Tag Archives: learning

Talking about Quizlet at #LLASconf14

So the 7th LLAS biennal conference took place last week in Southampton, and just like last time it was a really good opportunity to meet people I knew and people I didn’t, all working in, near or around languages in HE. I can’t get bored of attending LLAS events as they really help putting my job in perspective: I get to see the national picture, discover what other practitioners are up to, get feedback on my own practice through the stuff I present. If you work in languages and have never attended one of these, I urge you to register for the next one. It’s the second best medium for professional development I have found (second only to Twitter, of course).

So this year again I talked about the work that the French team at @UoMLangCentre have been doing with Quizlet on our general and medical French courses. I should really give credit to @simonjhowells77 for pointing us in the direction of Quizlet in the first place. If you have read my previous blog post, Quizlet is an vocabulary app which we’ve been using for collaborative work in the classroom.

The slides are below. If you’ve any questions or comments, please use the box below.

 

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5 things I like about the vocab app Quizlet

For some time now we’ve been using a vocabulary-testing application on some of our French courses. It’s particularly useful for medical French courses, given the amount of terminology there is to memorise. The app we’ve been using isn’t the sexiest, but it does the job at displaying vocab pairs and then test you on them. The main downside has been that it’s a Windows-only app (sorry, “programme”) and a good number of our students now use mobile devices or Macs. Quite a shame, I should think, as learning vocab is perfect for bite-size, on-the-go learning in public transports.

Vocab testing app

The old…

So yesterday I asked around (meaning, I posted a tweet with a question mark in it) if anyone knew something a bit more modern, sexier, and that could run on a phone. Within minutes, the ever-helpful @simonjhowells suggested I had a look at Quizlet. Well, thank you, Simon, I think Quizlet will do the job just right, and here’s why in 5 short points.

Quizlet screenshot

… and the new!

  1. High performance. Quizlet lets you import your own vocab lists and is quite smart about recognising the format. I imported around 800 entries in 37 lists in a couple of hours, with tagging and assigning them to classes. Assign a language to a column and Quizlet will read out the words for you in a variety of languages. It’s generally highly customisable.
  2. Fun. You can learn and test your vocab in a number of rather fun ways. I found myself practising cardiology vocab playing Space Race!
  3. Fresh-looking. A nice design can go a long way when you’re looking for motivation to learn about infectious diseases typology.
  4. Embeddable! I was so excited about this. Students will no longer need to download an .exe file onto their computer to run it. Neither will they need to go and search for the right vocab list on the website: any individual list of exercise can be embedded right there in your VLE.
  5. Social. Quizlet has everything you would expect from a web 2.0 learning platform. You can invite your friends, compare scores, chat about a task, add to it, and of course you can share your content! There are currently 181 entires under ‘Medical French’. Our entries are available here.

Anyway, I’ll see how my students find it this coming semester. A nice bit of change to look forward to!

Great design for easy learning

Once in a while when using a device of some kind, you need to learn a new functionality. It was the case for me the other day when Apple updated the iPhone operating system iOS to version 5.1.

Changes brought to the system were mostly minor and required little adaptation, if any, but one of them caught my attention. The button allowing the user to quickly access the phone’s camera from the lock screen had changed slightly.

Firstly, the camera button was now displayed permanently on the lock screen. Beforehand, the user had to double-click on the home button for the camera icon to appear. Secondly, it now presented some horizontal lines above and below it:

iPhone Lock screen iPhone Lock screen camera button close-up

Prior to the changes, you had to tap on the icon to access the camera, but the newly appeared lines now suggested that some change had been brought to the way the button worked.

So I tapped the button to try and access the camera, as I would have done before. This did not open the camera application. Instead, it made the entire screen bounce up and down slightly, briefly revealing the camera app underneath it:

iPhone Lock screen bounce

So pressing the button no longer worked, but the device gave you a clue as for what else you might want to try.

So quite logically, looking the lines suggesting that the camera icon might move up or down and now knowing that the camera app was “hidden” underneath my home screen, I came to the conclusion that pushing up the camera icon would make the lock screen slide up and reveal the camera app. I tried and it did.

iPhone Lock screen arrow up iPhone Lock screen slide up iPhone Camera app

What’s truly remarkable about this piece of design is how intuitively the new feature can be learnt. One way to go about it would have been to add to user manual a section on ‘a new and easy way to open your camera app’, but instead, developers simply added that little bounce effect, providing the user with simple but efficient feedback as for how they might modify their behaviour to work the device.

For a few minutes, I marvelled at how ingenious this functionality was (yes, I’m easily impressed). But what’s more, I kept thinking of how such simple an efficient design could be used in my teaching, to help students learn new stuff effortlessly. Not that all learning should be effortless, but there’s nothing wrong with making people’s life easier once in a while.

So now the question is: how can better design help my students learn better? Any thoughts, please share!