Review from Modern English Teacher 22(4)
"Mind the App makes use of Web 2.0 and takes the reader through a wide variety of sites and applications that can be used by teachers and students to create materials that pop off the page. Using social networking sites, photography, video programs and various other free applications, users can modify materials to suit their purposes or create their own. The method is fast, collaborative and encourages literacy and communication of all types.
In the Introduction, the author outlines the pros and cons of using Web 2.0 in the classroom. Students tend to be more motivated to learn if they are participating in the creation of the material. All four skills are activated and different learning styles can be accommodated. Of course, there are also dangers. Plagiarism, copyright and privacy are just a few issues that need to be taken into account. Strasser suggests creating a new email address to ensure your regular address does not get hacked into or hit with spam. Good advice.
Mind the App is made up of five chapters of activities (Teacher Tools, Visualization, Collaboration, Audio and Writing) and a section with resources.
Since I am currently teaching a beginner (A1) level class where we use projects as part of our assessment tool, I decided to incorporate some new sites into my lessons. There were some I liked better than others but all gave me new ideas to play with in the classroom.
Following advice in Teacher Tools, I spent a couple of hours exploring www.classtools.net. This site provides a wide variety of interactive games, like Dustbin Game, a quick game to test what students remember at the end of the lesson or at the beginning of the week. Post It is a labelling activity and Jigsaw Diagram provides more kinaesthetic learners with the opportunity to fit pieces together and make connections. There were also a number of activities which helped higher level students visualize paragraphs and organize their essays.
In Visualisation reference is made to a number of sites for creating photo stories, signs and presentations. I found some of the sites a bit cumbersome and time consuming to use. For example, Vocab Visualizer as a concept is great. You write out a sentence and the site provides visuals for each word. Unfortunately, the pictures often didn’t match the word and it ended up being more work for me to sift through a pile of pictures to find one my beginners would relate to. The site may, however, work just fine for a higher level group who have more language at their disposal and who can conceptualize ideas more easily.
www.tripline.net is an interesting site. It includes maps, calendars, pictures and storytelling to create timelines. This is a great way for students to share what they did on trips and weekends or to share big events such as weddings and festivals.
The Collaboration chapter directs us to sites which get students to cooperate when working on documents, stories, group presentations and peer editing. www.flisti.com is a site where students can create surveys, similar to Surveymonkey. Students can create their own surveys and a variety of activities can be used once the data is collected. It would be a great way to generate writing questions for IELTS, for example.
Chapter four explores web platforms for audio. These can be used for presentations or even for teachers to record lectures and have students listen to them individually at computer stations rather than as a group. Little Bird Tales (www. littlebirdtales.com) provides a venue for students to create audio files and accompany them with pictures. For students who are not computer savvy, there may be too many steps for them to work on it on their own, so it might be necessary to pair students up with a partner more familiar with computer programs.
The final chapter, Writing, directs learners to sites which help them organize materials, create stories and keep an online diary as a reflection tool to keep private or share with their instructor. My students tend to use WhatsApp on their phones as a way to communicate with me if they have an idea or problem or just want to ‘talk’. I think the diary site might be perfect for some of them to use at school in the lab or from home on their laptop.
Mind the App! has given me a new set of tools for my classroom. I can’t wait to go to school tomorrow and try out a few more of them!"