Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Getting students signed up for free Quizlet user accounts (false start!)

In the week before our first computer lab meeting, I had the bright idea to have my Freshman English students signed up for free Quizlet accounts using their smart phones.  Bad idea.  Even though they have used the website or app before on their smart phones, it did not go well at all.  

One reason is that the app language is in English, so it was not easy for them to understand what to do. Some were signing up using their Facebook accounts, and some created new accounts with usernames and passwords.  Trying to monitor 24 students doing all this at the same time was quite stressful and not very effective.

And slow cell phone signals and wifi in classroom caused some smart phones to jam up.

I quickly realized that  trying to do it this way was a bad idea, so we stopped right there and then and moved on.  

The takeaway is to do it in a computer lab, very slowly and clearly, leading them through the process on the Quizlet website.  Another option would be to use my smart phone mirrored up on the TV screen.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Change of Focus...

Over the last three years, I have been experimenting with incorporating Anki, a spaced-repetition software (SRS), flashcard website and smartphone application (app) into my teaching.  Personally and professionally, I think Anki on a mobile device is one of the best learning tools/methods available, and I use it daily to study Japanese.

However, I have come to the reluctant conclusion that Anki is not a good choice for many traditional teaching situations.  To work effectively, SRS systems require the users to be very serious and diligent in their use.  Many of my students, especially those taking required English classes, are not motivated enough to use it properly.  As much as they say they want to learn English, few of them put forth the time and effort, for many understandable reasons.

In short, using Anki incorrectly is an inefficient and ineffective way to study and may be a waste of time.

With that in mind, I have decided to change my focus to Quizlet (website and app) which has many similar features but does not require such serious and diligent use to be effective.  Quizlet has a variety of study and game modes to keep it interesting for students.  Another nice option is that teachers can create classes that students join and allow the teacher to keep track (in a limited way) on student use.

So, the plan for this semester is to incorporate Quizlet into two classes.

One is a regular Freshman English class, and we will meet in a computer lab once a week (out of four 45-minute classes) to use Quizlet.  We will aslo use Quizlet on smartphones for short periods on the three other days.

The other class is a once-a-week (90 minute) class.  We will also meet in a computer lab, with half the class time focused on face-to-face communication in my regular teaching style.  The other half of the class will be focused on using the Quizlet website, especially using the Test mode as an assessment device.

Overall, I want to see how to best use Quizlet in class for both students and teachers.  I also want to explore ways to get students to use the smartphone app (or website if they don't have a smartphone) to study Quizlet outside of class and how to monitor that usage in a useful way.