Smartboard Revolution

SmartBoard is a large touch-sensitive board that uses a sensor for detecting the users’ input when working on it. This tool presents teaching material in an interactive manner with a revolutionized finger-touch capability. Smartboard lesson templates are created via SmartNote book, which is free and easily downloaded on the Internet. It has revolutionized education, providing a dynamic interaction with students in the classroom who can accomplish several tasks by touching or writing on the screen. This tool has a lot of interesting functions, such as writing with digital ink that is available in four colours, creating game boards, inserting a timer, videos or any file or picture.

Dr. Mary Ann Bell, an educator in the field, argues that ‘‘The board can accommodate different learning styles. Tactile learners can benefit from touching and marking at the board, audio learners can have the class discussion, visual learners can see what is taking place as it develops at the board’’( This is significant, considering that the teacher needs to adapt to the different learning styles of his students, if he wants to foster an effective environment for leaning. For instance, Smartboard is tactile, which captivates the attention of students who prefer to learn by themselves by manipulating things or objects.  A good way to integrate the content of the course for these types of learners is to have them come at the board and carry out tactile tasks, such as writing or touching the board to reveal an answer to a question that was previously asked. Audio leaners can also benefit from the Smartboard in the classroom, as it can insert music, sounds or a recorded dialogue. For example, teachers can present listening comprehensions via this tool, and these learners benefit from that aspect of the software. Visual learners easily follow what is being written or showed on the board, and they are less distracted because they know exactly what they are supposed to do. A good example in a classroom is to put a timer to indicate how much time students have to carry out an activity. This way, visual learners can manage their time more efficiently because they only need to look at the board to know how much time remains.

A great advantage of this tool is to have immediate access to online resources. Katherine Bradley from Demand media explains that ‘‘Using interacting whiteboard technology enables high school teachers to integrate the lesson with a variety of instructional modalities quickly and easily. A teacher can call upon a segment of an online video or news headline to help reinforce a social studies unit. A virtual field trip becomes possible.’’ ( Instead of having to open a new page and to go on Youtube, Smartboard enables videos to be directly uploaded on the files, which saves a lot of time. Smartboard thus regroups online videos and presents them in an organized manner. Including videos in a classroom of English as a second language is very beneficial for students, who can have access to more input of native speakers in the target language. For instance, teachers can show videos to have students hear different English accents around the world, or to provide information about the English culture in general.

Furthermore, lesson activities become more realistic and interesting than in a traditional classroom. Lise Buyer from ABC news went to visit the Nichols School in Buffalo and was surprised to notice the efficiency of the Smartboard. ‘‘Instead of a dry lecture on conjugating French verbs, kids in Sheila Zamor’s middle school class didn’t just learn to “mange fromage,” but rather watched as the whiteboard transformed from a hand written grammar lesson to a discussion of how tu, nous and vous would order the different the varieties at the finest fromageries in Paris’’ ( ). Traditional grammar lessons are therefore replaced by relevant conversational knowledge through the use of the Smartboard. In fact, functional language or mini-dialogues can be easily inserted with this tool, which provides students with a point of reference to initiate appropriate conversations in English. The communicative approach to teaching is therefore fostered, as students rely on the model of a dialogue that is given on the Smartboard to acquire the grammatical structures and to convey meaning when speaking with another student. This technique is especially suitable when carrying cooperative learning activities such as Inside-Outside Circle, in which students have to discuss about a subject with a partner. Images or vocabulary can be provided on the Smartboard, so that students only need to look at it once to elaborate on a specific topic. Thus, Smartboard enables cooperative learning activities to be carried out effectively with concrete visual support or functional language. Grammar can also be implicitly incorporated in dialogues, which can serve as a model for students to imitate in real conversations with their classmates.


Smartboard has a positive impact on important factors for learning, which are motivation, problem-solving and performance. Michael J.Weimer from West Noble Middle School has observed that ‘‘students who use technology tend to improve their performance and problem-solving abilities while increasing their motivation toward reading’’( Since students are asked more often to solve problems via the Smartboard, they develop a sense of accomplishment, which eventually leads to increased motivation. An example of a problem-solving with the use of Smartboard is to prepare an activity in which students need to decide to only bring two objects on a desert island, and to reach a consensus in teams. With this approach, different objects can be included on this tool, so that students can inspire their argumentation from the visual support that is given to them. Because students develop high motivation towards problem-solving learning via the Smartboard, they eventually increase their performance. Students are likely to perform better if they are highly motivated since motivation is intrinsically linked to performance. Therefore, Smartboard creates a positive vicious circle between effective problem-solving, self-confidence and achievement.

Finally, Smartboard also fosters learning for students with physical disabilities because of its touch-sensitive surface. In fact, ‘‘It allows all students, even those who cannot hold a pen, to write and interact with content using the finger-touch capability. For students who have trouble using traditional keyboards and mice, the touch and click ease allows them the opportunity to interact with a computer.’’ ( This is very important to consider, because more and more physically disabled students are incorporated into regular classrooms to facilitate their integration into society. In traditional classroom lectures, teachers often fail to give an equal learning opportunity to these students. In this case, the tactile aspect of this tool facilitates general learning, as students only need to touch the board to move pictures on the screen. Thus, everything that is usually done with a pen can be replaced with the finger-touch capability on the Smartboard. All in all, Smartboard provides an effective solution to better integrate physical disabled students in the learning process, by giving them the opportunity to be valorized and praised via their capacity to accomplish tasks with their hands.




Storybird as an inspiration for writing

Storybird is an easy collaborative story-creating tool that allows students to invent and publish short stories. The only requirement to access is to create an account, which promotes a very easy access. This tool puts the emphasis on collaboration and on the process of inspirational writing through artful storytelling. Teachers can design accounts for their pupils in order to share their work among the members of their class or with the whole world if the purpose is so.


One of the great features of Storybird is that art in this tool is absolutely beautiful, and this surely inspires students to enter in their creative writing process. For instance, ‘‘The gorgeous illustrations inspire students to write. The more they write, the more they read. It’s an addictive, virtuous cycle’’ ( In this sense, Storybird’s visual art is outstanding compared to any other story-creating tools, which are usually a blank page that students must fill in, without receiving direct inspiration from the tool itself. Visual learners also benefit from the quality of the images provided in Storybird. Instead of suffering the blank page syndrome, they save time because their thinking process is embedded into their exploring process of the tool through inspirational images. Thus, the simplicity of the tool to insert beautiful images puts the emphasis on writing skills, because students do not have to struggle when trying to insert pictures on a blank page that is not very inspiring. With Storybird, art does not become a long and complicated task in addition of writing, it complements it instead.


Moreover, Storybird does not only limit to individual work. ‘‘It is possible for students to write part of a story in Storybird, and share it with someone else, who can then continue writing the story. This feature is well suited within the polyphonic use of teaching’’ ( This function promotes students’ sense of adaptation, as they have to take into consideration what their classmate has written, and to start from this idea in order to build the complete scenario of the story. It also fosters tolerance within the classroom, as some students will have to continue writing the story of someone with whom they do not usually work with. In fact, open-mindedness becomes in union with creativity, which is something worth trying with students. Polyphony is therefore fostered, as students’ different parts are combined and come to create harmony and form a new and unexpected final product. The quality of this whole story depends on students’ capacity to integrate successfully their ideas into the ones that were previously mentioned by their peers. Therefore, individual performance is put away for the benefit of collaborative performance.


Linda Page, the lead teacher at Kennet School, first used Storybird with her students to have them produce French and Spanish e-book, and then to share it with younger students, who would use these stories as real resources for learning. As she explained, ‘‘We wanted to use new technology to do this, which we hoped would be exciting and motivating for both pupils and teachers. We also hoped to further motivate pupils by getting them to produce work for a given audience (i.e. the year 7-8 pupils producing stories for year 5-6 pupils and vice versa) ( What is very interesting about this approach is that students get to produce a task for real educational purposes. Usually, students do not produce work for the educational benefits of others; they produce work for the academic context itself. In this perceptive, Storybird promotes students’ self-confidence, as they feel that they are concretely helping younger students. These younger students also benefit from these personal and interesting e-books produced by older students, as they improve their literacy skills in a more motivating way. Thus, Storybird helps to establish a positive interdependent learning relationship between younger and older students, which aim to achieve the greater good in education. The idea of adapting a project to an audience teaches students that they always need to adapt their speech or their writing to whom they are aiming to speak or write. This capacity to foster the learning of a given audience by creating content of their level is a very remarkable skill that they develop with Storybird.


Another teacher grade 3, 4 and 5 ESL teacher, Amanda Castaneda, used Storybird to integrate grammatical content. More precisely, she intended students to use adjectives while creating their stories. In her project, the instructions were as followed: ‘‘Students will be learning how to create stories using complete simple sentences, while focusing on the use of vivid adjectives. Students will work collaboratively to create a story describing one another. Student will create their story of friendship using the Web 2.0 tool Storybird’’ ( In her case, Storybird is used to teach adjectives in a creative and interesting fashion. Students were in pairs and had to describe the relationship that they had with their friend, using as much adjectives as they could. This represents in fact a very subtle manner to have students review grammatical content while they think they are only carrying out a pleasant activity with their friend. For elementary ESL students, this is always something to think about. Children usually do not like grammar as an end in itself. Storybird represents an efficient manner to introduce grammatical content through collaborative and creative story settings.


Finally, Mercy Pilkington, a senior editor for Good e-reader, emphasizes in her article the importance of publishing school work and how the standards of the education have changed. For instance, ‘‘Under the new guidelines for teaching writing, “publishing” is an actual standard now; it’s no longer enough to write and illustrate a darling story with a pencil and paper and allow the teacher to hang it on the bulletin board. The Common Core encourages things like teacher websites and blogging instruction for elementary school students.’’ ( Her thought is clearly relevant, because elementary students are given the opportunity to read the work done by their peers and to be read by them, which promotes a strong sense of community within the classroom. By creating a teacher website, teachers regroup efficiently all the projects related to the classroom and can keep track of everything in addition of grading their students’ work. Moreover, parents can be invited to this teacher page and explore the work that students accomplish in the classroom. Parents are often too focused on the performance of their children, as they seek their academic success. With the publishing aspect of Storybird, parents become more aware of the work done by other students as well, which can give them an overall idea of the group’s accomplishment.

Twitter for intellectuals? ”Twitterature”

Twitter is a social-network generally used for publishing short texts of 140 characters called ‘‘tweets’’. People register in Twitter to follow people, associations or to connect with the community according to their intellectual or personal interests. It is very easy to create an account on Twitter, as people only need a valid and already existent e-mail address and password. On the official site, two icons are put in evidence for downloading the Twitter application on the App store and the Android Application on Google Play. This again facilitates the process of being always connected to Twitter via a phone or a mobile device. However, can Twitter truly be a tool for educational purposes with its maximum of 140 characters when publishing a post?


Some teachers have benefited from this aspect of Twitter to encourage ‘‘Twitterature’’ in the classroom, where poetry is modernized with short posts that students publish one after the other. For instance, Twitter encourages creative writing with respect to writing a story or a poem collaboratively. ‘‘Many writers and poets have experimented with Twitter’s 140-character format to bring new, serialized works in small chunks to attention-divided audiences. Some educators may like the idea of asking their students to apply their creative writing skills to a restrictive social media outlet’’ ( In fact, since Twitter is mostly a tool for publishing small texts, it becomes an area to explore in creative writing, since students can be encouraged to write one tweet a day. This way, their audience’s curiosity increases as it wants to know more about the story, or only to read another well-written poem. If all students in a classroom follow everyone, they benefit from the opportunity of reading the work done by their peers, which can increase students’ motivation and quality of writing as they publish and read others’ posts regularly. In addition, teachers can use Twitter to create a story collaboratively, if the school has access to Ipads or if students are all connected on Twitter via their phones. For example, if they want to create a round character, they ask every student alternatively to write a Tweet which reveals a special detail about him. Consequently, students’ creativity is promoted in addition of higher thinking, because students must take into consideration details that were previously posted by their classmates when inventing a new one.


Moreover, Twitter has also been used in the classroom for the purpose of asking questions online that are anonymous and that the teacher can answer during his lecture, which benefits everybody in the class. However, even if this educational approach seems effective because shyer students finally have a chance to be heard and to be answered without directly interrupting the class session, some argue that it is rather a distraction.  Sugato Chakravarty, a professor of consumer science and retailing at Purdue University argues in this direction : ‘‘Opening up a Twitter-powered channel in class […] alters classroom power dynamics and signals to students that they’re in control. Fans of the approach applaud technology that promises to change professors’ role from “sage on the stage” to “guide on the side’’(  In this context, the teacher used a homemade software called ‘‘Hotseat’’, which enabled students to ask questions via Twitter. Teachers must be aware that giving that much control to students can either positively or negatively impact the atmosphere of the classroom. Even if every post was anonymous with Hotseat, it was still public, and issues such as cheating or ruining the professor’s credibility arose. Students can get easily off-track or write posts that contradict the teacher’s theory, which are again seen by everybody in the class. In this case, the teacher is in the obligation to defend himself in front of everyone. In addition, since questions are asked online, there are actually a lot more questions than in a traditional lecture classroom because students do not even need to raise their hands. Do teachers truly have the time to answer questions that are asked every 2 minutes? They usually have very dense material to cover in a precise time frame, and always answering questions may have the classroom diverge from its original educational goal. The traditional lecture is therefore replaced by an interactive session that students control, as the teacher becomes dependent on the questions posted by students on Twitter. There is in fact a huge difference between the ‘‘sage on the stage’’ and the ‘‘guide on the side’’, which is the question of independent intellectual authority. By being a guide, teachers are still competent intellectuals, but have lost their privilege of having the control over their classroom.


‘‘Barrett (2008) considers one of the functions of Twitter as a tool filling the gap between email and instant messaging (IM). Instant messaging is all about synchronous communication, relying upon people being online at the same moment. Asynchronous communication characterised by email (and by blog commenting) is slightly more time consuming but does not rely upon people being online at the same time’’ ( For this reason, Twitter becomes an effective means of communication between teachers and students. Since Twitter does not require synchronous communication, teachers can feel free to answer their students whenever they connect to Twitter; they do not actually have to be always online. This way, students still know they will receive a fast reply without being totally asynchronous with their teachers. Students truly benefit from their teachers’ availability, and with Twitter, teachers are much more present for them. It is also of importance to mention that if everyone is a follower of everybody in the class, the teacher’s response to a particular student will be significant to others as well. This will decrease useless repetitions for the same questions, as it often happens when teachers answer students via email. In this sense, Twitter enables an interactive and accessible network for teachers and students to exchange information over school assignments.

Carrie Kamm, an instructional coach, considers Twitter as a new opportunity for students to communicate learning and to know each other. In her school, teachers asked students questions about their experience as a student, or about any subject of actuality in the news. As a consequence, ‘‘Students also learned about the responsibilities that come with having an online presence-starting in the kindergarten classroom. Teachers facilitated discussions about the norms for treating one another that they established in the classroom were also connected to Twitter interactions’’ ( What is significant in this approach with Twitter is that students feel that they are involved by the staff of the school, which lowers the distance that is usually present between students and the instructors. By asking regularly questions to students, it fosters a sense of belonging to the community of the school. What is even more impressive is how teachers can reflect on this communication in their classroom. For instance, students are not only aware of their presence online with Twitter, but they think about the impact of their words. In this sense, Twitter becomes a virtual reality aiming to prepare students to better understand and fulfill their roles as future citizens involved in other social networks or in real life. It provides an opportunity for understanding that virtual behaviour reflects real behaviour and can easily affect other people’s perceptions positively or negatively.


Twitter is also of great interest for establishing a direct communication with the parents of students. ‘‘A Grade 5 teacher who uses Twitter has designated one of the jobs in her classroom as that of Tweeter. The student with this job Tweets two or three times a day about classroom learning activities; sometimes a photo is included’’ ( Parents often complain about not knowing enough of what is going on in the classroom. This permits parents to be aware of what his child is learning at the instant that students write their Tweets. Since parents are more involved in the academic life of their children, it is easier for them to connect with their children, as they already know what they did in general. A better knowledge of their children gives a better chance for parents to help and support them. Twitter can also be used for communication between teachers and parents, as parents only need to follow the teachers of their children on Twitter. All in all, Twitter is useful for providing parents information over the content viewed in class or on any disruptive behaviour.

Dropbox: A Powerful synchronization tool

Dropbox is a very useful tool when it comes to managing workload and accessing it via different computers or even via a phone. Files can be text documents, photos, videos, music and even Powerpoint presentations. For instance, Dropbox is an application that is downloaded at and that once it is downloaded on every device or computer, it becomes an independent desktop. More precisely, every file is automatically available on every computer and is shared and saved automatically. When creating a new account, Dropbox gives 2 Gig of free store, which is enough to start with for educational purposes. However, for additional storage, there are costs of around 10$ a month or of100 $ a year to consider.


As mentioned in this video tutorial on Dropbox ( ), one interesting feature to keep track of group work efficiently is that when opening Dropbox, the file on top will always be the most recent one. This is very interesting considering that sometimes with other tools such as Microsoft Word, different documents are saved and they can be easily mixed up with one another when attaching it to an email. With Dropbox, every teammate is absolutely sure of the latest version of the project, which saves time and avoids people to work on the wrong document. In addition, it represents an interesting feature for students who automatically notice that new modification has been done on a certain document because it is at the top of their page. This function is also interesting for teachers who can keep track of assignments that are uploaded on a folder on Dropbox from the most recent one to the less recent one. In other words, Dropbox is effective for organizing documents because both students and teachers are directly directed towards the documents that were last modified, which indirectly sets priorities, as the files on top of the page are the most up to date ones, while files that have been not used for a while do not become an obstacle to finding more recent and pertinent ones.


Probably the most important function of Dropbox is that ‘‘Any file you save to Dropbox is automatically synchronized to all your devices–your home computer, your work computer, your phone, and online at Once you download Dropbox on a device, it syncs with every other device you own. Since it’s saved online, files are backed up automatically.’’ ( This synchronization function is a huge advantage for students who are used to sending themselves emails back and forth in order to access documents at home that were created at school, or vice versa. A lot of students were in trouble because they thought they had attached a file to their email, but they had only sent themselves the email without any attached document. In this case, it only creates undesired anxiety. Moreover, Dropbox offers a better solution than the USB key, since the USB key is something that people have to carry all the time with them if they want to access their documents. Therefore, there are risks of losing it and of losing every single document that was on it if it was not backed up on a computer. Again, this creates useless frustration. Dropbox enables students to never lose their documents and to avoid errors of distraction and organization as every file is always synchronized automatically via any device or computer. Dropbox offers students a sense of trustworthiness and accessibility, as files are available everywhere there is an Internet connection.


Dropbox is also a great tool for students to hand in assignments directly online and to receive feedback from the teacher. For instance, ‘‘Students […]  can also use it to submit assignments, and store their e-portfolios. Once they finish an assignment, they can share the file with you by sending you a link. The teacher can then read the file, highlight and leave comments on it, and save the annotations for the student to read later’’ (  Correction on hard copies can become quite a big responsibility for teachers as they have to carry all of their students’ assignments with them, especially if they teach more than one group. There is also a risk of losing a students’ copy, which can create a lot of problems. Dropbox also saves time and paper for students, because they only need to share their document with their teacher using their teacher’s email address. In fact, by asking students to download Dropbox at the beginning of the year, teachers can always rely on this tool as a portal for school work, and students will easily become accustomed to it. Finally, individual privacy is respected when using Dropbox, because teachers only send the revised copy to the concerned student, and no other people can access it. It is quite important to respect this convention, even if Dropbox can be used for group work assignments, because it would not be appropriate for students to see their peers’ grades only because it was shared once with them as it happens with Google Doc.


When working collaboratively, everyone with whom a document is shared can modify it as much as they want. For this reason, some students can decide to delete something in particular that was not approved by everybody on the team. In fact, Dropbox has a great option to recover deleted data : ‘‘If a file is deleted and you need to recover that particular file, Dropbox keeps it for 30 days. Dropbox also keeps the history of changes to a file so that you are able to undo changes made to the file within 30 days. For those who prefer to keep all of their files, Dropbox has a “pack-rat” option that keeps files for an unlimited amount of time’’ ( This delay of 30 days is very useful because it allows sufficient time to review what was previously changed and still be able to cancel the deletion. This option can also be of very great use for teachers, because when they share a document with all their students, everyone can modify or delete something in it. Thus, it enables teachers to keep control and keep track of what has been last modified in their document. For example, if they created a file for a collaborative whole-class brainstorming, and that some students erased some ideas that they felt were useless, the teacher can retrieve this data and post it again. Finally, the historic of deleted items helps to keep track of what type of content was deleted in order to be easier to understand why it was actually deleted when discussing it in teams.

All in all, using Dropbox promotes active learning between students with the help of additional articles or reading assignments that go beyond traditional textbooks. In other words, ‘‘Creating assignments that require students to apply real world knowledge and events, involve discussion, and critical thinking about past experiences all contribute to increasing active learning’’ ( Teachers must take advantage of Dropbox to upload additional content or videos that are directly related to their course material. Students will consider this different approach in learning as interesting and innovative. Discussions can be easily recorded on a written document and saved for every member of a team, and this direct access will encourage collaborative critical thinking as students have the opportunity to modify the document that was shared with them. Once the class is over, students can easily retrieve content that was uploaded in class because teachers can share their document via Dropbox for students to enrich themselves at home. In conclusion, Dropbox promotes personal and collaborative learning that can be applied with the help of innovative projects uploaded on the application and that can be accessed from everywhere where there is Internet connection.


Save the school’s budget or buy Ipads in a Classroom?

Teachers seek to transmit academic content with the use of Ipads and applications in order to carry out tasks that cannot be done in the context of a traditional classroom. Ipads are devices which serve as little interactive computers and that are meant to have applications. These applications are often freely downloaded from the internet or they have to be bought via Itunes. Applications recommended to download are the ones for annotation, recording-creating videos, recording-creating audio, internet and the sharing of content via Google Drive or Drop box.

Matthew Schneps, a physicist at Harvard University, argues that abstract concepts in science such as space in time are better understood by students through the use of Ipads. ‘‘Schneps pointed to a realistic demonstration of the solar system on the tablet as one such example of something that can be difficult to explain in a classroom. Tapping the unique powers of these devices unleashed neurocognitive learning capabilities in the brain that aren’t often used during traditional instruction’’ ( In this sense, students benefit from more realistic content conveyed by Ipads as opposed to a traditional explanation on the board. Because it is more concrete, students better acknowledge the material and improve their grades during examinations. For a teacher, providing more interesting and accurate material for better academic results from his students represent a great accomplishment in the evolution of his classroom. In addition, students are given the opportunity to independently explore the content that they need to acquire with the application. For this reason, Ipads encourage less reliability on the teacher and more individual learning when interacting with the tool. However, the application used by Schneps was the Solar Walk simulation from Vito Technology, which costs 2.99 on Itunes per installation. Thus, budget can become a serious barrier to the use of excellent applications in the classroom.

Budget is not the only obstacle to using Ipads in the classroom. For instance, distraction seems to be an important issue. Out of 6057 Quebec students surveyed in Grade 6, through 10, ‘‘the report notes that a “surprising” number of students – more than one in three – admitted to playing games in class, sometimes with their teachers’ permission after an assignment or task was completed’’. ( First of all, this betrays the incapacity of the teacher to have a plan B when the activity A is finished, as well as a lack of discipline and class control. Is it only the teacher’s fault? No. Children use most of the time Ipads for entertainment outside of the classroom. Another factor which increases students’ distraction is the lack of experience and knowledge of teachers. In general, students know a lot more about Ipads than teachers do, because they use it almost every day. For this reason, teachers must be well prepared and must know perfectly how to manipulate Ipads in order to gain the respect of their students. Teachers also have to consider the possibility that some students will do their task very quickly with poor quality in order to finish before the others and to play games or go on Facebook. Distraction has always been a big issue in education with cellphones and other electronic devices, even when they were forbidden. It is logical to infer that giving them permission and access to use Ipads will increase their temptation for distraction.


Another interesting feature of Ipads is the possibility to record videos for academic purposes. More precisely, ‘‘Video creation and editing is simple on the iPad. This can be a great group activity to encourage collaboration. Unfortunately Flash is not supported on the iPad, so watching videos (except on YouTube) is not always possible’’ (  Video projects can therefore be easily carried out in the classroom with the application iMovie. It encourages collaborative learning as well as team work to reach a common goal given by the teacher. Since Safari does not support Flash, teachers should download the application Puffin, because it communicates with its own server and can read flash. This way, videos created by students can be shared in front of the whole class. Teachers can also take advantage of the video function to ask students to record themselves speaking in English at home individually or explaining something in particular in English. This provides a great opportunity for students to feel less shy with regards to their pronunciation in English, since they are alone with the Ipad. In addition, they practice their pronunciation as much as they want, because they can start again their recording to improve and have a better result in the end. A sense of personal accomplishment arises as they personally control their performance by being their own monitor and by achieving a final product that corresponds to their best of capacities without the traditional stress of oral presentations.

In a language classroom, real communication in the target language is always something to encourage because students learn from realistic settings. For instance, the application Skype can be downloaded on the Ipads. ‘‘Skype gives students and teachers the ability to connect with the outside world without leaving the classroom, allowing them to meet face-to-face with the subjects of their learning or with students from other cultures.’’ ( Skype becomes a new innovative way to replace the traditional activity of writing to a pen-pal. It has a lot more benefits, since oral skills are developed through the interaction with a native speaker instead of only practicing writing skills. Videoconference can be done in groups or individually, depending on the objectives of the teacher. This function is great because it enables students to connect with people from everywhere around the world who share a different culture and to learn from their cultural background. Thus, open-mindedness, general knowledge and language skills are emphasized with the Skype application on the Ipads.

As discussed in class with the teacher Mark Miller, Ipads Air of 32 gigs cost 620 $ each, excluding the price for the installation of applications. However, Ipads cannot operate on their own. They need a central computer with a card that manages the Ipads and that can install all the applications on the Ipads at the same time. This computer costs another 100 $, so is buying Ipads a realistic idea? ‘‘Assume the school is small with only 300 children enrolled. Assume also that the school wants to buy the cheapest iPad without AppleCare. At a little more than $450 per iPad, that’s a cost of almost $144,000. I imagine the average state-funded school enjoys less than half that in its annual I.T. budget.’’ (  In this sense, public schools are disadvantaged because of their lack of sufficient budget to buy enough Ipads for everyone. Inequalities will arise as private schools will impress and attract young parents with their iPads, while public schools will struggle to have access to several ones in a classroom. With a cost that high, all the teachers in a school must convince the school principle that Ipads will be helpful in every classroom. However, if the school principle refuses the idea because of lack of sufficient budget or because of personal reasons, teachers will have to cope with that decision and return to their traditional teaching methods.

All in all, good applications that are directly related to a specific school subject usually cost something and teachers get easily discouraged. For instance, maybe teachers put too much emphasis on the use of applications to replace traditional lectures as if they were magically programmed to replace the teacher’s instruction. One must never forget that Ipads cannot replace teaching or content, they are only a tool to enhance students’ learning.

A Popplet Has popped Up

Popplet is a tool designed for the web and for iPads to organize ideas efficiently with the use of virtual mind maps. People who want to work with Popplet can access it via every computer because it does not require any installation and does not cause any delay. The only requirement is to create an account, which gives the user a free use of 5 Popplets, with the possibility to delete and recreate any Popplet that was made within the maximum range of 5. There is even a short tutorial that guides new users if they feel that they need help to start working with that tool. Teachers have found it interesting for the purpose of a classroom because ‘‘ it works as a unique brainstorming or organizing tool when students write papers. With the ability to add links and upload videos, students can organize notes for a research paper or present their research findings’’ ( Individual brainstorming on a sheet of paper often lowers students’ motivation because of the lack of interaction and because they prefer to work with web tools. Popplet meets their expectations in the sense that students can capture their ideas in a personalized and interesting way. More precisely, they can modify the colors of their mind maps as well as their background, and add any link or video that is relevant to their task. Popplet is also very easy to use. In order to create a box (bubble), users only have to double click on the screen and it appears automatically. In addition to that, Popplet enables a cooperative feature that individual brainstorming has never succeeded to achieve before. In fact, students are given the opportunity to share their document with specific people or with the whole class with the ‘‘add user option’’. This permits a collaborative sharing of ideas and strategies for a project or written assignment.

‘‘Finished popplets can be exported as JPG and PDF files, as well as saved and printed. A new feature is a desktop application that can be downloaded and allows popplets to be saved for offline presentations.’’ ( What is great with this tool is the simplicity to convert a finished or unfinished Popplet into a PDF file. Thus, teachers can ask their students to print the final version of their Popplet and to hand it in. In order to save as a PDF, users must click on the option ‘‘export as’’ and choose the ‘‘as a PDF’’ icon. However, it is not always a good idea for bigger Popplets, because when they are printed, their bubbles are too small to be able to read what is written inside. As long as the Popplet is not too long or too extended, it can be printed fairly well. Otherwise, the content is lost by the inability of this tool to print specific zoomed bubbles.

Another interactive feature of this tool is that ‘‘Popplets can be created in the classroom with the aid of your students, live on the interactive whiteboard.’’ ( It represents a source of motivation for students who are usually passive recipients of information in a classroom. The fact that students come up front and write their answers on the interactive board is beneficial for everybody in the class. For instance, the person who is writing practices her cognitive language skills at the same time of her classmates who want to confirm or refute her answer. Teachers can take advantage of this situation to ask to the rest of the class if the answer is correct or not first, in order to promote collective peer-tutoring. Strategically speaking, if the other students are asked to correct the utterance, they become the teacher in a sense and they feel that their feedback is relevant. For this reason, learning becomes interactive and meaningful because the teacher only provides correction after students have debated and arrived to a consensus.

‘‘Popplet can be used in your classroom to ensure that visual learners can access the information. It is very common for teachers to forget to differentiate the curriculum in a way that students with a variety of learning styles can understand the information’’(  Obviously, Popplet represents an effective visual support for students who can follow the teacher’s concepts with the key words written on the interactive board. However, Popplet should not be treated as an effective tool for lecturing, because the only attracting feature in this case is to be able to move a bubble somewhere else on the board, which is quite boring. The primary goal of this tool is to organize efficiently ideas and brainstorms, so relying on this tool to build a whole lecture would only create an overload of bubbles on the screen. In fact, it will encourage students’ passivity because after having used this tool once, they will expect to be overwhelmed by keywords attached to other concepts. The strategy is to present short, precise and effective ideas with Popplet, not to teach long university lectures, since Powerpoint already exercises this function.

Moreover, Popplet is a great tool for student projects. Interestingly enough, ‘‘Popplet also has the ability to be embedded into blogs or websites. It is relatively quick and easy to do as long as it is supported by the website ( does not support it). If you have a class wiki or blog, students can post their Popplets for their classmates, teachers, parents, and other viewers to learn from as well.’’ (  This way, parents can keep track of the work done by their children by accessing their blog directly (if the teacher uses the blog as a strategy for sharing pertinent information regarding class context and other academic fields). The only constraint is that Popplet cannot be embedded into WordPress, but otherwise every other blog should work. In addition, not only classmates can learn from the Popplet of their peers, but the teacher can use his own as a source of reference that will help for homework. Finally, this tool can be easily shared and permits people to keep in touch with school material done in class, either by the teacher or by students.

PowerPoint Paralysis

The risk of using PowerPoint as a tool for enhancing learning in a classroom is to fall into the trap of PowerPoint Paralysis. ‘‘Triple “P” can be defined as the overzealous concentration on the utilization of PowerPoint, while concurrently disregarding the content being exhibited’’ ( In fact, this tool is overused by teachers and they sometimes forget that content must be the priority of their PowerPoint, not delivery. Triple P comes from the business world, in which data and statistics are presented with point form on a huge quantity of slides. This technique is to be avoided by teachers, because static content and facts presented without any opportunity to interact will discourage students. Deepening students’ thinking process regarding content is essential in education. For instance, teachers must use PowerPoint to gain students’ attention, to communicate objectives and to stimulate prior knowledge. Including controversial or philosophical questions is an adequate strategy to have students use their mental processes to reflect on a particular issue related to the classroom. The best timing to ask those questions is to write them on the screen as students enter the classroom. This way, the teacher gains students’ attention because they feel that they are concretely involved in the material that they will explore in class. Questions must flow regularly in the PowerPoint so that students can hypothesize or try to predict where the teacher is heading at and why. PowerPoint is therefore a tool that must be used intelligently by teachers if they want to enhance learning and they must always be careful of not only reading what is written on the slides. Otherwise, students will see no purpose to come to the classroom or will only focus on note-taking without listening. In other words, an important tip for teachers is: ‘‘Use PowerPoint to prompt, not to tell. Limit the number of slides and the text on each slide.’’ (


To focus on content is one important step, but to have interesting content is another one. Even if the PowerPoint is well structured to encourage interactivity and students’ critical thinking, it is completely useless if the content is not meaningful to students. ‘‘Presentations largely stand or fall on the quality, relevance, and integrity of the content. If your numbers are boring, then you’ve got the wrong numbers. Audience boredom is usually a content failure, not a decoration failure’’ (  Since PowerPoint is more a passive tool than an interactive one, interaction comes from the interest that students will have to engage in the class material. For instance, using PowerPoint as a tool to convert uninteresting material into more meaningful one will fail. Teachers must never forget that PowerPoint is a tool to support their content, not the center of learning used as an end in itself. In addition, professionals recommend only writing key words and sentences no longer than 6 words, so only relying on PowerPoint to convey academic material will fail to put information in context and to establish relationships. Teachers are the ones who must create links and explain them through the use of key words to facilitate remembering when students will study on their own.

Previous teaching methods have always been teacher-centered and regarded students as passive recipients of information. One of the main challenges of a teacher in today’s modern education is to improve the audience focus as well as students’ interactivity and spontaneity. If the PowerPoint is not designed to concretely involve students, it will only decrease their talking time and the teacher-talking time will stay predominant. This is considered negative because the new aim of ESL education is to provide opportunities for students to improve their communicative competence in the second language. For instance, student-response clickers are a great interactive function of PowerPoint in which the teacher asks multiple-choice questions and students each have their computer and must answer anonymously. Teachers must install the Turning Point 2008 software. The way it works is that once installed, ‘‘A Turning Point icon will appear on your desktop when you install the software. Open Turning Point to create your clicker presentation, not PowerPoint. Turning Point uses PowerPoint and adds a Turning Point tab. If you have created a PowerPoint presentation and want to add clicker slides, open the file in Turning Point and insert the graphic slides.’’ ($file/Clickers_create_slides.pdf). This is a very effective strategy that can be used to practice for tests because results are then gathered and placed on a diagram. Clickers keep students motivated and engage them in the material while the teacher can evaluate his students’ understanding, which can be very easily illustrated with the diagram as a visual tool. The advantage for students is also anonymity, because more insecure learners tend to avoid opportunities to try out their answers in front of the whole class by fear of judgement. Therefore, clickers eliminate their barriers regarding their lack of self-confidence and enhance their opportunities to take risks and to benefit from the confirmation or the correction of the answers that they selected.

Moreover, PowerPoint requires no assistance or experience and even teachers who are not very acquainted with technology can easily use it on their own. Clearly,‘‘PowerPoint makes it easy to build slides. And the content in slides and the slides themselves are easily editable or copied into other PowerPoint slide decks, which makes revisions and reuse of content simple’’ (  The main advantage of PowerPoint is to be straightforward and to be easy for users to modify, copy or delete slides. Teachers always have plenty of liberty regarding background or writing colors, and can add any image or video that is on the web by copying and pasting it. PowerPoint thus organizes ideas effectively and increases visual impact on an audience by incorporating multimedia.

All in all, teachers must be very careful with PowerPoint and try to avoid the PowerPoint Paralysis influenced by the business world and its endless listed facts. Relying on this tool only to turn uninteresting content into interactive and meaningful is not a good strategy, because PowerPoint is dependent upon the content to be effective.