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Did you know that when you open your email – you hold your breath? Or that using a tablet can affect your melatonin levels, making it harder for you to sleep?

In this presentation Alex Soojung-Kim Pang talks about taming the distracting power of tech and regaining control of our attention.

He calls this ‘Contemplative Computing‘.

Introduction

In this post I explore how to bring the experience of tech into the classroom without any of the annoyances and distractions!

The idea came from my wife Theresa Gorman who was thinking of doing some kind of website activity with her learners.

Uber-busy teachers can download the full lesson plan here: Paper Websites.pdf (325 downloads)

Problem

How many of us work in low-resource environments? Or environments where using tech is challenging.

In my case, just because I work in Berlin, Germany – the startup hub of Europe- doesn’t mean that I use a lot of technology in my classes.

There are often constraints.

One problem here is that institutions are willing to spend thousands of euros on IWB’s but are unwilling to speed up their wireless connectivity (check out the article Why I Hate Interactive Whiteboards).

But…my learners love tech, they are glued to their mobile phones, tablets and other gizmos, checking their WhatsApp or Facebook feeds.

So I asked myself a few questions:

How does tech engage my learners?

Answer: It’s personalised, spontaneous and social. They join an authentic ‘flow’ of chat, a conversation.

Information is also hidden – you don’t know what you’ll find behind that ‘click here’ button.

How can I simulate the ‘experience’ of technology without having the tech?

Answer: Try and simulate the spontaneity, flow and social nature of the experience.

Also, design in a way to hide information.

Preparation

Prepare a list of three websites that you want the learners to review. They should be from the same ‘genre’, e.g. supermarket websites.

It’s a good idea to choose an excellent website, a mediocre one and a bad one.

If you have an internet connection: put people in small groups, pairs or threes work well on one computer or laptop. At the start of the class, make sure that everyone can connect to the net.
If you don’t have an internet connection – no problem. Take a few screenshots from the three websites you have prepared (home page and one other page) and print them out.

My favourite screenshot tool is Paint.net.

Procedure

Part 1 – Website Evaluation

1. Introduce the topic of ‘website evaluation’. What makes a good website? Brainstorm items.

2. Tell learners that they are going to review 3 websites.

3. Give them the rubric for reviewing websites and explain how they are going to rate their websites. The websites can be on any theme – I gave my group the choice of ‘supermarket websites’ or ‘dating websites’. Guess which one they chose?

4. Go through the following vocabulary to describe websites:

clear, user-friendly, easy to use/ navigate, etc.), crowded, professional, eye-catching, appealing, well-designed, well-laid out.

Also go over words and phrases to talk about quantity or intensity:

quite, rather, a little, really, (not)  too, very, extremely, -ish (amateurish) etc.

5. Give out the task sheet (scroll down to page 2) where they will write their scores and write down notes about the websites. They will review the categories of Content, Layout, Graphics and Navigation. Give each category a score out of four (four is the best); that gives a top score of 16.

6. If you have an internet connection: learners go to the three sites and review them.

If you don’t have an internet connection there are two possibilities:

i) Give each group photos (that you prepared earlier) of one website. Then they discuss and fill in their rubric form. After a certain period of time, they then ‘pass’ these pictures to another group. So the pictures of the websites ‘circulate’ round the classroom.

ii) Give each group ALL the photos showing the three websites. You might want to clearly mark the websites if it’s not obvious. To save time and copies, you could just get them to review the home page of each site.

7. Learners discuss together and decide on scores for each website.

8. Feedback in open class. What were the good features and bad features of each website?

9. Tell learners:

Now you know what makes a good (supermarket) website, and a bad website. You’re going to use this information to design your own website. Try and improve on the websites you have reviewed.

Part 2 – Creating your own Paper Website

Brainstorming

10. Give learners 10-15 minutes to just come up with ideas for their website. They should:

– talk about what basic elements they are going to have on their website

– make a visual representation of their website (on a piece of A3 paper)

– think of some special/ key features their website will have (e.g. slideshow, twitter feed)

11. Learners present their designs to the group. Other groups can ask questions, point out good and bad points.

12. Draw a ‘button’ (like you would find on a sign-up page on the web) with ‘Click’ written on the button. Ask – what’s interesting about this? Why do you want to know more? Elicit responses.

Answer: because behind every button on a website is a surprise.

Like Christmas. Remember this for the next stage.

13. Tell learners are going to make a ‘paper website’ – a visual representation of their website. They are only allowed to use card, paper and tape to make their paper websites.

14. VERY IMPORTANT! Show learners examples of previous paper websites to give them an idea of what to do. Below is a presentation with some examples from my learners and also from my wife’s learners.

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15. Give learners 35-45 minutes to create their finished website.

Part 3 – Peer Evaluation of Paper Websites

16. Learners then go round using the same criteria as in stage 5 and review each others’ websites.

17. Add up the scores and award a prize for the best paper website!

Conclusion

I hope that you round this post useful. If you’d like to contribute to the upkeep of this website please consider donating with Paypal or Reddcoin/ Bitcoin – both decentralised currencies!

Or you can take this survey to give me helpful info.

If you make paper websites with your learners – wherever you are – I’d really like to see them.

Post them to me at pwalsh1974@gmail.com

And relax. Be mindful.

Be contemplative.

Ohmmm.

 

 

Reddcoin address: RgovQmPVC2XKEjBmEDswNEqqMAcidjLwjy

(Here’s info on how to get a Bitcoin account, and Reddcoin account here – for specific information on how to get Reddcoin up and running read this post)

6 thoughts on “Low-tech teaching (1): Paper websites

  1. Hey Paul, really great post. I love this paper website idea. I´ll let you know when I use it in class. Love the TED video – thanks for sharing that. Fiona

    1. Hi Fiona!

      Long time no see! Hope all is well with you – I like your teacher development blog too, looks great! http://teachingdevelopment.edublogs.org/

      If you do decide to use the Paper Websites idea, and if you take any pictures, I might try and organise some kind of gallery. I just need to find the right software – ideally, I’d like it be open-source software.

      Also, both me and theresa have found that learners, after they’ve made their Paper Website ‘designs’, often want to use build their paper websites ‘on top of’ or including their designs. This can sometimes ‘short-circuit’ the activity. So, I think in future I would give each group a large piece of cardboard to ‘mount’ their designs on – then you could even have a little exhibition at the end of class.

      I think the activity could work particularly well if you just said to the learners ‘Find something that you’re interested in, and evaluate three websites from that topic – try and find a good example of a website, a mediocre website and a terrible website’. Then they build their paper website on a topic that they really like (this would work for General English Learners). This might work better than the teacher choosing the websites for the learners.

      So keep me informed and good luck!

      paul

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