Last weekend, I had the pleasure of talking to award winning Spanish teacher Katie Titler from Pulaski High School in Wisconsin about her innovative use of mobile phones in and out of the classroom. An ICT enthusiast and dedicated languages teacher, Katie first came to my attention when she appeared on Liz Kolb’s Cell Phones in Learning Show back in 2009
and then more recently in this Fox11 clip which showcases examples of her inspirational work.
In our thirty minute chat recorded over Skype and edited in Audacity, Katie describes how she initially became interested in the idea of using mobile phones as an educational tool and then the lengths she went to to ensure she had the backing of both parents and her school before allowing her students to use them in class.
“Specifically for a foreign language, it’s a great way to both formally and informally access speaking abilities, which is really hard to do on a regular basis because of class sizes and lack of time.”
Buoyed by this success, Katie then chose to use the tool Poll Everywhere to help them practise their writing skills through text messaging and displaying the results on the interactive whiteboard. As she points out in our interview, this means that pupils can answer anonymously and therefore not feel singled out or embarrassed if they make a mistake. Katie intends to create multiple choice with Poll Everywhere too replicating a kind of classroom response system where she can immediately assess her students’ understanding and see what they need to work on.
"Being able to text in class is just something new and in a way rejuvenates us because it is not the usual 'take notes, then do homework,' like we do in the rest of our classes," 16-year-old Pulaski student Kevin Dunford said. "It's a new flavor."
Not content with simply exploring the potential of mobile phones in lesson time, Katie has been creating distance learning resources for her students to access in their own time outside of the school day. For example, Señora Titler has uploaded her own grammar PowerPoints to VoiceThread and added a voiceover recorded from her mobile.
Likewise, she has produced personalised vocabulary podcasts using the phonecasting tool Gabcast which she has made available on her class website and on iTunes. She is now trying out Glogster and iPadio and likes the idea of creating phlogs or phone blogs with her students in the future.
Please note that the phone numbers Katie uses for Voki and VoiceThread are US numbers and so for those who don't live in the States, I would suggest you record with a microphone instead or upload mp3 files you've already created. However, don't despair as Poll Everywhere and Gabcast do have a range of international numbers you can ring, if you fancy trying out some of the ideas presented here! Gabcast has also recently received new sponsorship and is again free to use which is great news for fans of the phonecasting tool.
Thanks to Katie for sharing her experiences so generously and for sending the photos included in this post. If you would like to know more or see some of Pulaski students’ outcomes in Spanish, get in touch with Katie on Twitter or give her a call. I’m sure she would be delighted to hear from you.