Powtoons — DIY animated short films

As an instructor, I tend to rely heavily on reading the room as I teach. Of course, there are certain set pieces and tried & true ‘scripts’ I fall back upon, but for the most part I react to student needs and improvise answers to questions. Thus, the white board and other mutable teaching tools are among my best friends.

Screenshot from a Powtoon animated short: "SMART goals, a work in progress", by Jason Kurylo.

Screenshot from the Powtoon animated short: “SMART goals, a work in progress”, by Jason Kurylo.

To build flipped classes, which in theory will support this style of teaching quite nicely, I will endeavour to prepare digital materials that learners can access at home. My first foray into animated short video is taking shape via Powtoon — it’s an overview of SMART goal setting, something that I often introduce to classes and strongly suggest for academic success, but rarely have time to implement or monitor in a meaningful way. I hope that by using a series of videos, I can spend class time actually writing goal statements and discussing progress. Note that at the time of this posting, only about half of the slides are ‘active’. The second half just has place holder slides to show intended breaks in the animation.

I think this mode is best used for short tidbits of information. Even the seven minutes explored here is probably beyond an ideal length for keeping one’s attention. Khan Academy varies its video lectures in length, with most of the ones I’ve watched coming in at around nine minutes. Powtoons, however, seems optimal for much shorter presentations. It will be interesting to explore this medium and get feedback from students as to what works and what doesn’t.


Reductions — a pecha kucha presentation

For PIDP 3240, a Pecha Kucha presentation is one of the assignment options. Never having done one, i thought, “How hard can that be?” Next time I say that, please take me out back and pecha me about the face and neck with a sharpened kucha.

Two weeks later, this very imperfect video went live on YouTube. Please note, despite my introduction opening with “My name is Jason Kurylo,” no matter what the first slide may suggest, I am not an attractive French blonde woman.

Lesson Planning — Media

Mignon Fogarty has carved out an online niche for herself as Grammar Girl, deliverer of grammatically correct podcast goodness. Photo from Grammar Girl.

Mignon Fogarty has carved out an online niche
for herself as Grammar Girl, deliverer of
grammatically correct podcast goodness.
Photo from Grammar Girl.


Nearly every level of English language instruction is desperate for authentic, relevant listening materials. One resource that enables English learners to share their experience with native speakers is the Grammar Girl podcastIt’s written and recorded for native speakers who wish to improve their language accuracy, comprising a range of topics such as etymology, register, word choice, common errors, pet peeves and punctuation advice. Until now I have simply advised students to use GG as self-study. I plan to adapt several episodes into multimodal learning tools — for listening, reading (each podcast includes a script) and structural exercises and quizzes.


Fogarty, Mignon. “Grammar Girl.” Quick and Dirty Tips. Macmillan Holdings, LLC, n.d. Web. 7 Mar. 2014. http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/grammar-girl.

Lesson Planning — Motivational Techniques

Whoops. Photo from Chicago's Worldly Tastes.

Whoops. Photo from Chicago’s Worldly Tastes.

Motivational Techniques

Judy Pollak and Paul Freda discuss some of the effects — good and bad — that humour can have in education. They write about middle school students, but there are elements that apply to just about any classroom. Many of these rapport and self-esteem suggestions already see regular employ in my lessons; I plan to add a formalized demonstration of the powers harnessed by “trial and error, [and] stumble and recovery”. As the title of this blog suggests, I strongly advise learning from one’s mistakes. In order to learn from them, we must feel free to make them!


Pollak, Judy P., and Paul D. Freda. “Humor, Learning, And Socialization In Middle Level Classrooms.”Clearing House 70.4 (1997): 176. Academic Search Premier. Web. 7 Feb. 2014.

Lesson Planning — Characteristics of Adult Learners

Characteristics of Adult Learners

Malcolm Knowles’ work in forwarding the concept of andragogy (the teaching of adults, as opposed to pedagogy, the teaching of children) is not new to me. I use many of these concepts and assumptions about adult learners already. However, the Clinical Educator’s Resource Kit page include some quality reminders that can be worked into daily interactions with students.

I plan to explore the difference between traditional views of pedagogy and andragogy in the course introduction next term, in hopes it will encourage students to more quickly claim ownership of their own educational path. At the very least, it will inspire a discussion about differing expectations, teaching styles and learning preferences.


“The Clinical Educator’s Resource Kit.”Adult Learning Theory and Principles. Queensland Occupational Therapy Fieldwork Collaborative. Web. 5 Jan. 2014. < http://www.qotfc.edu.au/resource/index.html?page=65375&pid=0 >.


This chart from Educational Technology and Mobile Learning might make for an interesting discussion on the first or second day of term.

This chart from Educational Technology and Mobile Learning might make for an interesting discussion on the first or second day of term.

Lesson Planning — Assessment

"Adding the assessment of multimodal skills, and attempting to  prove links between multimodality and literacy skill development amid these other factors, is, I contend, akin to opening Pandora’s box" (Pandya 181). Image sourced from Myths and Legends.

“Adding the assessment of multimodal skills,
and attempting to prove links between multimodality and
literacy skill development amid these other factors, is,
I contend, akin to opening Pandora’s box” (Pandya 181).
Image sourced from Myths and Legends.


It seems as though language instruction in BC — and across the country for that matter — is moving toward portfolio-based assessment. Articles such as Jessica Zacher Pandya’s Unpacking Pandora’s Box suggest that expanding portfolios to include multimodal content (audio, video, etc.) as well as traditional writings and test results will both empower and energize students who face the unenviable task of proving college-level literacy in a non-native tongue. I spend a lot of time trying to build my students’ confidence; I will consider adding a pairs’ podcast or team videocast assignment to each term.


Pandya, Jessica Zacher. “Unpacking Pandora’s Box: Issues in the Assessment of English Learners’ Literacy Skill Development in Multimodal Classrooms.” Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy 56.3 (2012): 181-185. Academic Search Premier. Web. 24 Feb. 2014.

Lesson Planning — Bloom’s Taxonomy Action Verbs

Bloom’s Taxonomy

As instructors, we sometimes fall to give clear instructions. Despite telling students to avoid general verbs like do, give, have, get and make, we tend to use them ourselves for the sake of brevity: do this homework, we say, or complete this exercise. The Clemson University Office for Institutional Assessment offers this worksheet, breaking down Bloom’s Taxonomy into six areas of assessment, and providing more robust instructional verbs. I will use these in two ways: 1) to better outline how student work is assessed, and 2) to encourage students to produce clearer theses and/or statements of purpose.

“Bloom’s Taxonomy Action Verbs.” Office for Institutional Assessment. Clemson University, n.d. Web. 14 Feb. 2014. <http://www.clemson.edu/assessment/assessmentpractices/referencematerials >

This graphic from the blog Keep Calm and Solve It is an easy reference to keep scaffolding of tasks in mind. Assessment of students should be fair — this requires fairness of assignment as well as judgement.

This graphic from the blog Keep Calm and Solve It is an easy reference to keep scaffolding of tasks in mind. Assessment of students should be fair — this requires fairness of assignment as well as judgement.

Reference review — Gateway Tools

I’ll be honest: I’m not a huge fan of technology in the classroom. Whether I’m enrolled in a class or teaching it myself, I find that all too often, smart boards and video screens distance the instructor from the student. Frequently, and especially in private ESL schools, where instructors are not always career-focused, professionally motivate teachers, videos and websites are used as last-minute time-savers and lesson plan replacements, as opposed to enhancements to the learning process.

So it is that I chose to read Gateway Tools: Five Tools to Allow Teachers to Overcome Barriers to Technology Integration by Laren Hammonds, Lisa H. Matherson, Elizabeth K. Wilson, and Vivian H.Wright.

The Luddite Laptop, by Big Time Attic.

The Luddite Laptop, by Big Time Attic.

Hammonds et al  write, “Having grown up immersed in technology, the students of today are digital natives, but many of their teachers are often playing catch-up because they are digital immigrants” (36). They cite numerous examples of teachers being uncomfortable with technology in their pedagogy, especially where the instructor lags behind students in the understand and usage of said advances. Hammonds et al suggest that the impetus behind true integration of a given tool in the classroom should not come from students; it should be student-centred, sure, but it needs to be led by an enthusiastic, engaged, computer-literate teacher to be successful.

More after the jump.

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Reference review — Touching, Tapping… Thinking?

Maureen Walsh is one of the authors of Touching, Tapping... Thinking? Photo from the Australian Government Office for Learning & Teaching.

Maureen Walsh is one of the authors of Touching, Tapping… Thinking? Photo from the Australian Government Office for Learning & Teaching.

The first piece of reading I did on the topic of technology in the classroom was written by Maureen Walsh and Alyson Simpson, scholars from the University of Sydney in Australia. The article is heavy on academic jargon, perhaps not surprisingly given the authors’ history of research and peer review in the area of digital communication in literacy and pedagogy.

In Touching, Tapping… Thinking?, Walsh and Simpson examine the effect of the physicality of touch screens upon the reading experience — previous articles had explored the differences between traditional texts on paper and modern milieu such as computer screens. Results fell in line with other research, all of which questioned the already fluid definition of literacy, and suggested a difference between linear communication and the multimodal intake of information that comes with online reading.

The emergence of portable touch screens (on tablets and smart phones) adds a new wrinkle, as tactile interaction now moves from the indirect, limited motion of a mouse to the multifaceted, direct touch of fingers upon the text itself. Swiping, pinching, expanding and flicking pages all present physical contact with the digital page.

Literature is divided on whether touch pads provide positive or negative influences upon elementary school learning. The authors of this paper observed 11-year-old students with iPad tablets and a website called Corkulus. Through this site, students were able to collect texts, photos and videos in order to explain the life cycle of a star. Connections between textual and visual elements were described “as a sort of mental hyperlinking” (153).

Commentary after the jump.

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