Technologically and linguistically adventurous EFL teacher, trainer, writer and manager

Posts tagged ‘technology’

IATEFL Birmingham 2016: Corpora

corpus (pl. corpora)
a collection of written or spoken material stored on a computer and used to find out how language is used
From the Cambridge English Dictionary online

I’ve been interested in corpora for a while now, but never seem to have time to go beyond my very basic understanding of how the Brigham Young University corpus interface works. I’ve always used it for the BNC (British National Corpus), which covers 1980-1993, but discovered a few seconds ago (!) that COCA (Corpus of Contemporary American English) is constantly updated, so I think I’ll be switching to that from now on!

All I knew before was how to do a basic search for a term and how to look for collocates, possible with a verb or noun near the key word if I was feeling very adventurous. Thanks to three talks I attended on different versions of corpora during the conference, I now feel like I know much more! 🙂


Jennie Wright did a very practical session introducing us to the basic functions of COCA, with three activities you can take straight into the classroom. Mura Nava, the master of corpora, helpfully collected my tweets from the session (and added notes to make it clearer – thanks!) which show all three activities, and Jennie has shared the list of corpora resources on her blog. She particularly recommended COCA Bites, a series of very short YouTube videos designed to introduce you to the corpus.

One thing I particularly like about COCA is the fact that parts of speech are highlighted in different colours. Here’s an example of a KWIC search for ‘conference’, giving concordance lines with the key word in a single column (a function Jennie taught me!)

COCA 'conference' search


James Thomas taught us how to answer language questions from corpora, focussing on the SKELL (Sketch Engine for Language Learning) concordancer (thanks for correcting that James!). I didn’t realise that SKELL was created by the people at Masaryk University, in (one of) my second home(s) Brno 🙂 Again, Mura collected the tweets, this time by me, Leo Selivan (another corpus master) and Dan Ruelle.

What makes SKELL different to many corpora is that it uses algorithms to select 40 sentences from however many the search finds, getting rid of as many as possible with obscure words or which are overly long to make it easier for learners to use. This works well for common words, but not always for slightly more obscure words, like ‘mansplain‘ (possibly the word of the conference, thanks to David Crystal’s opening plenary!) You can also use the ‘word sketch’ function on the corpus to show you lots of collocates, a function I think I will now use instead of a collocations dictionary! Michael Houston Brown has a very clear introduction to SKELL on Mura’s eflnotes blog.

One slight problem, as with all corpora, is that it cannot distinguish between different senses of the same word, which may confuse learners. In this example, conference is listed both in the sense of the IATEFL conference, and as a sporting league. This could also be seen in the COCA image above, but I think it is easier to spot here.

SKELL 'conference' search

If you’d like to find out more, James has recently written an article for the Humanising Language Teaching magazine.

Making your own corpus

Chad Langford and Joshua Albair are clearly die-hard corpus fans. They trawled through over one million words from over 8,000 TripAdvisor restaurant reviews to create their own corpus of review language. The findings were very interesting and showed up some clear features of the genre, but I’m not sure how practical it would be for most teachers to do this kind of project as anything other than a hobby. They’re based at Lille University, but they didn’t say how much of their time was dedicated to this project versus teaching, or how many groups they used it with, so it was difficult to work out the return on their investment of time. Nevertheless, it was very interesting to see how you go about building a corpus. Again, thanks to Mura for collating my tweets with more information in them.


Mura also collated tweets for one more corpus-related talk at IATEFL, based on the English Grammar Profile. Cambridge have recorded all of their talks from the conference, including this one, so you can watch it at your leisure. He has a free ebook with examples of the BYU-COCA corpus interface.

There are interviews with some of the presenters of corpus talks at this year’s IATEFL, including James, Chad and Josh, on Mura’s blog. This list of talks shows everything connected to corpora from this year’s conference.

Why diigo could be your new best friend (IH Journal)

The latest IH Journal is now available, featuring a beginner’s guide to diigo written by me. Diigo is a service which I started using about five years ago, and which completely changed my approach to using the internet! Head over to the article to find out how, and learn to use it yourself.

The journal features articles by contributors from around the world. This issue has a materials writing focus, but also features columns on teacher training, teaching young learners, using technology, management and working with exam classes, among many others. The contents list is available in the right-hand bar on the main IHJ page, and the whole journal is here. You can also read past issues of the journal.

IH Journal issue 39 cover

Learn Moodle – my first MOOC

A few years ago I took the IH Certificate in Online Tutoring, part of which involved learning how to use Moodle. Unfortunately, I haven’t had chance to play with it again, so when Vedrana Vojkovic recommended the Learn Moodle MOOC (Massive Open Online Course), I thought it would be a good chance to refresh my knowledge and try out my first MOOC.

The Learn Moodle MOOC is a four-week course which I believe takes place on a fairly regular basis. You can find out the date of the next one at the top of the MOOC homepage. (I believe it will be July 2015)

Each week, there is a live tutorial accompanied by a series of tasks. The tasks contain clear instructions and links to very easy-to-follow YouTube videos explaining how to use the different parts of Moodle. I think you’re meant to spend about 1-2 hours per week on there.

When I signed up, I had no plans for the rest of January. I completed the week one tasks at a leisurely pace. Then life took over, and I had very little time to do the rest of the course. I ended up doing most of the rest of it in a couple of hours on the first day of week four. Frustratingly, I had just one task left at the end of this, but couldn’t finish it as it depends on other participants, meaning I had to return the next day to do it. The final task only took a few minutes though, so it wasn’t too bad.

As a reward, I got this:

Learn Moodle complete badge

Despite the rush, I think I got what I wanted out of it – a reminder of the main functions of Moodle, and an introduction to some of the bits that were less developed when I did the COLT course. If I ever think I’ll have the time to do it, and if I found one that interested me, I’d definitely do another MOOC.

Thanks for recommending it Vedrana!

Integrating technology into CELTA

At the IH Director of Studies conference last week Gavin Dudeney did a session about managing technology. In it, he expressed the hope that technology in the classroom will eventually become normalised. As he said, nobody talks about ‘pen-assisted language learning’, so why CALL? He also wants it to become an integral part of teacher training courses, rather than something special or tacked on. He mentioned me as someone who does this and, of course, immediately after the session someone approached me and asked me how, to which I had no ready answer, probably because for me it already is an integral part of my teaching and training!

I started thinking about it, and in conversation with Anthony Gaughan, we decided that we use technology when it’s necessary to solve problems. So here are some of the ways that tech is used when I’m working as a CELTA trainer:

  • For the occasional PowerPoint-based input session (thought I’d better get that out of the way!)
  • To show longer videos for observations and shorter clips as part of input sessions.
  • To help trainees find out about language by demonstrating how a corpus works (I normally use BYU BNC).
  • Getting trainees to take photos of each others’ whiteboards during TP (teaching practice).
  • Trainees also sometimes video/audio record themselves/each other, although we have to get the students’ permission first.
  • To send out relevant extra links to the trainees, particularly to my diigo bookmarks.
  • (On one course) To provide after-hours support via email – this got a bit much for me, so I only did it in emergencies on later courses.
  • (On one course) Experimenting with Edmodo as a way of giving handouts – this got a bit overwhelming for the trainees, although they still have access to it after the course. Hoping to ask them in the future whether they ever look at it.
  • Trainees show images using their own tablets or a projector, rather than printing off endless pictures.
  • Where available, trainees can use the overhead projector (old-school tech!) to display answers/texts etc.
Projector at Beamish Museum

Not quite as old-school as this one though…

  • Teaching trainees how to put images into PowerPoint, instead of spending hours formatting them in Word (not that this frustrates me at all…) – amazed at how many people, especially under 25s, are still petrified of PowerPoint and/or have never opened it in their lives!
  • I also have a 75-minute technology input session which I’m happy to pass on to anybody who needs inspiration – just message me below or on Twitter. A key part of this session is demonstrating how to use Quizlet and another is introducing online professional development, if it hasn’t already been done in another input.

I don’t feel like any of this is particularly revolutionary, but maybe that’s because tech has always been normalised for me. Is there anything else you do?


I’ve just rediscovered this very comprehensive post by Marisa Constantinides showing how she integrates technology into the teacher development courses at CELT Athens – lots of ideas I plan to steal! She’s also written about whether it’s worth integrating technology into CELTA.

You might also be interested in Kateryna Protsenko’s IH Journal article CELTA Gone Techy.

Rethinking the visual: week eight

This is part of a series of blogposts about my lessons with M, a very enthusiastic nine-year-old girl. She is a pleasure to speak to, and knows a lot of English. She’s also almost completely blind. Each lesson is one hour, one-to-one, at her house.

Monday and Tuesday

We had an extra lesson on Monday this week because I’ll be very busy next week (more on that later!)

About two years ago I bought a cheap external keyboard to use with my laptop, and I brought it to Sevastopol with me, but have only used it two or three times. I decided that since I never use it, I would give it to M, and we could put braille letters on it as she suggested last week.

Putting braille letters on the keyboard

We spent most of both lessons doing this, as the first time M wrote the numbers they were backwards – she was writing from left to right on her slate and I didn’t notice until I cut up the paper. When you write braille you do it from right to left as you’re writing on the back of the paper, meaning that you can read it from left to right when you turn it over. This meant we had to do the letters twice. We also listened to chapter 8 of Alice in Wonderland.

As I left on Monday, M walked me through their garden to the gate, as always. As we went, she told me about a little song she sings for her sister, which ends with tickling. This reminded me of ‘Round and round the garden’, an English nursery rhyme. I taught her the words and the actions, and sent her a recording of it:

She repeated it to me various times through the week, and did it with her mum, dad and grandma in varying mixes of Russian and English while I was there. I think she likes it 🙂


When I arrived M’s mum showed me that they had worked together to put plastic braille letters onto the keyboard, as the original paper ones we’d tried were moving and were not very easy to read because the dots kept being flattened. It looks much clearer and easier to use now!

M playing with the plastic braille letters on her keyboard

M and her mum tried to tell me about a story they’d been watching that day, but M didn’t know how to translate ‘калабок’, but we eventually worked out between us that it’s the Russian equivalent of the story of the Gingerbread Man. I’ve just watched a lovely 12-minute version of the story, with pretty simple Russian which I managed to understand most of 🙂 I tried to explain what gingerbread was, but without an internet connection to show M’s mum a picture or get a translation it was very difficult. M’s mum drew a picture of калабок for me, which was very useful for finding out about it after the lesson.

After her mum had left, M asked if we could finish listening to Alice in Wonderland, so that’s what we did. In the final two chapters, there was the trial scene, where the king is judging whether the Knave of Hearts was guilty of stealing tarts. M asked why there were twelve creatures in a box, and I thought I would have to explain the concept of ‘court’, ‘judge’ and ‘jury’. It turned out that M already knew all of those words, yet again amazing me with the breadth of her knowledge. The only thing she was unfamiliar with was ‘trial’. As I played the story, she said some of the lines in Russian and/or English as she remembered bits of the story and predicted what was about to happen.

To finish the lesson, M asked if we could do some typing. We connected the keyboard to my Mac, I opened TextEdit, switched on VoiceOver, M started typing, and the computer didn’t say anything! No idea why, but thankfully unplugging the keyboard and plugging it in again worked. As you can see, although I tried to encourage her to produce some words, M was mostly just playing with the sounds and exploring the keyboard:

x                            dfhfhfhasd as           sssdffdjkldfjkldfkljdfkjl;dfkj;djkldjkl;dfs;jkdfs;jkfdjs;kfdjs;kfdjsk; fdalskdjfl;a M_______ jjssss sad b,,,,,,……………………… ……..d..d……….c       assd jasfasfssssffffff fbvbbbbmmm  sadafssadasdddfvvbbbnnnghhhh jffvvv ffrfvrfvc     fcvrtgffff     dceedxced djw djdjdjdjidij dijd ditch lllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll   vvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvv jt65555 ;


iikkiki k ki

s sans an hjinskl  sandyffjkl  sa sandybm,.x zmx qwertyuiop[ qqwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnm,.zzz

At this point, I noticed a couple of problems with putting braille on the keys. Braille is read using the index fingers on both hands simultaneously. If you’ve never seen this done, this video shows children who are using braille at an American primary school. It shows them reading at various points, for example at 1:20. This means that M uses her index fingers to find the keys. I can see that she may rely on this rather than attempting to remember where the keys are to ultimately use her muscle memory for touch-typing. It’s exactly the same as a sighted person ‘hunting and pecking‘. I’m not entirely sure how to combat this without someone standing over her and making her use the correct fingers for each key until she can remember them. I only have a couple more lessons with her though, so I can’t be that person. At the same time, having braille on the keyboard will give her more independence as she starts to use the computer. She’d done some typing between our lessons on Tuesday and Thursday, and listed all the words she’d typed: sad, busy, bee, M______ (her name)… It’s clearly something she enjoys being able to do.

It was also hard to get M’s attention at times as she was completely focussed on the voice from the computer, especially when it was reading the parts where she’d written the same letter repeatedly. At one point, I unplugged the keyboard and asked her to stop typing for a minute to listen to me so I could teach her how to use enter/return to get a new line.


M told me ‘Round and round the garden’ again, and then ‘I very like it’, so we revised the chant ‘I like it a lot’ from week five. She remembered it without any trouble, but it was a good opportunity to go back to some of the chants and see what she could remember. The related grammar is all in her passive memory, but she needs more exposure to natural English and explicit correction to get them into her active memory.

We spent the rest of the lesson playing with the first conditional because it’s one of her ‘favourite’ mistakes. I explained the rule for its construction (very badly), using an example from Alice in Wonderland: “If I eat from this side, I’ll be bigger. If I eat from this side, I’ll be smaller.” I told her it’s different to Russian, where you use the future in both parts of the sentence. I thought it was best to provide lots of practice and memorise some correct sentences, rather than dwell on the rule for too long, so I taught her a song.

Singing Grammar [affiliate link] is a Cambridge University Press book by Mark Hancock which aims to teach children English grammar through songs. The first conditional song, ‘If you’re feeling lonely’, is meant for teenagers, but I thought it would be OK for M, and it turned out there were only three concepts I needed to explain: ‘desert’ (v), ‘by your side’ and ‘my door will be open wide’. I played the whole song, then we worked through it line by line and verse by verse with M repeating the lines and me correcting her and clarifying any language as necessary. Here’s a short clip of the process. No copyright infringement is intended with the clips of the song you hear. Hopefully you can just about her M singing along in the background.

As you can hear, M is a big fan of ‘Smoke on the Water’ by Deep Purple. She’s mentioned it a few times in the lessons, and I’m going to try to prepare some activities with it for our final lesson together in a couple of weeks. This clip demonstrates a fairly typical exchange between us, and shows how excited she gets by some things 🙂

After the song, I used the ‘superstitions’ activity from page 74 of the original edition of 700 Classroom Activities[affiliate link to the second edition]. I explained the concept of superstitions by using the example of ‘If you break a mirror, you’ll have seven years bad luck’. We exchanged a few English and Russian superstitions using the prompts from the book. M told me that if you are sick and you hug a black cat, it takes your bad energy away from you and will die. If you hug a white cat, it will give you positive energy. (At least, that’s what I understood!) This superstition doesn’t appear on this fairly comprehensive list of cat-related superstitions though – has anyone else heard of it? It was interesting to hear about different superstitions in our two cultures, and a very good way to finish the week.

Side note

While trying to find an example of braille reading, I came across ‘How blind people write braille‘, part of an excellent series of YouTube videos by a man called Tommy Edison, who has been blind since birth. I particularly like ‘Best things about being blind‘ (especially around the 1:00 point), ‘Intangible concepts to a blind person‘ and ‘Questions for sighted people‘. He’s also known as the Blind Film Critic and I’ve just subscribed to both of his channels 🙂

Online Professional Development

Today I have done an updated version of my Twitter for Professional Development seminar. I have now decided to focus on:

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Webinars

…as the Twitter site has improved a lot, although it can still be difficult to follow chats on it, and I now find that I get a lot out of facebook and webinars in terms of professional development.

You can still find my complete introduction to using Twitter for Professional Development, although the information about Google Reader is now outdated as it no longer exists. I have started using instead.

Here is a complete recorded version of the presentation:

If you do decide to start using online professional development, I’d be interested to hear from you. I am also happy to answer any questions about it which I can.

Good luck!

How I’m learning Chinese* (and why I should be learning Russian instead)

I’m a bit of a language addict. When I’m not trying to learn a new language I always feel a bit like there’s something missing from my life.

In April last year my school offered a short beginner’s course in Mandarin which lasted for 10 weeks. I joined it, and decided that Mandarin would be my next language – it’s different to anything I’ve learnt before and is a real challenge, but at the same time, it has a logic to it that appeals a lot. It will also open the door to whole culture that has always interested me: I’ve always wanted to visit China, although I’ve never really wanted to live there. Unfortunately, as the course finished my life became full of other things, namely London 2012 and then Delta.

So it was that I forgot pretty much everything I studied last year. However, I always planned to pick up Mandarin again as soon as my Distance Delta course was finished. I even got two Chinese books for my birthday: Teach Yourself Mandarin Chinese*, and the Chinese Visual Dictionary. Last week I finally got started, with the support of my friend Catherine, who studied languages with me at uni and is joining me in my quest.

Catherine and I in Bavaria, where we hatched our Mandarin plan...

Catherine and I in Bavaria, where we hatched our Mandarin plan…

We’re using the 15-Minute Chinese book to get us started, and create some form of (almost) daily study habit, with the plan of moving on to the other books later. We’re going to Skype every Thursday and try out what we’ve learnt that week. I’ve created Quizlet sets for each page we’ve studied so far, which have been a very useful step in my learning, especially in terms of recognising characters. I’ve also been using two courses on memrise: Learn Basic Chinese: read a menu and HSK level 1 – introductory Mandarin. Memrise is one of my new favourite websites, and I’ve become a bit of an addict. They have just (a month ago) released an app, which I have on my phone and tablet, and I also use it online at least twice a day. So far I can introduce myself, count to 99 (although I’m still mixing up 6, 7 and 9 a lot) and talk a little about my family. I can also read a Chinese menu (I’ve pretty much finished that memrise course) and recognise some other basic characters. This is the first time I’ve tried to learn a language without classes or a teacher, and I’m hoping Catherine and I can motivate each other, as I find studying alone to be very easy to back out of!

So why should I be learning Russian then? Well, in September, visa-permitting, I will be moving to Sevastopol in Ukraine to join the team at IH Sevastopol as a DoS (Director of Studies)**.

Image from Wikimedia Commons

Image from Wikimedia Commons

Despite being in Ukraine, the city is mostly Russian-speaking, as it is the base for the Russian Black Sea fleet. To that end, I’ve been using memrise to learn the Russian alphabet, and have started to pick up a few basic phrases. It helps that I already speak some Czech, as some of the basic words are pretty similar once I’ve deciphered the letters. I plan on learning more before leaving the UK, but for now I want to focus on Mandarin as I’ve been planning to study it for so long!

I’m really enjoying the challenge of deciphering another (two) language(s), and I’m looking forward to my new adventures in Ukraine. It looks like a beautiful country and a very exciting job, in a school which is growing fast. It will be my first experience at management level too, although I’ll still be doing a lot of teaching. If you’d like to join me, the school is also looking for a teacher who enjoys teaching young learners. Let me know if you’re interested and I can put you in touch with the director of the school.

So for now, 再见 and до свидания. I’ve got some studying to do… 🙂

*All book links are to Amazon, and I will get 10% if you buy after clicking these links. Thank you!

My Words – the new IH app

At the IH Online Conference 3 this morning a brand new app was launched. I’ve downloaded it, and have already started recommending it to my students.

It’s called ‘My Words’ and allows students to create their own personalised dictionaries in any of about 20 languages. For each word students can add the following:

  • translations in one or two languages;
  • a definition/example sentence;
  • a category (self-defined, so it could be e.g. furniture/food or week one/two or…);
  • the part of speech;
  • the pronunciation, recorded from anywhere, for example their teacher or an online dictionary, or even a film;
  • a photo, taken themselves.

Later, they can search for the words in a variety of ways, including by definition. This means that if they remember the definition but not the word, they can still find the word.

To delete a word, you need to click ‘list’ at the bottom, then swipe the word and a ‘delete’ button will appear.

The only drawback at the moment is that there is no way to rate the words so that only the most important words for you appear in the app. IH are looking for feedback on the app, so why not download it and let Sophie know what you think?

As soon as I restart my Chinese studies, I’ll be using it in earnest!

Setting up a self-hosted blog

This guest post was written by Chris Wilson, who has his own self-hosted blog at ELT Squared. On his blog one post is about choosing a blog provider to use with students. He has also written a step-by-step guide to for setting up a Posterous blog. Over to Chris:

If you reading this I’m guessing you’ve been convinced. It’s time to set up a blog.

Congratulations and welcome to the club!

Just to help you along the way I thought I’d pass on a few tips I’ve learnt during my many years of blogging, and by the end of this post, you’ll have set up your own self-hosted blog. But first let’s answer some important questions.

Why do you want a blog?

This can really affect every subsequent step you take. If this is something for yourself and you don’t really want anyone else to see then you’ll choose something completely different from someone who wants a blog to make money.

Why should you choose a self-hosted blog?

There are many great free blogs but they do lack some features of pricey ones (such as audio/video hosting or advertising). The free ones are great to start out on but from experience of changing between blogs three times it’s best to stick with just one.

How can you choose a name/style?

Go through these questions quickly and answer them honestly. They can help you pick a good name to use for your blog/persona.

  • Think of three adjectives to describe yourself
  • Imagine your ideal reader then try to write to them
  • Write down some books/blogs etc that you enjoy reading. What do you like about them/the way they write?
  • What other influences do you have? What is it that you like about them?

Setting up a self-hosted blog

Self-hosted blogs are very different from hosted blogs in that they require YOU to buy your own webhosting, basically a place where you can upload information, or in this case a website, to the internet and then other people can access it. Self hosting is obviously a lot more technical and requires a great deal of computer competency. It also costs money, thought the exact amounts vary.

However, the advantage is it is completely customisable! You can do whatever you want with it, install any add-ons you like, change the theme to any theme you like, have your own unique domain name etc.

I recently changed over to a self-hosted wordpress blog (wordpress are generally considered the best blog option) and I have not regretted it.

Here is the more detailed instruction process I followed

  1. Sign up to a hosting company.
    There are various webhosting companies which have different features and different pricing schemes. I use which is a British company that offers great support. Despite my issues in setting up, they quickly responded and helped me through every step. Their service costs only £4.95 a year, but there is a hidden charge. You also have to pay for domain hosting. Despite owning my own domain before I went over to Zyma, I still had to pay for it for 2 years at £18.98 in total.
    For a list of different companies check out this comparison list.
    Once you have your webhosting you will need to choose your domain name and you can even have one that ends in .com or any other country domain!
  2. Installing wordpress
    Once you have signed up you need to log in to your cPanel (control panel) and then install wordpress. Many hosting services have a quick install option which is usually under a category like software and services. One of the great things about Zyma is the presence of this quick install option and video guides on their website for how to install a blog.
    For more detailed instructions on how to install wordpress with or without a quick install option click this link.
    Consider where to install your blog. If you install it in a subdirectory (like /blog) then you can have a website with several sections including a blog! When you are installing, it will ask you for an account name and a password. This is very important as they are your administrator account details.
  3. Getting the details
    Enter the email address where you want your blog details to be sent to (you may have got a free email address along with your domain and webhosting)
  4. Done!
    Once you have installed your wordpress blog, you’re basically good to go! Except you have to wait 24-48 hrs for the domain name to be registered for your blog and for your use. However, you can get your first post ready, find a cool theme, write your about page and much more! You should be able to log in to your admin page via your server address (a series of numbers) and /wp-admin/ or once your domain is up using this formula: http://www.domain name/wp-admin/

If you are considering a self-hosted installation, then there is no harm in setting up a blog on first so you can get used to the style of using wordpress ready for when you have your own site. [The blog you’re reading right now is hosted on]

I hope this is a useful guide for how to set up a blog. If you have any more questions then leave a comment, visit me at or find me on twitter @MrChrisJWilson.

Ideas for an IWB…

…or a projector!

I shared these ideas and links with colleagues at my school during a 45-minute workshop. They are meant to help us all get more use out of our electronic whiteboards, which are sometimes only used as an oversize television, or at best a way to access Google. I presented four tools, and demonstrated a couple of ways to use each of them. Since I’m not too confident with the pen functions of our IWBs, and the calibration needs to be redone quite regularly, all of these tools could equally well be used with projector too.


Not just a presentation tool! PowerPoint is actually very versatile, and is great for vocabulary revision games. There are many templates on the web which are (relatively) easy to download and adapt. I have also written a post showing you how to make two games: one for hidden pictures and the other flashing pictures up quickly for students to remember vocabulary.


Triptico is my favourite IWB tool because it is versatile, easy to use, constantly updated, and best of all, free! David has created a video showing how to use a lot of the tools within Triptico. I shared my ideas for using Triptico here and recorded a video showing you how to download it and use word magnets, although it’s a little out-of-date. This is what Triptico looks like now, and there are about twice as many functions as there were a year ago when I made the video:



To declare an interest, I am one of the curators of the Flickr #eltpics site and it is something I am very proud to be a part of. Teachers, writers and other interested parties from all over the world share photos on Twitter, including the #eltpics hashtag in their tweets. A group of us then upload them to Flickr, where they are then available for anybody to use in classroom materials or on blogs, with no need to worry about copyright restrictions. There are only two conditions: that you attribute the photos to the photographer (their name is under each picture) and that you do not make any money from anything featuring the images. At the time of writing, we have just topped 8000 images divided into 66 sets, and we also take requests for topics or types of image which people would like us to add. You can see the 10 most recently uploaded #eltpics at the bottom of the right-hand column on this blog.

eltpics sets

How to join in

How to download the photos

Ideas for using the photos – blog

I also shared Big Huge Labs excellent mosaic maker and captioner, which are a great to use with #eltpics. You could use the captioner as a way to revise or introduce a particular piece of language. Here’s a picture I added captions too. It was taken by Ian James (@ij64):

Stop asking me questions!


Quizlet is an online flashcards site, where you can search for content which has already been created, or make your own flashcards. The scatter and space race functions are both great for an IWB/projector. I have written a complete guide to Quizlet over on my blog for students.

Set page

Further reading

Here are a few other posts I have written with ideas or tips which might also be useful:

Chiew Pang has a series of games on his blog, which are very good for specific purposes:

Phil Bird has written a post about SmartNotebook tools and activities.

Gareth Davies has a whole blog dedicated to IWBs called ‘Interactive Whiteboards made simple’.

If you have any other ideas, please leave them in the comments.


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