Technology is like electricity: it is pervasive, boundless, it is everywhere… it is useful. We teachers ignore it at our peril. We would never expect our pupils to use typewriters or read by candlelight. Equally, we should be encouraging them to use the tools they have available, the tools with which they are familiar if we are to ensure they remain engaged and motivated.
I had longed searched for a tool with which students could work collaboratively and have fun at the same time. Xtranormal (www.xtranormal.com) entitles itself as a text-to-movie website which allows teachers and students to create short films with their own scripts by using clever text-to-speech technology. This means students write a script and then feed in into Xtranormal to produce films with characters dramatizing it.
My pupils, 7-8 year olds are rather motivated learners and loud as any kid their age. Needless to say they are crazy about technology and a simply coming to the board can turn into great excitement. They were first introduced to Xtranormal, a webtool with which they were not familiar yet, at one of our regular classes. I have created a short version of myself teaching and saying their names thus quickly managed to engage my students’ attention: it soon transpired that this was an activity they wanted to do. With a few jaws almost touching the floor I said the magic words: “You are going to create animated videos like this one!” – They were amazed and could not wait to start.
Some teachers have reported problems during the implementation due to parental authorization. I, myself, strongly believe that in such cases not only the kids should be engaged in the project but parents too! Having the support of parents by adding a little note with the link to our first video on the institutional letter helped me get going with the project. Great Slander once taught me: "Should any problems with parents arise; I would try to convince them by showing how powerful the experience is, provide them with examples and explain how safe the kids will be."
My conclusion is that the upshots of this project could not have been any better. Using this tool has enabled my students to revisit vocabulary and structures, thus contributing for their learning and comprehension of the language as a whole. I was very happy myself with the feeling of accomplishment we had.
I would surely do this project again without any changes since it has helped me realize the importance of the role of technology in current education. Paraphrasing Shelly Terrell, we should use technology not only because our pupils use it or will be expected to in their careers. We need to use technology to tear down our classroom walls. We should use technology to show students that their voices can travel the world just like ours do when we tweet, blog or update a status on Facebook. We need to use technology to motivate students to continuously research and to show them that their work transcends beyond the class syllabus.