Developing Your Digital Study Skills

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Making the move from our safe and trusted traditional literacy habits to newer digital skills can be quite a challenge, but as teachers I think we are really unlikely to be able to use technology and help our students use technology really effectively unless we are prepared to face this challenge. Technology needs to be more than part of the way we teach but it also has to be part of the way we ourselves continue to learn and part of our everyday professional practice.

Scrible is one tool that has been helping me to make this step away from my paper and pencil study habits and towards a more efficient and digital way of learning.

Scrible enables me to replace my highlighter, sticky notes and coloured pens and to work with similar tools directly on the computer screen.

As an information addict, I spend quite a lot of my time scanning through blogs and journal articles about educational technology and language learning and trying to keep track of useful quotes and information from around the web. Recently I have started using Scrible to help me do this.

Scrible is a simple browser plugin that I can activate whenever I find something interesting online. The plugin opens a toolbar which enables me to annotate and mark up webpages with different colour highlighters, sticky notes and change the colour of the text.

But is can do more than this, because it also enables me to save the articles and webpages I have commented on, along with my my annotations into a library so that I can come back and find them later.

Once I have saved the annotated pages I can also share them with others by creating a simple link. These links can be either as ‘read only’ (the students can see my annotations but not change them) or as ‘editable’ pages (students  can see my annotations and also add their own) that I can work on collaboratively.

For me this is a great study aid and really ensures that I can go back, find and review all the articles I’ve studied.

How to use Scrible EFL / ESL students

We can get our students to use Scrible in the same way that we would to study an online text, though we can also use it to focus them on language development too. Here are some suggestions.

  • Get students to identify and change the colour of all collocations. They can use different colours for different types.

  • Use the sticky notes to set up reading tasks and comprehension questions and get students to highlight the part of the text where they find the answer.

  • Get students to read a text and post sticky note questions about it for you to answer.

  • Get students to colour code different parts of speech within the text.

  • get students to colour highlight different verb structures. They could also leave sticky notes saying what the structure is or what use of the structure is being demonstrated.

  • Get students to use sticky notes to define words from the text.

What I’m not so sure about

  • The toolbar can be a little bit fiddly sometimes and it’s difficult to attach sticky notes to specific areas of images.

On the whole I really like Scrible and have found it really useful to help me move away from pen and paper in a way that makes much more sense as most of my studying is done online using digital resources.

I hope you give it a try too.

Related links:


Nik Peachey

Instant Opinion Polls in the Classroom

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

For a long time now I have been looking for a tool that enables
instant polling in the classroom or in the lecture room. I specifically
wanted something that:

  •  doesn't require registration (especially from the people I'm polling)

  • updates very quickly

  • works on any platform from computers to mobile devices

It looks like I have finally found what I've been looking for and
best of all it's free. The tool that I have found is Mentimeter and it
does all of the above.

Creating the poll was really quick and easy I just went to and typed in my question, then I clicked on
'Create Question',

I then entered my selection of answer choices, chose a theme and clicked on 'Save and Start Presenting'.

The poll is then ready to use. There are a number of ways of sharing it.

can get a URL with a code to restrict entry or to make it quick and
easy to share in presentations (Here's one on the flipped classroom. The
URL is always then you have a specific code for the
poll, which in this case is 23512 ) anyone with this code can then vote. By all means give it a try.

You can click on share after you create your poll and get a
direct web link which you can share through social media, such as
Twitter or Facebook etc.

By clicking on 'Share' on your poll page you can also get an
embed code or a link to to a public results page. I've embded the poll
below to show you how it looks.

So what's so great about creating live polls?

  • Well they are
    great if you are lecturing or presenting at a conference with a
    wireless network as you can get instant feedback and responses that
    everyone can share in and so involve more people.

  • You can use them in class as a quick test to see if students have understood your material.

  • You can get students to create them and test each other.

  • You can use them for opinion polls in class, both before and after discussions to see if there is any shift in opinion.

  • The
    responses are anonymous, so it's a good tool to use to get honest
    feedback if you are doing action research in class, especially if it is
    related to a sensitive issue, such as your own teaching style or methods.

What's not to like?

  • Well there isn't much I can say that I don't like about this tool.

  • I'd like to have polls with more than one question though.

  • You have to be careful about using polls like this on mobile
    phones if your students are having to pay a connection charge, so it
    really helps to be able to get them on the wireless network if you are
    using it in class.

I hope you find useful and enjoy using it with your students.

Related links:


Nik Peachey

Getting Learning out of the Classroom with Augmented Reality

Friday, April 6, 2012

For a while now I have been expounding the wonders of augmented reality (See: Augmented Reality and Web 3.0) , so I thought it was time at last to give some examples of how we can actually get students using this technology and to show how it can superimpose the Internet onto their physical world.

So here are some teaching suggestion which exploit two augmented reality type apps and gives students some reading, listening and speaking practice, as well as a bit of exercise.

The apps you need for this activity are both free and the first is 'Woices'.

Woices is a simple voice recording app that you can use on your mobile device to create and upload audio files to the Internet. You can also add an image to your audio recordings. The wonderful thing about Woices though is that by using GPS it understands where you were when you created the audio file and 'attaches' it to that location, so anyone who has the Woices app can go to the location and find the audio file by clicking on the 'Explore' icon on their app.

So it's a bit like leaving hidden audio notes around the world that only other Woices users can find.

Here's how it works. 

First register on the Woices website and download the app for your mobile device.

When you open the app it looks like this. You simply click on 'Record' to start speaking.

 When you have finished speaking click on 'Stop'. Then you can listen and delete the recording (recordings are called 'echoes'), or if you are happy with it, you can click on the small blue arrow on the right and add a title and description as well as a photo to your echo.

Then you click on 'Send' to publish it to the internet and this will use your phones GPS to attach it to the location where you created the echo.

To find 'echoes' which are relevant to your location, just click on the 'Explore' icon and you will get a list of 'echoes' which have been left close to your location.

The second app is called Layar and Layar enables developers to create web based multimedia information (called 'layers')which can only be accessed whenever you are close to specific locations.

Layar comes with  a number of packs of layers and the one that I want to use is the Wikipedia one. This layer enables users to find entries in Wikipedia which relate specifically to places in their environment.

So wherever the user is standing when they  activate the app they will get information which relates specifically to that place.

Here's how it works.

You need to download the Layar app for your mobile device. Make sure that when you open the app for the first time, you enable the location tracking feature so that Layar knows where you are. Then go to the layers.

You'll find the Wikipedia layer in the Education section. Click on it and then click on 'Launch'.

When you hold up your phone and move it around slowly you should start to see the Wikipedia summaries appearing at the bottom of the screen.

At the top of the screen you'll also see a kind of 'radar' screen which shows you where the interesting places are in relation to where you are standing.

If you click on the small Wikipedia summary you will get two more icons.

One of these takes you to the entry on Wikipedia for that location.

The other takes you to a map, which will show you how to get to the place from where you standing.

So here is how we can use this to create motivating out of school activities

  • Ask your students to find 5 interesting places around their town using the Wikipedia layer. They should go to each place research it on Wikipedia  using the Layar app and then record a short audio entry using Woices and add a picture to it. (You can check their entries through the Woices web based interface)

  • You could make a kind of treasure hunt and got to the places yourself and use Woices to leave audio clues about the next place to visit, so that students have to listen to your clue when they get to the location (by pressing the 'Explore' icon on the Woices app) and research the places around them on Wikipedia to find out where to go next to find the next clue. You could get them to leave an audio entry and image at each place along the trail to prove they have been there.

  • You could use Woices to leave audio notes at a set of locations and have factual errors in the notes. Then your students would have to visit the places, press 'Explore' and find the factual errors by comparing your audio with the Wikipedia entry for that place.

  • Get students to create their own audio tours or treasure hunts for each other using Woices and the Wikipedia layer.

What I like about augmented reality

  • I think it's great that we can get students learning about their environment outside of the classroom.

  • Taking learning out of the classroom like this gives students tools which they can use in their everyday life.

Things to be aware of

  • Be careful of your students e-safety and make sure they don't leave any information about their home address or where they live.

  • Make students aware of their digital 'footprint' so that they use social media responsibly.

I hope this shows at least a little of the potential of augmented reality apps on mobile devices. I think there is huge potential in these kinds of apps to develop location based experiential learning that can get our students out and about exploring their environment and interacting with the world around them through the internet. I hope you give it a try.

Lastly, I'd like to welcome Worth Ave Group as a new advertiser. 


Related links:


Nik Peachey