Perfectly amazing mobile apps to remote access to your MAC/PC!

Screen Shot 2013-11-08 at 11.14.34 PMThere is certainly no need to talk and write about how incredibly technology and innovative devices have made their way through the market and everything is easily accessible to all at once. This, however, bears some disadvantages since being selective is a very tedious task for the technology users. Therefore, I would like to briefly mention some amazing apps that might make your job -whether it is teaching English, presenting some academic stuff at conferences, or taking care of your baby at home- highly easy with only few steps to set up and go! In fact, in this post, I would like to focus on a certain category of apps that I have also been using a lot and about which I have really unbelievable memories while teaching. The category of apps I want to share is ‘remote-access- apps with which you can control your PC/MAC or any other devices and see the display on your mobile device; type something by accessing keyboard as well; control your multimedia player; or even access your webcam to see through the eyes of your computer. No need to mention that you need to be connected to the Internet to be able to use these awesome apps. A final remark is that although most of these apps are free and have lite versions, you might need to pay to own pro versions, or another limitation could be to have iOS since they might not be available on other platforms.

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1. Jump Desktop

The first app I will introduce is an app which is one of the must-have apps for me and which I have used a lot while teaching or presenting, or just for fun! The name of the app is Jump Desktop. The first thing that could be important about this app is its price, $14.99; however, it seems that it deserves every penny you spend on the app since it is really easy to set up, by just installing another small server tool on your computer and logging in your google account. Then what you can do is, without the limitations like being connected to the same wi-fi network or being in the same place with your computer, that you can see your computer display on your mobile device and access to the full keyboard and typing functions and move the mouse icon around to give your presentations, type something in while you are showing something on a word processor, etc.

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What you can do has no limits with this app, and it has a lot to with your creativity and interests. Another amazing thing is that you can even check your computer while it is at home or work and you having your coffee or somewhere outside. Especially when you are doing something on your computer like downloading a huge file, this function could be helpful. Although there are some other even free alternatives to this app, it is really effective in terms of its capabilities and practicality of set-up process.

Screen Shot 2013-11-08 at 10.50.26 PM2. HippoRemote

Now, I want to introduce another great app with both lite and paid versions. The name is HippoRemote and it is another five-star app that an iPhone user can benefit from. With this app, youcan do all the things except for the option or possibility of accessing your computer display on your mobile phone. That could be the biggest difference when compared to Jump Desktop. However, considering that it has a lite version, and it has a better UI especially when you are accessing to the touchpad or some other keyboard functions are enough to make it an awesome app. Below, you can see what you can do and a screenshot of the app in action. It is really practical to access to keyboard functions in a such an easy way. Another biggest plus for this app comes from its practicality to adjust what you need to do by choosing among the most-used apps on your mobile. What I mean is this: If I am giving a presentation and I need a clicker, you can choose Keynote or PowerPoint and you will have a set template of buttons which will make your job literally easier.

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As you can see above, if you are simply listening to music or watching something on your PC, you can access to most commonly used keys and do whatever you need.

3. Remote

The next app is only for iDevice users and the people who use iTunes as their multimedia player. It is ‘Remote’ by Apple and you can access to your iTunes on your computer and control the songs you are listening to or videos you are watching. What is really attractive about this app is it is really simply to set up since iTunes or your app automatically detect each other. What’s more, you can also see the artwork and covers of the songs you are listening on your mobile device while it is playing on your computer. You can see its screenshot below.

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 Screen Shot 2013-11-08 at 10.53.07 PM4. JumiCam

Last but not least, there is one more amazing app. JumiCam is one of the practical and amazing Jumi apps that allows you to access to your webcam. If your computer is connected to the Internet, and if you have set it up by simply installing a server app on your computer, you can see through the eyes of your computer. Moreover, you can access to your sound system which means you can listen through the microphone of your computers and speak through the speakers. Practical uses could be to be able to watch someone you care for such as your baby or kids especially when you have a home-computer, or see what is going on where your computer is. In fact, fun aspect is also a lot of for this app. I am sure everybody has to leave the class for a few seconds and you can imagine what you can do when it is active and your computer is connected to a surround system in your class. You can speak to and amaze your students when you are not physically in class. I am sure you can also do lots of things and integrate it into some classroom activities thanks to your creativity.

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All in all, there is no limit to what you can do by using your computers and mobile devices. If you think that these apps could be effective for your personal or professional use, you can comment below and even add your favorite remote-access apps that could be beneficial for the other readers.

Here is a list of other (mostly FREE) apps that you may use or may be using to ease your personal/academic life! I have experienced all of the apps below and I am sure there are some that can appeal to you as well.

1. Teamviewer for Remote Control

2. Remote Desktop (RDP) Lite/Pro by Mochasoft

3. Keynote Remote by Apple (For Keynote Presenters)

4. i-Clickr PowerPoint Remote Lite/Pro (For PP Presenters)

5. i-Teleport Remote Desktop RDP&VNC

6. Mobile Mouse (Remote/Mouse/Trackpad/Keyboard)

WebQuests: not a state-of-the-art tool, but an effective one when designed carefully!

ImageAs also stated in the title of this post, WebQuests have been around for some considerable time and been reinforced thanks to the arrival of Web 2.0 or other innovative environments. In fact, in an age when every single thing could change dramatically at the blink of an eye, WebQuests still could be an effective tool in various fields, especially in language teaching. Progress through hyperlinks have always been a fun exercise for me since you might not guess where to end and since it enhances multi-modality. WebQuests could be a good source for this and they may empower teachers by keeping their students active outside the classroom as well.

Although, depending on the environment you are preparing a WebQuest, it might or might not take a long time, it could be simply done on a word processing program, too. Actually, what is preferred mostly is to publish them on the Web so that they might be accessible to a high number of people at the same time for very long and even forever!

Wikipedia defines WebQuests as an inquiry-oriented lesson format in which most or all the information that learners work with comes from the web, and this is what makes this activity meaningful and effective for language learners.As a matter of fact, I am posting this for two reasons; (1) although it takes a long time to prepare WebQuests, especially when you publish it and especially when you are way too perfectionist!, they are pretty useful learning tools without bearing a question and I wanted to share this opinion and tool with you, (2) I personally experienced creating a WebQuest today (which could be accessed through the link here) and I wanted to share my experience when they are still fresh in my mind. ImageMy WebQuest is about ‘travel’ and it has been prepared as part of LRC530 course which I am taking this semester. Thanks to this course, I am also working on other technology and Web tools about which I am going to post as much as I can.Thank you for your time. I appreciate your comments and feedback both on my post and my WebQuest, too.
Link to my WebQuest: http://www.u.arizona.edu/~mpolat/webquest/wqindex.html

Just after the October-22 event of the fruit company, Apple!

Hey, finally as its second event in fall, new iDevices have already fallen  out of  the fruit company, Apple. Personally, devices seem to be below what I formerly expected, but it is an Apple tradition. Still, apparently, they seem to be the top-notch devices among the other non-Apple products on the market although the same cannot be said for their prices. Anyway, the biggest thing Apple announced yesterday, October 22, seems to be the new iPad, which is iPad Air, but not iPad 5, probably due to a big reduction in its weight. For the ones who are interested and thinking of buying any new iDevices, here is a comparison compiled by redmonpie.com and I hope it might give you an idea about which one to buy.

Apple cannot resist coming through with the confusing names, and now we find ourselves with the iPad 2, fifth-gen iPad Air, iPad mini, and the new iPad mini with Retina display. With so many options both old and new, allied to Apple’s almost arbitrary naming patterns, it may be a rather confusing state of affairs, so here, we take a close look at the four Apple tabletsincluding features, specs and prices.

The main, full-size iPad range now consists of the iPad 2, which Apple continues to sell despite its age, as well as the iPad Air, which should perhaps have been given the iPad 5 moniker. The differences between the two, in both specs and price, are glaring, but while those simply looking for an iPad to run iOS 7 and enjoy general use can still rely upon the trusty older model, those in search of something a little more cutting-edge and up-to-date will want to check out the new iPad Air.

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At a full $100 cheaper than the newly-released iPad Air, the iPad 2 is still a relatively appealing prospect, and although there’s no 4G and only 16GB of storage space available with both the Wi-Fi and Wi-Fi + Cellular models, it’s a very good value tablet.

The antiquated iPad 2 is now the same price as the current gen iPad mini and outdates the first-gen iPad mini, which was first released around this time last year. Both are rather similar technically, the iPad 2 and the first-gen iPad mini, using the same A5 processor and offering identical display resolution. Apple’s pricing makes a great deal more sense than the naming scheme, with both the iPad 2 and iPad mini seemingly on an even keel; leaving the consumer to make a judgment based purely upon preference.

Obviously, both the iPad Air and iPad mini with Retina display offer a sharper visual experience, and since each also includes the A7 processor and M7 motion coprocessor, those looking for a higher-end experience will want to grab one of the premier devices.

One very interesting thing about the chart, when you see each iPad side-by-side, is that now, the newer iPad mini is actually just as good as the flagship iPad Air, and although the latter is more expensive, the up-take on the compact model is likely to be, in my opinion, significantly higher than that of the full-size model.

iPad-Air-comparison

Having seen each in a concise, official manner, which iPad will you be picking up? Do share your thoughts and comments below!

Here are the links to acces to different and up-to-date post on innovative devices or else.

http://www.apple.com/ipad/compare/

http://www.redmondpie.com/ipad-air-vs-retina-ipad-mini-2-vs-ipad-mini-vs-ipad-2-comparison-chart/

Social Networking Sites: A Modern Hypocrisy or A Simple Portrayal of Real-self

Below is an interesting piece of writing in which I have mainly written about social networking sites/communities and identity construction. Well, it is at least interesting for me since I am actually laying myself on table and discussing my own online identity in detail as objectively as an individual can do when writing about oneself. I am not sure how far you can possibly go and read, and whether you will enjoy reading it, but I could say that I enjoyed writing such a piece of paper since it makes me feel that I am both the subject and the researcher. I might also suggest you to try doing such a thing and see what happens. You may end up somewhere up there where you may feel a total stranger to your real-self or online identity; or you may also realize how integrated these identities could be. If you do so, and share your comments here, I will be really pleased to publish and read them.

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The role of language in the formation and expression of identity is necessarily huge since people express themselves and communicate their ideas through words and sentences, namely language. In the past, the discussion used to be concentrated on language use through words, gestures in terms of various receptive or productive skills. Still, regarding language use, similar things are being discussed by many; however, there have been really radical changes, especially in terms of media through which message is conveyed or the environment where they are transmitted. Therefore, the importance of language still remains intact, but identity and the platform where it is being constructed have gone through significant changes. As a matter of fact, just as language is used to express face-to-face self, it is also used in online social networks to a considerable extent. An individual’s face-to-face self did not use to endow one with unlimited opportunities to wear or build various identities and does not still do so today, but thanks to today’s online opportunities particularly on social networking environments, one can present him/herself in a number of dissimilar ways. As a result of all this discussion and current radical changes, within this paper, I will briefly focus on firstly the close relationship between identity and language use with a reference to its short historical progress, and then explain how my language use in online social networks has shaped or is shaping my identity. Finally, by giving examples from my case, I will also touch upon how one’s online identity gets closer to his/her real identity as a result of an intense integration of online world to our real life.

To begin with, technology has made a dramatic transformation on concepts like language use, literacy and identity. Today, a great amount of language learning process takes place through new media and learners are exposed to language input especially on online social networking communities. As they are doing all these activities as part of their personal interests or professional status, they are also guided by educators to benefit from or directly use those tools like Facebook, Twitter and etc. for academic purposes. Therefore, as also quoted by Blattner and Fiori (2011), Downes explains that being ‘literate’ traditionally meant to be able to read and write; however in modern society that definition has expanded. Our reliance on technological means of communication and especially Web 2.0 tools has dramatically impacted the way individuals interact and socialize with one another. In fact, as also discussed in Mills’ (2011) article, in addition to the cultivation of motivation and engagement, some suggest that the development of online profiles within social networks has a direct influence on the reinforcement of an individual’s identity since identity is co-constructed by both language use and socialization. Slater further suggests that the expression of online identity is performative and that you essentially ‘become what you type’ (Mills, 2011). As a matter of fact, this claim seems really far-fetched to me since online identity is just a part of one’s personal self, and people not only type but also speak their ideas or express them in many different ways. Moreover, the gap between the online worlds and real world gets less and less as individuals integrate technology and online communities into their face-to-face life. In fact, this issue is going to be discussed more at the final section of this paper, but what is commonly accepted by many is that people build their identities in a different way on online networking communities through the language they use when compared to their face-to-face self in real life. As a result, identity characterized as a very broad concept and shaped by many instruments is also constructed through the language we use. Since a considerable amount of language used today seems to be happening within online social communities, they might give a big clue about one’s sense of self and identity. Therefore, in the next section of this paper, I will reflect on the connection of my online identity and language use.

As for my online identity, it seems that it is mainly divided into two categories. On one hand, there is my identity within social networking communities like Facebook and Twitter, although I do occasionally use the latter. These two, especially me on Facebook, currently do not differ a lot from my face-to-face self in real life, the reason of which will be generalized and discussed later in this paper. On the other hand, I have my own website and blog which have been created recently, and which do not reveal a lot in terms of my real self and communicate my academic identity more. To start with my personal website (u.arizona.edu/~mpolat), one might only have some limited idea about my real self through some pictures and images, but regarding the overall concept and the language I am using there portrays me as a person who is highly academic. The language is totally in English and there is nothing in Turkish although the latter is my native language. Personally, I mostly use Turkish in my everyday life with my family and friends except for the ones who do not know Turkish, but my identity which has been constructed on this website seems to be really different since the target audience aimed there is my colleagues, employers and professors who are in the same field as me and a considerable number of whom do not speak Turkish. Afterwards, regarding my blog (imustafapolat.wordpress.com) where I am posting recently seems not much different from my website since the target audience is almost the same. However, regarding my academic tone, and register, it seems that I have made my identity just a little less academic (except for one post about ‘blended learning) and more intimate since blog-writing mostly requires such a language use in order not to bore the reader with a highly academic tone. To briefly refer to my twitter account (twitter.com/muspol), there is not much data to reflect on my identity there since I mostly use this tool to keep up-to-date with very recent news (like news about traffic) through its ‘discover’ tool. However, referring to my specific tweets, it seems that they were mostly in English at the beginning, which is interesting since all my followers were Turkish at the time, and later on, tweets are sent in both languages, but mostly in Turkish although there are followers who do not speak Turkish. Regarding the tone and register of the tweets, it seems that they have been written in a way as if I am talking to someone specific such as a politician, an authority figure or a TV channel although the intended audience are mostly my friends and family. As a result, as for my identity on Twitter, it seems that there is no identity built completely by taking all my tweets into consideration. Finally, as Reinhardt and Zander (2011) state, four hundred million people (the number is over even 1 billon regarding the current updates on social networking websites), approximately 6% percent of the planet, are active users of Facebook, the most popular of social-networking sites (SNSs). The average user spends more than an hour on the site, which is more than most of the activities done through an ordinary day. These numbers make Facebook a very effective ground for the members to portray their own identities. In order to do so, there are so many instruments like posting images, videos, sharing music, messaging, calling people and etc., almost all of which require people to use language. As for my Facebook account (facebook.com/summacumlaude), it seems that it is a little interesting and it portrays my online identity in a way which is more similar to my real face-to-face self compared with other online environments such as my personal webpage and blog which have a highly academic tone and not much information about my everyday life. To start with the differences, one interesting difference is again posting things in English especially when I first signed up for Facebook just like I used to do on Twitter, and the most probable reason for this is that Facebook used to be in English, not in Turkish in my country and there were only few contacts who can also speak English at that time. After family members and close friends or contacts were added as contacts, it seems that this difference has become less obvious. Moreover, as quoted in Mills (2011), consistent with Slater’s (2002) suggestion that you become what you type but just because of the tools in use on Facebook, it seems that my online identity is a kind of person who can express feelings instantly and on spot such as anger, happiness, and etc. by specifying even the relevant names although it is not the case in my real life most of the time. What’s more, regarding how I express myself, multimodality plays a very key role within social networking communities like Facebook. To illustrate, I often post pictures, sometimes videos, rarely songs on Facebook; however, it is not the case regarding face-to-face self that I show people pictures, share videos and songs with them. Therefore, at this point one becomes a kind of person within the limit of the opportunities and tools offered on a specific platform. Another difference between my online identity on Facebook and my real self is that the language I use on Facebook especially regarding instant messages which could be regarded as similar to spoken language in real life is a production of careful consideration although it is not the case in real spoken language. One important reason for this is that you have a chance to revise what you have written and correct your mistakes in spite of its being instant, but you cannot have this opportunity while speaking in real life. Hence, my online identity might be being reflected differently since it is not instant in real sense. One final difference which might also currently go under similarities is that, especially when I am posting on Facebook, my target audience is all the people in my contact list, so I have always this feeling that I have to pay attention not to bother anyone or argue with people and I try to avoid conflicts since a big part of communication is composed of face-to-face contact and body language. However, when I am talking to someone in real life, my target audience is not too large to think about what I am going to say twice, three times or more, and this necessarily causes a lot of differences in terms of language use. In fact, as it has been just mentioned, regarding the final difference stated above, the gap between my face-to-face self and online identity gets less and less evident, and I certainly believe that it is also the case for many except for the ones who have created false accounts. In the final section of this paper, then, I will discuss this situation and how it has become so.

Today, it is really apparent that technology is intertwined into our lives and rather than a world separated from the real world itself, it is as if it completes one’s face-to-face self. In other words, except for the false accounts especially on Facebook and similar social networking communities, people have similar contacts and they are creating a sort of timeline of their real life. As a result, with only some exceptions like easily joining various groups, people have similar identities both within online communities and their real life. To illustrate, regarding my own Facebook identity, it is not like I have different face-to-face self and considerably different online identity since I have the same contacts I have in my real life and I am always aware of the fact that I will seek those people’s company when I switch to real life. Therefore, it cannot be said that online identity of one is considerably different from his/her real self because the former is so intertwined into the latter that most people are aware of the fact that any possible clash between these two might cause some conflicts in their lives.

All in all, language and identity are closely linked to each other both in one’s face-to-face life and within online communities. In the past, prior to the advent of technology, identity used be constructed in a different way; however, today our identity is shaped in different ways as a result of online communities and multimodality. Depending on one’s purpose in these online communities and their target audience, individuals construct their identities differently as a result their communicative activities such as posting images, sending messages, sharing things, and etc. Personally, it seems that I have been constructing a different identity regarding my webpage and blog with strong focus on my academic self. However, as a result of a strong integration between my online identity on Facebook and face-to-face self, I cannot claim that it differs to a great extent from my face-to-face self as, I believe, it is also the case for most people using technology today,

References

Blattner, G, and M Fiori. (2011). “Virtual social network communities: An investigation of language learners’ development of sociopragmatic awareness and multiliteracy skills.” CALICO journal 29(1): 24–43. http://scholar.google.com/scholar?hl=en&btnG=Search&q=intitle:Virtual+Social+Network+Communities+:+An+Investigation+of+Language+Learners+’+Development+of+Sociopragmatic+Awareness+and+Multiliteracy+Skills#0 (October 18, 2013).

Mills, NA. (2011). “Situated learning through social networking communities: The development of joint enterprise, mutual engagement, and a shared repertoire.” … Theories, Technologies, and Language Learning ( … 28(2): 1–24. http://works.bepress.com/nicole_mills/33/ (October 18, 2013).

Reinhardt, J, and V Zander. (2011). “Social networking in an intensive English program classroom: A Language Socialization Perspective.” Calico Journal. http://www.u.arizona.edu/~jonrein/pubs/reinhardt_zander_2011_short.pdf (October 18, 2013).

Games as Learning Tools

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Regarding games, there is a lot of them in different platforms. Mainly, I can give examples from both iOS (most of them exist on Android as well) and PS3 games.

There is a simple game named as “Labyrinth 1/2” on most mobile platforms. Thanks to the game, one can move a steel ball through a labyrinth avoiding pitfalls. The game is really good on sensors and sensitive so that one must be careful not to move a lot and coordinate the ball. In its second version, it is much more puzzle-like and the gamers should try to solve them in addition to the coordination of movements. The game can played through various platforms and can be checked via the following link: http://www.labyrinth2.com/. Moreover, Labyrinth 2 gives a person options like challenging friedns and even him/herself. Also, the gamers can create their own labyrinths and upload them in addition to downloading from others.

“Cut the rope” is another game for the gamers to solve puzzles and move a ball so skillfully that it drops into the mouth of a frog at the end. To do this, the ball should be directed well without falling into the ground, but not frog’s mouth. This game is existent on both platforms and it has tens of levels to challenge the gamers.

One more game on mobile platforms is one of the popular games of Zynga and this game is draw something/ draw/ draw 2. It gives its gamers to create cool effects with dozens of new tools, patterns, stamps and colors – allowing them to transform even the simplest drawings into masterpieces. The purpose of the game is to help other players to guess what you have driven or vice versa, so it also enhances mutual learning in terms of especially drawing skills, colors and items etc. The description and more infromation about the game can be accessed through the link: http://zynga.com/game/draw-something-two

In addition to the games on mobile platforms, there are also games with rich content on platforms like PS3 or Xbox. Regarding PS3, it is possible to say that there are tens of games which could be really educational and entertaining at the same time.

First of all, a game named “Little big planet 1/2” is a very comprehensive game in which you have endless opportunities. First, the gamers can choose a toy or mascot (called sackboy) with which they can progress through a variety of levels which are ordered around a globe. In this game, you can dress your toy in the way you like and you can do many things there. There is always feedback given to you by an old wise person or by colorful texts. Like a real person, you need to walk your toy and achieve a variety of levels to get the most points. The movements of the toy is actually very real-like and you need to learn a lot about gravity, jumping, running, holding ropes etc. For more information, you can go to the link: http://www.littlebigplanet.com/games/littlebigplanet-2

One more game which is created for fun and entertainment for the whole family could be really educational with kids/children. The game titled “start the party” by Sony runs with the help of PS move, which makes it really ground-breaking. You can select different types of games like baloon shooting, haircutting, painting and flying etc. The gamers play all the games through PS move with which they move their hands and body instead of hitting buttons with joysticks. Especially the painting game is really cool since one ends up with really good images of different things although what they paint is images or shapes like triangles, lines, or squares. What makes the game even more education and entertaing is you can watch yoursefl with your PS move on the screen thanks to PS eye webcam. Moreover, you can play the game alone or you can challenge your friends by playing together with themor online. Here is the link for more information: http://www.ign.com/articles/2010/09/03/start-the-party-review

All in all, as Prensky has also emphasized a lot in his various articles and talks, games especially meaningful and well-designed ones give people endless options for entertainment and a great opportunity for education. The games mentioned above can actually appeal to almost all the principles listed by Gee such as:

Discovery principle
Multimodal principle
Situated meaning principle
Probing principle
Practice principle
Identiy principle
Active, critical learning principle
Comitted learning principle
and Psychosocial moratorium principle

Thank you for reading!

An amazing poll app: “Socrative”!

A lot of people make use of state-of-the-art apps to enhance their teaching and classroom management. iOS is, as known and appreciated by most people, has so many apps that smoothly run and make educators’ job easier. One app that could be highly appreciated by so many educators and that is available on all platforms in addition to its web version is certainly “Socrative”. I am sure that a lot of people use apps for polling and they can really make your life easy in class.

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Some examples of how you can use them in class:

1. Simply, you want to choose a class representative or assign someone a task, and you would like it to be fun and to use technology for it. If you do not want to use technology, you can write the names on board and want everybody vote openly or in a closed way. However, using Socrative or similar polling apps, you simply ask your students go to socrative.com and tell them your room number or name. Then, as a teacher at that moment you enter the names quickly on Socrative through its web version or using Socrative Teacher app. Then, while Ss are voting, you reflect it on the board with a projector, then it is magically beautiful to watch a bar chart showing the number of votes for each candidate.

2. Another example is that you are at the beginning or the end of the lesson, you want to ask students’ opinions about the class as a warm-up or wrap-up. Simply open Socrative Teacher app, tell your students go to Socrative and your room. Then you start an exit-test for a pulse-check and then watch it happening.

3. There is no limit for your creativity, but you can also prepare any kind of test in advance using Socrative quiz templates and then do it in a space race format where you can watch groups race against each other by answering the questions.

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All in all, polling apps and tools are really effective and convenient instruments for educators and Socrative is a good model among them. Go to socrative.com or download the apps and see what you can do with that.

One Approach, Two Ends: Blended Learning as “the Best of Both Worlds” or “the Worst of Both Worlds” within the Hands of Educators

20131016-181703.jpgAs Prensky (2001) enthusiastically puts forward, on the one hand, “it is amazing […] how in all the hoopla and debate these days about the decline of education in the US we ignore the most fundamental of its causes. Our students have changed radically. Today’s students are no longer the people our educational system was designed to teach.” On the other hand, VanSlyke (2003) argues clearly by stating that he finds “it hard to believe that neurological structures could change to such a dramatic extent from one generation to the next.” He continues by explaining that “yet even if we grant that Digital Natives think and learn somewhat differently than older generations, we may be doing them a disservice to de-emphasize “legacy” content such as reading, writing, and logical thinking, or to say that the methodologies we have used in the past are no longer relevant.” Although it has been over ten years since these sentences were produced, the debate still keeps its temperature and people are yet to discuss about concepts like ‘digital natives/immigrants, computer assisted language learning (CALL), web-enhanced/ blended/ hybrid or fully online education etc.’ Those stakeholders, who are not still sure about the definition of the terms, keep discussing both the advantages and disadvantages or the challenges of the integration of technology into our classrooms. In fact, literature provides a variety of definitions for ‘blended learning’ and similar concepts, but it can practically be defined as “a combination of face-to-face (physical) and online (virtual) learning environments” (Stacey & Gerbic, 2009). It seems that there is still time to lessen the debate on technology and its effectiveness; nonetheless, as a person who is interested in this marriage of technology to language learning or education, I believe that technology in the form of blended learning can benefit to all stakeholders from parents to managers and of course including teachers and students when incorporated and administered meaningfully. Therefore, I actually agree with the claim that “blended learning is emerging as a ‘the best of both worlds’ for schooling” since “traditional brick and mortar programs may fail to embrace the opportunities available to us in this digital age and full-time online schools can’t serve every student” in our world (Anderson, 2011). Regarding the question above and the blended learning environment, the advantages which make it a “the best of two worlds” will be discussed. Later on, the challenges and concerns which keep people and stakeholders away from it will also be focused on.

First of all, it is apparent that the generation today, or today’s learners and children might not be so extreme as Prensky puts forward, but it is also really clear that they are not as the same as the generation of a few decades ago. Although it might be unrealistic to put them all under a certain category or label, we, as educators, parents and older people, can observe everywhere that today’s learners tend to be dependent on using their mobile devices all the time, stay connected on the Internet, explore on their own and play games. They have their intrinsic motivation to a great extent concerning the things listed above. Therefore, instead of putting a ban on using their mobiles within the boundaries of classrooms, keeping them away from the Internet and such related technologies cannot do anything rather than killing this intrinsic motivation and their energy instead of channeling it into more educational activities. Vander Ark (2012) proposes that three students in a coffee shop rather than a physical classroom environment may still be deeply engaged in learning activities unlike anyone has ever experienced. In that case, successful amalgamation of tools like blended learning is the thing which provides educators with this opportunity.

Secondly, regarding the time constraint in schools and the fact that learners are not there all of their time, easily having opportunities like meeting their teachers and spending a great deal of time to practice what they have learnt, technology when skillfully applied, can be a tool to empower both teachers and institutions. As also mentioned above, directing learners’ energy into some teaching tools and keeping them engaged online with meaningful activities can make our learners autonomous in real sense and help spend valuable time that they might not in real classroom environments. Then, the time that will normally be spent on such activities or practice could be spend on various tasks which require more face-to-face communication in real sense. To illustrate, it is actually an undeniable fact that our learners might not have enough chance to practice their listening and speaking skills in language classrooms. However, when a variety of software programs, tools and tasks are integrated in harmony, learners could easily have chances to perform what they have learnt and improve such skills as those requiring more practice. As also portrayed in Grgurovic’s case study, even students who were not very engaged during class pair work would work on speaking tasks in the lab. Moreover, the teacher also believed that working on online materials in the lab helped less attentive students control their learning better than in the classroom (Grgurovic, 2011).

Another important need to integrate technology into our teaching is games. As Prensky repeatedly underlines, today’s learner spend a considerable part of their time on games, and they are also very attractive even for adults who actually could be regarded as digital immigrants. One professor, as quoted in Prensky’s article (2001b), states that digital natives have really short attention spans especially for the old ways of learning, but not for games or for anything else that actually interests them. At this point, to actively engage learners in our language classrooms, we can try to figure out ways to make use of technology and blending it into our teaching rather than solely a focus on conventional teaching methods or inventing still-to-be-discovered tools. Games might be really effective regarding different learning styles, as put forward by Kolb (1984), Gardner (1995), Fleming (2007) and Jackson (2005), since they appeal to a variety of learning styles from visual to musical, or from social to even kinesthetic styles. Hence, instead of avoiding them or ignoring their effects on teaching and learning, educators should consider the ways of utilizing them to benefit more from games. On the other hand, it should be noted that this does not necessarily mean that every game can directly be an effective and magical teaching tool all at once. Prensky explains that if some games do not produce learning, it is not because they are games, or because the concept of ‘game-based learning’ is faulty; instead, it is because those particular games are badly designed. Therefore, as also stated and underlined above a few times, what is in fact really vital is a successful and meaningful integration of all technology-related tools into our teaching.

As for the advantages of blended learning and reasons why it is portrayed as a ‘best of the two worlds”, there are many more to jot down, but due to space constraints of this paper, one more benefit will be explained prior to challenges and maybe disadvantages. It is widely accepted that the competitive nature of our world today and far-fetched expectations from institutions and educators seem to put a heavy burden on both. Their responsibility is to equip learners with necessary and relevant knowledge which will help them to be successful in their later life. As language teachers, our burden is even heavier since learning a language can be affected by individual differences and their motivation. Therefore, instead of allocating most of our time to catch the attention of our learners and do more than our best, we as educators can also channel a considerable part of this energy into looking for the ways to blend technology into our classrooms and spend our time and energy even more wisely. To illustrate, giving feedback might not be most challenging part of our jobs, but it is certainly one of the top time-consuming tasks of a teacher. Instead of consuming most of our time on marking and writing comments, we can create tools via various learning environments and they can easily take some of the burden from educators. Software and online packages of various course books are a good example for this. Teachers can focus on content in classrooms and do a necessary amount of practice, then these packages can do the rest. Since they are also customizable, we can adjust the feedback, comments, and grades in the way we want and learners can do the rest studying online. For the ones who are not happy with allocating their financial sources for such packages, there are even freeware programs and learning environments to achieve it. As a result, it all depends on how we as educators modify the nature of our course and how we plan it. We should, in fact, plan it so meaningfully and conscientiously that we can gain from all those advantages listed above.

Although not as many as its advantages and benefits it provide, there are also a few challenges regarding blended learning. Firstly, the individual differences both from teachers’ and learners’ perspectives are one of the few challenges to deal with. In fact, as one cannot guarantee that all learners today, called digital natives, bear the same characteristics which make them all active, social, dynamic, and technology-literate people; similarly, there are also discrepancies among educators’ both personal attitudes and professional knowledge. As for both the learners and educators, some of them might even dislike using technology in almost all phases of their life including education. Therefore, the challenge which educators today come across while teaching in technology-blended classrooms is trying to consider such individual learner differences in order to win them all. The assumption that all digital natives bear the same characteristics will probably end up with a failure and it has the potential to make it a “the worst of both worlds”. As stated by Van Slyke, a typical classroom is much more diverse, with students coming from a range of backgrounds; many do not have computers at home, some have disabilities, and some are simply not interested in computer games. Hence, blending technology successfully with conventional ways of teaching means taking into account all those factors in our teaching plans. Furthermore, thinking about the other side of the coin, teachers might not be similarly equipped with the necessary knowledge and background regarding blended learning classes. Especially, at institutions where blended learning classes are encouraged and even forced to be used, teachers might have potential problems and could be dealing with spending a considerable amount of their energy figuring out the ways of achieving it, which instead could be used more productively when channeled into something familiar in the short run.

As for the planning blended learning classes and equipping institutions with state-of-the-art technological inventions, another point would be to give a thought to critical pedagogy. First, the decision-makers who want blended learning classes might not be the ones who actualize teaching in the real sense. Real teachers might not be asked about their opinions regarding both equipments and planning blended learning classes. Finally, what institutions expect their teachers and students to study and get familiar with might not represent the reality. To illustrate, there are still a lot of countries where primarily teachers and also students know what a slide projector or a computer, of course, is; however, they might not have access to such tools in their classrooms or personal lives, which will possibly create a discrepancy between what is real and ideal.

Last but not least, a strong and improper focus on technology and, not maybe blended learning classes, but dependence on designing fully online courses assuming that everybody adores them might result in a society or generation who has not had a chance to socialize. Prensky claims that digital natives are even more playful and sociable compared with previous age groups since socialization or sociocultural development is not solely based on face-to-face contact and since digital natives have several online game groups which make them sociable. However, this kind of socialization could be asynchronous most of the time and it could even be monotonous since the focus is usually the same. In this sense, regarding Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory, we can assume that a limited level of social contact with others and peers as a result of too much focus on technological devices could affect personal and cognitive development phases negatively since factors like mediation and ZPD would only be limited to online interaction.

All in all, regarding all the discussion and related advantages, benefits and potential drawbacks of blending technology into classrooms, it can be easily grasped that it requires a very careful analysis and successful planning. Provided that both teachers and institutions have a say in designing blended learning classes and buying relevant equipment; as long as learners’ individual differences are taken into meticulous consideration; and finally on the condition that all this process is carried out thoroughly and skillfully, it is possible to conclude that blended learning can be portrayed as a “the best of both worlds” where face-to-face (physical) and online (virtual) learning environments are blended in harmony. Otherwise, it really does not require extra skills to make it a “the worst of both worlds” where neither educators nor learners would have an idea of what is being done.

References

Anderson, A. B., & Amanda S.. (2011). Blended learning: The best of both worlds. http://www.dkfoundation.org/sites/default/files/files/BlendedLearning-BestOfBothWorlds-Feb2011.pdf (September 27, 2013).

Ark, T. V.. (2011). Getting Smart: How Digital Learning Is Changing the World. http://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=jKjViK5jgq0C&oi=fnd&pg=PT11&dq=Getting+Smart:+How+Digital+Learning+is+Changing+the+World&ots=zDwmsVY1aM&sig=kJuwhnPMSGTSrpgItAi1crX0fFI (September 27, 2013).

Fleming. H, & Amit J. Shah (2007) Using Learning Style Instruments to Enhance Student Learning. Decision Sciences Journal of Innovative Educationdoi:10.1111/j.1540-4609.2007.00125.x

Gardner, D., & James W.. (1995). Learning styles: Implications for distance learning. New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education 67.

Grgurovic, M. (2011). Blended learning in an ESL class: A case study. Journal, Calico 29(1): 100–117. http://www.u.arizona.edu/~mpolat/articles/Grgurovic.M.2011.pdf.

Jackson, C. J. (2005). An applied neuropsychological model of functional and dysfunctional learning: Applications for business, education, training and clinical psychology. Cymeon: Australia

Kolb, D. (1984). Experiential learning: Experience as the source of learning and development. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall. ISBN0-13-295261-0.

Prensky, M, and BD Berry. (2001). Do they really think differently. On the horizon. http://britannia-spb.ru/downloads/Prensky-Digital-Natives-Digital-Immigrants-Part2.pdf (September 27, 2013).

Prensky, M. (2001). Digital natives, digital immigrants Part 1. On the Horizon 9(5): 1–6. http://www.emeraldinsight.com/10.1108/10748120110424816.

VanSlyke, T. (2003). Digital natives, digital immigrants: Some thoughts from the generation gap. The technology source. http://depd.wisc.edu/html/TSarticles/Digital Natives.htm (September 27, 2013).