Week 10 – Social Networks

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“The instagram generation now experiences the present as an anticipated memory” – Daniel Kahneman.

Today, there are an increasing number of teachers using technology in the classroom – from computers, interactive whiteboards and tablets, to mobile phones and game consoles. These devices require connection to the Internet, which is a vast display of resources that cannot be found in traditional resource books. There is rise in the amount of content available online, from up-to-the-minute videos, songs, and educational games that provide authentic language models and make classes more varied, relevant and attractive to young learners. The Internet also offers learners the opportunity to practice their language skills on their own devices, encouraging learner autonomy.

However, besides being a wonderful teaching and learning tool, the Internet can pose great risks if not used safely. There are a series of possible risks for young learners, particularly when it comes to: content (young people viewing age-inappropriate websites); conduct (children posing as older than their real age; ‘sexting’ – an exchange of sexual messages or images, or placing images of other children online); and contact (including targeting children through chat rooms or social networking sites). If not educated about these risks, young people may find themselves facing difficulties, even dangerous situations in the future.

The new wave of young people is definitely going to be known as the instagram generation, Jason Silva puts it, as proposed by one of the most prominent modern day psychologists and Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman. The importance of the Internet is increasing for the new generations. It’s a big part of how they spend their free time: listening to music, watching movies, and spending hours on end chatting with friends via Facebook or other social networking websites. In a situation like this, both teachers and parents have to be aware of the possible risks.

That is why Digital Literacy for EFL Students has decided to introduce social networks as part of the course’s curriculum, in order to raise awareness among the young participants about the risks, but also to highlight the advantages to it. There are some websites and applications that enable users to create and share content or to participate in social networking.

This is the list of the 15 most popular social networks used today:

  1. Facebook

1,100,000,000 – Estimated Unique Monthly Visitors

  1. YouTube

1,000,000,000 – Estimated Unique Monthly

  1. Twitter

310,000,000 – Estimated Unique Monthly Visitors

  1. LinkedIn is a business-oriented social networking service

255,000,000 – Estimated Unique Monthly Visitors

  1. Pinterestphoto sharing website

250,000,000 – Estimated Unique Monthly Visitors

  1. Google Plus+

120,000,000 – Estimated Unique Monthly Visitors

  1. Tumblrmicroblogging platform and social networking website

110,000,000 – Estimated Unique Monthly Visitors

  1. Instagramphoto-sharing, video-sharing,

100,000,000 – Estimated Unique Monthly Visitors

  1. Redditentertainment, social news networking service, and news website

85,000,000 – Estimated Unique Monthly Visitors

  1. VKlargest European online social networking service

80,000,000 – Estimated Unique Monthly Visitors

  1. Flickrimage hosting and video hosting website

65,000,000 – Estimated Unique Monthly Visitors

  1. Vineshort-form video sharing service where users can share six-second-long looping video clips

42,000,000 – Estimated Unique Monthly Visitors

  1. Meetupsocial networking portal that facilitates offline group meetings in various localities around the world

40,000,000 – Estimated Unique Monthly Visitors

  1. Ask.fmsend each other questions

37,000,000 – Estimated Unique Monthly Visitors

  1. ClassMatesoriginally sought to help users find classmates and colleagues

15,000,000 – Estimated Unique Monthly Visitors

Which social networks have you used so far? What kind of contents do you usually share? How do you promote content on different social networks? Do you have a fan page on Facebook, or a You Tube channel, or do you use #hashtags? How much time does it take you to update your social networks accounts?

Please share your answers in the comments section.

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Week 9 – Presentation Skills

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“All the great speakers were bad speakers at first.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Besides creative writing skills that will enable you to become a successful content creator for your blog or website, our Digital Literacy for EFL Students course encourages you to work on and develop your presentation skills, particularly if you want to be a successful vlogger, or filmmaker.

Moreover, most academic programmes and careers require presentation skills as well. Anyone who understands some underlying techniques and principles about presenting will be a more confident speaker. Speaking effectively and persuasively is something anyone can learn and develop with practice.

So, what’s the big deal?

Exactly! The main reason why so many people shy away from speaking in public is fear: the fear of going blank, or forgetting what one had planned to say; the fear of sounding stupid or of boring the audience to death. The deepest fear is that you are being judged, not just what you are saying.

However, if you are familiar with the subject, and you know what you are talking about, the more confident you will be. Therefore, preparation is of highest importance for any presenter, or public speaker.

How you initially organize the amount of information and knowledge on the subject matter is equally important. Often people put off preparing the speech until the time to deliver it has almost arrived. Lack of structure, planning and preparation will give you butterflies in the stomach once you stand up there (in front of your audience or in front of cameras) and deliver the speech.

You should know who you audience are, what is the background of your audience, in terms of age, sex, status and experience. What is their interest in your topic? Will they be a friendly or hostile audience? Does anyone in the audience already know something about the subject?

TIPS: Be excellent in the subject you are presenting and well prepared. Anticipate possible problems and prepare probable responses. Be ready to handle whatever happens spontaneously as it occurs, making instant decisions. Gain plenty of practice and experience at presenting.

It is also very important to know the length of time that you will need for your presentation, as well as the dynamics of it. Asking questions to your audience before you move on to the next point could prove very effective, since you are going to make your presentation more interactive that will engage the audience effectively.

When it comes to the structure of your presentation you have to make sure it has a clear introduction, body and conclusion or closing. During the presentation, you should keep an eye contact with your audience, also use your hands in a variety of gestures, and avoid too much gesticulation (do not fidget with your notes, play with your clothes or put your hands in your pockets). Use your hands to describe and reinforce your verbal message. Avoid pointing at the audience. Be aware of your posture. Stand straight, with assurance, chest up, shoulders relaxed. A little movement is helpful so long as you do so with clear purpose.

Be aware of your voice. Talk louder than normal and try to vary the pitch of your voice. Project your voice to the back of the room, not down at the table in front of you. Speak slowly enough for the audience to capture the meaning of what you are saying. Smile from time to time!

Chose your words wisely, and avoid complicated phrasing that is difficult to follow.

Practice in front of the mirror or in front of a camera at home, to improve your presentation skills.

Have you ever had stage freight? Have you been in a situation where you had to talk in front of people or cameras? How was the feeling? How did you overcome the nervousness?

Please share your stories in the comment section.

Week 8 – Video Editing

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“I love editing. It’s one of my favourite parts about filmmaking.” Steven Spielberg

There are three main stages to making any film:

  • Pre-production is the part that happens before you start filming. This is where you get ideas, create mindmaps, storyboards, and work out how to make the film. If you spend sufficient time on this stage, you can save hours or days later on.
  • Production is the actual filming stage.
  • Post-production is where you edit the film, add or edit sound and titles, and get it ready to show to people.

To make the process even more creative in the pre-production stage, you could distribute different roles to students, such as: writers, composers, set designers, wardrobe and costume, makeup artists and prop makers, as well as directors, camera operators, production assistants, etc. However, we decided to promote guerrilla filmmaking strategies to enable students to become independent filmmakers, which does not require a lot of preparation in the pre-production stage, but it requires a good instinct for filmmaking, in terms of knowing when to take out the camera and shoot, when to change the shot size, or angle etc.

When it comes to the post-production stage, or the video editing part, this is where all those separate bits of video come together to make a film. The editing process itself consists of several stages: importing videos, putting the shots in order on the timeline and doing a lot of patchwork to make your story interesting to watch, trimming the clips so that you just have the important part of each clip, checking how the shots work together in sequence, rather than just looking at one shot at a time.

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TIPS: if there isn’t too much video, you can import it all into the computer, but if there’s loads, it is better to choose what to import, in order to save a lot of time.

The next stage to video editing is putting effects and titles to your video. Some young editors love adding effects and transitions like dissolves or fades. Bit it’s really important that these things make sense. Gimmicky effects can just create confusion.

TIPS: Use effects like black and white or sepia (to show something’s in the past or in somebody’s imagination). Use transitions like dissolves or fades (to show the passage of time). Add opening titles, subtitles, intertitles between scenes, and credits at the end.

It is also very important to allow enough time to sort the sound out: adding effects, music and voiceover, and adjusting the sound levels. This can make a massive difference to your film if done properly.

All in all, video editing is the part that requires a skilled editor to demonstrate the software used for the editing stage (in our case it was Final Cut we used). However, there is a variety of video editing software, you could use for your videos that are much easier to use.

The final stage is sharing the film. If you want to show it, you need to export or share it. That way, you’ll have a version that you can use on other computers or put online.

It’s a good idea to export one version in the highest quality possible, and then to make smaller versions to put on the school website or a video sharing site. You could also make a DVD.

You can check out our film on our school’s website, or on our YouTube channel.

Please share with us your experience with video editing in the comments section.

Week 7 – Filmmaking

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We live in a visual age – a picture is worth a thousand words!

“When I was a kid, there was no collaboration; it’s you with a camera bossing your friends around. But as an adult, filmmaking is all about appreciating the talents of the people you surround yourself with and knowing you could never have made any of these films by yourself.” Steven Spielberg

Have you ever thought about being the Steven Spielberg of your school, by making excellent films about various events?  School plays, football matches, graduation events, prom nights, excursions, success stories, weekly news, interviews… We live in a visual age, where pretty much everything is defined by the Flicker frequency, and filmmaking has become a necessity when it comes to promoting digital literacy skills to young people. That is why our Digital Literacy for EFL Students course offers this filmmaking and video editing workshop to help students gain more knowledge and improve their skills in the visual arts.

You may think that filmmaking and video editing in a school setting would be a very complicated thing to do. Of course, it requires some experience in filmmaking to be able to run a workshop of this kind. However, you probably have enough basic gear in your school to get started. Please check the links (10.Filmmaking and 11.Filmmaking Guide) available on our Padlet – Digital Literacy for EFL Students for more information.

Here are some tips to make sure students get good results, and to make the process manageable and enjoyable:

  • Keep it short – a number one rule for good filmmaking in school is to start with short and simple films before you try making longer films.
  • Build skills – start with simple activities to demonstrate different shots, and how to use them, as well as how to work together in filmmaking teams.
  • Be clear about the film – explain what kind of film you are going to make, define your target audience.
  • Cut the choice – instead of going into complicated solutions and dealing with unnecessary details, set really tight limits, for instance: time limit, limited number of close-ups, long shots, mid shots, angles, music etc.
  • Work with your gear – you should not get frustrated if your equipment is not up to the job, so if you do not have a microphone do not try and record live sound, make the soundtrack on your computer or tablet afterwards, or if you only have a basic camera, shoot outside or in rooms with plenty of light, and if you do not have a tripod, then zoom out and get in close.

For the purpose of the Digital Literacy for EFL Students course we decided to make a short film interviewing the students about their experiences with the training, and the lessons learned. What we needed to prepare beforehand was the script for the students’ interviews. We decided to focus on these questions: What do you think about digital literacy in the 21st century? What did you learn on the Digital Literacy for EFL Students course? Would you recommend it? Why?

We created a basic storyboard, and shooting schedule to list what was going to be filmed, where and when. We also discussed the various shot sizes such as: an extreme closeup (for important details), a closeup (showing parts of the subject), a mid shot (showing the top half of the body), a long shot (showing someone from head to foot), and extreme long shot (as a background video to show the setting).

Then we discussed camera angles such as: low angle, high angle, and birdseye angle; and we also explained what camera movements can be used to make the film more dynamic, such as: tracking shots (which can be done forward, backward or sideways), a tilt shot (it turns the camera upwards or downwards), with a pan (the camera turns left or right to scan a scene or follow a movement) etc.

The cameras we used during the recording stage were: Nikon D3100, GoPro Hero 3 (Silver Edition), and Phantom 2 Vision Plus Drone.

The next stage will be video editing on Final Cut. Check our next blog post for more details about the editing stage.

Have you ever recorded shots for a film? How easy/difficult was it? What cameras have you used? Have you ever created a storyboard?

Please share your answers in the comments section.

Week 6 – Web Content Development

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Create interesting content!

Once you have created your web space, the next thing to be done is to put some content on it. It is not an easy job since it requires a lot of research, writing, gathering, organising and editing information, because you are expected to publish quality content on the website that will be available for wider audience. The contents you put on your website may consist of graphics, prose, pictures, recordings, movies, or other media that could be viewed by a web browser.

At the beginning of the Internet, web developers developed their own contents. However, in time web development became a challenging thing to be done by a single person, because it involved a variety of technologies, such as graphic design, multimedia development, professional writing, and documentation. Moreover, search engines are looking for high quality, unique content, which requires specialists in each field to enable this. Another thing to be kept in mind when developing web content is the keyword-stuffed content, which will enable your web site to be recognised by search engines, and thus made available to the wider audience.

Each web site should be well organised when it comes to its contents. This is why, for the purpose of our Digital Literacy for EFL Students course, we decided to introduce three sections to our web site. The first section is titled About Us, and it contains short biographies of the participants in this course. The second section is titled Tetovo Education, because we decided to provide quality content about the schools our participants go to, both primary and secondary, as well as to give visibility to the schools that are not represented on the Internet with their own content, at least not all of them. Students were encouraged to research, and provide information regarding both the advantages and disadvantages of their immediate learning environments, and to prepare short articles sharing their personal experiences and views on education in Tetovo, regarding their respective schools. The third section is titled Tetovo Entertainment. Here, we wanted to provide content regarding a variety of amenities that attract the attention of the young population, such as: a sports club or facility; a coffee bar or a disco club popular with the young population; a culture centre including theatrical groups that work with young actors; NGOs that offer youth programs such as debate clubs or youth activism; and museums, or even shopping malls that young people find attractive.

All participants provided interesting contents that can be found on our school’s website. With this we have completed the second stage of our Digital Literacy for EFL Students related to Web Design.

What is your opinion about the contents we have provided? Are they informative and user-friendly enough?

Please share your comments and suggestions with us!

Week 5 – Creating Web Space

Have you ever thought about creating your own web space?

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It is a great challenge, for young people especially, to find their apt position in the web space, in order to be able to exchange their ideas, services and goods on the global market. Therefore, the Digital Literacy for EFL Students course focuses on developing this skill among its participants, in order to prepare them for the digital era as future professionals.

DID YOU KNOW?

  • WWW stands for World Wide Web and it was invented in 1989 by Tim Berners-Lee. He also introduced the first web server, the first browser and editor, as well as the Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP).
  • The first website (info.cern.ch) was published in 1991 by Tim Berners-Lee.
  • In 2013 alone, the number of websites increased from about 630 million to 850 million by the end of the year.
  • Today there are more than 1 billion active websites on the Internet.

There are basically two types of websites: static and interactive. Interactive sites allow you to interact with the site owner, while the static only present information and do not allow any interactivity between the owner and the audience, at least not directly. There are websites that are produced by enthusiasts for personal use or entertainment, and they are mostly informational. However, most of the sites are commercial and aim to make money, using a variety of models, such as advertising, e-commerce (you can actually buy products or services directly through the web site), freemium sites (you can use some of the contents for free, while premium contents are paid for).

In order to create your own web space, you will need to provide a domain name, which is your own web address, as well as hosting – a service that connects your site to the Internet. This might require a certain fee, which varies in different countries, although there are many other free platforms, like wordpress.com, which allow you to create a website from scratch in an easy way. Check out the links (8. How to Make a Website, and 9. How to Build a Website using HTML) available on our Padlet – Digital Literacy for EFL Students for more information.

For the purpose of this training, we decided to use our school’s website as our domain name in order to introduce students with the basics of web design using HTML. Students are encouraged to prepare their own short biographies for the About Us section, and are given a classroom demonstration on how to post their bios to the website.

The following poll is for all participants on the Digital Literacy for EFL Students course:

Please share your comments with us!

Week 4 – Building Audience

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Building audience is building trust!

“A great blog begins with the content you create, but to be successful a blog also needs a strong community or audience. The members of your community will follow your blog by giving you a permission to send them updates.”  The Complete Guide to Building Your Blog Audience

Now, how can you make your contents suit the interests of your audience?

Take a look at the Complete Guide to Building Your Blog Audience Chapter 1 for professional advice on blogging and building audience. This could be very useful for young bloggers in the future!

In order to build audience you should know the interests of your followers, as well as their level of understanding for the specific topic you are writing about. It is always nice to explain some technical vocabulary in case the reader gets in touch with your topic for the first time.

You should also promote your blog contents on the social networks, but this is something we will be discussing further in our Digital Literacy for EFL Students course.

Hashtags have become a very useful tool when it comes to reaching wider audience not just on Twitter, but also on Facebook, Instagram, and many other social networks. People do click on them to discover new content from new sources. Therefore, choose your hashtags wisely!

Emails are very important when it comes to building a community for your blog. An email list is a good way to keep in touch with your followers. It is something you own and something you can control.

You should provide regular updates to your contents on your blogs! Makes sure that the information you share is valid and reliable!

So, guys! Your task this week is to focus on the most popular social networks and promote the contents of your blogs there. Which networks do you use? Have you got an account on Facebook? Twitter? Instagram? Google+? Pinterest? Snapchat? Or any other?

Do you usually use hashtags? How do you choose the tag words? Do you have a strategy for that? Do you check the contents available on the hashtags?

Please share your ideas as comments!