Mobile Phones are Creating Havoc with EDTECH in the Classroom!

Who is messing with my Edtech?!! (Naomi's Photos)
Who is messing with my Edtech?!!
(Naomi’s Photos)

This week I took it personally. It felt as if both Apple and Google had conspired to orchestrate a well-coordinated blow to my use of Edtech in the classroom. All of my attempts to change with the times and adapt seem to be getting thwarted! I’ve tried to respond to each of the following “pings” with a “pong” but now I’ve lost the ball…

Ping: As smart phones have been getting more and more sophisticated, the number of my students who don’t have a working computer at home has risen. This year the number of students who don’t use a computer at home at all has risen dramatically. Most of these being students who come from families with financial difficulties yet sport the absolute latest models of cell phone in the market!

Pong: Fine. So, short, weekly online homework task in a format that can be done on the mobile device it is. The students won’t need  MS “Word”.  No excuses, as ALL my teenage students have phones!

I built homework tasks for my 5 different groups using Google Forms. So simple to use, looks beautiful, collects all answers in a nice table, can run Flubaroo Script to check it all quickly.

Hey,I can live with this!

Crumbling (Naomi's photos)
(Naomi’s photos)

Ping: Google Forms don’t work on Iphones! AAAARGH! Now a substantial number of students say they can’t do the homework because they have an Iphone!!!

Pong: I have no idea what to do about this one. Go back to paper homework? That, of course, would mean no video tasks or pictures in full color!!

While searching for the ball that Apple made me lose, Google showed up on the scene to make things worse:

Ping: Google rolled out new technology that allows you to take a picture of printed text (not handwriting, as far as I can tell) and get a translation of it.

Oh no!

My deaf and hard of hearing students are allowed to use electronic dictionaries. Frankly, they really need them and cannot work on grade level reading comprehension texts without them. However, these devices are expensive, sometimes they break or “die”,  need new batteries or simply  get forgotten at home. Mobile phones, on the other hand, are always available! So, during lessons (never on tests!) I often allow students to use their phones. While they are supposed to use it like an electronic dictionary (search word by word)  even if they trangress (until I catch them!) the students have to type in the words, letter by letter. And that is a way of engaging with the vocabulary items!

Or should I now say “was a way…”

Pong: Who’s playing anymore?! Lost the balls, the net, in danger of losing the table…

I don’t know what to do about this either. Luckily, the new tech is spreading slowly, most of the students still haven’t caught on.  I may have some time till the penny drops but I doubt it will take very long.

So what’s a teacher to do?





Saturday’s Book: “The Solid Mandala” by Patrick White


Naomi's Photos
Naomi’s Photos

This book is a “slow read”. And in this case I think that it is a good thing. I’ve been reading it for weeks and have been tempted to write a “mid-way-through” post but am glad I didn’t. The final third of the book ties everything together in a riveting manner, at a faster pace too. A lot of things fall into place.

First of all, it must be read slowly because of the incredible use of language. I sometimes stopped and reread a paragraph just because I was amazed that I now had some new piece of information and wasn’t quite sure how the author had conveyed it. Other times I had to think about what White meant when he used certain descriptions. His world of rich imagery, based on Britain and Australia (when the twins in the story immigrated they had to learn “Australian” ) is one I can understand, but some of it requires some conscious thinking first.

Then there’s the meaning of things. This book is much more than a tale presenting the lives of two inseparable twin brothers, who only together form a whole person. My impression is that the brothers also represent the two sides of religion. The formal, rigid, perhaps cold, “do this and don’t do that” side, vs. the warm and compassionate side, which reaches out to help people. I believe White means religion in general, and not just Christianity, because there is an important Jewish character as well.

Begin this book when you are prepared to give it time, and read all the way through.

Lip Reading with Hearing Students – A Comment

Naomi's photos
Naomi’s photos

Kevin Stein has a wonderful post full of ideas on how & why to use the skill of lip-reading in classes of students who have normal hearing : (Please) Read my Lips. If you are thinking of experimenting with the strategy, I’d like to point out a few things to remember. Lip reading is something I have a lot of experience with!

Are we really lip-reading?

The term “lip-reading” is actually a misnomer. What people who can lip-read actually do is message-read because unfortunately, eyes can’t take the place of ears. Sounds such as /x/ /k/ /g/ cannot be seen on the lips at all, while other sounds, such as /n/ /t/ /d/ are indistinguishable from one another. Therefore, teachers should always have their students try their hand at lip reading full sentences, not individual words. The sentences supply contextual clues to identifying those missing sounds.

Stein immediately noticed the connection between general context and understanding: “Some of the students were spot-on.  Especially when they were talking to a friend and had some kind of context about how their partner usually spent a weekend”.  When everyone knows what the topic of discussion is, rates of successful lip-reading comprehension rise.


Naomi's Photos
Naomi’s Photos

If the sunlight from the window is shining strongly on the speaker’s face, you can forget about lip-reading. If the classroom lights are too dim, it won’t work either. You need to see the lips clearly. If you are a teacher with a large moustache, you might not want to try this strategy – the moustache obscures the movement of the lips.

Class Size

Naomi's photos
Naomi’s photos

I haven’t tried it but I don’t believe you can utilize these ideas in classes of 40 students sitting in rows. Not everyone will be at a good enough angle to see the lips clearly. Those almost directly “under” the teacher (think first row, center) will have a distorted view, as will those sitting in the back corners.

I believe Stein’s ideas can be a great way to focus students’ attention and hope these tips will be helpful in implementing his strategies!


Visualising School – A Photo Pause

A teacher gets “new eyes” with camera in hand!

The moment before...  as in “before it gets crushed under a stampede of students going home for the day”!

Naomi's photos
Naomi’s photos


This chair seems to be ashamed of being sent out of class!

Naomi's photos
Naomi’s photos


It’s a good idea to glance down before dashing into school on a windy morning – look what I parked next to!

Naomi's photos
Naomi’s photos


Pecking order in the front courtyard

Naomi's photos
Naomi’s photos


Note: This is an educator’s blog, so only school related pictured are posted here. To see what this teacher comes up with when pounding the pavement of her hometown, see here:

Pounding The Pavement in Kiryat-Ono




Count THIS Day NOT Lost – Teaching George Elliot in EFL

This could almost have been taken in the British Countryside, but it wasn't! Right here in Kiryat Ono (Naomi's photos)
This could almost have been taken in the British Countryside, but it wasn’t! Right here in Kiryat Ono (Naomi’s photos)

I recently posted that I had begun writing, and teaching as I progressed, a unit on the poem “Count That Day Lost” by George Elliot to very weak EFL high-school students. This is an adaptation of the new program in literature instruction for students at the three-point level, tailored to the needs of my deaf and hard of hearing students (and those in other places in the country.) I do not claim that this is the way it should be taught to other populations, but believe teachers of other struggling students will find it helpful.

Here is the feedback regarding my teaching experience and the full unit.

In my previous post I presented the pre-reading activities.

* We began by asking what the word sun makes us think of. This worked well with the students. They thought of things I hadn’t included. In the version included here I added the word “hot” which, for some strange reason” I had forgotten. I didn’t add the other connotations they suggested  – “food” and “life”. I think it is good there are some things that aren’t written beforehand on the worksheet.

NOT A SINGLE ONE of these students could remember IN THEIR MOTHER TONGUE what time of day sunset and sunrise refer to. Interestingly enough, that’s a problem only students who don’t use sign language have. The signs clearly denote the direction in which the sun moves.

I wonder who spends his days here... (Naomi's photos)
I wonder who spends his days here… (Naomi’s photos)

* The funny video regarding a day in a person’s life worked better than expected. Not only did the students like it, I referred to the video & exercise every time they forgot the word “count” which, sad to say, was often. 

* The slide show went down well too. It made the transition to the poem easier.

* I’m aware that some people will disapprove of the page using a simple Hebrew translation with gaps. With my deaf and hard of hearing students we cannot  go over anything orally in class and I don’t teach frontally. It was a bare necessity.

The vocabulary practice and the basic understanding went well. The students could see from the graphic format what they had to do.

Sometimes there's trouble... (Naomi's photos)
Sometimes there’s trouble… (Naomi’s photos)

I rewrote the analysis part after teaching it to the first two students. I simplified it even more. I knew beforehand that it should be simple, but I needed to see what they struggled with and to get the good advice of counselor Francine Widerker before I figured out how to simplify it even more. Simplifying is hard!

We haven’t done the creative post reading tasks yet. Looking forward to seeing what they come up with!

Here is the unit with all the relevant links.

Count lost full version

Saturday’s Book: “The Carpet People” by Terry Pratchett

Standoff in the school yard
Standoff in the school yard

When our youngest son saw what I was reading he wanted to know why I was reading THAT one, the author’s first book. He didn’t think much of it.

It’s not exactly the author’s first book, only partially so (I was quite taken with the forward to the book, explaining this!) – Pratchett wrote it when he was 17 and then rewrote parts of it many years later.

I liked it. I found it to be more of an allegory than a fantasy book. You could tell that he was born after WWll and how the young Pratchett must have been troubled by how neighboring peoples could actually get along. I actually imagine that he must have spent hours contemplating life’s problems while lying on his stomach on the living room carpet.  And then finding himself correcting history in his carpet land.

I have to agree with my son that it’s not one of his best, But I think it is worth reading!