How often do you use your mobile phone?

As part of an effort to monitor my phone usage and become more productive during the day, I decided to install not one, but three apps that monitor mobile phone usage. The three apps I downloaded were:

1)     Checky,

2)     MyAddictonmeter and,

3)     Mobile addiction meter.

Just to clarify, in no way am I recommending these apps. As it happened I just came across these. There are a lot of other similar apps too.

My phone usage primarily revolves around messaging. This includes emails (I have 3 email accounts), as well as social media, basically WhatsApp. I rarely use twitter and Facebook. In terms of other usage, I search the net when required, as well as watch the odd YouTube video. I do not play games. Having said this, there are plenty of other links, suggestions  and adverts based on our profiles which try hard to distract our attention, in the hope that we spend even more time on the net. At times, these do result in more phone usage.

The statistics that were produced by these apps were surprising. I was going to show a table of the statistics accumulated over the week, but decided not to. Let’s just say that that data is best kept with me and whoever is collecting my surfing and phone usage habits.

However, you may be interested in knowing what kinds of statistics these apps produce.

  • How many times used daily
  • Daily Average use in hours
  • On average usage per minute
  • Max duration
  • Last used duration
  • Times checked per hour
  • Maximum distraction period
  • Least distraction period
  • Distraction free period

In addition to the above, there are also a variety of graphics too, and you can also get a history of usage. However, I found some inconsistencies when comparing usage data between the apps, so it’s difficult to ascertain why these differences are there, for apparently similar measures.

However, I thoroughly recommend you checking out these apps. Mobile phones are seriously disrupting our lives, and there seems to be a tendency to check the phone frequently. If you keep your notifications on silent you may keep checking your phone more often just to see if you have received anything. There is also the tendency to immediately check the phone when notifications are on.

My experience of having used these usage apps for about a week, is that they reveal the real danger of spending too much time on the phone checking messages, and then being distracted by other media. We may not realise it, but we are all fundamentally distracted for long periods of time on additional unplanned activities. The more time we spend on accessing messages and the internet, the more money someone is making. That is the ultimate purpose of all of this technology. If there was no money in it, no one would be interested.

Distraction technologies are in demand. The more distracted we are, the higher some company’s profits or share price. Perhaps more importantly, we need to start thinking seriously about how we can make better use of our time, and reduce phone usage.

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Conversation questions

How many of you out there teach speaking?  In this day and age, skills tend to be combined as a result of the so-called ‘integrated skills’ movement. Although supporters of this methodology believe that it reflects real life, I find that courses do not provide enough practice for students in the relevant skills. What I’m saying, is that students need focused practice for a substantial amount of time in the four skills. In my context, students do not get sufficient opportunities to speak, so I try hard to ensure that students speaking per lesson ratio is as high as possible.

I often summarise whole chapters into one A4 worksheet. which then acts as the main point from which I then teach. I typically also prepare my own conversation questions so that students can use these to talk about the content of the chapter. I usually have about 30 questions per chapter.

We now have plenty of pair work going on in the classroom which is a relief. Students have given me positive feedback and are being cajoled into practicing their speaking more.

What do you think? Are we all prone to go with the flow? Have we lost our creativity?

By the way, I’d like to share something I recently found on the net. It’s a speaking question bank. Here’s the link: http://iteslj.org/questions/

Enjoy.

 

Teaching very very weak students how to write

picture source: emiller27.wordpress.com

How many times have you ended up with a class of students who seem to be well below the level required for a particular class?

They cannot seem to comprehend what you say (listening and vocabulary knowledge?), and are unable to respond when you speak to them. They seem to lack basic words, and yet you have to teach them how to write a 5 paragraph essay!

You have a course schedule with a number of units to cover within a finite period of time. You cannot at this point resort to teaching them grammar and improving their lexis.  Admittedly the latter is easier to do than the former.

They also seem to have a problem when it comes to brainstorming, and seem to lack ideas. May be the ideas are there for a restricted list of topics, as they have probably not had to talk about societal issues. I’m assuming that if ideas exist, they are unable to convey these as those ideas can only be conveyed in their L1.

Strategy so far

I’ve been focussing on ensuring that the students internalise the framework of an essay. What I mean is, the idea of having introductions, body paragraphs and a conclusion, and the sub-levels for these important pillars of an essay, e.g. a hook, thesis statement and supporting ideas.

In every class, we have a new topic or topics, and a brainstorming session. This is followed by trying to fit the ideas into the framework. Which of course is then followed by adding meat to this skeleton. This is a good way to introduce new vocabulary. Throughout this period, I’ve been acting ‘all enthusiastic’ as if I’m some kind of football team manager/ motivator.

In addition to the above, I’ve come to the conclusion, that in order to get the attention of the students, we need to brainstorm topics that they can relate to, or are close to their hearts.

I’ve covered topics like ‘finding a marriage partner’, ‘why a certain famous person is famous’ and even how to make ‘rice and meat’ also known as kabsa! I’ve been amazed at the attention the students give, and how familiar, interesting topics engage them. You can see their eyes light-up and of course the smirks when I try to introduce some ‘silly’ topic.

How are we progressing? Well, the prognosis is, that irrespective of how well the student understands the framework, or likes the topic under discussion, if the message cannot be conveyed, which requires a reasonable level of language, then the chances of success are low. Ultimately, the reader needs to understand the message being conveyed. Being able to piece together accurate sentences with appropriate vocabulary is a necessity. Even part accurate will do. But we are even below that. You know how serious word order problems, along with inappropriate vocabulary can just totally confuse the reader.

I’m sure there are ways that others deal with such difficulties, but when you are teaching a 2-3 credit hour course over a semester, it can be difficult to do anything extra. I have asked them to revise certain tenses they may have studied as part of a grammar course in the past. But should I be following this up? There’s little time.

All of the above obviously brings up issues relating to teaching, learning and assessment issues. Issues that I’ll try to discuss in the future. My final thoughts link in to these issues.

Final thoughts: Who let these students pass the previous courses? They could not possibly have passed looking at their current performance. What were they being taught before and how? What kind of assessment was going on, and using what standard? Is the context a major problem, and do we need to take a closer look at this?

All the best.