Adapting online creation tools for Primary ELT environments
16th September 2017
by Jen Dobson
Part of the joy of teaching involves enhancing classes with stimulating materials. The imaginative integration of exciting new technology can be not only extremely motivating for our young learners, but can also be a way for us to reinvigorate our planning and teaching. For me, the best educational use of technology is both collaborative and creative.
However, it’s pretty unlikely we will find the exact tool to serve all our purposes and situations. So, often a little bit of experimentation and imaginative adaptation will be needed.
Why we need to adapt
Factors to consider will be the age of the children, the size of the classes, the individual needs of our learners, any special educational needs, the language we wish to focus on, how we will share our creations, and all e-safety aspects.
Read here for information about the danger of posting images of young learners online
Our environments will also dictate our possible use of technology. We could be working in those with high technological resources, with top of the range IWBs and individual student laptops/tablets, and other fun hardware. It’s also likely that we won’t have such luxuries, working in lower resource situations, for example, sharing one room with a non-internet connected PC, or no tech facilities at all. However, I think we can now hope to assume, that a teacher will have a mobile device like a phone, and even if it isn’t within their work place, access to the internet.
In addition, our countries of residence may have restrictions on certain sites, and the amount of support from our work colleagues and management can also play a major role to the extent to which we feel we can experiment in this field.
To exemplify some suggestions to adapt available online tools, I’ll take a couple of my favourites.
Create a digital jigsaw
One of my favourite activities with the younger Primary learners is to create a digital jigsaw puzzle with a child’s drawing. For example, we may be dealing with the topic of clothes and the children could draw themselves wearing their favourite clothes to go out in.
http://www.jigsawplanet.com/ is an extremely simple online tool. It’s web based and suitable for all mobile devices. You upload a photo to the site, choose the amount of pieces and difficulty, a jigsaw is created, and a link generated. The next class you could open the link to display the jigsaw pieces and review the language from the previous lesson through making the puzzle.
Adapt the technology: In the past, we’d have needed to scan the drawing to upload. Now we can quickly snap a photo with our phones to upload later. If the children had tablets in class, they could work together to take photos of their own drawings to upload.
To open the link and make the puzzle, ideally you’d use an IWB, or tablets, but we can equally work with a laptop to a projector. The children could either take turns to make the puzzle using your laptop, come to the board and point to the pieces to be moved, or, alternatively we can buy a cheap presenter’s light pointer and the children can pass this round to point at the board to indicate where to move the pieces to.
Adapt the language and level: To increase the language level and age range, you can simply add more text. The children could label their drawings, or create drawings with text and speech bubbles.
As a general maxim, I'd say, where possible, use known language for a new tool, and a known tool for new language.
Adapt where you share: For this tool, you can simply copy and paste the URL to any shared platform you may have set up. It may be worth also setting the language of these platforms to those of the care givers to ensure accessibility. Alternatively, to avoid handing out long URLs, you could use an online URL shortener to reduce the length of the URL, or a QR code generator to create a QR code to share with the children’s care givers.
Create a digital story book
Digital book creators and comic makers are very motivating creative tools that encourage fun productive language output from young learners. There are many different versions of these depending on your operating system, or device, and though I would normally advocate searching for free technology tools, by paying a small extra fee you’ll have the option for unlimited stories, and sharing choices, that mean the care givers will be able to enjoy the finished pieces of work regardless of their own devices and OS.
These tools usually have options to upload photos and artwork, add text, and record sound. The authenticity of the book style comes through allowing choices, regards the design of covers, author descriptions, text fonts and colours.
You could, for example, make a simple book for a recipe for a local speciality, using written instructions, art work and voice recording.
Adapt to the size of class
Often recording learners in large groups was rejected because of interference from background noise. However, the microphone quality of modern mobile devices means that small collaborative groups working together can make good quality recordings, despite background ambient noise.
For example, in a large primary school class of ten-year-olds, groups were working in fours at their tables. One group finished quickly, so I was able to take my one mobile device and quickly show them how to work the app, take photos of their written work, record the recipe instructions and create their digital book.
In a follow-up class these children could, in turn, explain to another group. In this way, we could gradually build up a series of books.
Adapt where the technology is done
For those in the youngest age range of primary, who don’t have the tech skills to do the above, yet would still really appreciate a digital book, once we're familiar with the digital tool it really can be very simple to use it at home to prepare a book for the class. Giving us the advantage of being able to personalise it, perhaps to their course book characters, their class, country or region.
Adapt who’s inputting
One of my all time favourite uses of collaborative creative technology is to ask an older group of learners to create something to teach a younger group. They can even then teach the younger ones how to use the digital tool.
To conclude, I hope some of these ideas will be helpful to create, adapt, and experiment.