#Infographics: Blended learning/E-learning

The 3 components of blended learning/E-learning

The 3 main components of Blended learning/ E-learning:

I. learning

II. practice

III. implementation

How to quickly edit audio for online lessons I.

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One of the difficulties that teachers face in the online platform is that while it’s easier to share ideas and materials it’s harder to produce them in quality and in the time frame that is available. Most teachers are not sound designers or engineers and only consume music and audio and before online and distant learning became prevalent they rarely had needed to produce their own audio learning materials. With podcasts and Youtube being popular sources of audio as well, it had been less likely that one would have wanted to record their own audio for a lesson.

However, the pandemic slightly changed the landscape for that issue as well. More and more teachers feel the need to tailor materials they can find on the internet to their own teaching and to their students’ needs or to pre-record audio learning materials. In the following posts, I’ll give you a few tips on how to start quickly producing and editing your own audio, and these tips are aimed at novices and those with little or no experience in sound editing.

Equipment: Any relatively good quality microphones are OK. Since you’re mostly going to record talking and not singing you don’t really need top-notch studio microphones.

Space: It’s more important to record in a quiet space. Make sure you keep the microphone away from the computer as it can record the humming coming from it. Always record speaking and music/background separately.

Volume: Speak (more) loudly and articulate. Things you think can be heard just fine will most likely turn out too quiet. Try to talk like you would be talking in a big auditorium or theatre hall. Try to talk evenly and don’t suddenly shout or laugh loudly as it is going to be hard for the listener to adjust the volume when they happen on a recording. Later during editing, you should use the compressor feature to level out any differences in volume.

Software: The easiest and cheapest is to use Audacity, a free and open source audio editor and recorder. It has only a short learning curve and it has tons of add-ons and support that come with it.

In my next post, I’ll explain what editing steps you should take to produce an audio lesson. and where to find background music for your lessons here.

How to use microlearning in language learning?

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Microlearning means taking bite-sized information and/or studying a subject for a short time then using this new information as soon as possible. This approach is the most useful in the area of corporate and business employee training. Companies have long been using this strategy to train existing and new employees quickly. Recently however it’s been used extensively by online/distant learners and since the pandemic, even schools and individual learners have discovered it and it’s getting very popular among language learners, teachers, and online schools.

This method has many advantages and shortcomings as well. While you can acquire new information quickly and in a fun environment (especially when it’s combined with gamification technology) the retention of this new information is more difficult than in a traditional learning scenario. Most language apps (Duolingo and others) are based on this approach and they’re very useful in teaching vocabulary and expressions in small chunks in a fun way. The problem is that most individual learners won’t start to use these words and expressions right away and though they enjoy the learning process, the retrieval of that knowledge is limited. In other words, they enjoy getting points and finishing levels but their acquired knowledge is not always convertible to everyday situations where they should actively use the language. It requires discipline and an understanding of the functions of these apps for one to fully get the benefits of using such apps.

Microlearning therefore should be a side strategy, not the only strategy we use to learn a language. It should accompany other learning methods unless our aim is only to get to a certain level very fast and use our knowledge immediately. Language apps should be used together with other learning aids such as courses, books, videos, podcasts, private tutoring, and so forth.

Other microlearning strategies such as flashcards and online educational games are also very useful to learn and practice a new language but they also shouldn’t be the only forms of study. The more ways one practices a new language the better the chances of being able to actively use it later on.

Digital whiteboard versus traditional whiteboard

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Schools are in a race to keep up with the digital age. One visible change we see is the move from traditional whiteboards to digital whiteboards. This move is somewhat inevitable but it’s not an easy one. Teachers’ and students’ opinions vary greatly on whether they like to use it or not. One criticism that is often cited is that they just function as giant computer screens, acting as projectors more than a space to use for an explanation.

While this might be partially true, the added functions aim to give more freedom to the way information is presented. The focus, therefore, is more on the presentation aspect than on the explanation aspect. It can help present information rather than just providing a space to write down information. Before the pandemic, this wasn’t considered to be a big difference but it is now. One of the many problems that teachers faced in the online space was that it was hard for many to keep track of how and when information was presented. They were used to the frontal approach when the teacher stands in from of the whiteboard and writes down whatever needs to be explained and the students interact verbally or go to the board and write on it and/or write down information in their notebooks. This limited interactivity is challenged in the digital space.

On one hand, interactivity is immediate and can come in many different forms but on the other hand, it is harder to keep track of it. Students were complaining during the pandemic that it was hard for them to know what exactly was required from them to do and what assignments were due when, and for which subject.

The main problem with digitalization is that information needs to be structured, stored, and presented differently otherwise it becomes scattered and hard to keep track of. This is true for online classes as well as for the digitalization of the classroom. Teachers and students need to adapt to the new way of acquiring information: from one source but in different forms rather than from many different forms.

Here are the main advantages and disadvantages of the whiteboard and the digital whiteboard:

whiteboard:

  • frontal teaching
  • written information
  • easy to use
  • only written information or very limited image use
  • little interactivity

digital whiteboard:

  • different types of information presented in many different ways
  • more interactivity
  • learning curve
  • harder to structure

Online whiteboards are also in the mix and can be used together with screen sharing, mind mapping apps, and other online tools during live online classes. They can be used to replicate the feeling and flexibility of using a real whiteboard.

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