The ELTons are just under one month away, and this year’s nominees feature an exciting range of resources. Here we take a look at a selection of some of the digital-linked nominated products. Winners will be announced at the spangly ceremony on 4th June. Good luck to everyone!
Paul Driver’s ARM (Augmented Reality Media) Cubes are a new way for learners to interact with language and digital media in a tangible and fundamentally social and collaborative way. They are hybrid digital/physical objects that enable learners to organise, manipulate and even edit audio and video simply by reconfiguring the cubes in (real) 3D space.
The six facets of each cube contain augmented reality triggers that, when viewed through the camera of a smartphone or tablet, come to life, displaying video directly on the cube’s surface. Each cube also contains 6 tiny-but-powerful neodymium magnets (magnets are always cool) that invite learners to build stories, physically and metaphorically, by constructing different forms.
What was your involvement in the product, Paul?
The cubes are a physical actualisation of the ongoing research I have conducted into mobile learning and situated and embodied cognition. I see them as a natural evolution of the ideas I explored in the Spywalk project (ELTons nominated in 2013) and Urban Chronicles (ELTons nominated in 2014). They are also a manifestation of my interest in tangible and social computing and in finding new ways to apply technology that put the moving, doing, physical body at the centre of learning. I designed and constructed these prototype cubes and created lessons, puzzles and other activities to field test them with my learners in the ELT classroom to explore their potential as interactive learning tools. The feedback so far has been excellent and the cubes have gone through several task-artefact design cycles based on learner responses.
When I learned that ARM Cubes had been nominated for an ELTon Award, it suddenly dawned on me that I would have to send in six sample sets to the judges. With eight cubes in each set that’s 288 magnets that had to be individually attached. At this point my wife valiantly came to the rescue and our house turned into a veritable cube-making cottage industry!
Lingopolis is a collaboration between Playlingo, a London-based startup that creates social games for language learning and Cambridge University Press with ongoing support from the Cambridge Dictionaries team, Cambridge Marketing department and CUP regional office in Turkey where the BETA of the game was launched.
Lingopolis is a city-building game designed to tackle the vocabulary motivation problem and make word learning fun, social and fast. Players compete to learn words as fast as they can and the more vocabulary they learn the faster their city grows with bigger and better buildings. But, if they stop practising, their city, just like their vocabulary, will fall into rack and ruin.
How is it innovative?
Lingopolis is powered by Cambridge Dictionaries and innovates by blending the motivational power of social gaming with research-proven ELT techniques including the targeting of high frequency words, bilingual and L2 practice, spaced repetition and active-recall learning.
Our collaboration with Playlingo began with IC Tomorrow’s Digital Innovation Contest. Ziad and his team at Playlingo are using data from Cambridge Dictionaries Online (the world’s most popular online learner dictionaries!) to power a truly innovative and motivating game for vocabulary learning. The project has been very much led by Playlingo, but with ongoing support from the Cambridge Dictionaries team, the Cambridge Marketing department and our regional office in Turkey, where the beta version of Lingopolis has launched with take-up and engagement that has exceeded everyone’s expectations. Printed learner dictionaries remain very important to many of our customers – their death has been somewhat prematurely reported by other publishers – but just as important now are the ways in which learner dictionary data can be made available digitally, and integrated into innovative products like Lingopolis. We’re very much looking forward to seeing how Lingopolis grows and develops over the coming months.
NILE Online courses
NILE Online is a suite of teacher development courses for language teachers and trainers. The courses are highly interactive and the tutor works closely with the participants throughout to help them develop in a way that is relevant to their teaching context. Courses range from ‘Classroom Activities, Interaction and Motivation’ to ‘From Teacher to Trainer’ to ‘Teaching English for Academic Purposes’ to ‘Discover Contemporary English’. There are nine different courses, with more in the pipeline, as well as NILE’s (Norwich Institute for Language Education) MA and DELTA modules online.
How are they innovative?
The courses are enhanced by some innovative tools commissioned specifically to meet the academic needs of the course, to encourage maximum interaction between participants and to enable teachers to share ideas and activities in visual and dynamic ways. These Web 2.0-inspired tools are embedded within the platform and, combined with NILE’s excellence in the principles and practice of teacher education, make the courses user-friendly, flexible and effective. Tools include VideoQuanda which allows participants to interact with a video of a speaker for example, asking questions or making comments at specific points in the video. TalkPoint is another tool which really brings the course to life – participants can record themselves (audio or video) giving their own views, demonstrating techniques, showing products or responding to each other. The Community Wall is the online equivalent of a pinboard plenary where students can quickly share brief ideas for brainstorming or prediction. These tools allow us to combine the best of online training with many of the social and pedagogical aspects that participants on NILE face-to-face courses love.
Johanna Stirling is the NILE Online Academic Manager, and has also written two of the courses, edited others, digitised them and tutored on several.
I have been heavily involved in the project from early on and it has been a very steep learning curve but immensely satisfying. So many others have been involved in this project – the developers at INTO, Gavin Dudeney from Consultants-e, Thom Kiddle, the Course Director, all the course writers, tutors and many more. We’ve been getting fantastic feedback on the courses from participants and are so excited to have been nominated for an ELTon!
Going Mobile: Teaching with handheld devices
Nicky Hockley, one of the authors, tells us a bit more about Going Mobile:
This is one of the few methodology books providing practical advice and ideas for English language teachers who would like to start using mobile/handheld devices in the classroom. The book is divided into three parts and we start off by looking at some of the choices and challenges involved in using mobile devices. For example, whether learners should use their own devices, or class sets, or how to deal with specific technical, logistical, methodological and classroom management challenges.
We address some of the concerns that we often hear teachers express about having their students using mobile devices in the classroom, such as distraction or fears about inappropriate use. We are aware that some teachers may not feel confident with new technologies so the activities section (Part B) is carefully staged, from activities that don’t require devices at all (Chapter 1) to activities using increasingly complex affordances of mobile devices: text (Chapter 2), images (Chapter 3), audio (Chapter 4), video (Chapter 5), and then finally some longer term projects based on unique features of connected smart mobile devices such as geolocation and augmented reality. In Part C we provide a detailed 10-step implementation plan for teachers and institutions wishing to promote a principled integration of mobile devices.
How is it innovative?
The book addresses an area of innovation – mobile devices – and provides practical guidelines for teachers wanting to work with handheld devices in the language classroom. Probably most importantly, there is a solid pedagogical grounding behind the activities and we make it clear that activities with mobile devices need to enhance learning rather than taking place just for their own sake. After all, it’s not about the technology but the teaching (and the learning) and, in this case, the technology can support and enhance the teaching and learning but it should never replace it. There are some very innovative activity types, such as those involving geocaching activities or creating augmented reality book reviews. Even teachers who are unfamiliar with these concepts can lead up to this by following the order of the activities in the book. In other words, teachers can improve their own digital skills and overall digital literacies by trying out the activities in the book in the order they are presented.
Newsmart is a new digital service from Dow Jones that helps ambitious professionals master Business English using content from the Wall Street Journal (ELTjam also works on the product). Paul Jackson, Product Manager at Newsmart, has been involved since it was still a product concept in ‘free beta’ in the summer of 2014.
How is it innovative?
Newsmart exists to address the challenges for students that are time poor and need to keep up motivation. It combines daily news content from The Wall Street Journal, the expertise of a professional learning team, and gamification in a user-friendly format that is unprecedented. It makes mastering Business English engaging and fun.