So it only took me two years, but here I am finally trying Textivate.
This is a website where you upload (copy and paste) written documents– called “resources”– of up to 500 words, and the site allows you to manipulate these documents into game-like activities.
For example, you have a ten-sentence story. One Textivate activity involves the program scrambling the story, and then students have to unscramble it by sliding “story tiles” around. The program starts with simple scrambles (6 tiles) and progresses into more complex activities.
You can do a bunch of stuff with Textivate, but I am focused on two:
Challenges are where you take a resource, make it available to your students online, put a time limit on it, and the students complete their choice of activities for points. They sign up to the challenge (enter their name), then start doing activities. The more complex the activity, the more points.
In a challenge, the kids can start wherever they want (easy or hard activity), and do the activities in any order. The easiest way to do this is to start simple (six tiles) and move along into harder activities. If it’s harder, you get more points…but it’s also harder.
The program generates a leaderboard, so you can track scores in real time (or put them on the overhead).
Sequences are where you take a resource (e.g. a story), and you specify a set of activities and a sequence. You can put a time limit on these also. You can make them shorter (i.e. include only 1-3 activities) and use them as warm-ups etc.
Ok so how did it go today, our first-ever using Textivate?
- I had 100% engagement. The kids were fairly quiet and focused.
- There were some hassles re screen sizes– an iPad or computer would be better than a smartphone– but all manageable.
- You must not use iPhone private browsing mode with Textivate.
- You can really see who the readers are. Slow readers move much less quickly than faster readers. This actually turned out to be a problem (in a challenge) because speed of processing language is something I cannot change, and something students have very little control over.
Notes & questions:
- In future, I think I am going to stick more to sequences than challenges. All I really want to know is, are the kids reading and understanding? Competition is fun…if you’re fast. If you are a slower processor (or less literate), you don’t have a hope in hell of beating the FPs, which is discouraging. With a sequence, you can set time and scope. All I really want is for them to finish.
- I need to figure out a way of seeing whether or not the kids are actually reading and understanding. What I saw today was, the kids with high marks did well. Especially encouraging was watching the autistic kid, Bryce, who has a really hard time with noise etc, do well on the leaderboard. But are they reading? I think so…because with each new activity, the text is “sliced” in different places, so they have to look at meaning to sort it out.
- This is going to be a great app for homework. The kids can do a sequence from home (easier on computer than on phone), I can see who has done what, etc.
- I have not yet played with matching activities, but it would be cool for first & second person reps (the Achilles heel of TPRS). You have a question on one side and an answer on the other.
If you teach French, there is a basic French 1 story (unsheltered grammar) here.
I use the Ramirez books but because they are copyrighted I can’t share the stories from the books on Textivate.