This post will be first in a series in which I develop and appraise English language learning activities using the web-based program H5P.
This past week, I attended a workshop entitled “Creating Interactive Online Teaching Resources Using H5P” organized by the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning at Qatar University (QU). The presenter, Mr. Stefan Rusyniak, demonstrated a web-based program, H5P, that I was unfamiliar with. Always wanting to be ahead of the curve when it comes to educational ICT, I went into the workshop with piqued interest.
H5P is a free and open-source framework that allows users to create and share interactive HTML5 content. While the interface is not the most user friendly—almost akin to computer coding—the potential of H5P to develop engaging learning activities for the classroom are very exciting. You can visit the Example and Downloads page of the program’s website (H5P.org, not H5P.com!) in order to investigate the variety of possible activities.
After creating an account, I spent some time playing around with the different sample activities and immediately wanted to create and test activities suitable for English language courses at QU. Additionally, I wanted to write about my creations and share them on my blog, but since there are so many distinct content types on H5P, I thought it best if I focused on one specific activity and use my exploration of the content types as ongoing series for my blog. Thus, this post will be my first experiment in developing English learning activities using H5P.
One of the warm-up activities that I used in my ENGL 250: English Language Communication I course was a vocabulary table activity. During the first 10 minutes of class, as I awaited a critical mass of students to show up, I would project, using PowerPoint, a table with about 25 vocabulary words onto the LCD screen. Then I would ask the students to perform several tasks using the table of words. (Note: I discuss this and other 10-minute activity ideas in a previous blog post: 10 Student Activities for the First 10 Minutes of Class.) The activity is easy to prep and implement, but prompts students to visually contact the words multiple times as they try to accomplish the various tasks. As most language teachers know, a student might have contact a word 17 times before it moves into their long-term memory. So, with a few chosen tasks, in a short span of time, students can accrue the numerous contacts with words that need in order to master them.
For my first attempt at creating H5P content, I thought I would use the Multiple Hotspots content type and create an interactive vocabulary table. I used the first task from the PPT activity, so students would have to identify all 9 of the vocabulary words that are in verb form. Please click on the following LINK to access the activity. (Note: without the WordPress Business Plan, I am unable to access the plug-in that would allow me to embed the H5P activity into my blog.)
First, what I really like about the Multiple Hotspots Vocabulary Table activity is that students can receive immediate feedback on their right and wrong answers. As I wrote the responses to the wrong answers, I tried to remind students how different suffixes indicate the form of the word. Also, I showed them the verb form of the incorrect answers. And, if the student chose the correct answer, then I indicated if the word had the same noun form or asked them if they could guess another form of the word as an additional challenge.
Second, this activity would be easily shareable with my students. I could send them the link to the activity using our classroom communication app Remind, and they could work on the activity using their phone. If I didn’t have a communication app, I could turn the URL into a QR code and project it onto the classroom LCD screen for students to scan using their phones and a QR reader–or, if neither were possibilities, I would shorten the URL and write it on a chalk or white board.
Third, the H5P activity is more gamified than the PPT version of the activity. Students receive a star for every right answer until they collect all of the possible stars. This is an extrinsic motivation that works quite well with the current generation of students brought up on video games with elaborate trophy systems with banal to near impossible trophy challenges.
First, if you want to create a Hotspot activity with multiple hotspots, make sure you use Find MULTIPLE Hotspots and not Find THE Hotspot. I mistakenly selected the latter and wasted about 20 minutes working on an activity with only one right answer!
Second, with my PPT vocabulary table, I can have students complete multiple language tasks using the same vocabulary table. I’m not limited to just one task! But, with the H5P activity, I can only have students work on one task per H5P activity. If I wanted my student to complete the four tasks that I listed on my PPT, I would have to create four separate Find Multiple Hotspots activities using the same vocabulary table! Then I would have to share four different URLs with the students! This is not ideal.
Third, I don’t know how quickly students would complete this activity–maybe several minutes, at most? And without multiple tasks to work on using the vocabulary table, I don’t think the H5P activity would keep all students occupied for the first 10 minutes of class.
Fourth, a lazy student could simply click on all the words until, by process of elimination, they selected all the right answers and received all their stars. Also, students might not read the carefully crafted, encouraging responses that an instructor wrote for the activity, thus cheating themselves of the learning opportunity. All an instructors efforts might be for naught!
While it would be nice to have a bank of Find Multiple Hotspot activities with different language tasks for a shared vocabulary table, I don’t know if I would want to invest the time in creating them. Even with my second attempt at creating the activity, it took me about 15 to 20 minutes to write all the responses to right and wrong answers. It took me the same amount of time to create my PPT version of the activity with the four language tasks. For four different language tasks using H5P, I would need 4x the amount of time to create the same activity!
However, once the H5P activities are created, they would be easily shareable and more useful for students to practice on their own before or after class. I just don’t know if I want to invest the initial time into creating the activities, although maybe one of you readers/teachers do.
Note: if the vocabulary table looks too OCD for your liking, try either the PPT or H5P version of the activity using the words in the form of a word cloud. This might appeal to more visual learners (and instructors!).