Author Archives: englishkatiemitchell

ZZZZZ Students

The sleeping students on blackboard are actually quite useful! Have you noticed the zzzzz_student in your Blackboard Grade Center. That student allows you to log in and see your blackboard course exactly as a student would. You can figure out how to post on a discussion board or upload documents to Safe Assign as a student. Technology Across the Curriculum has all the explanation you could need in their document on “Top Five Tips for Blackboard Users”. Here is a picture from their document. It links to the entire document. (Or come to my training on Friday.)

Document Avaliable at

Michelle Scholz also blogged here a few months back about her tips and tricks. She included the zzzzz_student. She her other tricks here. What are some of your favorite blackboard tricks and tips?


Safe Assign on Blackboard

I’ve posted before about technology and plagiarism. Well, for teachers at Oregon State University, a new Blackboard update has made it even easier to detect plagiarism. Our latest Blackboard upgrade came with “Safe Assign”. You will find this new feature under “Create Assessments”.


Students will submit papers through Safe Assign. Safe Assign then checks the internet and Safe Assign’s database of student papers. It will document what percentage of a student’s paper is unique. It won’t tell you if anything is plagiarized. (Ten percent of the paper could be from other sources, but that information may be correctly cited or simply common phrases.) Safe Assign will, however, help you track down any uncited sources in student papers. It can also show studsafe_assignents that they have some questionable areas before they submit their papers. This way students can learn to document their sources correctly without being penalized. Safe Assign will also stop students from sharing old papers with  friends as all papers run through Safe Assign are added to its database. I’ll be talking more about Safe Assign on Friday’s training, but this document from OSU’s Technology Across the Curriculum is a great resource. This is one of those pieces of technology that will help (and students) with very little time investment.


example_paper for training today from Read, Write, Think

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TESOL 2013 Handouts

2013-03-25_0942TESOL 2013

It was wonderful  to meet so many interesting and engaged teachers in Dallas. I was amazed at how well attended our sessions were. For those of you who couldn’t come or who couldn’t get a handout, the handout are available through TESOL. I provided the links below.


Making it Meaningful      If you would like a copy of the macros, please email me. The file type cannot be easily uploaded and shared.

Again, it was such a great experience, and I can’t wait to see everyone next year at TESOL 2014 in my home state of Oregon. Until then, feel free to contact me.

MyLabs = No Homework (for you)

ImageSome of the classes here are using MyLabs from Pearson. It is an online learning management system that accompanies some of their textbooks. It can be a little tricky to get started (help documents here), but can minimize the amount of homework the teacher has to grade while simultaneously giving students more practice and explanation. Simply put: it seems to be a win-win.

Michelle Scholz and I will be working on a project to more closely review such online components. We will be presenting our findings at the CALICO conference in May. It will be interesting to see exactly what these types of programs have to offer. Computer-graded homework is nice, but we will look at the pedagogical approach, design, and technology more closely. Until then, enjoy the little bit of extra free time MyLabs provides.


QR Code Scavenger Hunt

We talk a little bit in the iBook about QR codes. QR codes are quick response codes, similar to barcodes. Mobile devises can scan the codes and connect users to a webpage or content. This week, I used the QR codes to make a scavenger hunt around INTO OSU. I posted QR codes around the building and groups were set out to find and scan them. When people scanned the QR codes, the groups were connected to a survey with a simple quiz question. (One question per QR code.) At the end, everyone met back in the classroom, hopefully having found all ten QR codes, and we reviewed the answers. It was a blast and is a good review or formative assessment activity.

I first tried to make the scavenger hunt using QR Code Treasure Hunt Generator. It was very user friendly and would be perfect for places that have limited wifi, but it has some disadvantages. Most notably, it only gives students the questions, but doesn’t give them a place to record their answers. That seemed a little tricky.  Instead, I used Fluid Surveys which is similar to Survey Monkey except that it automatically generates a QR code when it publishes the survey. So, each QR code linked to a survey with one quiz question. Using this method was still very easy, and it allowed people to enter their responses into the survey and for the teacher to electronically collect all the responses in real time.

I’ll certainly be doing it again and let me know if you do it too.

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“iPads in ESL Classrooms”

We recently completed a report on INTO Oregon State University’s iPad pilot. Here is a section of the introduction:

“In Fall 2011, INTO OSU invested in a classroom set of thirty iPads. Michelle Scholz and Jim Jamieson made the initial proposal, which was successfully funded by INTO. The project came at a time when according to the PEW Research Center (2011) approximately 11% of Americans were using iPads. People were using iPads to check email, read news, check social networking sites, play games, and to a lesser extent read books and watch videos. The average user was not using the iPad as a learning aide. However, the iPad group at INTO OSU saw numerous features which could be exploited for the purpose of language learning. Mitchell (2012) explained the features as follows:

+ Portability— This allows us to bring class materials and activities into settings that might be more interesting or authentic.
+ Connectivity— This allows us to access materials from around the web, simplifying dictionary searches, research, and so forth. It also allows us to publish on the web more easily.
+ Multimodality—This allows students to escape their black and white books for a world of interactive videos, pictures, and multimedia authorship. These features can help create meaningful learning opportunities, including creating multimodal digital flashcards and analyzing sources found online.”

The book outlines how these features were utilized in a variety of iPad activities and presents over 40 app reviews. If you’re interested in downloading it, it’s available in the iBook store here.

Audioboo and Screencasts

I am giving a workshop tomorrow at Willamette University for pre-service teachers. We are going to talk about giving audio feedback through screencast-o-matic and making audio recordings through audioboo.
The handouts from the presentation are below:

TESOL 2014

logoDid you know that the 2014 TESOL Convention is going to be in Portland, Oregon? I couldn’t be more excited. It’s going to be a great convention. Here are some numbers we learned at the preparation meeting this week:

  • 6,500 attendees
  • 700 education sessions
  • 150 exhibitors
  • 300 volunteers

That last number is actually a little frightening. 300 volunteers. Luckily, we live in a great state, and I know so many people will be willing to help. If you’re one of those people, keep your eyes out for emails from ORTESOL about volunteering before and during the convention.

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Five Reasons to Use Interactive Whiteboards

I know, many complain that interactive whiteboards are difficult to use, and they don’t see the added value. Sure, some activities on the boards don’t improve on a basic chalkboard. But, here are five things I like about interactive whiteboards:

  • Dragging and dropping so you can:
    • Do attendance – students drag their name to the “here” space when they arrive
    • Match vocabulary words to pictures or definitions
    • Practice correct word order – similar to refrigerator poetry
    • Complete cloze activities
    • Reorder stories or paragraphs
  • Saving so you can:
    • Finish activities at a later date
    • Reference materials created in a previous class
    • Work on a grammar chart or vocabulary wall over numerous meetings
    • Use in future terms
  • Clear visuals so you can:
    • Appeal to visual learners
    • Use a wide variety of colors (not just blue, green, red and black whiteboard pens)
    • Incorporate more pictures
    • Have clear handwriting (with writing to type features)
  • Going online so you can:
    • Seamlessly bring in images from Google Images
    • Quickly look up words in a dictionary
  • Importing other PowerPoints and PDFs so you can:
    • Improve materials
    • Incorporate student ideas
    • Annotate documents
    • Use graphic organizers
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Plagiarism and Technology

Are you good at spotting plagiarism? I think, I’m pretty good. I can identify material that doesn’t have a student’s typical style or skill level, although I often rely on technology to find plagiarism. Our university doesn’t offer plagiarism software, so I used to google phrases to find their original source. Recently, I started using Plag Tracker, a free site.  You can copy and paste a paper into Plag Tracker, and it highlights parts that may have been plagiarized and links them to the original source.

When I first tried the site, I ran a student’s paper through that I thought was not plagiarized. Well, I was surprised to find that the student had in fact plagiarized a small part of his essay. He had taken a quote, the sentence introducing the quote and a nice summary of the quotes main points. He had cited the source of the quote, but not the other material. It was a relatively small mistake, and he might not have even known that what he did was plagiarism. I started to think that the site might help him reflect on his own writing and to identify and rework any instances of plagiarism.

On the other hand, it might help him learn to beat sites that identify plagiarism, like Plag Tracker. In fact, Quick Student has learned to beat these plagiarism trackers and let’s other students do the same for free. According to the Quick Student, here is how it works:

  • Smart Thesaurus Replacer – Replaces commonly used words with other common words. It uses a large database that is constantly growing and all words have been handpicked and checked for authenticity.
  • Adjective Adder- Adds common and vague adjectives onto specific words; for example “truck” might become “crimson truck” or “shiny truck”.
  • Big Word Replacer – Most students don’t use complex words like “Bombastic” or “Erudition”, this function replaces big words with simpler ones.
  • Common Word Replacer – Switches out common words to more specific ones; for example “orange” might become “clementine”.

I have to admit that sites, like Quick Student, worry me. They introduce little mistakes and throw off the plagiarism trackers. So, here is the question: Do you tell students what/if you use a plagiarism tracker? How do you educate students about plagiarism?

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