Monday, May 18, 2015


This post follows on the one I wrote last week about the Pearson event for teachers held in Valencia a few weeks ago. Brian Engquist, head of the teacher training department at Pearson Spain was responsible for this second seminar. The focus of the talk was how to integrate exam preparation into our day-to-day teaching. The title of the talk, Stay calm and teach: making exam skills invisible, already suggests that our main focus as teachers should actually be that: teaching, and that exam skills should be implied in the teaching process.

The first question we should ask ourselves is about the bad reputation of exams. Well, we can argue that exams serve the purpose of motivation. Passing an exam and getting a certificate is a great motivator, especially for young learners. 

In order to integrate exam skills into our teaching process we should think of them as communication skills. The activities students must do in exams usually reflect activities we do in our daily life. Writing tasks, whether we talk about emails, letters, reports or articles, are something people must do, therefore when we are training students for exams we are actually training them for real-life tasks.

It was suggested during the talk that students' output is actually teachers' greatest resource. For example, we could spend an afternoon browsing for pictures to bring to class in order to use them with the students or we could ask them to bring pictures themselves on a selected topic; in this way we can create an image bank to use with other classes. Something I have tried with my own students is having higher-level students produce a speaking activity about a particular topic that we may record on video and later modify and adapt as a listening activity for lower-level students.

After the first half an hour the talk focused mainly on the use of technology and internet tools we could use with our students; tools that students may use themselves in order to produce their activities. Whenever we want to introduce technology in the classroom it is useful to check the SAMR model for evaluating technology use. You can see this model below:
SAMR model for evaluating technology use.

The SAMR model establishes four stages that go from enhancement to transformation. The first two stages, substitution and augmentaion, act as direct tool substitutes but involve little or no functional change. 

The last two stages involve transformation of the task and creation of new tasks.

This chart will allow us to identify which tools are more suitable for the activities we intend to introduce.

The advantages of using video with our students is that it involves speaking and listening; therefore we can integrate two skills in one activity. Video activities seem like the most normal type of activity since students are used to watching and listening at the same time.

Voicethread and Movenote are two tools that allow you record your voice; with the first you can also make comments on the videos whereas the second is perfect for making online presentations.

Educanon and EDpuzzle work in a similar way, they allow you to use videos and edit them adding multiple choice, true/false and open questions but you can also dub them with your own voice.

We have seen a few tools to practise listening and speaking. As for writing and reading, googledocs is a great tool because it allows students to collaborate, share the work they have done among them, make comments on the side and see a history of the changes made to the document.

From all these tools I have used myself Movenote and EDpuzzle, you can see here the videos I have been editng and the presentations I have made.

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