Thursday, November 29, 2012


    A podcast is a type of digital media consisting of an episodic series of audio, radio, or video files. It could be subscribed to and downloaded through web to a computer or a mobile device. As has been mentioned by Cassinelli, C in the video Integrating Podcasting into Your Classroom , “our students today are digital natives”. In order to provide the best learning experiences to our students, educators today should update our instruction methods. Podcast is a very effective classroom instruction tool.

   Take the ESL podcast for example, it provides English learners with stories embedded with useful vocabularies. Both the script and voice explanation for each story are available so that readers could better understand the key ideas of each story. This could be a great supplement for ESL classroom teaching. 
 Take episode 12 Dining at a restaurant for example, the story details the process of dining at a restaurant: how does the waiter greet you, how do you respond to the waiter and so on. Almost everything one needs to know about restaurant conversation is listed and explained in the corresponding radio. This makes it perfect for oral English classes. Teachers could set one topic each time and use the podcast as a supplementary material. For example, if today's topic is dining out, teachers could have students listen to this exact episode and then have students discuss the key phrases used in the conversation. After that, role play could be carried out so that students could have a chance to practive what they have just learned.  

Friday, November 16, 2012


ePals provides an online classroom-matching and collaboration service, where students in different schools, states, or countries can work together on projects in private, customizable group workspaces. With ePals, you could start your own project, or you could choose from the library of existing projects ePals provides.

I explored several of ePals existing projects. Two Classes in Hollywood, CA, USA Seek International ePals Partners is a project in which a group of 14 public school kids in 6th grade located in Hollywood, California, USA would like to exchange opinions, ideas, and the general culture and events with partners around the world. I like this project because it enhances both students’ writing skills, but also students’ cultural understanding. Another type of project I explored is the language-learning type, for example, French Teensseek English Email Exchange, German Students Seek Email Exchange withAustralians, Seeking Japanese Speakers forEmail Exchange and so on. All these projects are used by foreign-language learning students who intend to improve their language skills by exchanging emails with native language speakers. Topics could range from culture and history to daily life.  

Other features available in ePals are LEARN 365sm and in2books. LEARN 365sm includes ePals SchoolMail, a unique K12 email solution with fully customizable communication policies and permissions and ePals learningSpace, an online learning platform that enables educators to differentiate instruction, manage classroom activities, preserve a legacy of students and facilitate collaboration around the educational content. In2books is ePal's curriculum-based e-mentoring program for students in grades 3-5. It matches students with adult pen-pals who read the same books and exchange teacher-supervised, online letters about the books.

In2books will be a great tool for students to practice their writing skills. Besides, it allows students to choose the book by themselves under the category listed by the teacher. This will build up students’ responsibility and interest once they make a choice and embark on their reading journey. The teacher-supervision function offered by In2books makes it easier for teach to monitor and control the whole situation. Personally, I would like to use In2books for summer and winter vocations. Summer and winter vocations are usually great time for students to read several books as they have plenty of time by themselves. Usually, teachers would designate several books for students to read and at the end of the vocation, students will be asked to hand in a reflection paper, which is the traditional way to evaluate students’ reading. This traditional reading and evaluation mode is very ineffective as teachers have nothing to do with the reading process and couldn’t provide timely help to students if they ever encounter any difficulty during their reading. With in2books, all these problems could be solved. The selection of their own books to read and the exchange of letters with pen pals make the whole reading task much more interesting. And the monitoring function would keep teachers informed of students’ situation at all times. 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Voice Thread

After listening to all the voice threads in my group, I like Keri’s Bienvenue a la classe de francais and Jinsoo’s VoiceThread. In Keri’s voice thread, students are asked to introduce themselves and tell why they would like to learn French and what kind of activities they hope to have in the class. Keri has very clear instruction in the voice thread as to how to use the voice thread. I like Keri’s idea of using voice thread as the introduction to the course, especially if it is an online course. The use of VT and the presence of classmates introducing themselves through VT make it like a real classroom discussion. Students can hear each other’s voices and even know each other’s faces if they set pictures in their account.
Jinsoo uses the VT as a platform for discussion of a specific topic. Voice Thread is great for discussion or debate as multiple people can voice their opinions. And Second language teacher could use this topic discussion method to engage students to speak. Besides, the way students comment on voice thread instead of talking directly to the classmates could encourage some students who are shy and who are usually reluctant to speak in the classroom to voice their ideas. 

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Go! Animate

                                                 Happy hour by xieyuhhy on GoAnimate
                                              Animation Software - Powered by GoAnimate.
Comics appeal to people in general, especially children. And for a long time, comic strips are thought to be only for recreational purposes. The use of comics in education is based on the concept of creating engagement and motivation for students. The use of comics as the medium for classroom instruction could be very effective in arousing students’ interest and engaging their attention.

  In the comic strip I made “Happy Hour”, the traditional text-book dialogue was changed into a vivid and real-situation conversation. By embedding boring vocabularies and grammar into a comic strip, I intend to create setting in which it is easier and funnier for students to learn vocabularies and grammar. In this comic strip, students could learn words like giraffe, zebra, brother, outfit, grab and so on.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Ms. Xie's ABC


Digital storytelling is a wonderful tool for classroom instruction as the creativity empowered by it does a better job in capturing students’ attention. 
    I used Bubblr to create a story titled “Ms. Xie's ABC by Yu Xie". In the story, I listed several words which begin with letters A, B and C respectively. By creating this visual story, I intend to let students understand and memorize those vocabularies. The images shown in the digital story will help students to associate the abstract word with a vivid picture, therefore is better able to memorize those words. Following what I have done in my digital story,  students will be given assignments in which they will be asked to create their own stories to help themselves learn vocabularies. At the end of this project, students should be able to remember those words and create sentences using those words.  

Digital Storytelling

Digital storytelling som verktyg för företag och organisationer @ SSWC 2010 (Sweden Social Web Camp)Digital storytelling is the practice of combining narrative with digital content, including images, sound and video, to create a short movie (7 things you should know about digital storytelling). Digital storytelling is visually more engaging than traditional storytelling. The huge creative latitude empowered by digital storytelling has made it more and more popular among different users for various purposes. One of the purposes is for educational use. The accessibility of technology has provided opportunities for education not imagined a decade ago. And story-telling is a vital skill with seemingly unlimited applications. The combination of the two has made it a wonderful educational tool. Digital stories can vary in length, but most of the stories used in education typically last between two and ten minutes (The educational uses of digital storytelling).

As a teacher, I personally would like to include digital storytelling into the curriculum. I would create my own stories and show them to the students as a new way to present routine material. An engaging digital story does a better job in capturing the attention of students and increasing their interest in exploring new ideas. Besides, including digital stories into curriculum could make some abstract content more understandable. Also, digital storytelling could  also be used by students. Research topics will be given to students and they are allowed to create their own stories. This type of homework is more interesting than traditional paper work and students’ creativity could be better tapped.  

Friday, October 12, 2012

McDonald's Video Game

There is a lot of reading in many computer games. This includes instructions on how to play the game, the objectives, in-game text from characters or game help, and the walkthrough. More importantly, being turned on by the games, kids can read a level over their head. All this makes online games ideal for outside of classroom reading practice. 

     The McDonald's Game is a serious game that students could play outside of the classroom for autonomous learning. I played it twice and found that the entire game relies on the player’s understanding of the game help. Players are required to read 30 pages of instruction as to how to run a big company like McDonald’s. In the game, players need to take control over everything  from feeding the cows to marketing McDonald’s hamburgers. Unlike traditional reading materials which usually drive people to sleep after a few lines, the closeness-to-life and fun offered by the game makes it perfect for kids to read in their spare time without being bored at all. One way to assess students’ reading comprehension is to start a discussion of the game in class. Teachers could assess their reading ability by raising questions like “What do I need to know to play the game?” “How are doing with your McDonald’s business?" From students’ responses, teachers could have a clear picture of whether they have understood those game help texts.


Gamification is the application of game elements in non-gaming contexts. “In academe, gamification typically employs elements such as points, badges, or progress bars to engage or motivate students in the learning process7 Things YouShould Know About Gamification. As an ESL teacher, I personally hold that games are often more engaging than traditional classroom teaching methods. Online game genres like point-and-click, or escape-the-room are very interesting ways for students to memorize vocabulary or practice speaking and listening. Take speaking for example, I used to find that it is very difficult to engage students to speak in classroom, let alone outside classroom. One reason for thisdifficulty is that traditional speech topics like “please describe the city you live in” is quite boring. However, there are so many ways to encourage speaking with computer games. Sometimes, even the mention of a favorite game name could probably start a lively discussion in class. Anyway, who doesn’t love playing games!
Polleke’s Blue Room is one of the many escape-the-room online games which could be used in second language classroom. I played it for three times and found that it is a good one for learning some key vocabularies and practice speaking and listening. The learning objectives would be for students to grasp some key vocabularies like panel, isle, gorilla, and be able to use those vocabularies in both speaking and listening. In the beginning of the class, the teacher is supposed to list the vocabularies she/he expects students to learn. Students would be paired in two as a team. One of the students will read the walk-through firsthand and then instruct in his/her own word to the teammate  how to escape the room. The student who describes is expected to include as many key vocabularies mentioned in the beginning of the class  as possible. And of course the student who actually plays the game is expected to recognize those vocabularies at the hearing of them. In the whole process, the teacher acts like an activity facilitator and coordinator. The teacher will record the number of the key vocabularies uses by the speaker of each team and the time each team uses to escape the room. The team who uses most of the vocabularies and the team who uses the shortest time will be rewarded.        

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Use Twitter for Educational Purposes

Social media has provided great opportunities for educators and learners of this age. For example, twitter, a microblogging tool, has been used as a powerful professional development and communication tool by online educators. As an educator, I myself find it very interesting to explore the use of twitter for teaching.
1.     Use twitter as a bulletin board
As has been mentioned in the article “60 Inspiring Examples of Twitter in theClassroom”, using twitter as a bulletin board is one of the many ways for educational use. Since twitter can make sharing announcements super simple, instant and available to all the followers. Any last-minute announcements about class change or class cancellation could be done by twitter. Besides, it could also used as a reminder. For example, I could use twitter to remind students of bringing relevant materials to class or finishing assignments before the due time. Students could also use twitter to stay connected with the teacher. If they are not clear about class assignment, or if there is any mistake about that, they could always notify the teacher by making tweets. In this case, twitter makes it easy to get instant feedback.
2.     Great Platform for Out-of-class communication
   As has been mentioned in both articles “60 Inspiring Examples of Twitter in theClassroom” and “Twitter in K-8 Classroom- Globally Connected Learning”. Twitter could be used to gather world-wide data, to seek help and to share interesting insights. As I used to teach English-Chinese translation, I find that it could be very rewarding to use twitter as an extracurricular supplement. I could assign one or two students as the twitter of the day. The assigned students then could tweet something interesting about translation. It could be an interesting story they had in their own translation experiences, or it could be an excellent translation of a poem they like and would like to share with their classmates. In this way, conversation about class subject could be continued outside of class.
    There are many ways to use Twitter as an educational communication tool. And teachers around the world are exploring innovative ways to use Twitter as teaching tool. The Chinese version of Twitter is called “WEI BO”, and till now it is still used only for daily communication. But the use of twitter for educational purposes does provide an example for Chinese teachers to follow.   

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Ning - A Social Networking Site

    Are you looking for an online tool to build a community for your volunteers, students, followers, customers, readers, supporters or fans? Ning could be a great choice. As an educator, Ning has drew my attention as a valuable tool to build a learning community in the classroom or in the school. is a social networking site which is similar to Facebook environment but more suitable for school usage. In China, Facebook is blocked, and Ning could be a useful alternative networking site for educational use if it could be accessed.

    Ning is very user-friendly and no technical skill is needed. This will be a great advantage if elementary students would like to use this online tool. The creators could decide the site’ func­tionality, appearance, and whether they want it to be public or private. Another important feature of Ning is its social integration. The built-in integration to other social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube makes it easy to maximize the reach and connect to people who don’t use Ning. For example, as a university teacher who sometimes teach senior students, I always find it difficult to reach all students as senior students are usually busy with internship, job-hunting, graduation paper writing and etc. In this case, I do not need to bring together all of these students who have different schedules and may probably scatter in different places. All I need to do is ask them to use their current social network tool to link to my Ning.  

    Ning provides a great opportunity for academic use. For example, like The English Companion Ning, People could form a new community wtith those like-minded. By building a community around a specific topic or project, Ning could let students create their own social networks and learn how to cultivate and sustain a community of users that might resemble professional contacts and relationships. 

Stay Connected

    A learner is like a stockbroker. In what aspects does a learner resemble a stockbroker?
    First, I would like to explain by raising a question. What is the most important thing for a stockbroker? The answer is Timing! When it comes to buying and selling stocks, nothing is more important than timing. Even a delay of a second will make an entirely different story. The same is true for learners in today’s world. As Siemens mentions in the article Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age, "the half-life of knowledge is shrinking rapidly". Information development has more than doubled in recent years. Knowledge is growing exponentially and what is new today becomes obsolete much more rapidly than a decade ago. Thus, in order to keep abreast with the society, a good learner should stay alert to new knowledge as a stockbroker to the changing stock market. Timing is important for learners of information age. 
    Second, like a stockbroker, a learner today is never an isolated individual. An excellent stockbroker always keeps connected to the market and to other stockbrokers in order to stay well-informed. Likewise, learning is no longer an individual and internal activity. As Siemens talked in the video The Network is the Learning, “what we know today is not as important as our ability to continue to stay current.” If we are not continuing learning, we will become obsolete in a particular field, or within a particular knowledge space. And "nothing is more effective or adaptive than a network" (What is Connectivism, Siemens) as knowledge is networked and distributed today.
    As learning experience is increasingly aided by technology, learners today need to respond to these changes. Stay connected and remember that timing is very important!  

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Human doing or human being?

The name of the blog post I commented is called If You've Got a Pulse, You've Got a Purpose   in the blog Cool Cat Teacher Blog . I love reading Mrs. Davis's blog because she not only reflects on education, but also on life. As she was busying writing and discussing with teachers of the Flat classroom group one day from five in the early morning till seven in the evening, she began to reflect that she was so busy "doing" that she was not "being"! In the hustle and bustle of modern day life, we are so busy working from eyelids open till eyelids shut that we unconsciously miss a lot of beauties in our life. Passions are gone and days become repeating routines. In fact, a lot of teachers are at this risk when teaching becomes a set pattern of lesson planning and homework correcting. 

    I really like the five steps Mrs. Davis wrote about regaining the "being".

    1. Are you so busy doing that you're not being?    
    2. There are beautiful moments in every period of life 
    3.  So, right now I'm noticing 
    4.  Just take a minute to breathe in and out
    5.  Find the meaning in this moment and your life will have meaning. 
Behold the beauty in this day and you're days will come together to make a beautiful life. 

 Life needs passion, career needs enthusiasm. Don't allow "doing" to take over your "being". Take every chance to enjoy the moment you have, we need to live in the moment. 


Monday, September 17, 2012

My Web World

    I used to joke with my friend that I was “web-proof”. I was never the person who would take an interest in trying out new web tools like facebook, blogs, and twitter when they were launched. Till today, I still prefer paper books to nook or kindle. However, the power bestowed by internet has forced me to realize that if I don’t progress with time, I am going to be tided out!  

    The only online social network that I have kept updating since I was a sophomore is called RenRen, the Chinese version of Facebook. Originally, I used it to find my classmates and old friends whom I have lost contact. Later on, it also became a platform to make new friends. As the number of old friends and new friends begun to accumulate, I started sharing some pictures or writing some posts on it. It was not until I started my career as a university teacher that I realize RenRen could also be used to socialize with my students and even share some education resources with them. My first Master degree which I got in China is about interpretation and cross-cultural communication. Thus one of the courses I taught is “The Basics of Interpretation”. As is shown in the picture below, I sometimes would post summary about a recent press
conference which my students could refer to if they need. They could like it or share it if they find it useful or interesting. In this way, my post could be viewed by more people, even if they are not my students. 

    On reflection, this could be called the fledging form of what is described in the Networked Students video. The social media revolution is on its full swing right now. Yet, education in China still remains on the edge of all these powerful web tools. The majority teachers in China still think that locking students in a classroom with an adult for several hours a day is still the best way to learn. However, if we don’t grasp what the internet could offer us, we are going to miss a whole world of education resources (From Educational Change Challenge)  

Friday, September 14, 2012

Technology in Today's Classroom and Standards

    When cyberspace is part of everyone's life, education could not survive if online technologies are not utilized in classroom setting. As an English teacher in China, I have seen the struggle of English-learners. Ten years ago, when I started to learn English, I have never heard about computer, let alone internet. Library books and old-fashioned tapes were the best tools for English-learning. More than a decade later, now with computers becoming household necessities, I still feel that students are using the same old tools to learn English. They know how to make friends online, how to play games online, and how to search information online, but they don't know how to use web tools to learn English. What's worse, teaching faculty is much less agile with those internet tools and they stick to those old ways of teaching English.
    Now the transition moment has arrived. As far as I am concerned, web tools could be made to great use in classroom instruction and students will benefit a lot by exploring those web tools. Take blogs for example for both the teacher and the students, blogs could become

    1. Online filing cabinet

    With everything from national grid bill to online purchase receipt going green, class could also go paperless. Students can use blogs to post their homework and teachers could also make comments directly online. This not only saves teachers the trouble of carrying home a heavy load of homework, but also saves time as submitted homework could be viewed anytime anywhere. Besides, blogs could be used as an online archive which will never be accidently tossed into dustbin like paper work does.
    2. Collaborative space

Teachers and students can post relevant materials or information online. And the information is now available to all students all the time. Supplementary materials could also be created in a separate post so that students who read more if they have free time. Blogs can also become a place where students help each other solve problems. For students body which consists of people from different cultures, bloggs can also serve as a out-of-classroom platform on which students could share their different cultural experiences and stories.   

   By using blogs in this way, at least two learning standards could be met. I draw the standards from ACTFL.

Communicate in Languages Other Than English
  • Standard 1.1: Students engage in conversations, provide and obtain information, express feelings and emotions, and exchange opinions
Develop Insight into the Nature of Language and Culture
  • Standard 4.2: Students demonstrate understanding of the concept of culture through comparisons of the cultures studied and their own.