I recently tried really really hard to 'attend' (is that the right word?) every day of the recent excellent mlearning course given by Nicky Hockly. Unfortunately, my work meant that I had to dip in and out of the course without contributing a huge amount to any of the discussions, although I wanted to very much. Luckily, what I did manage to see and hear about made me realise that mobile learning, or the use of mobile devices in learning doesn't necessarily equate to the idea of learning taking place only outside of a physical classroom environment, which I think is maybe what I'd thought before.
Anyway, in one of the forums where I did try to get involved in a conversation, I mentioned that a lot of my students had come in after christmas with BlackBerry phones, and a few more had obviously been given the latest iTouch as a christmas present, which I discovered now has a camera.
Hoping to put some of what I learnt on the mlearning course into practice, I've been racking my brains trying to figure out how I could exploit the students' mobiles in a classroom activity. I kind of wanted to pin an activity on a topic or place it in a language context, so it wouldn't just be using their mobiles for the sake of it, and also have them use the phones /iTouches in a way that they would be encouraged to use them more to help them with their learning.
I couldn't think of anything until today when I was on the train coming to work. As it was 8.30am the train was busy with standing room only, and as I need to take my bike on the train into the city I was kind of squashed into a corner. Unfortunately, also squashed into this corner (sitting down) was what I could only describe, in the nicest possible terms, as a 'yuppie' (a phrase synonomous with eighties extravagance and mobile phones bigger than your face that needed to be charged in a giant briefcase). Anyway, there he was trimming his fingernails quite openly and with great attention to detail. So engrossed was he in his trimming that he was either oblivious to, or ignoring the fact that his fingernail clippings were falling onto my shoes, and in one instance onto a little girl's lap sitting in a pushchair! I should also mention that the seat occupied by 'mr.trimmer', as I have started to affectionately refer to him, was a seat reserved for mothers with children, pregnant women and disabled people. Clearly, the fact that the pregnant woman with her fingernail-covered pushchair-bound child could really have done with a seat was lost on our little manchild.
Anyway, in the midst of my tutting and muttering and general gob-smacked anger, I took a photo of him with my mobile and tweeted it together with a description of what this blurred image was doing. I'm not sure why I did that, but it seemed that sharing my pain(!), might be a therapeutic way to vent my anger. The replies that I recieved certainly helped and ultimately served to calm me down before I got off the train and meant the avoidance of an ugly scene with a small pair of scissors!
So, here's the point of this whole sorry story...
As I left the station and got on my bike, I reflected that this is the kind of thing we naturally talk about all the time - little anecdotes & stories about our recent past (however banal) and our opinion about certain situations & circumstances, even a journey to work.
So I started taking some photos of the rest of my journey, together with a couple of photos I'd taken a little while ago with the intention of putting them on eltpics
. My idea is to talk about my journey to my students this week as a live listening exercise.
I'm sure there are several activities that can follow on from this; retelling the story, writing a mini-saga based the information they remember, a top ten of things that annoy you, etc. etc. Also, getting the students to predict a story from the pictures would be a nice lead-in
The main thing, though, is that for the next class, I'll ask them to use their mobiles or iTouches to record pictorally an event or journey, or something from their lives during the week before the next class. It doesn't need to involve people doing disgusting things, or be hugely exciting. Essentially, I'm hoping that the by-product of consciously photographing an event, a journey or a part of their lives will get them to think about it in more detail and, as they know it will be for their English class, start to think about this situation in English. Therefore, we'll have students taking photos outside the classroom and hopefully thinking in English, which I think will be a far more motivating homework activity than a few exercises out of a book.
Finally, thank you mr.trimmer - you've planned this week's lesson for me. Maybe I should buy you a new pair of scissors for christmas!