Quizlet: quick and flexible

Adding sets in Quizlet

Now, I wrote in my blog-resuscitating post¬†that I felt educational technology had matured somewhat, and moved on from a focus on blingy tools and started to consider the big picture of how to get technology to benefit learning rather than just being a novelty. So naturally, my first post of this academic year is going to be about a blingy tool (sort of). Hopefully though I can consider it a bit more deeply than I would have done a few years ago ūüėČ

The tool is Quizlet, which has apparently been around for about nine years, so it’s hardly the newest kid¬†on the block. I’d first chosen it about a year ago as I looked at a load of quiz-type tools and tried to choose one to recommend to colleagues at the college I worked at. In case you haven’t come across it, it’s a question and answer application that can be used on mobile or desktop. If you want to know more about how to use it, have a look at Russell Stannard’s videos here: How to use Quizlet¬†

There are lots of quiz type apps around, but there were a few features that made me think that Quizlet probably has a bit more going for it, than many of the others:

  • Flexibility – it works on the principle that you put some information into it (questions and answers, words and definitions, etc) and then you can do a lot of different things with it, tests, games, etc.
  • Collaborative potential – it’s really easy to share your content with other people and also to find content that others have shared. Obviously, as with all user-generated content you have to be careful as quality varies (massively). But be selective and there’s a lot of content you can use straight away. This is also good for developing learner autonomy. If your learners can search for useful content to work with, then they can study independently; they do need to evaluate the content they find though.
  • Simplicity – it’s really easy to put together a set of cards and share them with your learners.

Both of these features mean that it is a tool that gives a lot of ‘output’ for a limited amount of input – I think that’s really important when considering e-learning tools – if it’s too much effort, it’s probably not worth using.

Of course the most important question to ask is how this is likely to help your learners. I think Quizlet is actually on fairly stable ground here, for certain things. There is plenty of literature which highlights the importance of repetition in vocabulary learning, and it is really easy for teachers to add words from a lesson to a quick Quizlet card set to follow the lesson. However it is not contextualised practice and this may leave some question marks over its effectiveness.

Now, having presented it to people, and hoping to evaluate its effectiveness, I couldn’t quite get it into my workflow. It was a resource that didn’t really fit with the group I was teaching, and it was hard to add it into my normal practice.

I was reintroduced to Quizlet when I was doing some EAP work this summer, however it fell slightly to the wayside as lessons were not particularly vocabulary-focused (we were looking at more generic features of academic language). Having now finished that course, I’ve realised I could have got learners to focus on the Academic Word List, and sure enough, some people have already made Quizlet sets for the AWL – like this one Academic Wordlist 1 (on Quizlet).

So, my aim for this term is to try and work Quizlet back into my teaching – it’s easy enough to leave it open in class and keep adding to it, I just need to train learners to use it to recap their learning.



Reflections or ‘is 3 years a long time in non-blogging?’


Bae Abertawe
Back after a while…


This blog has been asleep for a while; think I need to give it a prod and wake it up… I haven’t posted for a long time, but I’ve wanted to reflect on a few things. I’m coming to the end of a few projects I’ve been working on and I was back somewhere I hadn’t been for a decade the other day – it’s got me thinking about a few things.

Blogging is a great process for reflection, and looking back on one you haven’t posted on for a while is a good way to evaluate how things, and you have evolved.

Edtech: a new maturity?

When I started blogging, I was a teacher trying out lots of new things. Around 2010 there seemed to be a lot of those new things – educational technology was all about the shiny new toys you could use in class – and perhaps a slightly too uncritical approach to them, having said that, looking back on the old posts, I don’t think I went overboard on the ‘shiny but flawed’ toys. There’s quite a focus on using Moodle and Smartboards, which probably reflects my context working in Further Education – I still use them fairly regularly, but am a lot more aware of their drawbacks.

Interactive white boards/Smartboards can still be useful, but do probably focus a bit too much attention on the front of the class, rather than what learners are doing. I’m happy to use them, and experiment with them – but I’m not sure I’d be happy to pay for them if I was in charge of a budget.

I still use Moodle regularly with my students, and while it looks rather old-fashioned and is probably not an application many learners would choose given the option, it does have its uses. I posted about using forums, and I think I still agree with what I wrote then. Like wise the ideas in this prezi: Moodle ideas are still relevant. However, I’m now much more aware that it’s really important to think about the design behind Moodle courses and how that impacts on the ease of use for learners. This prezi: Learner-centred Moodle is from a training session that I delivered at the college I work at – and I should probably turn it into a blog post soon. Having worked with a lot of community learning provides as part of the English My Way project, it’s interesting to see the alternatives that they are using – I think there’s a potential project to be done looking at the use of Whatsapp in community learning – and another one on whether we should just use Whatsapp instead of Moodle…

I do feel that there seems to be a bit more maturity around the idea of technology in learning, and that it is starting to be seen more for it’s genuine uses, rather than for it’s novelty. I do wonder if the way that we’ll know things have settled down will be when we stop talking about it as technology and just focus on learning, which can be supported by any tools from chalk to tablets, etc.

UX? LX? Design for learning

The importance of good design for online learning is something I developed while working as a co-ordinator for ESOL Nexus. A key part of the project was our piloting process: we tried out new activities and lessons on real learners and used the feedback to refine what was produced. It was interesting to see how our approach to online activities was refined through the project, and how we learned to make the most of the authoring tools etc, that we had available to use. Some of these lessons are nicely set out here:¬†https://malarke.com/2015/10/23/shiny/ . This was a great project to work on and it’s nice to see that the website is still getting widely used.

Around the time that I started working on that project I somehow stumbled across the idea of ‘User Experience’ (UX) and realised that it probably had some relevance to what I was doing. I ended up following this blog religiously, even though it’s not about fields I work in: http://www.currybet.net/¬†– It’s a bit old now, but there’s still a lot to learn from it.¬†I’ve still only got an idea of the basic concepts, but if you want to find out more, have a look at this post (and related webinar) from ELTjam: We need to talk about LX

Projects: applied digital literacies

Having said that about digital activities, I now teach teenagers more than adults and as a result, my own teaching has moved away from ‘activity’ sites. While I’ve been able to encourage adult learners to develop autonomy in seeking out online sources as references for them to do reinforcement work, this is a lot less motivating for teenage learners.

The approach I really like for these learners is using projects with them, (not just online – but it is a useful aspect). I did write something on that back in 2012 – Learners selling themselves: Functional Skills for Construction, but I’ve had the opportunity to do this a lot more often recently. I really like it because it puts the technology aspect in the background – tools that are used, are used for a purpose, and so it allows you to develop genuinely useful digital literacies¬†in learners. I’m presenting on similar things¬†at the NATECLA Conference in Nottingham in July – tickets still available ūüėȬ†

Informal teacher development

Speaking of conferences, I’m still very interested in the idea of teachers leading their own development.¬†I started blogging when there was an explosion of teacher blogging, probably fuelled by the shiny new thing that was Twitter. I wrote a guide about using Twitter for CPD:¬†Twitter for educators¬†and I still think most of it is true. Twitter has suffered a bit from its growth, and I’m not sure that there’s still quite the same level of engagement and discussion that there was, but it’s still worth exploring if you haven’t yet.

Blogging in general has probably dropped off quite a bit as well (or maybe it’s just me….) I was collecting a list of blogs¬†but it’s so far from being up to date, I’m not sure it’s worth updating. If you do want a massive list of Education blogs – I can recommend looking here: The Echo Chamber blogs spreadsheet. It is still a great medium for reflection and there are a few blogs that I follow closely.

Teacher development was a very big part of the work I did as part of a small team on English My Way. Rather than a formal accredited training programme, we provided people with online CPD modules: English My Way CPD modules and then, (possibly referencing the design/UX points raised above) produced a series of bitesize CPD videos, showing practical hints for the classroom:

We also encouraged teachers to work together to build up peer networks, observe each other and reflect on their progress. It was a really interesting project to work on, and you can find more about our approach in this webinar: English Agenda – Blending professional development

Has informal teacher development changed much since I started blogging, probably only by magnitude, rather than degree. There are a lot more resources available, but the basic principles remain the same.¬†Online collaborative approaches may be slightly different, but not by much. Now let’s see if having started blogging again, I can keep it up….



MindMapping (or iThoughts therefore iAm)

Health and safety – Framework for a discussion

Now, I usually like my posts to be about things that you could pretty much pick up and use straight away with your classes, but there is a bit more speculation I. This on of what I think might be possible in the not too distant future… Bear with me here… Continue reading “MindMapping (or iThoughts therefore iAm)”