Our Educational Message

Hi, and welcome to our blog. This space is designed to share ideas and methodologies that we use to teach Turkish teenagers. In particular, there is a strong focus on ICT-ELT, which means if you like visual and technological support for your style of teaching, this blog is for you. My colleague, Brentson Ramsey, has been working alongside me for three years. He is also a big proponent of the ICT-ELT Paradigm, which means he will also be posting from his own teaching perspective on the blog.

2010 was the beginning of this new journey, and although there is no definitive ICT-ELT road map available for everyone to follow, it is exciting to explore the technological means to make teaching more fun and affective for students. Our main message is for teachers to ADOPT & ADAPT the paradigm shift for their own needs, and remember that

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Read and Write on Google Chrome

Let's face it, most people don't like change.  In fact, some even abhor it. Whether it be our own daily routine; where our students prefer to sit in the classroom; or getting teachers to adapt and adopt technology in their lessons, it seems that resistance to change is just one of those characteristics that we all share as human beings. We like normalcy and comfort, and we get this when we we stick with what we know. I mention this because, only a month ago, both my colleague and I resisted to make even a very minute change in our working lives, which was with an ICT tool that we all use everyday: our web browser.

My colleague and I have both been avid users of Mozilla Firefox, since its inception nearly a decade ago.  It is a fast and easy-to-use browser with tons of cool extensions, such as a Download Helper, which allows you download videos from any website in several different formats and degrees of video quality.  We have both recommended Firefox to hundreds of friends and educators.  However, as a regular follower of Twitter, I began to see many posts about the brilliance of Google Chrome and,  in particular, several extensions that are incredibly useful for educational purposes. At first, I felt enthusiastic about the possibilities for new projects that we could do with our students, but, unfortunately, that feeling of resistance to change held me back.  I had my reasons too, though.  My Firefox browser was perfectly set up with all the many tools and bookmarks I had saved over the years.  I really didn't feel like going through the hassle of saving them all over again, by changing web browsers.  Then, again, looking through Twitter posts one day, my colleague stumbled upon a tool only found on Google Chrome called Read and Write.  After he showed me this, we decided then and there that not only would we switch to Chrome, but that we would force our students to do the same.  It is seriously that cool.

Read and Write is essentially a free add-on for Google Docs that allows users to access many different functions from a toolbar at the top of the screen. After installing the extension,  (which you can reach by clicking here) an image like the one just above automatically appears every time you create or open a Google Doc.  When you click on it, a toolbar opens up with several tools to choose from, each of which will be explained below.

What really got my colleague and I seriously excited about this tool, right off the bat, was that it reads any text on a Google Doc back to you.  All you have to do is highlight the text you would like read back to you, and click the play button on the toolbar.  A computerized voice then begins to read.  It may not be the coolest sounding voice ever, and there are several options from American to British and Australian, but this is still something that is incredibly useful for any ESL student.  In Turkey, where we work, we find that the majority of our students have a much higher ability to speak and listen in English, as opposed to reading and writing.  For this reason, we assign our students a short piece of journal writing every weekend throughout the year, on penzuclassroom.  When giving video feedback to them, the students can usually spot the mistake they made in any given sentence just from hearing it read back to them.  They can hear and feel that something just isn't right.  Read and Write now allows them to hear any sentence or paragraph read back to them 24/7, before they even send it, thus hopefully eliminating more of the surface errors they have.  

Read and Write, furthermore, has two dictionary functions for students to use.  The first, as pictured above, provides the reader with the meaning of any word on the Google Doc in an instant.  The second is a picture dictionary, as pictured below.   These two tools will allow your students to find the meanings of unknown words much faster than opening another tab on their web browser, or looking a word up in an actual paper dictionary.  In addition, if your students are still unsure about an unknown word and want to learn more, they can highlight it and click the Translator button to see the meaning in their native language.  They can also click the Fact Finder button on the toolbar and Google will do an automatic search on the web and show the results on a new tab.

Finally, there is a collect highlighter tool, which we believe is fantastic for our 9th grade students.  They despise taking notes in general, but especially when reading a novel or non-fiction text.  They always tell us that they will never go back and review the text to see their notes, so there is no point; they say!  As often as we here this, we continue to push them to take notes, and perhaps one day they will see the value of  it. 

Read and Write now basically allows your students to take notes on a Google Doc.  They simply have to highlight any part of the text with a yellow background.  After doing this to several parts of a text, they then click the collect highlights on the toolbar, and a new pop-up window appears with only the text that they have highlighted.  This is a great way to save notes while researching for an essay, for example.

If you are just as excited as I was when I first saw Read and Write for Google Docs, I urge you to watch the video below.  It shows the extension in more visual detail.  Simply put, if you are a user of Google Drive and Google Docs, you must get this and try it out with your students.  If your are currently not using Chrome, and are feeling hesitant to switch over like I was, download Chrome and just check it out for a few days.  You won't be disappointed.

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