In part 1 of this series, I shared uses for two very helpful apps, Remind and QuickKey. Today we will continue the series with two more: PikMe and WordReference. Each of these apps does something unique, and as a package they comprise a very helpful suite of services that make teaching easier.
PikMe: PikMe is essentially a random student selector and group generator. While there are many creative tools for creating groups, sometimes I just want a random grouping, and PikMe makes this easy and puts a lot of power at my fingertips.
Getting Started: As with other apps, you will need to setup your classes and enter your student rosters to get started, but once that is done you are ready to roll.
Choose a class, and then your roster will appear. From there, you can click on an individual student. You can add student photos to replace the generic silhouette. My favorite part of the screen is the stars at the bottom. They mean what you want them to mean, so one of the uses is a discreet way to informally assess students. As they are working on a speaking activity in pairs/groups, I can listen to them and rate their performance. While I use a detailed rubric to evaluate their performance for a grade, this can help me collect data and reminders about who I need to chat with later. There is also an attendance-taking feature. I don’t use it regularly, but it’s a great tool for fire drills!
The true beauty of this app, though, is the group maker. In a matter of seconds, you can create groups based on the number of students or on the number of groups that you need, and the app will separate them for you. You merely “spin” the selection wheel with a swipe of your finger. Extras, as in the 25th student when you have 6 groups of 4, are evenly distributed through the other groups when possible. You can also email the list to yourself, which is incredibly helpful for multi-day projects when students were absent. It also makes it easy to display the groups on a projector to limit the “what group am I in?” questions from students. I’ll also take this opportunity to adjust some groups as needed for absences, personalities, and student strengths and weaknesses.
The app has a few quirks, but it what it does, it does well.
WordReference: Word Reference is a multilingual digital dictionary. Not only does it work as an English/TL dictionary, it also offers Spanish-French and Spanish-Portuguese. I’m a novice French speaker, but often find that the words I look up in Spanish stick with me better than the ones I look up in my native English, so I like that feature. The two aspects that I like best about WR are its availability and its forum. It’s available as an app as well as a web-based site, which makes it possible for every student to have access to a good quality dictionary for free. I teach in a high poverty school, and I like that Word Reference helps to even the playing field for my students. If they don’t have a smartphone, I have paper dictionaries that I can lend them for use at home. But it also means that everyone has quick access to dictionaries as needed both in class and at home.
The Spanish edition actually is two dictionaries in one! The greatest benefit of WR for me is the forum section. Once on the entry like the one above, the user can scroll down to see if the sought term has been discussed in the forums. These discussion forums are treasure troves of commentary on idioms, regionalisms, and related terms, and are replete with helpful information. Students have indicated that the forum often has what they wanted to say in the sense that they wanted, rather than having to piece it together or use a translator.
As an added bonus, they are even helpful to me as I continue to grow my language skills. I’ve relied on them extensively in the past few months to help me understand El Internado better, especially Fermín’s delightfully witty dialogue. I screen shot the new words, put them in an album on my phone, and then I have a mini-dictionary for reference when the same terms pop up again. By doing this, I’ve discovered a theme in the gaps in my vocabulary–I have added new depth to my vocabulary for being angry, in love, and witty comebacks. Not bad for a free app and a TV show, huh?
Stay tuned for part 3 of this series for my favorite app of all: Evernote!
Please feel free to share your favorites in the comments.