Fake social media profiles to practice writing and analytical skills

Have you ever considered using social media as a classroom tool? Having students create fake social media profiles can be a great way to practice writing and analytical skills. For lower level langauge students, you could have them create their own profile and short post history detailing a typical week. In more advanced classes, you could have students create a Facebook profile for the protaganist of a story they’ve read. They would have to gather not only facts, but also summarize the character well enough to complete an “About me” from the perspective of that charcter. Or, you could have them work in groups to create a post history retelling the story of a film they’re analyzing in class.

To do this, you don’t need anything fancy – you can just take the structure of your perferred media program and turn it into a Google doc like this. Or, for something more visually interesting, you can use a fake profile generator like Fakebook or Profile Publisher, or a Google Slides template like this one.

Need a quick timer for a classroom activity?

Just use your classroom computer and type “timer” (no quotes) followed by the desired time interval into Google. The timer will start automatically, display a countdown (that can be set to fullscreen mode for increased visibility), and beep when time is up. This is a great little trick to keep your class moving with very little distraction!

You can use a similar technique to do math (e.g., “(17/20)*100”), look up a word’s definition (e.g., “define grammar”), or convert units of measurement (e.g., “12 kilos in pounds”).

Consolidate your cloud storage

MultCloud (https://www.multcloud.com/) is a web-based tool that lets you consolidate all of your online cloud storage into one central location. By adding your individual cloud services like Google Drive, Box, Dropbox, OneDrive, etc. to MultCloud, you can find and download any file without having to remember in which cloud you saved it. You can also easily move or copy files from one cloud to another without having to download and re-upload them.

Tools to help students organize their ideas before/while composing

While traditional outlines can be made on notebook paper or in a word processing program, these online tools may help some students better focus, arrange, and articulate their ideas.
  • Padlet (https://padlet.com/) is an easy-to-use virtual bulletin board that lets you post and visually arrange text notes as well as images, videos, attachments (limit of 25MB), and web links. Notes can be moved around, grouped, and even layered freely.
  • Trello (https://trello.com/) is an online organization tool that lets you create “cards” containing text, images, attachments (limit of 10MB) or links, and arrange them into categories and groups just by dragging and dropping. Cards can be tagged with color-coded labels to add an additional layer of organization.
Both tools are completely free, allow you to log in with Google, and offer free mobile apps. Additionally, both Padlet and Trello allow users to share their ideas and collaborate with others, and both feature simple, interactive quick-start lessons.

Authentic video for language courses

LangMedia (http://langmedia.fivecolleges.edu/index.html) is a project that aims to offer free, authentic videos (with transcriptions and translations) for less commonly taught languages, as well as videos that highlight differences in regional dialects and usages for more commonly taught languages. Many of these videos focus on cultural points and can be a great supplemental resource for the videos and audio materials that accompany textbooks. And unlike YouTube, these videos are well-produced and designed with language learners in mind, plus they can be downloaded for offline viewing or integration into Blackboard.
Materials are available for many of the languages taught in LCSL – Arabic, French, German, Greek, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish!

Schedule office hours and meetings in Google Calendar

Google Calendar’s Appointment Slots feature (https://calendar.google.com – login with your UIC email address)  is a great way to have students sign up for meetings without the hassle of a paper sign-up sheet. Creating a block of appointment slots is as easy as adding events to your UIC Google calendar. Then, just share the link given in any slot to allow students to see all the possible options and sign up.
To make appointment slots even easier to use, you can set a large chunk of time, say two hours, and have Google automatically break it into smaller (5, 10, 15, 30, 45, or 60 minute) slots. If you want more than one student to sign up at a time – for paired oral exams, for example – you can create multiple slots at the same time. And, if you teach more than one class and want to offer different possible meeting times to different classes, you can simply create individual calendars for each class and create and share your slots accordingly.
Check out this video tutorial for a great demonstration of how to set up appointment slots and add them to Blackboard.
For more information on appointment slots, see here: https://support.google.com/calendar/answer/190998

Visuals for Foreign Language Instruction

Visuals for Foreign Language Instruction (http://digital.library.pitt.edu/v/visuals/) is an online database of over 450 free illustrations designed specifically for use in foreign-language classes. These illustrations depict places, objects, verbs, and situations and can be customized to fit any language or task.

Distraction-free video viewing

ViewPure (http://viewpure.com/) is a free, easy-to-use website that allows you to view YouTube videos without distractions. You can either search for your video or enter a link and remove all of the clutter – ads, recommended videos, comments, and more! Once you’ve got the “purified” video, you can use the new web adress just like a regular YouTube link, no special account required. Great for showing videos in class!

Web-based dictation tool for most any language

Dictation.io (https://dictation.io/) is a free and easy way to go from audio to written text. Available in a multitude of languages including Korean, Lithuanian, Spanish (of many varieties!), Greek, and almost every other language taught in LCSL, this web-based transcription tool is surprisingy accurate when used with good quality audio and even uses context to automatically correct its errors. Other than simply dictating notes, Dictation.io can be very useful for creating a transcript of an audio podcast, a YouTube video, or even a film clip, from which you can create activities like dictations, quizzes, and worksheets – just play the audio and use your computer’s microphone to capture the sound.

Visual representations of data with Google Forms

Google Forms (https://docs.google.com/forms/) are a tool that you might already be familiar with, but they’ve just unveiled some new features that make them even more useful for teaching. The new Google Forms automatically create colorful visual representations of the data they collect, making them great for in-class use. One or two question forms could be assigned as homework allowing you to both prepare for discussion and integrate these visual representations into your lesson. You could ask students which character they found most sympathetic or most deceitful or to choose the elements of a text that make them doubt the narrator. You could also ask them to sort different aspects of the culture they’re studying as similar to their own or completely different, or you could ask them to rate their agreement or disagreement with a series of statements about a character, a story, or a cultural practice. The whole class’s answers to all of these can then be collected and presented as colorful, easy-to-read, dynamic graphs and charts that provide a wonderful starting point for discussion.