ELI Computer Lab Class: Week 1 – Welcome! and Typing.com

Hello! Welcome to the ELI Computer Lab Class. Each week, I will share the materials and information from the ELI Computer Lab Class in this blog.

You can see the slides from the first week of class below. If the slides do not load in your browser, click here to access the slides.

Today’s resource is about typing.com!

An exercise on typing.com
An exercise on typing.com

As its name suggests, typing.com is a website which helps you learn how to type properly on a US English keyboard. The website is free, and it offers a few dozen sequential tutorials that guide you from the most basic beginner-level practice (F, J, and Space) up to advanced-level full-keyboard speed and accuracy drills. Students can create accounts to track their progress and earn achievement badges.

Typing is an important skill for ESL/EFL students due to the amount of typed work they may be expected to produce in classes as well as their later careers. It’s also a necessary skill to enable students to confidently tackle standardized exams (such as the TOEFL and GRE) which require that students type original compositions under time pressure.

So check it out!

Using Socrative for classroom comprehension checks and formative assessments

Socrative is a free(mium) student response system service that enables students to respond to questions using their phones or any other internet-connected device. I’ve been using the free version in my language classrooms for three years, and for the past few months, I’ve also been trying out the paid premium version, Socrative Pro, thanks to a small grant from the Robert Henderson Language Media Center.

I use Socrative in three main ways:

  1. To collect short written work that will be shared and discussed with the class– especially for sentence-level writing practice!
  2. To track the class’s overall accuracy on specific skills being taught
  3. To convert “paper” activities (including items in the textbook or on handouts) into interactive digital activities

Socrative offers three question types: multiple choice, true/false, and short answer. Here’s an example of a short answer question as viewed from a student’s perspective:

Teachers see students’ responses immediately as they come in. Here are two examples of “results” screen: one for a short-answer activity and one for a multiple-choice activity.

For short-answer quizzes, teachers can click into specific questions to see a list of student answers:

Multiple-choice and true/false questions consolidate answers into an attractive bar-graph display:

In addition, teachers can choose correct answers for multiple-choice and true/false questions. For example, here is what the teacher sees in the quiz-building interface:

And this is what a student sees before and after submitting an answer for the above question. Note the immediate corrective feedback:

The way I implement activities in my classes is that I have a lecture slide template that I can quickly copy and paste into my slide deck for the day. I then make any necessary changes to the slide. Here is an example of one of my slides:

Here’s an example of a sentence-writing task. First, I display the slide to my students to help them join the activity:

Then, after all the students have joined the activity, I put up a timer and monitor student progress on the Socrative dashboard:

And finally, once time is up, we discuss answers as a class, just as you would if students had written sentences on the board:

All of the features shown above are available for free. However, Socrative also has a premium paid service called Socrative Pro. The details for Socrative Pro differ slightly for K-12 vs. Higher Ed contexts, but the differences and features are summarized below:

Source: Socrative

I was awarded a small grant from the Robert Henderson Language Media Center to try out Socrative Pro and report back on its suitability for language teaching.

I’ve found Socrative’s basic (non-Pro) features to be an excellent fit for occasional use in the language classroom. In most language courses I teach, I use Socrative about once or twice per week. On curriculum evaluations, students have consistently rated Socrative activities as being one of the most helpful and useful things we do in the classroom, and it’s not hard to see why. For multiple-choice questions, students can get immediate right/wrong feedback along with an explanation of the correct answer; and for open-ended written activities, students enjoy all the benefits of sharing their work with the class and getting formative feedback, but without the anxiety many feel in personally going up to the board to write out their response by hand.

So to sum up, Socrative’s free version works wonderfully in the language classroom.

How about the paid version? To be honest, although there are some nice quality-of-life improvements in the Pro version, Socrative Pro doesn’t have any “must-have” features for my needs. Perhaps more importantly, I don’t think the Pro version offers my students any added value versus the basic version. However, of the various Pro features I’ve tried, I’ve most enjoyed using the “multiple rooms” feature, which enables me to have a separate “room” for each of my classes. Rooms act sort of like folders: they keep activities and results from one class separate from those of other classes. If you’re a pretty heavy user like me, keeping your classes separated from each other can help prevent clutter and confusion when you use the website. Plus, the feature enables you (in theory) to run multiple activities at the same time (one activity per “room”). This could be useful if you want to use Socrative to collect homework activities in your classes– something I’ve never done, but which is a plausible use case.

ELI Computer Lab Class: Week 9 – Career Resources

Photo: OregonDOT, CC BY 2.0 (flipped horizontally)

Some of you will go on to have careers (temporary or permanent) in an English-speaking country. You may find some of these resources helpful when looking for and applying for positions!

  • Résumé / CV: Everyone needs a short (1-2 page) résumé. If your focus is academic, you should have a full CV (curriculum vitae) as well. There are many websites which can help you create an attractive résumé, and many have a “free” option. However, you usually need to pay if you want a good-quality résumé. Here are some recent reviews of ten résumé building websites.
  • Cover letters: Most job listings require you to write a cover letter. The main purpose of a cover letter is to demonstrate that you are an excellent fit for the job you are applying for. Beyond that, expectations and traditions for cover letters are different in every field, so it is good to ask people in your field for advice. Purdue OWL has an excellent resource for writing your cover letter.
  • Business cards: Business cards are small cards that have your contact information on them. They are a very useful thing to bring to business meetings, conferences, and job fairs. There are many websites that can help you design and print business cards. Here is a recent listing of six business card websites.
  • LinkedIn profile: LinkedIn is a social network focused on jobs and careers. It is a good idea to create a LinkedIn profile and to include the link on your résumé. LinkedIn is a good way to network and to make friends in your field.
  • Job listing websites: There are many ways to find good jobs. One of the best and most effective ways is through networking (“word-of-mouth”), when friends tell each other about open jobs. However, there are also websites that help you search for job listings in your field. Two popular choices are Indeed and SimplyHired.
  • Company reputations: When you’re considering a company to work for, it’s good to know what current and former employees think of that company. GlassDoor is a popular website that lets people review their companies and express whether they are good or bad places to work.
  • Salary ranges: Salary negotiation is often one of the most difficult and confusing parts of getting a job. GlassDoor is one place to find out what people in your field are usually paid. Many other websites also exist for this purpose, including PayScale.

ELI Computer Lab Class: Week 8 – Vocabulary Profilers

Hello! This week, my suggested resource is a tool called a vocabulary profiler.

In your ELI classes, your textbooks and your teachers help you to preview vocabulary before you read a new text. But outside of the classroom, how can you preview vocabulary in the real world!?

A vocabulary profiler can analyze a text and show you which words you probably need to focus on and preview. The profiler finds all of the interesting or unusual vocabulary the text has. You can use this information to help you prepare to read (or listen to) a new text!

Click the link below to begin:

http://www.lextutor.ca/vp/comp/

Here is a profile for a TED talk titled “How we can make the world a better place by 2030”:

A of How we can make the world a better place by 2030
A vocabulary profile of How we can make the world a better place by 2030

On the left is the original text which I copied and pasted into the website. On the right is a colored text showing how common each word is. The most common and simple words are blue and green, while the least common words are colors like orange and people.

Here’s the important part:

In the middle is a list of uncommon English words that are used often in this text. For example, this text uses the word “capita” four times, “economy” 14 times, “forecast” four times, and “poverty” six times. If you don’t understand what those words mean, you will probably have difficulty understanding the speech! So you should review that list carefully and preview the vocabulary before reading or listening to the speech.

Give it a try: paste text from a newspaper article, magazine article, or TED.com into the vocabulary profiler and see what you discover!