Stories 2 Learn, how to become socially integrated

I personally don’t have much experience with children. Doing my practicum in elementary school made me think about difficulties in language learning. Every child learns at a different speed and some display much difficulty in their social interaction.

Stories 2 Learn (S2L) is a really good application for use with children with special needs. This application allows parents and teachers to create their own stories to improve good attitudes and to promote adequate social interactions. This would help autistic children a lot by having personalized stories to help them learn. The story writer can add a picture to his text, which would help the understanding of the child a lot . An audio message can even be added to sequences.

This application comes with preloaded stories that can be used to teach social skills. Moreover, S2L can be used as a virtual schedule providing visual supports for the child to go through his day by himself.

Also, parents can create stories for their children even if  they do not need special attention. Using pictures of what they know or of their current environment will keep the child’s attention on what needs to be learned even longer than usual.

The beauty of this application is that the interface is very easy to use and that it can be used on many Mac devices: the IPod touch and all versions of IPhone and IPad.

This application would be interesting to integrate to English classes to help young children memorize school rules, good habits and values as well as new words. It would also give be a great support for teachers with special needs students.

Even though this application is not free, it is worth the investment for any first cycle primary school.


Facebook for teaching purpose?

Using Facebook for school purpose?

I think Facebook can be a useful tool for some things, but we have to use it with care. A private Facebook group was created for one of my courses t university and I think it is very useful.  Everyone in the class is part of the group, so, when someone asks a question to the teacher, everyone can see it and know the answer.  Also, the teacher is able to send documents, information and links regarding homework, precision on previous or future classes, interesting files, and much more to optimize students general culture. The teacher can pin any important document that needs to be quickly accessible at all times.  The private Facebook group is a direct link between the teacher and his/her students.  Moreover, since almost every student has a smartphone, they can see every single update on the Facebook group page at all time. They can still send a private message to the teacher if they are too shy to ask an open question on the group or in person.

Of course, before opening a private group on Facebook, you, the teacher, have to make sure that your students are all 13 years old and up. Since children under that age cannot legally create an account on their own, using a Facebook page would only be useful for students from secondary two and higher. Also, having them create a Facebook account at that age, all at the same time, is a perfect opportunity for raising awareness concerning all the downsides of social media:

Privacy (settings to be updated regularly)
Explicit content
Publicity Hacks

however, you need to be careful. Asking students to create a Facebook account at that age can create conflict between you, who represents the school, and the parents, if they do not agree with that. This stresses the importance of carefully explaining the different rules to using Facebook. The students should be able to explain these rules themselves to their parents in order to be allowed to create an account, for those who do not have one yet. Or else, you can advise the parents to create a common account with their child so they can be aware of what is posted on the group.

Also, Facebook should not be used in class. It would distract the students from you, the teacher. Students usually see Facebook as a source of leisure (games, chats, video links, etc.). This side of Facebook should only be used during their free time, not during class (unless you allow them to).

Also, having a Facebook group for all the students of the same class would allow them to do team projects without having to go to each other’s house, which can be quite difficult sometimes. They can use Facebook to do group discussions, Skype video calls, etc. to share their ideas with the other members.

Moreover, you have to be clear from the very beginning that the private Facebook group is for school purpose only and that the school rules are going to be the same on this page as in school. Plagiarism, bullying and psychological violence are going to be punished according to the school policy (changes from one school to another).  Also, if your school does not have a part of their policy dedicated to social media, you should ask for a policy update before creating a group and having the students involved. Even if Facebook has community standards and banishes some users who do not respect these standards, you have to stay aware of the happenings on your group.

Finally, I do think Facebook can be useful for teaching and learning purpose. Education has to follow the evolution of technology. It helps students stay up to date in their homework. It is a great source of information (depending on what the teacher posts on it). Even if it is a great opportunity to interest students to his/her courses, the teacher needs to watch out for any problem that can occur.

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