Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Tech Tips Tuesday

This Week's Tip: Livemocha

Julie Lindsay shared this link in her Across My Desk (Weekly), so I thought I'd check it out for myself...and now I'm hooked! Livemocha is a social network for learning languages. It makes so much sense that I wonder why it has taken us (well, me) so long to get to this point.

I've found myself being drawn to language learning at various points throughout my life so far. At high school I learnt bits of German and then a few years of Japanese. In Year 12 I learnt some Russian in preparation for some voluntary work in a Russian Summer Camp. While teaching at a school with Spanish as a LOTE (Language Other Than English) I did a basic course in Beginning Spanish. A couple of years ago, I did further study of Spanish at my local Technical College. And, yet again, I'm drawn to learning for two main reasons:

1. I'd like to be able to travel to Japan and REALLY experience it.
2. Should I ever have a child, I'd like to be able to bring them up bilingual.

So how does Livemocha work?
After registering for an account (I chose the free version and so far it is meeting my needs) I selected the course/s I wanted to work on and began my first lesson. The lesson content is the same for each language, just with different vocabulary (obviously!) The first part of each lesson involves seeing images, listening to the spoken language and seeing the written text (translation is available). At the end of this part you can choose to make a flashcard set from the vocabulary. The second part is a review quiz covering the content just seen. The third part is a written task to apply the vocabulary learnt. This is then submitted to the network (and this is the best part) for a native speaker to review for you! The fourth part is a spoken task, recorded with your computer's microphone, again submitted for review. Whenever you submit a task, you are invited to review someone else's task. You get Mocha points for completing lessons and also for reviewing the work of others.

Why I love it
The way I see it, this is collaboration at its best. We are all teaching AND learning at the same time. I need others to support me with Japanese and Spanish, others need me to support them with English. I understand the struggles of others as I struggle too. Helping others is easy, but the help of others is invaluable. It makes so much sense!

The not so good bits
Sometimes the vocabulary is inconsistent across the different parts of the lessons. For example, in my first Japanese lesson, there were new characters in the speaking part that weren't introduced in the vocabulary lesson.
Involvement can become time-consuming. I find that a lesson takes about half an hour from start to finish, and then on top of that I end up doing quite a bit of reviewing others' work. This hasn't been a problem while I'm on holidays, but once work starts back, I'm not sure how it will go.
Some of the written tasks involve divulging information about upcoming holidays, directions to your house etc. I am not comfortable providing this online to strangers, so change the task in order to protect myself. I'm also cautious of how this may be used by people to make connections beyond the language learning arena as I've already had a message from someone (not a regular user of Livemocha) suggesting we meet up.

How could you use this?
If you would like to learn a language this is a great way to do it, particularly if you have some prior knowledge of the language. I wouldn't suggest using this with students given my objections regarding personal safety/privacy.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

12th Teaching K-6 Carnival

Welcome to the January 2010 edition of the Teaching K-6 Carnival. This edition marks the start of the second year of this carnival. As we head into 2010 we look forward to another year of learning filled with inspiration, collaboration, and challenges.

Brain Strain

Allison Johanson presents a great read for those teachers on vacation who are looking for ways to keep their minds active. You may also find some useful ideas for the classroom in her 55 Tips to Instantly Make Your Brain Stronger and Faster posted at Masters in Health Informatics.

Nightwalker explains Content-Based Instruction – A Cognitive Approach in his post at My English Pages. This is a good introduction as a starting point to learning and applying content-based instruction.

Gripes and Brags

Mimi shares her passion for children's books and tells us about a close encounter with the author type in Warning: People In Mirror May Not Be As Fabulous As They Appear posted at It's Not All Flowers and Sausages. If you haven't discovered her blog yet, don't hold off any longer - it's a winner.

In the News

Keira presents Why Should Kids Read Newspapers? posted at Literature Young Adult Fiction, saying, "Reading the newspaper is a great way to encourage reading habits and teach skills."

Innovate - Beyond the Slate

Rachel Lynette of Minds in Bloom gives us a great list of ideas to help us Get out of that Rut! These suggestions help to shake things up in the classroom to prevent boredom setting in.

Tom DeRosa presents Use a Deck of Cards to Set Your Child Up For Future Math Success posted at I Want to Teach Forever. These simple suggestions help students to develop skills with sorting and counting and pave the way for more difficult concepts.

MG presents ideas on Teaching our kids to save. posted at Personalize Baby. Why not use this suggestion to inspire an art project to make personalised piggy banks that students can fill at home?

At A Reader's Community, M Dahms presents an answer to the question What is Reader's Workshop? Here you can find all you need to get started and keep going with Reader's Workshops.

Elementaryhistoryteacher presents Bespoken Blacksmiths posted at History Is Elementary. This post helps us to think more about the importance of teaching subject specific vocabulary, and also helps us to understand the context of blacksmithing.

Vera Lang presents How to Knit Christmas Tree Ornaments posted at Fine Craft Guild .com. While a little late for this year, these may come in handy for 2010. "These little Christmas tree ornaments are so easy that kids could make them as presents for their family home. Great seasonal projects. Free patterns, illustrations and craft tips provides."

Why not submit your post for the next carnival?

The Teaching K-6 Carnival is posted monthly on the 7th. I will be collecting submissions throughout the next month, looking in particular for posts that discuss and exemplify innovative teaching and the integration of technology in the K-6 classroom. I also invite some discussion around education related news articles and a few "brain strains" to keep our minds alert and challenged. Please submit only articles of which you are the author and refrain from using this merely as a sales pitch. For full details, please read my call for submissions.

If you have a relevant post that you would like to submit to the next edition of Teaching K-6 Carnival use our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

Support this Carnival

If you enjoyed this edition of the carnival, you can support its continuation by sharing it with others. Link to us, add us to a tweet, stumble or digg us. Thanks!

Technorati tags: , .