriate Voki so that my students could make a connection with the character. If your students love robots, choose a robot. if your students adore cats, then that’s the character you should choose. I chose an adorable puppy. Let’s call her Lola.puppy

On each slide, Lola guides the students through the lesson. On my second, slide Lola does a “Think Aloud” to show the students how she looks at the pictures and draws a conclusion from what she sees. The students can then easily mimic how Lola uses the pictures to help her narrow down what the keyword might be about.

Listening pg2

Once Lola does her Think Aloud, then Lola and the class listen for the keywords. The question will be repeated twice: Which picture shows a boy using his sense of smell? Which picture shows a boy using his sense of smell?  Lola then launches into a second Think Aloud. Students listen as Lola models her thought process.

listening pg 3

Some students will know the answer right away.  Some will need more practice. Take the time to reveal the answer so students know if they’re headed in the right direction.

listening pg 4

Now it’s time for the students to try it with you. You and Lola will guide them through a parallel listening activity. The topic of this second question should be a relevant topic. This way you are using content that is part of the curriculum they’ve already been learning through out the year.  Maybe in science class they’re learning about the life cycle, or space. Here is where you can infuse those topics into Test Prep questions. Remember, during this slide you (and Lola) are asking open-ended questions to guide the students’ learning.  i.e. What is different about the pictures? What is the same?  What are the boys doing? Guide them through the next three slides.  Do a few  “Turn and Talks.” Ask your students how they knew what the keyword was? Listen in to assess which students seem to be getting it and which aren’t quite there yet.

listening pg5listening pg6

listening pg7

 After you try one together, create some additional slides with the same kind of listening questions if you feel your students need more guidance. Once you feel they are ready to try some on their own, You can send them back to their desks to try this technique by themselves. Circulate the room and conference with students that you noticed were struggling during the Turn and Talks. Ask students to Think Aloud and ask themselves questions just like Lola did.

Here is the link to this presentation.  Modify as you see fit! I recommend pausing before each slide plays so that you can read the slide and share with your students what they will be doing next.

http://www.voki.com/presenter/playPresentation.php?id=f5aa4bd09c07d8b2f65bad6c7cd3358f

Please comment and tell me what kind of presentations you would like to see.  What topics? Which subjects?

 Let Me Know!

Cheers,

Heather

Heather

Bio: Heather is the Community Manager for Voki and is part of the Marketing Team at Oddcast.  Before she joined the Voki team, she was a teacher for 7 years!  She has taught in charter, private, and public schools all across NYC. With her teacher hat on, she will create meaningful, engaging, and relevant content that can be implemented in your classrooms.  She is excited to partner with you to engage and educate your students! 

Voki: Changing The Way My Students Learn

Voki: Changing The Way My Students Learn

gurgastudentphotoHow is Voki revolutionizing the way students learn in the classroom? Find out in Gianna Gurga’s

(Our newest guest blogger’s) blog post!

https://fishphilosopher.wordpress.com/2015/03/10/voki-changing-the-way-my-students-learn/

gianna gurgaGianna Gurga is a Family and Consumer Sciences teacher at 2 PK-8 schools in Waterbury, CT. She has been teaching for 4 years and has developed a passion for increasing students’ learning abilities by incorporating technology into various lessons and activities. Currently, Gianna is 5 weeks away from completing her Master of Education program in Instructional Design and Technology at Post University in Waterbury, CT. In addition to being a full-time teacher and graduate student, she is a High School Girls Tennis Coach, a ZUMBA Fitness Instructor, and a Mary Kay Independent Beauty Consultant.

Heather Joins The Team

Heather Joins The Team

Hello Voki users!

My name is Heather Brown and I am the new Community Manager at Voki. One of the reasons why I joined the Voki Team is because—as a teacher– I see such potential in Voki. It truly is a groundbreaking tool for students and teachers. I believe that if Voki and educators work together, we will be able to revolutionize the way students engage with curriculum and the way teachers engage with students.

So, let me backtrack for a second and tell you a little bit about me. I am a New Yorker, born and raised in Manhattan. My mother is a teacher, my father is a teacher, and my sister is a teacher.

One might say teaching is my family’s “family business.”

I’ve taught in schools all over NYC for seven years. During my travels, I noticed a few harrowing things:

  1. Many students weren’t engaged
  1. Many teachers were overwhelmed
  1. New curricula and common core standards were making numbers 1. and 2. even worse.

It’s clear that we can’t possibly solve these issues overnight.

But, it is my belief that a good first step is helping teachers feel more comfortable with what technology can offer them in their classrooms.

It can be scary to try something new. It can be hard to see the benefits of utilizing the digital space as an academic tool.  It can feel like just another new task to add to the pile of duties you already have. All of these feelings are very real and understandable.

But, I’ll share something I learned my first year as a teacher.  A phrase I still whisper to myself seven years later– “You have to lean into discomfort.” Besides, this is something that we ask our students to do every single day! Shouldn’t we lead by example and show them that even as an adult it is okay to be fearful of failing as long as you push through that fear?   Well, you know what my answer is. Of course, we must show our students that we, too, are learners who fail and fail again, until we succeed.

And you won’t be alone. There are so many teachers out there who are learning just like you, how to integrate technology into the classroom. Let us help. Voki and your fellow teachers are prepared to be your guides through the educational digital landscape.

Now, to those of you who are already taking advantage of the benefits that being a technologically savvy teacher can bring, BRAVO!  Keep doing what you’re doing.  Your students thank you for engaging them and bringing learning to life. But, remember, you have a responsibility to share your digital experiences with other educators who may need some guidance. Take them under your wing, share with them, and support them.

As for me, I am here to make teaching just a little bit easier for you.

  • I will post meaningful content across all of the Voki platforms—including this one.
  • I will listen to your needs, wants, frustrations, and feedback.
  • I will keep you abreast of the changes occurring at Voki Headquarters.
  • I will motivate you during your most challenging times.
  • I will facilitate the sharing of innovative ideas within our community.

At Voki, we believe that a close-knit community of teachers sharing their knowledge, technological expertise, and creativity, is a MUST in the movement to educate and engage.

So, are you with us?

BioHeather: Heather is the Community Manager for Voki and is part of the Marketing Team  at Oddcast.  Before she joined the Voki team, she was a teacher for 7 years!  She has taught  in charter, private, and public schools all across NYC. She is excited to partner with you to  engage and educate your students! 

Ed-Tech Checklist for the New School Year

Ed-Tech Checklist for the New School Year

checklist2The new school year will be here before you know it. Do you have all the items you need for your classroom? Don’t panic if you don’t! We put together a quick ed-tech checklist for you so you can be fully prepared for the upcoming school year! So let’s get started with the list:

  1. Ed-tech budget. Set up a quick meeting with the school administrators to confirm the budget for classroom technologies. Then order all the tech/equipment you need so you can have it all set up and ready to go for the new school year!
  2. Update devices. If you use computers, laptops, and tablets in class, you should double check to see if the devices need to be updated. Double check and see if any program needs to be updated or re-installed. Make sure that all the equipment you are planning to use is fully functional. Now, we don’t want to have a broken SMART board in the classroom, right?
  3. Update class website. For the upcoming school year, you should update your class website with new content (new announcement, new page color/theme, etc.). Create a new welcome message for your students and a short announcement to parents about your plan for using ed-tech in class this school year.
  4. Plan your ed-tech lessons. It is never too early to plan your lessons. Be prepared and plan your ed-tech lessons ahead. Plan your first three (or more) ed-tech lessons with your new students. It’s better to be prepared than sorry!
  5. Useful ed-tech blogs. Find a great blog that will help you with your ed-tech adventures. A good ed-tech blog should include new tools, tips, and techniques that you can use in class. For a list of top ed-tech blogs, check it out on EdTech Magazine.

Hopefully that this is a good list for teachers to follow! But there are other items that can be added to the checklist. If you have any other suggests for teachers to prepare for the new school year, let us know!

Until next time,

Eva D.

The Voki Team

1560505_10152516453053764_8553617582835278394_nBio: Eva is the Community Manager for Voki and is part of the Marketing Team at Oddcast. She enjoys playing the piano and knitting on her free time. (She’s also a Rubik’s cube master!) She loves to hear your feedback and comments for Voki!

Technology: It exists. Make it come alive!

Technology: It exists. Make it come alive!

At its most basic level, technology is the advancement of knowledge through the use of new tools, trades, and methods. This in mind, we can say that technology is not, and has never been, a new concept to society, or to school districts. Here’s a short video to illustrate the point:

Before we had ball point pens, we had fountain pens and before we had wood based paper, we had the costly and elusive rag-based paper made from textiles and linens. Today, we have paper, pens, desktops, laptops, smart phones, touch pads and much more. It is now time we maximize each item’s potential as our predecessors did when paper was no longer an item of the elite, but could be used by everyone.

The speed at which new educational tools are introduced is staggering, and it can be overwhelming for educators to think about maintaining an up-to-date classroom on top of everything else. For this reason, we have created Voki Classroom. Serving as a platform for teachers to manage all of their students’ Voki assignments, Voki Classroom makes integrating technology and education a breeze. To make things even easier, we have also been adding lesson plans created with Voki Classroom in mind. We’ll continue adding new lessons, for both Voki and Voki Classroom, throughout the year.

Keeping up with the technological Joneses may seem daunting but Voki Classroom, along with other online tools, exists to make the transition very smooth. If you are interested in Voki Classroom, you can get all the info – such as features, pricing, and so on – at www.voki.com.

Also, check out these links below for technology tips for teachers:

Ten Tips by Jose Picardo

Ronn Waters, Technology Proponent

Until next time!

The Voki Team

Interviews with Educators | Mrs. Menezez

Interviews with Educators | Mrs. Menezez

Ana Maria Menezez is an English teacher in Brazil and uses Voki to inspire her students to speak up and learn a foreign language in an engaging atmosphere. Ana was kind enough to share with us some examples of how she uses Voki in the classroom along with some of her own tips and tricks.

Ana uses Voki to motivate students to practice speaking in a personalized way and also creates her own Voki to improve interaction between teacher and student. One of the most important things about Voki for Ana is its ability to help the quieter students speak up and have a voice in class.

For more of Ana’s tips, tricks, and Voki experiences, check out the interview below!

Check out Ana’s blog: Life Feast

Follow Ana on Twitter: @anamariacult

Want to be interviewed for the Voki blog?
Send us an email at submit@voki.com and we’ll get in touch!