Tricision-making made easy

Tricider is a versatile learning tool that makes brainstorming, group decisions and discussions easier to implement in the classroom and enjoyable to all students. “Try it now! It’s free. No sign-up”, indicates the home page: enter any question and boom! you are ready to tricide.

Once the main question/theme/subject found, it is possible to invite participants via e-mail or social networks to start gathering ideas. For the teacher and her students to be already in contact online (in a Facebook group, for instance) would therefore be ideal before sharing tricisions. As the ideas begin to flow, the students may vote for their favourite and even state arguments for and against each idea given. With these possibilities, the teacher could ask students to discuss elements of form and content in a novel, to give their opinion on a defined subject (hopefully arousing debates), to summarise notions seen in class, or to generate preliminary thoughts on the chapter that is to be covered in class. Moreover, the teacher may define a deadline, located at the right-top of the page: useful for weekly participation or assignments to be handed in at the end of class. Hence Tricider’s suitability for various situations, from discussing essay topics to organising the class’ day trip. Other settings include character limitation and SPAM protection, to prevent looong answers or uninvited people to join the conversation (+). More importantly, students may use this tool for themselves to organise team presentations or online revision for exams.

An advantage of online group discussion is to allow shyer students to have their voice heard (+)! While in-class interaction is the extrovert’s playground, it is the introvert’s nightmare. Some students behave very differently in and out of class. To diversify media of interaction may surprise a few on the real capacities of nerds.

eDidaktik interestingly explains how Tricider is convenient for both the dialogal and the polyphonic form of teaching. In the dialogal form, Tricider basically sustains discussion, written argumentation and organisation of thoughts. In the polyphonic from, Tricider helps in rating ideas or solving management issues (that is, for example, not spending precious class time to choose the order of oral presentations, but previously establishing it online and taking care of serious stuff in class).

Lastly, since it may weaken face to face communication between students, Tricider should not be the only way for students to discuss in-depth subjects. Oral interaction in class should prevail whenever possible.

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Tumblr isn’t just for hipsters

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As a busy and devoted teacher, the idea of becoming Tumblr famous probably never crossed your mind. And this is perfectly normal. But what if being Tumblr famous meant running the coolest ESL teaching blog and having your students as followers?

An ideal use of Tumblr would be for the teacher to manage a main page for the class and have every student create her/his own page. More than sharing essential course information, the teacher could post a task every week, like giving them hashtags to explore on Tumblr, ask them to interact with other classmates or evaluate their weekly contribution. Students themselves may certainly give feedback to each other (+)! After customising it to their own gusto, they can also use their Tumblr to gather inspirational posts and ideas for future articles. As an ESL teacher, I would suggest my students to use it as a personal portfolio in which they may share anything that contributes to the creative process, for instance, of a team project or a written production. For Tumblr is quickly accessible and minimalist; either select Text, Photo, Quote, Link, Chat, Audio or Video and you are ready to create a post! Find another blog’s post you like, click on Reblog and bam! it is on your wall.

Let me give you an actual example of a pedagogical use of Tumblr. My sister created this blog while teaching Art History in Cegep. She used this platform to share course notes, documents seen in class, videos, important reminders, artsy events coming up in the city and other awesome stuff. The students could therefore use it as a reference accessible anytime, while it gave them an opportunity to explore the subject beyond the limits of the course plan. Moreover, any student could add content directly on the blog or ask questions to the teacher via the platform. More importantly, this Tumblr page was so much more appealing to the eye than the regular greyish school portal. Here is a similar example, as suggested by Samantha Peters in her article.

To be a member of the Tumblr community can as well simply allow the students to open their mind to miscellaneous subjects. The types of blogs I follow go from vintage clothing, (very) weird things and Maru the cat to music-related pages,  cinematographic philosophy and magazines! Although these may encourage procrastination (they really do), this particular blog, and similar others, can feed the students’ curiosity and thinking. Furthermore, as one of the aim of an ESL student is to receive input in the second language, almost anything on Tumblr can help reaching it. As long as it involves English.

“Don’t forget to send me a friend request.”

I have always used Facebook as a greatly useful communication tool. Once, I decided to delete my account and asked (begged) people to communicate with me via e-mail and/or telephone. Unfortunately, I quickly realised how difficult it was to get in touch with people (I probably am more easy to reach on my old rotary phone than my friends are on their smartphone). I also missed all important events to attend to in my city, since not everyone thinks of pasting posters on telephone poles anymore. Hence the briefness of my journey out of Facebook.

My point is: I now truly admire the virtues of this tool. And as a future teacher, I thought about its pedagogical usefulness.

As discussed in class with M. Miller, Facebook is a facilitator. It facilitates communication between the teacher and his students. Since their smartphone is an extension of their hand, the classroom’s Facebook group follows the students everywhere. Therefore, the teacher may easily remind them about the assignment or important updates. Facebook also facilitates communication among classmates. Rather than saturating the teacher’s inbox, students may share their interrogations with fellow members of the group. In that sense, Facebook facilitates the sharing of information. By being in contact with all class members in one place, everyone may share either documents seen in class, personal course notes or relevant links for further research, so each student contributes to improving the experience of the class.

Now, Facebook is a funky writing tool. A creative teacher may find tons of writing activities to try out using this tool. One would be to compose the beginning of a text and ask students to add something of their own to it every week, as suggested by M. Miller. Bonus: it makes the writing task more appealing to the students. When it comes to correcting, the teacher is not the only proofreader, but the whole class can read, review and give feedback on other students’ writing. Receiving 30 different opinions on your essay instead of 1.5 (my usual)… how cool is that? (+)

One annoying drawback of using this tool is poor quality of English used in the online interactions (+). It seems like the instantaneity of the interaction makes one forget all grammar knowledge. I know, I have made several (awfully) absurd mistakes while chatting on Facebook. Still, I constantly put the blame on the keyboard.