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

Posts tagged ‘technology’

Smouldering

Personal stuff

We’re very lucky that in Poland that coronavirus case numbers have been relatively low. That means our lockdown is being lifted, and phase 3 begins on Monday 18th: restaurants and cafés will reopen, as will hairdressers. More people can travel on public transport, and some sports facilities will reopen.

The night before reading about restrictions easing, I read a reminder that coronavirus may never go away. I knew that, but it’s different thinking it and seeing it written down.

Those two sets of information played against each other in my mind.

If a problem or unpleasant situation smoulders, it continues to exist and may become worse at any time.

– Cambridge English Dictionary, accessed 16th May 2020

I couldn’t help but think about my stress levels every time I go outside my flat. I get frustrated and angry at people not wearing masks, or not wearing them properly, at those not distancing or moving away from me or others. I’m not particularly worried about catching the virus – I know there’s a very slim chance of that, and I’m doing what I can to protect myself: wearing a mask and gloves, washing my hands, using alcohol rubs, keeping away from crowded areas. But there’s no cure for the actions of other people. I can’t control any of that and it makes me very stressed, and means that going for a walk is not particularly relaxing right now.

These are natural feelings right now, and they’re things I know that I need to face up to and deal with. I can’t stay in my flat forever as Poland begins to open up again. I can’t avoid people completely when I’m outside. I don’t have the option of leaving my flat, hopping in a car and driving to somewhere quiet. To get to ’empty’ places like the forest, I have to walk through populated areas.

All this going around in my head led to a complete breakdown on Friday morning. 30 minutes of tears and overwhelming emotion with my very understanding director, as I worked through my feelings about reopening after lockdown and how I will deal with that.

I hadn’t put any of that stress into words before, but it was all there under the surface, waiting to emerge.

If a strong emotion smoulders, it exists, but is prevented from being expressed.

– Cambridge English Dictionary, accessed 16th May 2020

I feel much better now, but it’s not problem solved yet as I do need to start to get out more.

So how will I deal with it?

I’ve found a way to get groceries delivered from a local shop, with fantastic fresh fruit and veg. I’ve even had ice-cream delivered from a business I would like to stay open. That means there’s no need for me to go to supermarkets or shopping centres.

Each weekend, I aim to go out for a longer walk early in the morning, at least a couple of hours and preferably somewhere in nature like the river or the forest.

The Botanic Gardens across the road from my flat is open 9-1 Tuesdays and Thursdays. I’ll go down for at least 30 minutes at 9am on both days before other people really start to arrive.

Just doing those three walks should be the first steps towards getting used to being outside again. And at some point cinemas will reopen, and I really miss them, so that will probably push me a little more…watch this space.

Management

Today is our two-month anniversary of teaching on Zoom – we started on 16th March. It feels simultaneously much longer and much shorter than that! This week has been a longer week than usual, which probably contributed to my state on Friday…I’d tired myself out, and need to keep an eye on this in future weeks.

I’m very proud of the beautiful spreadsheet I produced working out the details of the end of our school year, when lessons end (so many groups were interrupted in the shift online), and various other bits and pieces – I do like a good spreadsheet!

We’ve been working on the details of how we’ll run our end of year tests, and starting to prepare them. Fingers crossed it all works out!

It was also the week of PDIs, Professional Development Interviews. We normally do them in March or April, and they’re a chance for me to have individual meetings with each teacher and help them reflect on their progress over the past year and look forward to their future careers, either with us or elsewhere. I love these interviews because they help teachers realise just how far they’ve come, and this year they also showed me just how much effort many of our teachers have been putting into their professional development beyond what our school is offering. They were also a chance for me to personally thank each teacher for all the amazing work they’ve done in the shift to online teaching, and praise their enthusiasm and creativity. We’ve been teaching on Zoom for exactly two months today, and they’re like pros now! I’m so proud to work with them.

My Zoom lessons

This week our two teen elementary lessons (mine and Jude’s) were revising adjectives and adverbs, introduced last week, and introducing ‘have to’ for the first time.

A partially successful lesson

We didn’t have much time to practise adjectives and adverbs last lesson, so we wanted to give students a chance to use them this time.

With group 1, my lesson went:

  1. Warmer: Simon Says (e.g. dance slowly, eat carefully, drive dangerously)
  2. Homework check (with a nomination chain for questions like What do you do carefully? What do you do well?)
  3. Correct the mistakes (one sentence at a time in the chatbox)
  4. Copy the corrected sentences into notebooks (they were still having problems with a few areas)
  5. Sentence expansion (see below)

With group 2, it went:

  1. Sentence expansion
  2. Homework check
  3. Correct the mistakes
  4. Copy the corrected sentences into notebooks
  5. Expand your own stories (written as homework ready for last lesson)

Sentence expansion is laying out a sentence vertically, then asking students to add to it to make it as long as possible, while still remaining logical. For example, the sentence below might produce ‘The tall thin old man and the short young lady walked slowly and carefully to the beautiful sunny beach.’

This took ages with group 1 because I tried to elicit their own basic sentence first for all of us to expand on, i.e. eliciting nouns and a verb. I then used the annotate feature to show how to make the sentence longer. That meant when they went into breakout rooms they all thought they should create their own sentence from scratch and didn’t really use adjectives and adverbs. With group 2, I shifted it to the warmer as they don’t really get into activities like Simon Says, and I gave them the sentence shown on the slide, meaning the activity worked much better.

The lessons went OK, but they still need a lot more practice with this. Adjectives aren’t really a problem, but adverbs confuse them because the word order is generally different in Polish, and they sometimes overuse the adverb form.

On a technical level, I finally managed to persuade both groups to click ‘Ask for help’ in breakout rooms when they had a problem instead of waiting for me to turn up (it’s only taken 8 weeks!)

What do I have to do to get your attention?

For the second lesson, we started with a word cloud of adjectives and adverbs for students to write their own long sentences in the chatbox. This showed up very clearly which students still need extra practice with differentiating adjectives and adverbs, and with adverb word order. I did a lot of verbal correction and getting students to rewrite sentences.

We played Quizlet live with film genres which they’d looked at for homework. They asked to do it in breakout rooms, and this worked really well. They were actively working together, and in the first group each of the three teams won one round each 🙂

To introduce the grammar point ‘have to’ and link back to films, we showed an image of The Rock and told them he’s making Jumanji 3, reprising his role as Dr Smolder Bravestone. Here’s some of his smouldering intensity in case you haven’t seen it:

They had to come up with things he has to do each day. In the first group I tried to do this verbally, which worked to some extent, but not really. We then moved to them listing two things in their notebooks which they thing he does every day when he’s working. A few students protested they hadn’t seen the films, but I said they should write what they think any actor does every day. (If you too haven’t seen the two new Jumanji films, please do. Thank me later.)

During breaktime with group 1, I had a flash of inspiration, which resulted in possibly one of the funniest classroom experiences I’ve ever had 🙂 I changed my profile picture and name to The Rock.

I quickly installed the voice moderator Connor told me about last week. This allows you to change how your voice sounds to other people. With the free version, there are random voices available. I chose the deepest one, and when the students came back from break The Rock was running the lesson. It was hilarious, and I had to try not to giggle and destroy the illusion 🙂 The look on their faces was brilliant, and there was much discussion (in Polish!) about whether it was me or not. One student even went on Wikipedia to try to quiz me by asking The Rock’s age. But they did get into it, and were asking me questions as if I was The Rock. This is something that absolutely wouldn’t be possible in a physical classroom! (Tip: if you use this voice mod, you may need to delete it from your computer afterwards – it kept switching itself back on again during Jude’s PDI the next day!)

The actual aim of the activity was for them to ask questions starting ‘Do you have to…?’ to find out about The Rock’s day on a film set. They used the notes they’d made and quizzed me.

I had a slide prepared to elicit language into:

Once they’d remembered some of the things The Rock said, I checked the meaning by asking the questions on the right and doing gestures – finger wagging for I have to… and two hands upturned and moving (so hard to describe!) for I don’t have to. I dragged the boxes with the summary onto the slide.

I have to go to the swimming pool. I have to go to the gym. I have to have muscles. I don’t have to brush my hair. I don’t have to go to Poland. I don’t have to eat sweets. (in boxes: next to 'have to' Can I choose? Maybe? Maybe not? NO! Next to 'don't have to' Can I choose? Maybe? Maybe not? YES!

I highlighted the relevant parts of the structure using the annotate function.

They wrote a couple of examples of things they have to/don’t have to at home into their notebooks, as well as copying the rules. They wrote their sentences in the chatbox so I could check and correct them. ‘Don’t have to’ is a particularly challenging concept, and students also confused ‘have to’ with ‘have’ as in ‘I have to a cat.’

With the first group we ran out of time to focus on the question/third person forms, so I wrote it quickly in the chatbox at the end for them to copy into their notebooks ready for their homework.

With the second group we had a few minutes to do that, and they also had time to imagine they’re a celebrity and write their own sentences. In breakout rooms, they quizzed each other asking ‘Do you have to…?’ and had to try and guess which celebrity it was.

This lesson really showed up how challenging it is to take in lots of new structures in quick succession: despite us spacing out our lessons to provide extra practice with ‘going to’ and adjectives and adverbs, the students were trying to combine them all here and getting very confused. Some of the sentences they wrote were things like ‘I have going to the garden.’ When they wrote their own sentences, they asked me ‘With adjectives?’

I’d like to space this all out more, but we only have a few lessons left before we reach the end-of-year tests. Some students can take it all in, but it’s too much for a couple of them. Luckily we have one or two lessons for revision at the end of the year, though we do need to look back over the whole year. (Yes, I know, coursebooks. Tests. Yes. But that’s how are classes work.)

Zoom problems

Two of our teachers had new problems with Zoom this week. Nothing that’s going to stop us using Zoom, but things that are useful to be aware of:

  • One had a 121 who couldn’t join the Zoom meeting. Apparently he was just sat in the waiting room, while from the teacher’s perspective nobody was there (meaning he couldn’t admit anyone). This problem stayed after he’d re-started the meeting too!
  • The other kept getting removed from the meeting despite being the host. All students who weren’t in breakout rooms were also removed from the meeting.

Useful links

Last week saw the Cambridge three-day At Home event (summaries of day one, two, three). Skimming through the programme, I like the balance of practical ideas for the classroom, stories being brought to life by famous readers, and things to help our wellbeing, such as a workout for beginners and a cook-along. I watched this ‘inspire session’ by David Valente on using songs with young learners, and it’s probably one of the best webinars I’ve ever seen: practical, clear, fun, and instantly usable. Rachel Tsateri summarised some of what she learnt from it in this post.

 

Naomi Epstein writes about her feelings as her school reopens at full capacity on May 17th. She’s based in Israel, where cases have decreased a lot according to Worldometers. Here’s an article from the Times of Israel about schools reopening.

Pete Clements talks about settling into a new job at a new school when you’re meeting everybody online for the first time.

TEFL Commute did a 10-minute podcast episode about how to use pictures in the online classroom. TEFL Training Institute spoke to Russell Stannard about what you need to put in place to help learners become more autonomous.

I remembered the existence of Telescopic Text, which is very simple to use and allows users to play around with sentence structures. Make sure you sign in if you want to save your work – access old texts again by click on your username. Here’s a strangely fitting example I produced for my students a few years ago.

THE REST OF THE SERIES

Each week I’ve summarised what our teachers and I have learnt during the transition to online teaching. Every post includes some tips about using Zoom, activities we’ve tried out (many adapted from the face-to-face classroom), and reflections on how my teaching and management have been affected by working from home. Here are all of the posts so far:

You may also find some other posts on my blog/which I’ve written useful:

Stay healthy. Stay safe. Stay kind. And stay at home (if you still have to!)

Why I don’t have a smartphone (paragraph blogging)

This is my phone. It is frequently the butt of jokes, especially when people know about my online presence. And I don’t really care: I do not want or need a smartphone. I know that having one would actually cause me more problems than not having one in my life as it is at the momtent. My Nokia does everything I need it to: make calls, send texts, cost me a minimal amount of money (about 50 Polish zloty every three or four months or so, depending on how much I use it – that’s around £10/€12), only need recharging for a couple of hours once a week or so, fall apart when I drop it (about once a week!) and be easy to put together…and all for only £10 three and a half years ago. At one point, I did have a secondhand iPhone for a year, and it was undoubtedly useful. It got me started with recording my steps using a pedometer app, it got me into reading ebooks when I had to commute on the Tube during London 2012, and it can be useful to quickly check something when I’m out. But…I generally spend 5-7 hours a day at work on a computer, plus another 1-3 hours at home. Most weekends I probably spend a minimum of 6 hours each day in front of screen, and often more. I have an iPad (2, hence the photo quality above), a pedometer, a camera, an iPod shuffle, and a Macbook. I do not have any notifications switched on, and I try very hard to switch my computer off by 9:30pm in the evening if I’m not using it to watch a film on my projector. I look at social media when I want to, not when my phone dictates and my hormones respond by telling me I need a fix – and I still spend too much time scrolling. I do not need more screen time. On nights when I have switched off the computer in good time and had a couple of hours with no screen  before bed, I sleep better. Sometimes I get text messages like Google map links when people assume I have a smartphone, and sometimes I think maybe I should invest, but then I think I can’t be bothered with the mental effort of having to control my impulse to look at it all the time. Like not having chocolate at home, it’s easier just not to buy it in the first place! 

Inspired by Matt Noble

If you’re interested in breaking up with your phone, there’s an interesting interview with the author of a book of the same name on a recent Science Focus podcast (from 16:07 onwards) with tips on how to go about it.

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! 🙂

COCA

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

SKELL

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.

Extras

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?

Update

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 🙂

Thursday

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 ;

zxccvbnm

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.

Friday

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 feed.ly 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? sophie.montagne@ihworld.com

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 Zyma.com 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 .co.uk 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 wordpress.com 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 wordpress.com.]

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 eltsquared.co.uk 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.

PowerPoint

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

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:

Triptico

#eltpics

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

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.

Enjoy!

Creating two PowerPoint games

Most people think that PowerPoint is just for presentations that put you to sleep. In fact, it’s a very versatile tool and fairly easy to get a lot out of, despite seeming a little scary at first glance. Here I’ll show you how to create two simple PowerPoint games.

Hidden Pictures

I made this example a while ago, and if I did it again I’d probably use #eltpics! Although it doesn’t look like much here, if you download it you can see that each time you click a box disappears, gradually revealing a picture and a word underneath. As this happens, students call out or write down what they think the picture/word are.
http://www.slideshare.net/SandyMillin1/adjectives-for-people-hidden-picture-game

[To download, click ‘view on slideshare’. You may have to log in (not sure), but it’s completely free. You should then be able to click on ‘download’ above the document.]

This is great for revising vocabulary especially with young learners, who get very into it – definitely a stirrer rather than a settler! It could also be used for introducing or revising modals of speculation – as you reveal a picture, students have to guess what’s in the picture, or what the people are doing.

This is how to make  it. I’m using PowerPoint for Mac, so my screen may look a little different from yours, but the names of the menus are normally fairly similar – click on a few things and see what happens! If it really doesn’t work, let me know and I’ll add screenshots from a Windows computer.

Creating the basic template
  1. Open PowerPoint. You will normally see a title slide already in your presentation. Delete it.
  2. Add a blank slide. Insert new slide > Blank
  3. Decide how many boxes you want covering your picture – I would recommend four or six, unless the picture is quite complicated, in which case nine could work. Generally students guess quite quickly, so lower numbers are better to avoid boredom.
  4. Insert a rectangle. Shapes > rectangles then click and drag the box where you want it to appear.
    One box
  5. Copy the box using CTRL + C (CMD + C on a Mac).
  6. Paste it three, five or eight more times, using CTRL + V (CMD + V on a Mac)Four boxes stacked
  7. Click and drag the boxes so that they fill the slide.Four boxes grid
  8. As you can see, my boxes don’t quite fill the slide. This normally happens, so resize the boxes to fit or to leave space for some visible text at the bottom of the slide.
  9. If you want to, you can change the boxes so that they are different colours. This makes it easier for you and your students to see at a glance how many boxes there are and what part of the picture they cover. To do this, double-click on the box you want to change. A box should appear. Edit the ‘fill’ and the ‘line’ to the colours you want.Four boxes coloured
  10. Next you need to animate the boxes so that they will disappear. Click on the box you want to disappear first. Then click Slide Show >Custom Animation, select ‘exit animation’ and choose the style of animation you want to use. I would recommend something simple, as you don’t want it to distract from the purpose of your activity. I would also suggest using the same style of animation for all four boxes. There is normally a preview so you can see what happens with each effect.Exit animation
  11. Repeat this process for all of the boxes on your slide.Exit animations
  12. Once one slide is ready, copy and paste it a few times so that you have as many slides as you need. Multiple slides
  13. To make the slides a little less predictable, go to some of the slides and change the order of the animation so that the boxes disappear in a different order. On my version of PowerPoint, you do this by selecting the name of the shape (‘rectangle 5’ in the example below) and using the arrow keys to move it up or down the order.Animation order
  14. If you want to reuse this type of game for different purposes, save what you have now as a template so you can reuse it without having to start again from scratch.
Adding your content
  1. Choose the images you want to use in your game. I would recommend using #eltpics as you don’t have to worry about infringing copyright, as long as you credit the photographer. To find out how to download #eltpics, watch this screencast. I’m going to use the jobs set in this example. Collect the images that you want to use in one place – I normally put them on my desktop, then delete them when I’ve finished. Don’t forget to record the source!
  2. Returning to your PowerPoint, insert the first image on the first slide. Insert > Picture > From file > [your file name] It should appear on top of the boxes. Resize/move it if necessary.Farmer slide
  3. Right-click on the image, then arrange > send to back. It should now have magically disappeared behind the boxes.
    If you want to see it again, right-click on any of the coloured boxes, choose ‘send to back’ and you should see a corner of the photo. You can then right-click on the photo and choose ‘bring to front’ to see it again.Send to back
  4. Add any words you need, as well as the source of the photo in text boxes. Insert >Text box, then click and drag where you want it to appear. Farmer slide with text
  5. Right-click on the text boxes and choose  arrange > send to back again.Send to back text
  6. Repeat this process for all of your other slides, so that you now have photos and text on all of them.
  7. Preview your slideshow to check how it works. Slide show > View slide show You might want to change the order of the box animation on some slides if it is too easy to guess what the hidden image shows. For example, if removing the orange box first shows the farmer’s body, it will probably be a lot easier to guess than removing the blue box first.
  8. Save.
  9. Play!

Here is the finished version of my example. Click to download it: Jobs hidden pictures game eltpics

Flash vocabulary

In this game, pictures or words flash up on the screen for a few seconds each. Afterwards students write as many of them as they can remember. It is great for revising old vocabulary, especially if it is a few lessons old.

Manual version
  1. Choose the images you want to use in your game. I would recommend using #eltpics as you don’t have to worry about infringing copyright, as long as you credit the photographer. To find out how to download #eltpics, watch this screencast. I’m going to use the same photos as above from the jobs set in this example. Collect the images that you want to use in one place – I normally put them on my desktop, then delete them when I’ve finished. Don’t forget to record the source!
    Alternatively, for every stage saying ‘images’ below, you can do the same with text boxes so that words flash on the screen.
  2. Open PowerPoint. You will normally see a title slide already in your presentation. Delete it.
  3. Add a blank slide. Insert new slide > Blank
  4. Insert the images on the slide. Insert > Picture > From file > [your file name] Resize/move them so that they are all arranged on one slide. Alternatively, you could place each image on a different slide.All pictures
  5. Next you need to animate the pictures so that they will appear and disappear. Click on the picture you want to appear first. Then click Slide Show >Custom Animation, select ‘entrance effect’ and choose the style of animation you want to use. I would recommend something simple, as you don’t want it to distract from the purpose of your activity. I would also suggest using the same style of animation for all of the pictures. There is normally a preview so you can see what happens with each effect.
  6. With the same picture still selected, choose an ‘exit effect’.Appear disappear
  7. Repeat for all of the pictures.All animated
  8. Preview your slideshow to check how it works. Slide show > View slide show
  9. Save.
  10. Play!

You can now play the game by manually clicking through the images so that they stay on the screen for as long as you like. However, if you want the game to be a bit more automatic, you can now add timings.

Adding timings
  1. Click Slide Show > rehearse timings.
  2. Your game should appear as a full-screen slide show. Click through the pictures so that they stay on the screen for as long as you want them to. For this game, 2 or 3 seconds is probably enough.
  3. Once you have shown every picture and clicked out of the slide show, you should be given the option to save the timing to use in the future.

Here is the final version of my example, including timings. Jobs flash vocabulary game eltpics

I hope these two games are useful to you. Please let me know if any of the instructions are unclear.

Enjoy!

Go online: getting your students to use Internet resources (IATEFL 2012)

In August 2011, I was lucky enough to get one of two International House John Haycraft classroom exploration scholarships for IATEFL Glasgow 2012. As part of the scholarship, I needed to do some action research and present it at the conference.

I chose to research ways to encourage students to use the Internet and other technology resources to improve their English.

The resulting 30-minute presentation can be seen and heard here:

It was originally recorded using mybrainshark, which unfortunately no longer exists.

Apologies for the buzz of the fan on the first two slides – this goes away later. There’s a slide at the end of the recording added just before my presentation, so don’t stop after the thanks! 

It was originally presented on 21st March 2012 at IATEFL Glasgow.

The presentation: a written version

Background

I chose to focus on student use of online resources after using Edmodo, a closed social network similar to facebook but specifically designed for education, for over a year with all of my classes. I observed that only some of the students engaged with the materials and tools I posted on the network and I wondered what I could do to improve their take-up of the resources.

Edmodo

As part of my research I did made observations related to two of my classes, did questionnaires with the students in those groups and created a survey which I publicised via Twitter for students around the world to complete, with a total of 74 responses. Everything which appears in quotation marks below is taken word for word from the surveys I did. If you would like to see the original data, please let me know.

Students who already use online materials

From my research I identified four key characteristics of students who already use the Internet and other technology for their English. They are:

  • motivated; they will use anything available to them to improve their English.
  • competitive; they want their English to be better than that of others or than their own is now.
  • connected; they already have easy access to the internet, normally via smart phones or tablet computers.
  • knowledgable about English resources; either their teacher has already introduced them to useful sites or they have been motivated enough to go out and find the sites for themselves.

What do students already use computers for?

The key words which students used in their answers to this question in the survey were:

  • work;
  • free time;
  • friends;
  • family;
  • Google;
  • emails;
  • facebook.

English only appeared as a medium for chatting on facebook and Skype. Therefore computers are only used to socialise in English rather than to explicitly study, or at least studying in English was not important enough to be mentioned as an answer to this question.

In my view, the main reason for this is that students are not aware of the range of materials which are available to help them with their English. I believe it is one of our responsibilities to show them these resources, so that students can decide whether they want to use them or not.

Problems and solutions

“If I turn on my computer to use websites, I started to log in facebook.”

“Sometimes, I just want to go on facebook and I forget why I went on my computer.”

Use something fun

Quizlet is a website enabling you to easily make and find flashcards covering a wide range of subjects. There are currently over 10 million sets on the site, and this is growing all the time.

Quizlet

For students, the many different functions of Quizlet give them a lot of exposure to the language in a variety of different forms, including being able to listen to computer-generated American pronunciation (this is about 90% correct by my reckoning, with some problems with stress placement). Games allow them to learn the words in a more motivating, fun way than traditional vocabulary lists. There is a speller function, meaning they can practise a side of vocabulary which is not often explicitly studied and track their progress. For students who prefer to use paper, the vocabulary can easily be printed in a variety of forms, including as a list or as two different sizes of flashcards, so they still have access to the same vocabulary as those using the computer-based activities. If they are logged in, students can see their progress through game scores/times and tracking of words studied in the learn and speller mode, as well as by completing the test function.

The site caters to different learning styles, with some activities based on visual cues, others on audio cues, and still others on moving information around on the screen.

It is very easy to personalise the vocabulary students are studying on the site, and they can make as many of their own sets as they please. There is a competitive element, with the highest scores for the space race, the fastest times for the scatter game and the names of students who have completed the learn mode appearing on the set page. Students are encouraged to beat their own highest scores and fastest times. Students can connect through facebook and see what sets their friends have been using, adding a social element. Peer reviews are generally more successful then teacher endorsements, since we are always telling our students what to do! Finally, there are many mobile apps which can be used to see the flashcards on the move, although none of these incorporate games as far as I know.

Overall, the variety of activities available to students on Quizlet could sometimes be more fun and more challenging than facebook, although you will probably have to sell it to the students!

“I didn’t want to create a user name.”

Use sites with no login

Quizlet allows students to access everything on the site without requiring a login, although they do need one if they want to track their progress or appear on any high score boards.

Other sites which don’t need a login are Lyrics Training and English Central.

Lyrics Training gets students to watch YouTube music videos and complete the lyrics. There are three levels available: beginner, with only a few words removed; intermediate, with about half of the words gone; and advanced, with all of the words missing.

Lyrics training

The site is fun, and because students can chose the videos they watch, it (hopefully!) caters to their choice in music and allows them to personalise their learning experience. It is relevant, since many students enjoy learning to help them understand more music. It also adapts something which they may well already do into a more productive task, something which may encourage students to use it without too much hesitation. Students who choose to create a username can make their own video tasks, as in the one I made above, although this is quite complicated.

English Central is another video-based site. In this case, learners watch videos and read the subtitles, then record themselves saying the dialogue from the video. The system then analyses their pronunciation and compares it to the original version. They can click on any word to see a definition and example sentence and hear the pronunciation.

English Central

In addition to being fun and personal in the same way as Lyrics Training, English Central has the added benefit of allowing students to practise their pronunciation in a (fairly) natural way without needing a teacher, something which can be hard to do. Although users don’t need to log in, if they do, the site has a progress bar which allows them to see how much they have done as they move through the levels. I have written a step-by-step guide introducing students to English Central on my Independent English blog.

Another solution to the problem of students reluctant to create another user name is to create a generic class login which everyone in the class can use.

I wanted exam practice.

Make it relevant

While this advice applies to any task we give our students, it is particularly true of students preparing for an exam, often with a limited time available to them.

To this end, I encouraged students preparing for the Cambridge FCE exam to take advantage of voice recorders on their phones and on the Internet, such as audioBoo and Vocaroo. As part of the FCE exam, candidates have one minute to compare and contrast two photos and answer a short question about them. This is ideal as a recorded task as it promotes self-reflection (How could I improve? What did I do well?) and also makes students really think about what they are saying (knowing that they are being recorded makes students more careful).

Audioboo and Vocaroo

Out of 11 students only 2 recorded themselves regularly, but by the week before the speaking exam every student had sent me a recording of either the task described above or the collaborative task, which involves discussing a variety of pictures and solving a problem in pairs. I highlighted the fact that some students recorded themselves and encouraged them to talk about it in class, attempting to promote a culture of ‘me too’ – students wanting to be recognised in the same way – while avoiding having a teacher’s pet.

Most importantly, regular voice recording allows students to track their progress in speaking. As one student said in answer to the question “For you, what did you find most useful about recording your voice?” “To hear how I improved during the weeks. It was amazing to hear me in September and December. It was a big difference.”

“I don’t really like to study on my computer.”

Bring it to class

With the same FCE class described above, I introduced the flo-joe word bank as a 20-minute introduction to every class. Every day, the website posts one question each based on phrasal verbs, word formation and collocations to help the students prepare for the Use of English exam.

Flo-joe

I was lucky enough to have an interactive whiteboard, but it would be easy enough to print the pages or even write the questions on the board as they are quite short. By making students aware that this resource exists and that you value it enough to dedicate class time to it, they are more likely to visit the site themselves and find out what else is there.

In fact, this was the case with one of my students, who started to complete the weekly writing tasks posted on the site under his own steam.

Show them non-computer sources

An alternative for students who want to access extra resources but don’t want to use the computer is to give them ideas based on non-computer sources. Voice recording via mobile phones is one example.

Another is podcasts, which are now easily available and cover (almost!) every possible topic. Students can choose topics and styles of presentation which suit them, and podcasts easily fit into their lives, since the majority of students now have an mp3 player of some kind. Here is a step-by-step guide introducing students to podcasts and showing them how to use them.

Podcasts

I need translations.

Give them the tools

On being greeted by a sea of English on most of the websites mentioned already, students may feel put off by the amount of language they ‘need’ to access the materials. As teachers then, it is important for us to give them the tools they need to make full use of the resources available.

An online dictionary helps them to understand new vocabulary, while (normally) providing the pronunciation of words, key collocations, notes about how to use the lexis and additional reading practice. This is much richer than a simple translation, which while useful at times, should not be the students first recourse in my opinion. Any student with internet access on their mobile phones can get a variety of dictionaries at the touch of a button.

OALD

In addition, I encourage my students to use these dictionaries in class, allowing me to help them find their way around at first. By consistently helping students to find meanings themselves, they are more prepared for life outside the classroom when a teacher won’t always be around to help them.

Here is my step-by-step guide to online dictionaries.

Everyone else understands but I don’t.

Extra support

For students who are not comfortable with technology/computers or who feel their English level is too low, accessing online materials can be quite daunting. If possible, one-to-one attention allows the teacher to focus on a student’s problems, which as well as making the student feel valued, helps the teacher the next time they introduce a tool by highlighting possible problem areas for new users. If it is not possible for the teacher to do this, or if their peers are already confident with a tool, students could be paired up with a ‘buddy’ who can help them.

It is also important for teachers to ‘share the love’ when it comes to new technology: by showing other willing teachers how to use the tools you are introducing, you give the students more possible helpers. If your school has a self access centre, you could also demonstrate the tools to those who work in it, so that students can ask for help and get extra support there too.

“You gave us too many websites so it was a bit hard to use everything.”

Remember it can be overload

Of course, not everything which inhibits learners from taking advantage of Internet resources is student-generated! The above is a direct quote which echoed what a few of my FCE students said in the first class where I did this research. I took two things from this into my second group:

  • Avoid showing them too much, too fast: introduce tools one a time, and when students are comfortable add another one if necessary.
  • Once is never enough: just because students have seen a tool once, it doesn’t mean they can use it again. It’s worth repeating introductions to tools more than once, allowing students to take the lead with explanations after the first time. Being systematic and introducing only one tool at a time also helps here.

After the course

Via Edmodo and facebook, I asked my students to tell me whether they still used any of the tools I had shown them after they left my class. Here are the four responses I got:

After the course quotes

Summary

Here are all of the key words mentioned above:

IATEFL 2012 mindmap

Ultimately, we shouldn’t force our students to use technology if they don’t really want to. It doesn’t suit everyone. However, if we at least show them what’s out there and give them the chance to experiment with it, students can make their own decisions about whether or not to use the tools.

I hope that these suggestions prove useful to you. If you have other solutions, please do add them to the comments. I would also be interested to hear about the tools which your students find most useful. Finally, if you any questions please post them in the comments.

Thanks to:

  • IATEFL and International House for the scholarship.
  • My students for putting up with me and my endless requests during the research!
  • My Twitter colleagues for sharing the survey and supporting me in my research, as well as introducing me to the tools mentioned in this presentation and many ideas for using them.
  • Ceri Jones for helping me out with my scholarship application.
  • Jane Harding da Rosa for helping me to conduct the research.
  • Jenny Pugsley for giving me feedback on the final presentation.

Update: I have written a step-by-step guide introducing students to Quizlet and podcasts (including for IELTS) on my Independent English blog.

Web tool recommendations (#eltchat summary)

This is the summary of the second #eltchat on Wednesday 29th February. To find out exactly what #eltchat is, click here.

(Since this post is full of links which may change/move at a later date, please let me know if any of them are broken. Thanks!)

“If you could recommend one particular webtool for the classroom, what would it be, and why?”

The Tools (over 40 of them!)

The famous ones

  • Skype – phone calls through the internet, including video. Simple, effective, reliable, and it works all over the world. It can be used to bring experts or other teachers into your classrooms. You can use the ‘chat’ feature to share files and write in vocabulary. You could use Skype instead of traditional listening tracks to Skype friends in the UK/US (or other countries!) For example: “With my [Shelly Terrell’s] 4 to 6 yr-old German students they learned how to do origami from @EHerrod‘s son in the UK via Skype”.
  • YouTube – even those who hate tech will still try it! It’s easy to forget how helpful thousands of the clips can be, although some schools block it.
  • Facebook – the groups function is useful for educators
  • TED – hundreds of inspiring videos by thinkers and leaders in every field imaginable
Voice recording
  • Vocaroo – voice recorder. Easy to use (single click), no need for registration.
  • Soundcloud – voice recorder with the added facility of voice commenting. SImple to upload to the internet and share. James Taylor wrote a post about it. Audioboo is useful for this too.
  • Fotobabble – upload a photo and record yourself talking about it for one minute. Some fotobabbles on this old blog  (see November/December archives)
  • Voicethread – comment collaboratively on slides/pictures/whatever you want
  • Voxopop – create talk groups to get your students discussing things together
  • Voki – create avatars to do your speaking for you. Shelly Terrell created this guide to using vokis
  • Audacity – downloadable software which can be used to record students and put together podcasts
  • You can also record voices on a smart phone
  • Videoant – video annotation which is easy to email to students/observed teachers
  • Jing – create video annotation to provide feedback to students or show them how to do something. Students can also create their own files. You can make screenshots with it too. Great for essay feedback, and useful extra listening practice. Teacher Training Videos guide to Jing
Bookmarking / link collection / organisation
Ready-made materials
  • Movie segments to assess grammar goals – activities based on films, through which teachers can present grammar points
  • EFL smart blog – a blog for students with complete mini lessons, including authentic listening and accompanying activities
  • Knoword – a vocabulary guessing game based on randomly generated dictionary definitions
  • Speakout video podcasts – the link takes to the pre-intermediate video podcasts. Each unit of the book is accompanied by one podcast.
  • Film-English – an award-winning site by Kieran Donaghy with complete lesson plans based on short films
Tools for teachers to create activities / materials
  • Triptico – a single software download providing loads of free tools; especially good for classrooms with interactive whiteboards (IWBs). Word magnets are good for colour-coding grammar explanations. The card game is good for randomly choosing speaking topics. It’s really easy to use and @David_Triptico is constantly adding new resources to it.
  • Quizlet – a great tool for vocabulary where students (and teachers) can create flashcards and immediately play games with them. Students really enjoy using it.
  • Hot Potatoes – freeware including “six applications, enabling you to create interactive multiple-choice, short-answer, jumbled-sentence, crossword, matching/ordering and gap-fill exercises for the World Wide Web”
  • Socrative – “a smart student response system that empowers teachers to engage their classrooms through a series of educational exercises and games via smartphones, laptops, and tablets” and it’s free [this was my personal favourite discovery of the chat]
  • Puzzle Maker – a site which allows you to create printable wordsearches, crosswords and other puzzles. Crossword Maker just lets you create crosswords. Wordsearch Maker creates wordsearches. Nik Peachey describes how to use the latter here.
  • Wordle / Tagxedo – word cloud generators. Could be used for simple ‘word find’ activities such as ‘Spot the word with a prefix’
  • Language Garden – language plants make sentences, poems and grammar look beautiful, as well as providing visual prompts for students.
Creative tools for students
  • SP-studio – create cartoon characters based on the style of South Park cartoons. Kids can then create profiles for their cartoon characters.
  • Survey monkey – helps students to practise question forms by creating online questionnaires, as well as finding out more about their fellow students. Very easy to use.
  • GoAnimate – online video creator
  • iMovie – kids can create “movie trailers” about books they like
  • Google Docs – word processing, spreadsheet and presentation software available online for collaboration, sharing or private use. Can be used for essay writing and other writing assignments as well as for individual vocabulary banks for students.
Tools which you can integrate other things into
  • Edmodo – a closed social network for education (my post about Edmodo) – I use it to share resources with my students.
  • Wikis – but you need lots of tools to put in them. Some wiki providers include pbworks and wikispaces. They allow embedding of other tools.
  • Blogs – spaces to provide information, links and create online texts. Some providers include wordpressedublogs and Posterous (see below). They allow embedding of other tools.
  • Posterous – it focuses on all four skills; it’s easy to use; there are free apps on various platforms. Intuitive, and great for introducing blogging to students.
  • Moodle – a tool for creating complete virtual learning environments (VLEs). It allows embedding of other tools. Safe for kids too.
  • Glogster – good for project work. It allows embedding of other tools too.
For independent learners
  • English Central – students can use this outside the classroom to practise listening, reading and pronunciation as well as improve their vocabulary.
  • Lyrics training – students can listen to songs and complete the lyrics
When you implement a web tool in the classroom, what is the criteria for using it with learners? What do you look for in a web tool?
  • Accessible for free on many platforms
  • No (or at least very easy) registration
  • User-friendly for both teachers and students
  • Supports various skills
  • Fun!
  • A way to make English a tool, rather than concentrating on the language aspect
  • Free
  • Easy to use
  • Offer various activities
  • Practical
  • Allow students to practise their English in a meaningful way
  • Justified from a pedagogical point of view, not just because it’s a cool new toy
  • Ease of integration with other tools
How do we get non-tech-savvy teachers excited about web tools?
  • Show the real pedagogical value
  • Through their students – if you get the students enthused, they will tell their other teachers
  • Start with showing them examples of why they can get excited, not how to use web tools
  • Show them how much time it can save them, although at the beginning it feels like they take more time
  • Lead by example
  • Introduce things in small doses
  • Give them a task that must use a web tool / taster sessions
  • Present them with simple, quick and practical classroom uses of these tools
  • Go back to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and help them see why they need a tool
  • Encourage them to play with tools for personal use first, for example by making birthday greetings
  • Visit their lessons and suggest alternatives
  • Do workshops which teachers bring their own laptops to – doing IT is better than watching
  • BUT: We shouldn’t feel we have to. Some teachers don’t have this option, and others are really not interested. Gareth Davies wrote a blog post expanding on this after the chat.
Tips for teachers
  • Be consistent – don’t flit from one tool to another.
  • Don’t get swept away with new tools.
  • Don’t try to do too much too soon.
  • Play around with tools to help you become more confident.
  • Test things out throughly before you introduce them. OR Experiment together with the students. (a language learning task in itself)
  • Introduce them in small doses
  • Make sure you have a plan B, just in case the tech fails. Don’t freak out! You could teach the 3rd conditional – If they program had worked you would have seen… 😉
  • Ask students to share their favourites too – they might know about tools you don’t
  • If students know that the tech exists, they can decide whether to use it or not.
  • Prepare for excitement from kids! Never be afraid to learn with them.
  • Some tools may seem too childish for adults.
  • If something doesn’t work the first time, try to analyse why and work out what you could do differently. Don’t just assume the tech was wrong. It might work with one group of students but not with another.
  • Make sure that the pedagogy comes first – don’t just use tech for the sake of it.
  • Remember that you can often do the same things without tech – do you really need it? If you can’t justify why the tech version is better, there’s no reason to use it.
Make the most of your old computer

Make the most of your old computer – image by @mscro1 on eltpics

Provisos

Some of these tools are not available in every country or at every school. Technology is still far off for a lot of teachers. You also need to make sure all of the students have access to the technology outside the classroom.

Remember that some teachers are limited to time – they have to finish a coursebook and tools take time and have to be appropriate. Ideally, you need to use a tool that will allow students to USE what they studied in the coursebook.

Other links
A small plug

On Wednesday 21st March 2012 I will be doing a presentation at the IATEFL Conference about ways teachers can encourage students to use online tools, based on action research done in my classes. Subscribe to my blog to find out the results if you can’t be there!

Update: here is my IATEFL 2012 talk.

My new blog: Independent English

As if two blogs weren’t enough 😉

I set up ‘Independent English‘ for students, with the aim of giving them ideas to help them practise English at home. I plan to post roughly once a week, with each post being a step-by-step guide which they can work through alone or with a teacher. If I have time, I will also record myself reading the post so that students can listen to it if they are not confident readers. It is probably best for B1/Intermediate and higher at the moment, although some posts may be suitable for lower levels later.

The first entry is about podcasts, including a list of links to (in my opinion) good podcasts for learners and native speakers to listen to.

There is also a facebook page for you to ‘like’.

Please feel free to pass the link on to your students, and/or to give me feedback on how to improve the site. Hope you find it useful!

IH Certificate in Online Tutoring (COLT)

Followers of my blog may have noticed that November was a bit quiet. Then again, they may not 🙂 Either way: here’s an explanation of why.

For the four weeks between October 22nd and November 20th 2011, every free hour I had when I was not in Paris or marking my FCE students’ work, I spent doing the International House Certificate in Online Tutoring (COLT). These are the objectives of the course, according to the IH Online Teacher Training Institute (OTTI) website:

To train experienced English Language / Modern Language teachers and trainers in techniques and approaches to online tutoring for language education and to provide them with the skills required to become tutors for student-oriented and teacher-oriented courses on the IH VLE (Platform).

To raise awareness of opportunities for skills transfer and the need to acquire new skills in online tutoring as opposed to face to face tutoring.

This was quite a new area for me, though I had participated in a few webinars, including one run by IH OTTI, and a short introduction to dogme moderated by Ania Rolinska, one of my tutors on the COLT course.

There were nine course participants (CPs), including myself, and Paula de Nagy was the other tutor with Ania. Together they guided us through a series of modules, beginning with a week of ‘getting to know you’, designed to help us develop a group dynamic and get used to the online environment. This was very successful, and really helped to make us a cohesive group, despite the fact that we were living in 11 different countries and all logged on at different times. We also attempted to use a virtual classroom at the end of the week, although there were connection issues which meant it wasn’t as successful as it could have been. At the end of the course, we managed a very successful session in the same virtual classroom.

Week one eased us in to the course, ‘eased’ being the operative word, as the course seemed to increase in intensity as we went through. In the other four weeks, we covered areas like:

  • creating a group dynamic;
  • encouraging reluctant CPs to participate (more) in online courses;
  • using text effectively to communicate, without the support of body language and intonation;
  • transferring face-to-face teaching skills to the online environment;
  • planning effective activities for the online environment;
  • creating and moderating wikis;
  • choosing the right tools for online courses;
  • creating an outline for an online course.

One tip: Don’t go on holiday while you’re doing the course, and if you do, make sure you have wifi. I was lucky enough to have an hour or more a day on the hotel wifi and understanding travel companions to keep up! (This may be obvious to some people, but I completely forgot the dates of the course when booking my trip to Paris)

On that note, it’s better to log in as often as you can, if only for a few minutes, as it can be very easy to feel like you’re losing track of all of the threads if you don’t.

Overall, there was a lot of information to take in, and I’m still digesting it now, but the support from the tutors and the other group members meant that I learnt a lot, and online tutoring is definitely something I would like to experiment more with in the future. The course was well worth the investment of money and time, and even though I am not currently teaching online, it was very useful.

I would definitely recommend it to others.

A Twitter activity

When I did my Twitter seminar on Friday last week (blog post here) I started with a new activity, and it seemed to work really well. It was something I’d heard about before, but couldn’t find an appropriate time to use.

We started off with a big pile of scrap paper (A4 divided into four were the perfect size), plus a writing implement each. I took a piece of paper and wrote:

Sandy

As a teacher, one of my biggest problems is giving instructions. What should I do?

To prove this (!) I then told the group that they could either offer me advice or add their own problems. There were a few rules though:

  • no talking throughout the activity – the only communication could be on paper
  • write your name at the top of each piece of paper so that we can see who the message is on
  • one piece of paper per message, and don’t write too small (this is to simulate the ‘soundbite’ nature of Twitter)
  • you must place your paper at the end of the line (we had them all arranged on a row of tables), regardless of whether the previous piece of paper was what you were replying to (to simulate the Twitter stream)

The resulting ‘discussion’ was about ten minutes long and went really well. Here are a selection of our ‘tweets’ in no particular order to give you a taste of what we were talking about:

Tweets 1Tweet 2Tweet 3

After we’d finished the chat I asked the DELTees how they felt during the chat. This is what they came up with:

Twitter adjectives

The ‘chat’ was stimulating and made the rest of the seminar more interesting (at least, that’s how it felt) as they could really feel how Twitter works. I compared the amount of ‘tweets’ nine of us produced in ten minutes to the amount fifty or sixty of us produce in an hour on #eltchat and that got them really interested.

Two of them have already told me that they’ve signed up, and one more said she would sign up next weekend. This is much higher than my normal 1/12-15 hit rate! I really think this activity made all the difference, and I would heartily recommend it to anyone doing a Twitter for PD seminar, or to try out in class.

Enjoy!

Homework (an #eltchat summary)

This is a summary from the 9p.m. BST #eltchat from Wednesday 31st August 2011. To find out more about what #eltchat is and how to join in please go to the bottom of the post.

homework wordcloud

What can we call an effective piece of homework?

Do you believe homework is important for English language learners?

  • Homework is essential, but I think of it as pre-class preparation or follow-on work. (@hartle)
  • SS need a lot of exposure to the language and practice but effective homework should be short and to the point! (@naomishema)
  • Yes, students need to practise constantly, but depends on what the HW is as to how effective it is! (@sandymillin)
  • I provide various options for homework & do think its important to motivate learners to practice English outside the classroom (@shellterrell)
  • Homework provides more time for students to learn! (@katekidney) It gives them thinking time. (@sandymillin)
  • Homework is important to reinforce what’s been learnt in class (@herreraveronica)
  • Homework is important for consolidation and further development. (@lu_bodeman)
  • I like to provide homework if sts request it. If they do, I usually ask how much homework they want. (@ELTExperiences)
  • For language learners, hmwk provides the opportunity to apply the language learned within a real context . (@shellterrell)
  • Homework should work differently for kids at school and adults ‘only’ doing English classes – kids should have sth ‘fun’ like colouring / drawing. Adults perhaps have more motivation. (@sandymillin)
  • At IH Buenos Aires we have a saying “The lesson’s not over till the homework is done” but amount & type open to individuals to decide (@ljp2010)
  • I believe homework is an opportunity for more exposure to English and I tend to favour authentic skills work. Also a chance to process things, studies, and experiment. (@chiasuan)
  • I believe homework is an opportunity for students remember and practice everything they saw in the class! (@vaniaccastro)
  • Action research at Toyo Gakuen Uni in Japan has shown that if we don’t force students to use English outside the classroom – they don’t! (@mickstout)

How much homework should you give?

  • There is research suggesting homework is beneficial but there is also research suggesting TOO much or rote homework has the opposite effect (@Marisa_C)
  • I think the amount is variable and should in a way be up to the student. They should all do some but choose how long. (@sandymillin)
  • I’ve begun giving short homework once a week, online, something highlighting one particular element, and that is it! The funny thing I’ve discovered is that at least some of the SS take the lessons more seriously since I’ve started homework online (@naomishema)
  • It was said that if the homework is half done at school students are more likely finish it at home. True? (@katekidney)
    I think that’s true only with elementary school kids. But kids do need an example! (@naomishema)
  • I think it is crucial to know our students’ routine and plan achievable pieces of HW. (@raquel_EFL)
  • Don’t think VYLs should really have HW – they need time to play. (@sandymillin)
  • Homework can be a project of weeks/months so there is no pressure: “do this by tomorrow” attitude (@ELTExperiences)
  • I was able to run my genetics class last spring with NO homework without decrease in “rigor” (@smacclintic)
  • Age is an important factor and schedules too (@hartle)
  • Homework is effective if SS can see the point of it, rather than homework for the sake of homework (@sandymillin)
  • The Homework Dilemma: How Much Is Too Much? http://www.takepart.com/article/2011/01/18/homework-dilemma-how-much-too-much another interesting article RE 10-min rule (@annapires)

What homework should you give? – general

  • Don’t just tell the students to do page 43 of the workbook. (@ljp2010)
  • As a student, I won’t do it if it’s boring or I think it’s irrelevant to me. Teacher’s worst nightmare! (@ljp2010)
  • I try to make homework fun & relevant to their experiences! They have choices! (@shellterrell)
  • Like Khan academy idea of flipping classroom: homework theory and classwork experimentation http://ow.ly/1wtdr0 (@hartle)
  • Sometimes it is not a bad idea to let the students decide what they would do themselves for the next lesson – and ask them about it! (@katekidney)
  • Individual learning styles should also be taken into account (@adricarv) There’s no reason for everyone to do the same thing (@little_miss_glo)
    I always find kinaesthetic learners hardest to cater for. What kind of things can you do for them? (@sandymillin)
    It might be to learn and act out a sketch with movement (for YLs) (@Marisa_C)
    Videotape a sketch whose lines were written in class by groups/teams (@Marisa_C)
    Make a board game in English (@Marisa_C)
  • For kids I provide games to reinforce what we learned in class! Here’s how its listed in our wiki http://bit.ly/qAQCmc (@shellterrell)
  • These are homework tasks I have given to my adult English language learners in their wiki http://bit.ly/d1RhoD (@shellterrell)
  • For young learners I like to offer in my wiki activities parents can do with their children to practice the grammar/vocabulary in context. (@shellterrell)
  • I’ve been trying to post sites SS can use on Edmodo and show in class rather than set homework. I find students are motivated by sites like English Central, English Attack or quizlet where they can see that they’re getting points (@sandymillin) A word of caution about englishattack – its roll over translations into Hebrew are atrocious! Can’t check the other languages… (@naomishema) I tell SS not to use the translations when I show it to them. (@sandymillin)
  • Offer options so learners work on skills they feel they need to improve. Not all students have the same level so homework should reflect that. (@shellterrell) Choice is not only about which exercises to do for homework but which skills one needs or wants to work on (@Marisa_C)
  • I find knowing their goals at the beginning of the year helps my students determine their outside of class activities http://bit.ly/dzgSCs (@shellterrell)
  • There should be a balance between online work and print work which students can use for display purposes, e.g. in a portfolio (@Marisa_C)
  • We need to be smart about what we are giving for homework…for me all writing assignments are done in class (@shellterrell, @vickysaumell)
  • Reading makes great homework if you can convince the Ss. (@theteacherjames) Adults can benefit a lot from this (@Marisa_C)
  • For teens I just ask what they like to do: listen to English music, read graphic novels, etc. & tailor to that (@shellterrell) Try to find ways to integrate homework into students real lives: things they enjoy, are interested in & choose themselves. (@theteacherjames)
  • Homework is about giving students choices to work on problematic areas too. Provide a series of links then they choose (@hartle)
  • Homework should be connected to the syllabus (@Marisa_C)
  • Teaching ESP? Then you might want to assign stuff that they can do while at work. I did that with my aircraft mechanics (@little_miss_glo)
  • Set them things related to the work place. I did a class based on emails which SS brought to class. The homework was to collect them. (@sandymillin)
  • Show them what is available (often for free) online through facebook, publisher sites etc (@antoniaclare)
  • Written production as homework e.g. letters, diaries, can really help process what was studied. (@chiasuan)

What homework should you give? – specific

  • Some favourite homework I’ve done from my spanish class – photo stories, Spanish-Spanish dictionary, making a newspaper, project stuff… (@ljp2010)
    Project work is motivating too. Students take responsibility for learning. (@hartle) Projects like going to a website to get info in English. (@chiasuan)
  • How can we make the homework/self study more personal? My idea: get students to bring in a photo and talk about it. (@ELTExperiences)
  • SS put a photo on fotobabble.com and talk about it: http://bit.ly/nID10h (@sandymillin)
  • Real life homework task – read or listen to something outside class and come in with a question you’d like answered (@ljp2010)
  • Get students to post on noticeboard and build work together. Www.linoit.com good for this. (@hartle)
  • The funniest HW that I was involved with was phoning YLs at home and trying to chat with them to improve speaking skills in Korea. They were young (10 to 15 years) and the time the parents wanted me to phone was late evening when they were all eating. It took a while to speak to the parents in Korean and then ask to speak to the child and the child would not talk at all. I was also asked to do the same activity for businessmen for a school and I prepared topics, etc but they were too busy. (@ELTExperiences)
    I set up phoning homework with a class once and they LOVED it! (@ljp2010)
    Did something like that. Called them at a given time, gave some info that they needed to collect, and in class SS reported. (@lu_bodeman)
  • SS writing to teachers – personal emails – this is not seen as homework (@Marisa_C)
  • Kids love working online. I make them exchange e-mails or postcards with other kids around the globe. I have found a great platform at e-Pals. (@analuisalozano) Try postcrossing.com for one-off postcards (@sandymillin)
  • Get them to write the subtitles for Bollywood films (@ljp2010)
  • I often set TV programmes or films as homework for students. Sometimes I give them a selection of about 3-4 things they can choose to watch, and we do a jigsaw sharing of what they have seen. My students are in London, so I could use the daily TV guide & get them to watch documentaries, fashion programmes or drama- their choice. (@chiasuan)
  • I get students to collect new words or signs for class. Or interview their host families (@SueAnnan)
  • I would like to get sts to write blogs or contribute to an online school newspaper but haven’t done so yet. (@ELTExperiences)
  • Did @englishraven‘s live reading in class http://bit.ly/r1Gl1h about Edinburgh. HW was for SS to write about their own city/country – everyone did it! (@sandymillin)
  • A book club where they choose the book they want & have discussions? (@shellterrell) Extensive reading (reading for pleasure). Assign projects (book reviews, sts create worksheets, etc) (@theteacherjames) I bring a book box to class when I teach our adults and they pick a book (@Marisa_C) Doing an extensive reading project with Google Reader … Blog post about ithttp://ow.ly/1wthvj (@hartle)
  • Film club is great too. Watch the first part of film in class – finish for homework (@antoniaclare)
  • Adults enjoy finding an interesting article in the local paper and summarising it for class the next day. (@SueAnnan)
  • Take photos on way home, then do lesson based on it, like so: http://wp.me/p18yiK-dS (@sandymillin)
  • They could be asked to recite something while walking to school (@Marisa_C) For low levels I tell them to read all numbers they say in English / name everything they can when walking down street (@sandymillin)
  • The Baby Egg project with my teens. They enjoyed journaling about their children, etc http://bit.ly/pPpbGg (@shellterrell) Sounds like ‘flour babies’ by anne fine (one of my fave childhood books!) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flour_Babies (@sandymillin)
  • Redoing commercials & advertisements with their friends http://bit.ly/qcrl90 (@shellterrell)
  • Get your students to bring in a computer game & talk about it (@ELTexperiences)
  • If your students like listening to music lyricstraining.com is excellent (@sandymillin)
  • I have recorded video read alouds to model fluency and posted them on Edmodo. (@MrMatthewRay)
  • Get students to watch videos, do tasks, then tweet responses http://englishtweets.com/ (@antoniaclare / @inglishteacher)
  • With young learners make placemats in class with vocab items and pictures. Then they eat on the placemats and memorize ’em! (@naomishema)
  • SS downloaded four adverts, then chose the most touching, funniest, horrible, and amazing (@analuisalozano)
  • Encourage students to read anything they can in English if it’s available. Cereal boxes, signs, anything. (@MrMatthewRay)

How do you share homework with students / parents?

  • Edmodo (http://j.mp/ZkQ5F) is a useful tool to share homework/selfstudy amongst students. Provides a platform to share ideas, etc. (@ELTExperiences) How I’ve used Edmodo in class with SS over the last year (including for HW) http://wp.me/s18yiK-edmodo (@sandymillin)
  • We use wikis too for our adult Ss to upload their homework which also includes presentations prezis etc (@Marisa_C) I’ve taught 2-year-olds to 80-year-olds :-). I find a wiki full of outside exploration activities motivates them a lot. (@shellterrell)
  • What we need is a website for sts like http://j.mp/5eT5mw (a maths website) for English language learners to assist homework. Are there any out there? (@ELTExperiences)
  • Have used class blog and discussion forum for homework using blogger and wikispaces (@inglishteacher)
  • The primary school that my son used to attend provided a newsletter for parents with projects at the back. (@ELTExperiences)
  • Once had a class blog on ning & we all continued discussions we had in class on the blog. It was brilliant…until ning decided to charge. (@chiasuan)

Grading Homework

  • My homework is optional & I tell my SS it’s for their benefit! Majority complete it each time. (@shellterrell)
  • Don’t grade homework! (@naomishema)
  • I grade homework in class … I do not like sending homework to Ss except that related to researching. (@analuisalozano)
  • I like to get sts to mark each other’s HW. Promotes learner correction, education and autonomy. (@ELTExperiences)
  • I use Markin to work on written work with a correction code then students can correct own work. Software http://ow.ly/1wteqp costs about €20 but worth it (@hartle)
    Activity one lesson one on this page of our class blog shows marked student work with Markin. Stds then correct & we discuss in class. http://ow.ly/1wtfol
  • If students resist any kind of homework, it should be included in their final mark or the course evaluation! (@katekidney)

Tracking homework

  • I give homework online but keep track on paper so that I always have it in class with me! (@naomishema)
  • I give pre class prep work on blog and follow up on linoit etc. Also copies. My students are young adults so I don’t track pre-class work but homework posted online and corrections too on blog. (@hartle)
  • I use Edmodo. It allows you to input grades etc even if HW not handed in that way & you can see overview of which students have done what (@sandymillin)
  • For children: Learning Log Brain Builders homework: http://bit.ly/dsC1TE (@DeputyMitchell)

Problems with homework

  • What do you do with students who don’t complete pre-class homework? (@naomishema)
    I don’t force homework, if the learner doesn’t do it then I will ask why & figure out a way to motivate. Usually that’s the problem (@shellterrell)
  • I like to refer to homework as self-study. Homework has too many negative connotations. I attempt to promote student autonomy when they are motivated not the other way round. I like to reduce the affective filter and as such no pressure on homework whether it’s presentations, grammar exercises, writing. (@ELTExperiences)
    I like to call it “activities to improve their English” not homework. I think when I deem it as “activities to further improve ur English” it gives them a why as to completing the tasks (@shellterrell)
  • I give limits on how long can be delayed. I’ve had bad experience – “mañana” turns into “never” (@naomishema)
  • A lot of adolescents think its not cool to do something optional (@naomishema)
  • I still have a problem with pupils with problematic home life – they don’t organize their time and do the little work I give (@naomishema)
  • As a SS, I leave HW to the last minute. (@sandymillin) Human nature, I think. But I think the key is making it not feel like HW! (@little_miss_glo)
  • What about if your institution has a homework policy based on student/teacher/parent expectation? (@ljp2010)
    If you have to give HW then negotiating what to do with SS is important, though I guess it depends on their age (@sandymillin)

What guidelines make homework effective?

  • Varied
  • With no (or negotiated) deadlines
  • Challenging
  • Motivating
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Clear aims – known to both the teacher and student
  • Choice (topic / level of difficulty / skills)
  • Like real life tasks (not just busywork)

A couple of videos to reward you for getting this far 🙂


What is #eltchat?

If you have never participated in an #ELTchat discussion, these take place twice a day every Wednesday on Twitter at 12pm GMT and 9pm GMT. Over 400 ELT educators participate in this discussion by just adding #eltchat to their tweets. For tips on participating in the discussion, please take a look at this video, Using Tweetdeck for Hashtag Discussions.

The international nature of #eltchat

Marisa’s first question on Wednesday’s chat was “What time is where you are?” The answers came in from all over the world:

It’s 11:03 P.M. in Athens Greece (@Marisa_C)

Same time in Israel! except we say 23:03! (@naomishema)

It’s 5:03 PM here in Buenos Aires, Argentina (@herreraVeronica)

It’s 3:04pm in Texas (@shellterrell)

In Italy it’s 10 pm (@hartle)

I’m in the UK, so it’s 21:03 (@sandymillin)

It’s 10pm in Brussels. (@theteacherjames)

It’s 3:08 pm in Ecuador. (@analuisalozano)

10:02 PM Brno, the Czech Republic (@katekidney)

Same time as @Raquel_EFL … 5pm in Recife. (@lu_bodeman)

It is 8.10am here in Dunedin, New Zealand (@mrkempnz)

It’s 6:20am Sydney, Australia (@LiamDunphy)

We look forward to seeing you there next time!

Twitter 101

This is an introduction to Twitter and three associated tools (Tweetdeck, Google Reader and Diigo) which I did at IH Newcastle on 18th August 2011. I’ve edited it slightly from the original presentation to make it easier to read online. Hopefully it should give you a basic idea of how to use these tools. If you need help, feel free to ask in the comments.

I look forward to seeing you on Twitter.

You might also find these pages interesting:

Enjoy!

P.S. Here is a screenshot of the tweets people sent me when I asked them to say where they are from and what they’ve learnt from Twitter. Click to make it bigger. It’s a good way to find people to follow to start you off!
efltwitter101 tweets

Update: Here is my comprehensive (I hope!) guide to Twitter for Professional Development

Edmodo

I love Edmodo! I discovered it via Twitter the day before my first class of the 2010-2011 academic year, and I can honestly say it has revolutionised the way that I interact with my students both inside and outside class.

If you’ve never heard of it, here’s a quick intro. I describe it as ‘facebook for education’. Here’s a screenshot of my homepage at the moment:

 

For anyone who has used facebook, the interface should be instantly familiar, and for anyone who hasn’t it is very easy to pick up. Here’s a video to show you how it works:

Their user guide is very comprehensive, but if you get stuck, feel free to ask for help!

As a teacher, it has meant I can easily:

  • share materials
  • make sure absent students know what they’ve missed
  • offer students help
  • collect and mark assignments
  • provide a varied diet of homework (not just workbook pages)
  • share links and videos to make English more fun
  • motivate students to find out more about various aspects of English-speaking culture
  • chat with my students outside class
  • and much much more…

I’ve received a lot more homework from my students, including returned second drafts of writing (almost unheard of before!), felt a difference in rapport with my students, had great fun discussing various youtube clips, and generally seen a much higher level of engagement and motivation both inside and outside the classroom.

But don’t just take my word for it’s usefulness. 27 of the 45 students I used Edmodo with last year responded to a survey I created to find out what they thought of it, and this is what they had to say:

So as you can see, Edmodo has made a real difference to the English-teaching and -learning experience in my classes over the past year, and it’s definitely something I will use again.

I hope this has persuaded you to try it out (and no, I’m not being paid for this!) 🙂

Enjoy!

Intonation online

I just took part in my first synchronous online workshop, provided by IH Online Training. It was presented by Zoe Taylor from IH Lisbon and dealt with teaching Intonation – something which I’ve been experimenting with a lot recently.

There were 18 participants from around the world, plus Zoe presenting and Shaun Wilden helping out the with technical side. First we had to join the session and download a small piece of software onto our computers which let us into an Ellumiate chatroom. Then we had to set up all of our microphones and test the sound – this took about 10 minutes, and once we were all ready Zoe started.

She showed us around the software first, then discussed some key terminology to do with intonation (like key, tone unit and tonic syllable). She demonstrated intonation patterns with example sentences, then we discussed some intonation rules in smaller ‘rooms’. This was the most surreal part of the experience as it took most of the 10-minute time limit we had to work out whether we could hear each other! (If you ever plan to take part in a workshop like this, PLEASE make sure you are using headphones! The echo effect made it pretty confusing at times) Once Zoe brought us all back into the main room we shared the findings with everyone.

The last part of the workshop was some practical activities, with some of us volunteering to demonstrate them to the group. This was the most useful part of the session, and there are definitely a couple of activities I would like to try out. The workshop was recorded and will be posted on the IH Online YouTube channel at some point – I will post the link when I have it.

For anyone who hasn’t tried out an online workshop before, I would definitely recommend it – it’s a great free place to get new ideas and you’re in the comfort of your own home. Keep an eye on the IH Online Training page for future workshops (and you don’t even have to teach at International House to join in!)

Hope to meet you there soon…

Using lino-it to crowdsource ideas

lino-it is an online noticeboard which you can make public or private. You can add sticky notes (a bit like Post-It notes), links to videos, images and more. This week I’ve made two boards to collect ideas from my colleagues on Twitter.

The first is to collect ideas for practising listening to be passed on to my students. Some ideas have already been added, but feel free to add more and share it with your own students. I can’t embed it, but you can click on the picture below to go to the canvas:

Listening Lino

The second is to collect cultural ‘nuggets’ to explore with my Advanced students for their final two classes. For their homework they had to choose an area of English-speaking culture which they find interesting and present it in class (that will happen on Tuesday). I would then like to introduce them to some new areas of culture which they’ve never thought/heard of before, and this is where you come in. So far, there’s only one idea from me on there, so again I need your help! Click on the picture to add your ideas 🙂

Culture lino

Thanks very much for your help, and feel free to use these with your own students.

Enjoy!

How to join in with #eltpics

eltpics Shape collage

Made using shapecollage.com

All of the pictures in the image above are taken from the #eltpics photos on Flickr. #eltpics was started in October 2010 when three teachers (@VictoriaB52, @vickyloras and @cgoodey) decided to tweet pictures to each other on a given theme each week. As Victoria said in this interview with tefl.net:

The idea blossomed, so we asked ELT folk on Twitter to join in and share our diversity. In 3 weeks [we had] over 200 images from 20 countries on our Flickr site.

As of this week, we’re up to 3000 images in 30 categories including all of the following:

eltpics topics wordle

Made using wordle.net

You can see the 10 most recent pictures in the bottom-right hand corner of this page.

So how can you join in?

1. If you are not a member of Twitter, sign up for free.

2. Find out the topic for the week by searching for the #eltpics hashtag or asking @sandymillin, @fionamau or @cgoodey (the current curators of the site). A new topic is announced every Sunday. (By the way, if you have any topic suggestions, feel free to let us know!)

3. Choose the photos you want to share and upload them to a site like flickr, yfrog or twitpic. You can also use a Twitter client like Tweetdeck. Please ensure that the photos are your own and that you have the copyright.

4. Tweet the links to the pictures you want us to upload. Don’t forget to include the hashtag #eltpics so we can find them! If you want to help us out, you could also mention the set you want us to add the photo to.

5. Sit back and wait for us to tell you they have been uploaded. If we don’t reply within a couple of days, please let us know, as we sometimes miss one or two pictures.

Using the pictures

All of the photos are shared under a Creative Commons licence:

Attribution-NonCommercial
CC BY-NC

This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work non-commercially, and although their new works must also acknowledge you and be non-commercial, they don’t have to license their derivative works on the same terms.

If you’re not happy with your pictures being shared and used in this way, please don’t send them! 🙂

Once they are on the flickr page, all of the images are available for teachers to use in their classrooms, for materials or for teaching-related blogposts. We would love to hear how you use them.

Links

Spanish Train by Chris de Burgh (linking words for fluent speech)

Alright, I admit it. I love Chris de Burgh. And while this is very unfashionable, I’m not ashamed in the slightest!

This week I was doubly grateful to him for providing me with an interesting story for my students to listen to (following on from ‘Story Prompts with #eltpics‘ last week) and a way to revise linking words when speaking quickly.

I showed the class the first slide of the presentation and asked them to decide what the story of the song is. They had to include something about all of the pictures in their story.

Once they had shared the stories, they listened to the song to find out who had the closest version. (The link in the presentation should take you to the video below)

I then showed them the pronunciation slides and elicited the rules.

Finally they practised saying lines from their own copies of the lyrics.

As their homework, they should find a poem or song of their own and record it, paying particular attention to the linking sounds.

Other ‘story songs’ by Chris de Burgh that you might find interesting include:

Enjoy!

Story Prompts with #eltpics

In April 2010 I attended a talk by Laura Patsko at the IH Prague Conference about storytelling in an adult classroom. This week I finally got round to adapting it to make use of some #eltpics (pictures for teachers by teachers which can be used under a Creative Commons licence) and thought I would share the presentation and the lesson plan with you. Feel free to use it however you like. (My context was an Advanced group, but it could be used with other levels)

I showed them the first slide of the presentation and told them we were going to look at six pictures and talk about the ideas in the word cloud. I copied the cloud onto each picture so that they would have some ideas.

Once they had talked about each picture and I had given them any extra vocabulary they needed, they voted on the most interesting picture. I copied and pasted it onto the final slide, right-clicked on it and chose ‘send to back’. We were revising narrative tenses, used to and would, hence the orange box, but you could change it or delete it entirely.

I told the class to imagine that this picture was an image taken from the midpoint of a film. They were going to create the story of the film. Half of the class worked on the story leading up to the picture, the rest worked on the story after the picture. They were allowed to take a few notes, but could not write out the whole story.

After about fifteen minutes I then reorganised the groups. Each new group had one ‘beginning’ student and one ‘ending’ student. They then had to put their halves together to create one logical complete story.

The final step in the process was for each pair to tell their story to the group. I recorded it using Audacity and emailed it to the students after class. Next week we will focus on their use of narrative tenses, used to and would based on the recordings.

One-to-one variation

I also (unintentionally) taught the same lesson 1-2-1 when only one student turned up from a class of five! We followed the same process, but got through it much faster, finishing all of these steps in about 30 minutes. Once we’d recorded the story, the student then typed out what she had said. We then went through a series of drafts, each time focussing on one or two changes, for example tenses, punctuation and choice of vocabulary. This is the document we produced based on the picture of the two girls at the castle door:

What worked

  • The students found the pictures interesting and were motivated to discuss them.

  • They enjoyed being able to create their own stories.
  • They used their English in a natural way, so it recording their stories really showed the areas which they need to focus on.
  • In the 1-2-1 lesson, the student was given an intensive personalised focus on her errors. She also learned about punctuation in a relevant way, particularly the punctuation of speech (which I personally find can be difficult to teach/learn)
What I should change
  • At the beginning of the lesson I should have introduced the idea of storytelling in more detail. We could have talked about why we like stories and what a good story requires.
  • With more time we could have created more detailed stories, adding in information about the characters, using more adverbs etc.

If you choose to use this lesson (and even if you don’t!) please let me know what you think and if you have any suggestions to improve it.
Enjoy!

Tools for the 21st-Century Teacher

This is my take on the tools presented by Niall Creaney during the closing plenary at the PARK Conference in Brno on 2nd April 2011. If you have a problem with any of the links, please let me know in the comments. The tools are:

  1. Twitter
  2. Blogs
  3. Google Reader
  4. Social bookmarking
  5. Glogster
  6. Prezi
  7. Dropbox
  8. Evernote
  9. Quizlet
  10. Wallwisher
  11. TitanPad
  12. Skype
  13. Word clouds

I have also added a bonus tool:

11b. Google Docs

1. Twitter (@sandymillin)

Twitter has opened so many doors since I started using it in October 2010. It’s a micro-blogging site, where you send messages 140-characters long out into the world. For teachers, this means an international community full of support, inspiration and ideas. To find out more about what it’s about and how to get started, take a look at this conference presentation I did about blogs and Twitter for teachers. (Update: I also have a complete introduction to Twitter for Professional Development)

It seems scary at first, but if you keep going back and try to spend an hour or so playing with it at some point, you’ll get the hang of it. For the first couple of months I lurked, which is completed normal (find out more by taking a look at the post on the Online Professional Development survey I did in January 2011, through Twitter of course!) Now I spend a few minutes every day having a quick look at the links, and I always find something to make it worth it: useful, thought-provoking and/or fun.

As well as using it for professional development, many teachers use it with their students. I haven’t tried it myself, but here are some links to people who have:

2. Blogs

I started this blog in October 2010, but nothing much happened on it until I started posting regularly in January 2011. Partly through promoting my blog on Twitter and partly through presenting at conferences and promoting it, my stats look like this:

Apart from giving you a great positive feeling every time you see your stats :), writing a blog is an excellent way to reflect on your teaching. You can use it to share ideas, connect with other teachers, get inspiration and so much more! As with Twitter above, you can find out more about what teachers use it for on my Online Professional Development Survey post, and see how to get started with it in the Whole New World of ELT one.

3. Google Reader

As well as writing your own blog, there are hundreds of other teachers in the blogosphere sharing their ideas. To get you started, take a look at the sites in my blogroll (on the right of this page).

The best way to keep track of the blogs you read is to use a reader, such as Google Reader. Once you’ve signed up (free), you add the links to the blogs you want to follow and the reader does the rest. This is what my page looks like:

This is the first page I see when I go onto the site. In the centre are all the posts that have been added to blogs since I last went on the site. As I read them they automatically disappear from the main page, but I can access them again by clicking on the name of the blog in the bottom left-hand corner. Of course, you can also go back to the original blog address too!

Here are some links to help you get started:

4. Social Bookmarking

So now you’ve had a look at Twitter and blogs and you’ve found loads of great new ideas. How do you keep track of them? The answer is Social Bookmarking. Rather than keeping your links on your computer, where you could easily lose them if anything went wrong, you can use a site like Delicious or Diigo. You can access your bookmarks from any computer, without having to worry about being on the same machine. You can also tag them with as many words as you like, making them easier for you to find again.

This is my page on Diigo:

As you can see, each link is tagged with various key words which I have chosen myself. To find a page again, I have various options:

  • I can search for any word I remember from the title / post using a box in the top right (not shown);
  • I can search for a specific tag by typing it in the box at the top (where it says ‘filter by tags’)
  • I can click on a tag underneath a link
  • I can click on a tag in the menu on the left

This is the little bar which appears in my browser (Safari) whenever I want to add a site to my bookmarks:

You simply click ‘Bookmark’ when on the page you want to share, change any of the options you choose, and hey, presto! it’s added to your bookmarks. You can also upload the bookmarks from your computer straight onto the social bookmarking site to keep them all together.

As for the ‘social’ part of social bookmarking, you can subscribe to other people’s links and be updated whenever they add to them. My Diigo page is here if you’re interested.

Here are some pages to get you started:

5. Glogster

This is the first of the tools which is mainly for students to use. The slogan is ‘Poster Yourself’, and it does what it says on the tin. Here are some examples of work created by 14-year-old boys in the UK: they created glogs about Spanish-speaking celebrities as part of their Spanish studies at secondary school. It is an easy tool for students to use, and the results look impressive quickly. You can include pictures, videos and text, then embed your glog in other sites, such as on a class blog or a school webpage. This one was embedded into a wiki (via @tperran). Students could use it as an alternative to traditional paper-based homework, then email you the link. There is even an option to create a Glogster for Education account, where you can create accounts for your students for free.

Here are some tutorials to start you off:

6. Prezi

Prezi is a web-based alternative to Powerpoint, used to create striking presentations which you can either present online or download to your computer. If you’ve seen my Whole New World of ELT presentation, then you’ve already seen your first prezi. As with Twitter, it looks a little scary at first glance, but once you’ve had a look at some other examples of presentations, followed the tutorial you are given when you first log in to Prezi and played around a little, you’ll soon get the hang of it. One tip: zoom out as far as you can before you start making your presentation if you intend to have a lot of ‘layers’ – the default setting is slightly zoomed in.

You can use it in the classroom too. Here is an example of a presentation made with American primary school students (via @surrealyno). And here are more ideas:

These are the Prezi Learn pages – an excellent guide to get you started.

7. Dropbox

Dropbox is a free online file-sharing site. First download their desktop application, then drag the file you want to share into the folder on your computer. Dropbox will automatically ‘sync’, making your online Dropbox look exactly like the Dropbox folder on your computer and vice-versa (if somebody updates the file online, it will update in your Dropbox too). You can then invite people to see your files and folders. Here is a video tutorial to show you how it works. This is my homepage:

The free account comes with 2GB of space, with an extra 0.25GB added for every person you refer to the site. I have now referred 3 people so I have 2.75GB.

It’s a great way for students to submit work to you as they don’t have to worry about space limits. It’s a lot easier than traditional file-sharing sites in my opinion. I haven’t used it with my students as yet, but it’s been useful for sharing materials with colleagues en masse.

One teacher (lucky enough to have computers for every student!) used Dropbox to synchronise student presentations. To see an excellent summary of everything you ever needed to know about Dropbox, including links to a few lesson plans (mostly primary and secondary), click here.

8. Evernote

This is the first of these tools which I’ve not used myself, so I’ll let them explain themselves to you:

EvernoteIt seems it’s an easy way to take notes on anything and in any way you could possibly imagine: use it to type notes, take screenshots, store photos and much-more – it’s like an online, searchable filing cabinet. It can be accessed from computers and mobile devices. Here is their guide to find out how to get started. I reckon the best thing to do is just go and play, then come back here and let others know what you’ve been doing with it… (Thanks in advance!)

9. Quizlet

This is a customisable flashcard site purposely designed for language learners to use for self-study. It is incredibly easy to use, and you don’t even need to create an account if you already have a facebook one. Once you’ve signed in, there are three big blue buttons to greet you:

You can search for flashcards that have already been created or make your own quickly and easily. Quizlet’s own guide is here. Once you’ve created the set, your students can then look at the flashcards and play two fun games to help them practise the words. This set about vegetables (created by @NikkiFortova) is a good example that you can play with. You can also create groups so that all of your students can see the flashcards you create for them. It’s principally designed for self-study, and the makers recommend allowing students to choose when / if they want to use it.

Update: I have created a complete beginner’s guide to Quizlet.

10. Wallwisher

Wallwisher is one of a variety of online bulletin boards. Others include Primary Wall and Lino-It. All of these tools allow you to post notes, pictures, videos and links on a ‘wall’ which looks similar to a real-world noticeboard. This is the demo screenshot they have on their homepage:

Here is a wall I created for students to post suggestions on how to practise English outside class (unfortunately students didn’t get into it in this class, but I know others who have!) Apart from the example just mentioned, I’ve only added to walls other people have made to send birthday wishes, but there are many other uses for it!

11. TitanPad

This is the only other tool on the list which I have not used myself. TitanPad is designed for online collaboration when creating documents. This is the example they show on their homepage:

As you can see, each collaborator has their own colour, clearly marking who has edited what in the file. You can save versions of the file and export it in various formats. Up to 8 people are allowed to collaborate on each document. The main attraction is that no sign-up is required – you can create a pad directly from the homepage. Unfortunately, it also has some disadvantages, as the pad is public to anyone who has the url. This post explains how it can be useful.

11b. Google Docs (update: now called Google Drive, but still does the same thing!)

If you’ve ever used Microsoft packages, you can use Google Docs without any more effort than simply logging in. You can create documents, spreadsheets and presentations online, as well as professional-looking forms. It looks similar to other offline software, making it very quick to learn if you are already familiar with document etc. software. Here is Google’s tour of their docs function.

As with TitanPad, you can view changes made by other collaborators and the documents are updated in real-time. You can also find out who else is viewing the document at the same time as you. You need to sign in, but don’t have to have a Google account to do this.

Google Docs have myriad uses in the classroom. My students used a document to give me definitions of words and a form to answer reading comprehension questions of an online article during a webquest. Here are some suggestions from other teachers:

12. Skype

Skype is a piece of software which you can download to your computer, then use to make phonecalls to people anywhere in the world. Watch the visual explanation to find out more (they explain it better than I can!):

In March 2011, Skype created an Education section of their website. This enables teachers to set up projects with other schools around the world, as well as finding inspiration for Skype-related projects. Here are 50 suggestions for using Skype, based on real projects which teachers have done. It’s a great way to bring the real world into your classroom.

13. Word clouds

A word cloud of this blogpost so far made using Wordle…

…and the same text entered into Tagxedo

As you can see, word clouds look visually stunning, and encourage students to read and think about what is there. The online software processes the text, making each word appear once in the cloud sized according to how often it appeared in the original text (i.e. the more a word appears in the original text, the bigger it is in the cloud) I won’t go into too much detail here, as I have already blogged and created presentations about word clouds. The posts can be found here, and include links to tutorials for both Wordle and Tagxedo, as well as many ideas on how to use them:

So, that’s it: thirteen (plus one!) tools presented at the PARK Conference, explained in my own words. If you have any more suggestions on how to use the tools, or think I need to make any corrections, feel free to comment on the post. I look forward to hearing what you think!

Enjoy!

25th March 2011: I’ve just discovered that the original plenary session on which I based my list of tools was taken from this page: http://issuu.com/mzimmer557/docs/tools_for_the_21st_century_teacher. You will find more tools and more information there.

Teaching 2.0 in the One-Computer Classroom

This is the post to accompany a talk I gave at the PARK language school conference in Brno, Czech Republic on April 2nd, 2011.

You are welcome to download the presentation, especially if you want to see how the Powerpoint games work (you can’t see this in this version of the presentation). Please credit me as the source if you do this.

All of the links are clickable.

If you would like to know more about how exactly to use any of the things I mentioned in the presentation, please leave me a comment below and I will get back to you as soon as I can.

Further Reading

Easy Technology for the EFL Classroom

I did a special seminar for teachers at IH Brno today, based on easy-to-learn, easy-to-use technology that they could incorporate into their teaching. Here is the presentation, complete with clickable links:

All of the links and a lot of the ideas came from Twitter, which I would highly recommend joining if you’re not on there yet (see this post for more information)

Please let me know what you think, as well as if you have any extra ideas you can add to the mix.

A Whole New World of ELT (IH Brno Conference 2011)

[Since doing this presentation, I have created a much clearer introduction to Twitter, and done a 10-minute introduction to ten of my favourite blogs.]

On Saturday February 19th 2011, I presented this session on online professional development, with a focus on blogs and Twitter.

If you have any questions, comments or feedback, feel free to comment on this post or contact me on Twitter @sandymillin. I look forward to seeing you again in my PLN!

cartoon from www.weblogcartoons.com

Don’t end up like this!

Cartoon by Dave Walker. Find more cartoons you can freely re-use on your blog at We Blog Cartoons.

I have also included some more links related to Twitter and blogs to help you out.

Twitter

Blogs

Other posts on my blog which you might be interested in

Final thoughts

Updates

These links have been added since the conference:

Twitter

Blogs

PLNs and Continuing Professional Development

How to train students to use technology appropriately (an #eltchat summary)

This is a summary of the 12pm GMT #eltchat on Twitter from Wednesday 9th February 2011. Find the complete transcript here.

Why bother?

  • It empowers students.
  • It allows them to learn beyond the classroom – blogs, wikis, skype, global projects…find out more
  • SS bring their own technology to class anyway. For example “Students arrive first day with a very expensive electronic dictionary. We have integrated a class on use into the curriculum”
  • Older kids learn by using tools and making mistakes.
  • Tech can make language learning more exciting, even if SS can’t access it at home. It can also absorb SS in using the language so much that they forget they are studying.
  • “Resource, communication, and automated feedback (might include motivation as well)”
  • Language learning is a tool to learn other things, including technology.
  • It fits in with many SS lifestyles, adding purpose, engagement and usefulness to the lesson.
  • “When did Ss have access to so much natural lang in the past 24/7? – A self access at their fingertips”
  • By showing SS how to deal with tech by themselves, you’re fostering learner autonomy.
  • Your SS can be immersed in L2 culture. It’s an accessible way to meet and interact with L2 natives.
  • It’s a great motivator.
  • Online practice between lessons makes up for a possible lack of face-to-face time – SS progress faster.
  • SS who are shy in class can be much more willing to participate online.
  • Tech can do things you can’t, like “a student-created book students can access at home and share”

How to do it

  • Train learners by demonstration. e.g. with YLs use Triptico word magnets for grammar structures. They want to try it too!
  • Offer old computers for young learners to play on. With very young learners, show them how to use the mouse and keys to make things happen on screen.
  • Assign computer-related homework, e.g. making a short powerpoint. SS then talk about it in class.
  • Use an iPad for audio and video content. Also has a good dictionary app.
  • Encourage SS to set their phone / PC to English – they know the functions and can learn a lot of language.
  • Use your iPod / mp3 player for listening in class. Great way for SS to see podcasts in use.
  • Ask SS to bring in something funny, e.g. a YouTube video, and share it at the end of class.
  • Encourage SS to use smartphones to look up words / images.
  • Ask SS to use bluetooth to send short recordings.
  • Connect to your SS on facebook and ask them to comment on your statuses in English.
  • On the first day of class, ask all of your SS to get their phones out and send you a text. Make a class list.
  • Teach Pecha Kucha with young adults – prepare a “half” PK with 10 slides only. / Offline, try it with a series of A3 cards.
  • Ask SS to record themselves inside and outside class – on computers or mobiles. Example
  • SS can email you in English.
  • Use articles, infographics, video listening activities etc to teach learners about tech.
  • With YLs, ask parents to play online games in English, e.g. Playhouse Disney
  • Ask SS to take photos of the board with their mobiles.
  • Encourage SS to listen to podcasts when commuting. Don’t forget to teach SS what podcasts are, as many of them don’t know! Do a listening lesson in class, then send them home with a list of links.
  • “A great Design For Change project in Taiwan: YLs teach senior citizens to use mobiles & PCs to message & game in English.”
  • Use class time for training, so that SS can continue their learning at home e.g. how to record voice messages.
  • Ask SS to take pictures of things they want to learn the words for on their phones, then bring them to class.
  • Let SS have a go at using something before you train them how to. Get everyone to try a task – the first one to work it out shows all the others.
  • Let them train each other. Encourage peer discussion.
  • Show them tutorials and let them play with tech themselves (especially for younger / more tech-savvy SS)
  • Ask the SS to read a text aloud and record it, then send it to you in class via bluetooth.
  • Talk about tech with your SS – they’re often very enthusiastic.
  • Train your SS on how to appropriately convey Internet research through oral presentations.
  • Teaching tech is like giving instructions – the simpler, the better.
  • Remove unnecessary obstacles – e.g. create a class sign-in.
  • Choose the one application needed and explore it together. / Choose a handful of tools and use them regularly and purposefully.
  • “My best tech moments are when SS create stuff/tell their stories/become stars/cooperate with each other.”
  • Teach each student something different, and they can pass it on. (Jigsaw reading approach)
  • With young learners, use tech adapted to them: big buttons, pictures, and no ‘dangerous’ links if they click around randomly
  • Get more advanced SS to create tutorials for earlier levels.
  • PaperTwitter: hand out a paper with a space for username and message to each student. They then have a short time to write a message and pass it to whoever they want. It gets silly and fun.
  • Ask SS to find stimulating texts online and bring them to class.
  • Show SS how to use Twitter for English self-study, through hashtags such as #twinglish, #eltstudentchat (latter has not yet started) – read about it here
  • Use Twitter to work on concise writing – the 140 character limit really helps them!
  • Use Twitter to make school / class announcements.
  • Even if there is space for every SS to have a computer, consider small groups for collaboration.
  • Use webquests for homework. / Do collaborative webquests with a time limit – groups present what they have found after this time.
  • Ask SS to interview each other using mobiles / cameras.

Challenges and suggested solutions

  • Classes with mixed technology skill levels
    Ascertain their  tech capabilities as soon as you can, for example by doing a survey of what they know and if they have any expertise. Include a section on tech skills in your needs analysis. Don’t forget you can probably learn a lot from them too.
  • Availability of technology / resources
    Think about what tech you DO have access to.
    Your own laptop (if you have one) can go a long way – even one computer offers many opportunities. You can also ask SS to bring in their laptops. Even if you have no net access in the classroom, you can often download things to your computer. Help SS to find alternative places to access technology outside class, such as the local library, friends, family.
    Mobile phones are all-pervading – most students have them, and there is lot you can do with them – text, recording, video, photos…
    You can also teach technology without it: use ‘paper models’ of things like chat, forums/commenting, even twitter in class before going online.
  • Training yourself and your colleagues.
    If you don’t feel confident, it is difficult to train your students. Play with tools before you use them in class. Share knowledge you have with your colleagues. Encourage them to come to your classroom to see it in action. Blog about your tech use and share. Thread technology suggestions into observation feedback.
  • SS resist using technology in class.
    Teach SS language through Edtech. Go to the tech SS are already using, including local language sites. Start simple – once they see the usefulness, they may not resist as much. Use the knowledge SS have, for example with their mobile phones. Give them links to online dictionaries and exercises to take home. You may be teaching them how not to be afraid of it!
  • Parents / SS expect printed handouts and coursebooks, not computer-related assignments.
    Teach SS language through Edtech. Show them how much more writing they do when it’s online “My parents are thrilled when they see how much WRITING in English their kids do when it’s online.”
  • SS don’t have email addresses.
    Don’t forget that not every student has email! Help them to see the use for it, and try to find ways around it.
  • Complicated language (slang, abbreviations) on social networking sites.

Don’t forget!

  • Think about how technology fits in with your overall goals / content. No tech for tech’s sake.
  • Think about how to insert it into your practice, rather than teaching it as a completely separate skill. Introduce it in small doses so it doesn’t overwhelm language learning. Make it feel like a natural extension of an already existing task.
  • Are you teaching technology or using it as a tool?
  • Speak to your SS – they might not be interested in “hyper-connected language learning”, especially if they’re using tech all day outside class. Allow them to choose to avoid alienation.
  • “Don’t try to use tech to ‘fix’ things that aren’t broke!”
  • Have  a back-up plan just in case!
  • Be ruthless – don’t drown yourself in technology!

Links shared

I’ll leave you with a quote from the chat:

My strongest English students are often techies.

Twitter and Screencasts as texts

As a pre-session CAM task, we have been asked to choose one written and one spoken text-type and come up with a plan to develop a (theoretical) one-to-one student’s receptive skills relating to these text types. This is my attempt:

Written: Twitter conversations

  • Genre features: short messages. Between typical spoken and written style. Generally quite informal. Many abbreviations / codes. Use of ellipsis to shorten texts (only 140 characters are allowed)
  • Schemata: SS needs to access Twitter schema (i.e. Twitter-specific lexis), plus schema related to the type of conversations they follow (i.e. celebrity chat, teachers, businessmen)
  • Sub-skills:
    • Identifying the topic of the text and recognising topic changes.
    • Identifying text-type and the writer’s purpose. (i.e. giving information, asking for help, encouraging support for a cause)
    • Inferring the writer’s attitude. (helpful, humorous, sarcastic)
    • Understanding text organisation and following the development of the text.
  • Strategies needed:
    • Activating background knowledge of the topic before reading the text.
    • Guessing the meaning of unknown words from context.
    • Seeking clarification.
    • Indicating lack of comprehension.
  • How to develop these skills:
    • First, focus on Twitter lexis (RT, ff, via, blog, post, mention, hashtag, tweet, feed)
    • Find out from the student what kind of people they follow. Divide them into groups by the function of their tweeting e.g. Do they generally tweet ideas? links? information? Work with the student to show them how this can help them to understand the messages.
    • Choose some of the conversations which the student has tried to follow. Work with them to look at cohesive devices throughout the text.
    • Using the same conversations, examine how the writer has shortened the text to fit the 140-character limit.
    • Look at example tweets from their feed and examine the writer’s attitude in each. Identify keys to recognising this attitude, including words, knowledge of the writer (are they known to be e.g. left-wing), pragmatics.

Spoken: Screencast tutorials.

  • Genre features: Supported by visuals. May include some technical language. Imperatives and other instruction-giving structures (If you click here…) Computer lexis.
  • Schemata: Computing schema, schema related to specific tool (e.g. voice-recording software), instruction-giving schema
  • Sub-skills:
    • Perceiving and distinguishing between different sounds.
    • Dividing speech into recognisable words or phrases.
    • Distinguishing between given and new information.
    • Using discourse markers and context clues to predict what will come next.
    • Guessing the meaning of words and expressions.
    • Identifying key information and gist.
  • Strategies needed:
    • Activating background knowledge of the topic before starting to listen.
    • Using non-linguistic information (situation, context, etc.) to predict what will be heard.
    • Using non-linguistic visual clues to help infer meaning.
  • How to develop these skills:
    • Focus on computing lexis, especially related to navigating on-screen (click, hover, press, button, cursor, mouse, upload, download)
    • Watch screencasts with student highlighting instances of these words.
    • Study different methods of giving instructions (imperatives, first conditional…)
    • Watch screencasts focussing on the instruction language.
    • Watch screencasts without sound to predict the content.
    • Transcribe a screencast to work on sound distinctions / divisions.
    • Use the transcription to study discourse markers / cohesion.

Has anyone focussed on these as text-types in the classroom? I’d be interested to know if my strategy reflects your own.

Playing with a projector

Our school’s got a new projector, and having a reputation as a technologically-forward type of person, I felt I should get using it as soon as possible, especially since I was one of the people asking for it!

I decided the best place to start was with the intensive group. They have three hours of lessons every day, and having started in September it’s quite difficult to find new things to keep them interested in the lessons. We’re already using Edmodo outside class (I blogged about it here), have made a video for the IH World YouTube competition and had a couple of sessions where they brought their own laptops, but this was the first time technology was one of the main aspects of the class. The lesson may seem a bit disjointed, but it follows the syllabus – finishing a unit on ‘time’, starting another unit and doing some CAE speaking practice.

We started off lightly, getting them used to the idea of having the projector in class. First, I showed them a short presentation I’d made based on some writing they did before Christmas. As an exam class preparing for CAE, one of the big issues I have with them is handwriting. With their permission, I took some of their work back to England and showed it to my friends and family, asking them to rate how easy it was to read. This was the result:

Next we discussed proverbs and I asked the students to suggest some. ‘An apple a day keeps the doctor away’ was the best example, so I wrote that on the board. I showed them some pictures from the New English File Advanced teacher’s book. (For copyright reasons, I won’t reproduce them here) They were illustrations of ‘time’ proverbs, such as ‘A stitch in time saves nine’ and ‘don’t count your chickens before they hatch’. I asked the students to think of ideas for proverbs to go with each picture and to think about whether a similar phrase exists in Czech. We then looked at the pictures a second time and discussed the ‘correct’ answer for each image, as well as any other vocabulary arising from the picture.

To end the first 90-minute session, I showed them a wordle of synonyms for ‘I think’ and challenged them to come up with 18 phrases. Once they had a complete list, we went to break.

(made with wordle.net – please contact me if you’d like the list of phrases)

After the break, we got to the ‘tech-heavy’ part of the lesson – I had decided to take the coursebook off the page and create a webquest. We did all of the activities from the book, but based on original sources, with the students using their own laptops in groups of 3 (there are 12 in the class). The complete webquest is here, with a summary below. I provided the students with links throughout, but encouraged them to look elsewhere if they wanted to.

The unit was called “Are you suffering from affluenza?” so their first task was to find out what “affluenza” is and add their definition to a Google Doc.

Next, they looked at an Amazon summary and a review of the book “Affluenza” by Oliver James, which had both been reproduced in New English File, and answered the comprehension questions through a Google form. I encouraged the students to use their own words, rather than copying and pasting. (I’ll return to this later)

In the final section, they used the ideas from the previous stages of the webquest and various other links I provided to add to a mind map using mind42 – a collaborative mind-mapping site – as preparation for a CAE Speaking part 4-style task.

Students getting involved in the webquest

 

We then returned to using the projector. First we looked at the final definitions and compared the different answers. We also looked at the answers to the reading comprehension, and discussed whether it was a good idea to copy and paste or write using your own words, as well as how useful both strategies are to remember information.

The final part of the lesson drew the previous work on opinions and brainstorming together. Students worked in groups of three to discuss the topics from the mindmap. To help them, they choose one topic which I showed on the board. They discussed it for three minutes, then changed groups and discussed it again. To finish the lesson off, we had a short conversation about whether the mind-map helped them to organise their ideas and how they felt the first and second time they had each discussion.

From my point of view, the lesson went well. We achieved the aims for the lesson, covered everything from the syllabus, and I think the students enjoyed approaching the material in a different way. I have asked them to send me a short email about how they felt about the lesson and whether they thought it was useful or not. When I have their responses, I will ask their permission to share them here.

I do have a couple of questions though:

  • Do you think the lesson was too focussed around the projector / technology? (The temptation was perhaps too strong, since I’ve been working with only my laptop for the last six months!)
  • Was there anything else I could have done with this material?

Thank you for reading and for sharing your thoughts!

The Online Professional Development Survey

I’ve spent this afternoon putting together the responses to the Online Professional Development Survey I sent out on Twitter this week. 43 very helpful people responded – thank you very much!

I have also included all of the comments as there were so many they didn’t make it onto the final slideshow! I thought they should be included somewhere though, so here goes:

What do you think you’ve gained from using Twitter for professional development?

What have you gained from using Twitter for professional development? (a wordle)

A great PLN
Loads of new ideas
An invigorating community
– sharing links and ideas
– being motivated to look for new things to share
– being in touch with what`s going on in the ELT world
– following conference updates if I can`t attend in person
– supporting fellow teachers with great ideas by retweeting or spreading the word
– inspiration for developing my own materials
– slowly plucking up courage to join in discussions and voice my own opinions
Motivation; new ideas; reflection on current practices; free training for online tools; connecting with like-minded professionals
A great deal of professional support and advice, lots of amazing ideas and resources as well as help when I need it.
A lot more than one would think. The information that is tweeted out, e.g. on free webinars, ideas, views on edreform, etc. provided me with more opportunities for self-development than in the previous 10 years. It also gave me the opportunity to connect with like-minded people in the profession. As a now freelance ELT teacher and teacher trainer, this gave me a lot of reassurance and further fueled my passion for my profession. Thank you my PLN!
Access to a network of incredibly dedicated and committed ELT professionals, sharing links to innovative resources and creative ideas for teaching, training…Motivates me, and hope to use it to motivate others.
A network of valuable professionals with interesting views and links, which give me something to mull over. Also enthusiasm for my job and new skills.
a whole new range of ideas and materials that I wouldn’t have found on my own
I’ve connected and shared/learned from educators I would never have met otherwise. I’ve learned many different tools and sites. I discovered blogs written by teachers and the millions of activities shared through those, the reflections they incite.
lots of teaching ideas & motivation to continue developing
resources, ideas, follow great colleagues, become a part of the global educational community, share projects, ideas, feel connected.
Access to the latest in ELT and EdTech from the people at the cutting edge.
Networking and friendship with important educators.
Knowledge of the latest in Web 2.0
Almost too much to mention! In brief:
– connections with great educators from around the world.
– discussions on lesson ideas/general ideas about education & ELT
– links to ELT blogs
– links to web 2.0 resources and (perhaps more importantly) discussion, reflection and advice on how to utilise them in class
– the opportunity to attend and present at conferences, both face to face ones and online events.
I’ve learnt a great deal, and met some wonderful educators from around the world.
links to other amazing TESOL blogs through retweets
Much greater awareness of discussions and people in ELT. New ideas & ways to work with learners.
I have gained contact with fellow teachers from all over the world thus expanding my pd network
A chance to meet like-minded professionals
LOTS of new ideas and resources, and can see a constant stream of new ones to come. Am planning on setting up a hashtag to use to stream things to my work colleagues in a new virtual space I’m setting up right now.
Incredible ed resources, a professional network, and an increased blog readership
the abundance of resources sharing which is not possible if I do it alone
I have gained lots of human connections to whatever information I am seeking at the time.
– Gained a really large community of learners/supporters/teachers
– Able to reflect more often
– Great resource for finding useful sites/information/tools/sessions
The latest in education from around the world. Sharing ideas with teachers in a virtual “staffroom”. Often not the time to do this on the job.
PLN, friendships, helping/advising others, getting help/advice, staff (I’m a sub and don’t have a staff, home school)
Lots of new learning tools and links. Following inspiring educators. Lots of contemporary ideas.
I have gained access to a group of really motivated educators who have great classroom ideas and great insight into the current ed policy debates.
A global network of educators who tweet interesting and useful links.
meeting other great educators; sharing ideas, information and expertise; participating in webinars, courses etc..; collaborating on projects; learning
I discovered very interesting web tools and resources to use them effectively
“1. Network of new colleagues
2. So many new resources
3. Ideas about teaching, ideas for classroom activities, ideas about grading
4. Daily professional development
5. A place to bounce ideas around (chats)
6. A community”
The confidence that I am not crazy in thinking that education is changing and has to change. Even though I am passionate about technology in education and have been working with it for over 20 years ( was involved in the ACOT program), I still need a support group!
Differentiated and personalized professional development

What do you think you’ve gained from using blogs for professional development?

What do you gain from using blogs for professional development?

“Reflection time; A sense of community – I’m not the only one doing these things”

“- great opportunity to look at teaching through someone else`s eyes- juxtaposing your ideas with those of others – that makes you reflect on the very basic concepts sometimes”

Reflection and clarifying my own ideas and thoughts; blog posts take longer to write and help me sort out my own thinking on various topics and areas.

Responding to useful/valuable blog posts engages me in interacting with colleagues further and at a deeper level.

Again, support, new ideas and being connected to like minded people

Got to know the people from my PLN a little better, especially on what their interest areas are, their thought on educational issues. It also gives me the opportunity to get more insight into where today’s EFL is going, what the trends are, general problems, issues that need to be solved.

New educational platforms, blended learning forms and tools, educational technology that haven’t reached us yet in Central and Eastern Europe (am based in HUngary)…. and a lot more.

I need/want to explore more myself, manage time to factor in reading blogs contacts and new ideas

More confidence in using technology in the classroom, a wide range of lesson ideas based around youtube etc

I’ve learned about new tools and how to use them, I’ve been pushed to reflect upon my practices and experiment in my classes.

lots of ideas

lifelong learning

A greater awareness of what’s happening today in ELT and EdTech

“My own blog has been great for reflecting on what I’ve done in the classroom, both for sharing lessons and activities that worked really well and evaluating activities that didn’t work so well. The feedback I receive from other teachers in the form of comments has been invaluable in shaping my thinking too.

From other people’s blogs, I have gained many ideas to adapt for my own classrooms and plenty of ‘food for thouıght’. Reading somebody else’s thoughts on teaching (no matter what thier context) and seeing things from their perspective is a great way to reflect.”

Again, I feel that I’ve learnt a great deal, and it has certainly kept me much more current with regards to developments in my field that I probably would have otherwise been.Beyond how I’m able to apply what I learn in my ESL classroom at an international school in Cambodia. Most of the students are ELLs so I’m able to forward suitable links to co-workers in various disciplines because of the blogs I follow.

Reassurance that I’m on the right track with what I’m currently doing. Deepening knowledge and understanding of language learning, people’s experiences, and language. Ideas to use in my own practice. I have read about current educational moves and it has improved my reflective practice

A wealth of resources and teacing tips for professional developmentreflectionLots of new ideas, resources, and things to reflect on and share.Blogging is an incredible tool for reflecting on my own teaching practice, and learning from other teachers around the world

“Through other people’s reflections I can feel more connected or like I am doing things on par with others. Finding tools, and getting new ideas to motivate my students with their blogs.

“New skills and tools. resources, networking (reading and commenting), validation (like minds, not alone or not only who thinks/questions that), opposing views, entirely new (to me) topic/method/tool/etc.Being able to look back at my development and changing ideas and practices. Getting ideas for using web tools in the classroom. Professional practice.

Many fantastic resources and ideas. For myself I love the idea of reflective practice. In order to learn, I have discovered, I need to write.

A chance to air my own thoughts and share my ideas, as well as reading about my colleagues’ own thoughts and ideas.

wider access to information and new ideas

Developed an insight into the way to use webtools appropriately

Daily professional development, enriching ideas, being part of a community of practice, a place for professional conversation

Too much to mention here

Reminded how important reflecting is for teachers.

I don’t do it yet. but it is on my 2011 to-do list

New colleagues’ ideas to follow and mimic.

What do you think you have gained from using YouTube for professional development?

What do you think you have gained from using YouTube for professional development?

Ideas! Seeing how other teachers use their classrooms is good for observations in your own time (especially if it’s difficult to fit them in where you work)
“- appreciating the powerful message of a short video clip in the classroom context- adapting non-ELT related materials to the needs of my sts- observing other teachers at work (recordings of Jamie Keddie`s lessons = a must for every teacher)- ‘attending’ conferences that I couldn`t participate in by watching talks online”

Very useful tutorials on almost everything – especially Web 2.0 tools

“Mostly motivational power, the great feeling of “”I’m not alone thinking that ….””

A lot of quick and handy training videos on e.g. using tech tools for teaching, my blogs, etc.”
more exposure to new theories / ideas – similar to attending a conference session.

I’ve listened to some great lectures discussing education, I’ve discovered/watched videos that can be used in class with the students.
visualization of the data, inspiration
“Mainly, I’ve come to videos from links/embeds in blogs and tweets so the gains have been the same.
I’ve also embedded some videos from YouTube onto my school’s wiki page for teachers so my colleagues can benefit from them as well.”

“I found a book of Ken Wilson’s I believe will take my teaching to new heights usingDRAMA!”

Being able to see other classrooms has been both informative and reassuring. Also, it’s great to be able to see talks and interviews from ELT people. Found interesting materials to use with my classes
“New ideas, new tools, equipment etc. Resources to use with my students (and reviews of these)”
I have found several examples of classroom activities being used in actual classrooms.

“Handy for uploading videos and sharing on blogs.Great for experiment demonstrations for the students.”
same as blogs and Twitter, visual PD, humor, etc.

“Great visual learning for ‘How to …’ videos. Easy to understand when you are confused with written instructions. Can recommend videos to others for easy viewing, high interest level for audiences”
“Resources for students – better than just reading for them.
Professional development for myself – almost as good as going to a conference in some cases.”
the way to use some tools appropriately Nothing like pictures to show you how to do something.

Too much to discuss here
Inspiration, and sharing it with others

What do you think you have gained from using the BBC / British Council Teaching English website for professional development?

This was my introduction to online professional development, although I didn’t take the next step until Shaun Wilden came to our school and talked me in to Twitter!
“- interesting ideas to reflect on (articles)- activity ideas to use in class- insight into great ELT authors` views on teaching (guest blogging)”
This is the one I spend the least time on. I don’t think I have spent enough looking through on what it has to offer to be able to comment here.
Lesson ideas / materials and some good theoretical knowledgeLearned new techniques, activities to be used in class with my students.ideas
Lots of new ideas and resources and information for reflection. I share heaps of this with my colleagues.
New to it, so still exploring it. BBC has some great science resources as awell I have used.

What do you think you’ve gained from using online conferences / webinars for professional development?

What do you think you have gained from using online conferences / webinars for professional development?

“- new challenging experience – gaining confidence to share ideas online- meeting fellow teachers from around the world and sharing ideas with them”

A lot of practical ideas, getting to know both speakers and participants a little better in terms of what their thoughts are on specific issus. How things are done in other countries, ….. long long list. Could repeat everything I said for twitter, basically. Though these are more focussed and give me the opp. to select and join in the ones I would like. It also allows me to stay silent and just listen and read if I choose to.

The chance to listen to leading ELT practitioners without leaving office/home contacts and knowledge about ELT developments

lots of ideas and ability to present online

Confidence to present.

The ability to ‘attend’ a conference from the comfort of your own home is amazing. There is also the convenience of archived sessions if you miss the live broadcast. The main gain has been hearing/seeing what other teachers around the world do in their classes.

Being able to listen to people live while interacting with those around you in the chat or on twitter makes the ideas and information much more memorable and enjoyable.

“As a trainee, I have been able to listen to experts who would have otherwise been impossible to have access to.As a trainer, I have improved my presentation skills and shared my experiences with teachers all over the world.”

Not much so far that I couldn’t find on Google

connection with teachers worldwide

Ideas, resources, connections

I have regained the time that I used to waste in bad real-life conferences!

“I love them. You can multi-task, sit on the couch and add when you like to the chats. Very useful, make twitter friends, find links and websites that are shared. You can share some of your own learnings, and such in the chats or even raise your hand and speak if you are willing. Great place to be involved and learn.”

global/non-local perspective, “staff” PD days, networking, Collaboration. Global ideas. Current/future practices. Building a PLN

They are an easy way to participate in PD without having to leave your school or house. I only attend when the topic interests me (unlike other PD sometimes). The ability to participate from my own home without the expense/time of going somewhere far away.

Live communication techniques , making new connections Immeasurable – new ideas, new techniques, new tools, new technology, expansion of PLN

Directed, specific PD that keeps me fresh and in the “challenge zone” of my own learning.

My first play with Overstream

I’ve seen Overstream being put to good use a few times, mainly with humorous results. Today I was on my second day of sick leave, so decided to have a go myself using the song ‘A Whole New World’ from Aladdin. This is the result. (Unfortunately I can’t embed it as WordPress doesn’t support Overstream yet).

Not completely frivolous though: I do plan to use the video to good effect in my upcoming IH Brno Seminar on (you guessed it) A Whole New World (of ELT).

Enjoy!

What I learnt on #eltchat today (Materials / Online Professional Development)

@ayearinthelifeof in the classroom (taken from #eltpics)

Today marked my second attempt at joining in with #eltchat on Twitter. For those of you who don’t know what this is, a brief explanation. #eltchat is a conversation between English Language Teachers (ELT) around the world. The sessions take place every Wednesday at 3-4pm GMT and 9-10pm GMT on Twitter, the social networking site. It’s an invigorating way to explore issues in ELT. This week’s topics were:

  • What principles do you follow when you prepare your own teaching materials?
  • How can we convince colleagues that online professional development is as valuable as face-to-face?

From rereading the transcript (the discussion goes so quickly), these are the issues which came up, in no particular order. Feel free to comment on any I missed out!

Principles when preparing your own teaching materials

  • The learner should be central.
  • Materials should be professionally presented. Play with layouts, fonts, etc.
  • Materials don’t have to mean paper worksheets: they could also be online, videos, presentations, art, mindmaps, realia…
  • Materials can and should generate activities.
  • Never do something yourself when your SS can do it for / with you.
  • They should be fun, meaningful, practical and motivate SS.
  • Try to include visuals, rather than just words.
  • They should suit the skill / language point of the lesson, rather than just looking interesting to the teacher.
  • They should empower SS to use the language and make connections.
  • Materials should be sensitive to the nationalities / cultures you teach.
  • Materials should be as relevant to the SS as possible. You can ask SS which topics motivate them.
  • Space should be available for learners to take notes, perhaps with the back of the sheet completely blank. Avoid the temptation to do all thinking on paper.
  • Open-ended materials can fuel whole lessons.
  • Materials should be applicable to a real-life context.
  • Inspiration can come from anywhere.
  • They should be flexible.
  • You can use your own materials to escape the confines of a coursebook, while still covering the syllabus. Or approach it differently, maybe by teaching a unit backwards.
  • Use your materials to remind SS that they don’t have to be doing the same thing at the same time.
  • Don’t forget about interaction!
  • Design materials which make SS think, not just repeat.
  • Think about trying the same materials out with different students.
  • How much time do you spend planning v. using materials?
  • Keep your materials: organise them on your computer, blog them, share them with your students / colleagues…
  • Remember the level of your students: important for the tasks and the instructions.
  • Trigger laughter and / or curiosity whenever possible.
  • Consider SS who may have difficulty with your materials e.g. dyslexia, dyspraxia. For example, use coloured paper for those with reading difficulties.
  • When using authentic materials, fit the task to the students, rather than worrying too much about fitting the text to them.
  • Reflect, edit, adapt, recycle – don’t give up!
  • Play!
  • Take a risk!

Convincing colleagues that online professional development (PD) is as effective as face-to-face

  • Tell them about all the amazing people you meet / blogs you read / ideas you get / fun you have. Highlight how much you can learn in how little time.
  • A big problem is where to start: blogs may be less overwhelming than Twitter.
  • Show them a sample of online PD, so they can see what is going on.
  • Time is a major issue: many teachers feel PD should take place during work hours, and find it hard to see the reasons for continuing it outside. This is also often connected to the fact that online PD is unpaid.
  • Be a stuck record: your colleagues may join in to shut you up!
  • People struggle with information overload: we need to find ways to deal with this.
  • You could deal with links by favouriting, bookmarking and coming back to them at a later date.
  • Not joining in with online PD could mean you don’t really enjoy teaching / joining in with online PD could reinvigorate your teaching when you feel close to burnout.
  • It empowers you. You are participating and engaging with ELT.
  • Lead by doing: show your colleagues how much your online PD has helped you.
  • Share with your colleagues. Send them links that they might find useful. Start a wiki. Use google bookmarks. Post to an Edmodo group. Demonstrate, demonstrate, demonstrate!
  • Perception: Twitter is not just for geeks / socialising; You can control your own PD (when, where, how…)
  • It changes your practice and your expectations as a teacher.
  • Mentor: show someone round and help them take their first steps in Twitter / the blogosphere. Help them move from being digital visitors to digital residents.
  • Introduce online PD gradually to give others time to adjust.
  • Almost everyone ‘lurks’ for a while before they dive in to contributing on Twitter. This is a good time for adjustment, but many of us commented that people often give up before taking the plunge.
  • Recommend people / blogs for newbies to follow.
  • The school’s webmaster may block sites, making it harder to join in.
  • Access can also be an issue in terms of the availability of PCs, internet etc.
  • You end up doing things you never would have imagined doing before [like summarizing a discussion involving people from all over the world] 😉
  • Technology v. pedagogy: emphasise the latter if people are reluctant. Don’t forget that technology is difficult for many people.
  • Feel the fear and do it anyway! If you keep talking, someone will start listening.

Disclaimer

I would like to reiterate that this is my summary of the discussions which took place today. I have used the words of some of the participants directly, but in no way claim them as my own – I wanted to make it a little simpler to find out what was going on, so have avoided crediting everyone. To find out exactly who said what, and to experience the full joy of an #eltchat, read the transcripts here.

Enjoy!

Plugging In and Tech-ing Off

Over the last week or so I’ve been one of the many travellers stuck at airports, first in Prague, then in Brno. Luckily I eventually got through to England, but not before quite a few hours taking advantage of free wi-fi to do all of the #edtech things I’ve been intending to do for ages but couldn’t because of my teaching load.
Here’s a summary of a week in the life of an #edtech (relative) newbie:

  • I’ve just participated in my first ever #eltchat on Twitter (@sandymillin). The topic was “How do we overcome / avoid teacher burnout?” and there were loads of great ideas from around the world. They inspired me to create this wordle, including the ideas which I think came up most often:

From #eltchat "How to avoid teacher burnout?", 22 Dec 2010 (created using http://www.wordle.net)

  • I’ve added three new posts to my blog:
  1. my first ever response to a blogging challenge – ‘Vocabulary Box-ing (with added monsters)‘: a description of how I recycle vocabulary in response to Emma Herrod’s post
  2. my own challenge for my students – ‘Video Poetry
  3. this post right here! 😉
  • I’ve changed the look of my blog. I think the new theme reflects me more than the old one – I like to think of myself as colourful and energetic and hope that comes across from the blog!
  • I’ve posted a lot more on Twitter – currently at 138 tweets, of which about 40 were from the #eltchat and another 50 or so have come during the last week. I realised that I had only been watching and not participating. Speak up, or no-one will hear you!
  • I commented on other people’s blogs. Here is a couple of the posts I can remember responding to:
  1. Jason Renshaw’s “A Christmas confession from an ELT writer in therapy…
  2. Alex Case’s “Using your TEFL skills over Xmas
  • I subscribed to Google Reader, so I don’t have to remember the names of all of the blogs I want to follow. I can just click in one place and find all of the posts immediately and efficiently.
  • I’ve also joined vimeo and diigo to share my videos and bookmarks. Still have a lot of work to do to finish sorting the 238 bookmarks I uploaded to diigo though!
  • I contributed pictures to the #eltpics group on flickr. I even had the 1000th picture posted to the group 🙂 If you haven’t heard about it already, each week there is a theme. Anybody can post pictures using the #eltpics hashtag on twitter and they will then be shared through flickr. All images are under a Creative Commons license so that can be freely used by ELT teachers around the world.

Tweet with my picture: 1000th picture on #eltpics Flickr stream

So the first week of my Christmas holidays has been busy, busy, busy! I’ve really enjoyed finally being able to participate in so many things that I’ve just been watching and thinking about for the last two months. Hopefully, planning and classes will still leave me time to join in now that I’ve taken the plunge.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Video poetry

Karlstejn Castle, near Prague

Karlstejn Castle

For the last couple of days I have been ‘stuck’ in Prague as my flight to Bristol was cancelled. I use inverted commas deliberately as I’ve been making full use of my time here to explore places I’ve not been to on my previous two visits to the city. To that end, yesterday I visited Karlstejn castle, built to house the Czech crown jewels in the 14th century.

“What does that have to do with ELT?”, I hear you cry.

Well, once I’d left the castle, I decided to walk up the road away from the town to see if I could see anything. There was nothing much except for snow and forest, but this inspired me to create what I have dubbed a ‘video poem’.

As a slightly obsessed EFL teacher, I thought about how I could use this with my students, while I was walking back down the hill, and decided to create another ‘poem’ in Czech. When I want my students to do something which I think they might be reluctant to do (I know a lot of them hate listening to themselves speak), I often try to do it myself in Czech to show them that I’m happy to put myself in their position.

So, how does this relate to my teaching? I’ve decided to set a Christmas challenge for my students through Edmodo. It goes like this:

“Find something which inspires you to think in English during the holidays. It could be a place, a person, a picture, anything. Film it and say a few sentences about what you can see. If you don’t have a video function on your camera, take a picture and write a few lines. I’ve made an example in both English and Czech when I was inspired by the snow near Karlstejn castle. I’ll collect them and we can all share our Christmas experiences…and practise your English at home!”

I hope it inspires my students to use their English outside class, and I’m looking forward to the results. As this is not based on lesson, but purely on Edmodo, it’ll be interesting to see how many (if any!) of my students respond. If you have any ideas of the best way to collate / publish their work, please let me know in the comments.

Enjoy!

Technology / Homework

My first steps towards becoming a technologically active teacher are well on the way.

I’ve already posted about Edmodo, which is now being used by all of my groups, with greater or lesser rates of interest, depending largely on whether my students fall into the category of digital immigrants or digital natives. So far, what students have responded to most have been links to youtube videos related to whatever we’ve been doing in class. For example, after listening to a man talk about genealogy in New English File Advanced, my level 7 Pre-Advanced students watched clips from ‘Who do you think you are?’, a BBC programme which looks into the family history of celebrities from all walks of life. Each person watched the first 10 minutes of the programme at home, then chatted to their classmates about how the subject of the programme felt, what they wanted to find out and what they had discovered during the first section. For the first time in the history of my teaching, I had a 100% homework hit rate! Students were motivated, interested and really enjoyed watching a real programme. The students were really surprised when the subsequent homework from the workbook was about the same programme – it helped them to see the link between their studies and real life.

Another tool which I’ve become slightly obsessed with is voicethread. It’s a collaborative tool for videos and presentations, which users can add text, video or audio comments to as they please. My first attempt was a tongue twisters presentation, which I encouraged fellow teachers in the staffroom to record, followed by a few of my students. Feel free to add you own versions of them!

The only downside is that you can only create three voicethreads on the free accounts. I loved it so much that I actually paid for a class membership – something which I almost never do! Watch out for more of my voicethreads in future posts.

I’ve also gone back to basics in a lot of my classes. With only my poor little laptop, a dodgy internet connection and a whole class (admittedly of only up to 15 students!) to show things to, and without any projector to help me, Powerpoint is really useful. I’ve used it for simple, quick-to-prepare materials like having a visual backup during class feedback after controlled practice exercises, or as speaking prompts rather than using questions from a coursebook. The most time-consuming, but effective use I’ve found for it at the moment is to liven up my teen lessons, based on the book Success Intermediate, which none of my students seem to be particularly inspired by. Here’s an example of one presentation I made to practise adjective word order using clothes vocabulary.

One more use for Powerpoint, which I tried out in the summer at Ardingly (see ‘The End of Ardingly’ post below), is to revise vocabulary using a hidden picture game. The teacher clicks to gradually reveal a picture and a word, all of which can be used to describe people (Beginner – Pre-Intermediate levels). It’s not my idea originally, but unfortunately I really can’t remember where I got it from.

Although it doesn’t look like much in this version, feel free to download it through slideshare and use it yourself. My young learner groups are particularly enthusiastic about this game. Definitely a stirrer rather than a settler!

The great thing about the Powerpoint presentations with the classes which use Edmodo is that I can then post it there and they can use it again at home, something which my students really seem to appreciate.

So, that’s it for now. I’ll post more about my experiments as I try them out.

CAM Session 1: Thoughts and Action Plan

The first session of the IH Certificate in Advanced Methodology (CAM) was as inspiring and stimulating as I expected it to be. My school, IH Brno, is offering CAM for the first time this year, so I’m studying in a group of 12 teachers as we’re all trying hard to develop professionally as much as possible. I’m by far the least experienced, as I’m only just entering my third professional year of teaching (I taught for a year pre-CELTA in Paraguay too). Everyone else in the group has at least 7 or 8 years! On the plus side, this means I’ve got plenty of other people’s experiences to draw on.

In the session, we looked at the overall structure of the course and at one specific issue from each teacher in the group. We did this through a mingle to gather ideas and get an idea of what each of us was concerned about. I can already see lots of opportunities for my own development, and that was after only one session!

Our homework was to great a personal action plan focussing on the areas we would like to improve in. As part of the course we will be doing research and experimenting with new things in class. The four areas I’m planning to look into are listed below, along with my rationale and the way I plan to follow up on them. I’ve tried to be as exhaustive as possible when listing the sources I’m planning to use. If you have any extra ideas, please put them in the comments.

Don’t forget to come back to the blog to find out how I’m getting on.

Integrating technology into my courses

  • To make my teaching more dynamic.
  • To be more relevant to my students’ 21st-century lifestyles.
  • To provide variety – no everything is based on the coursebook.
  • To provide opportunities for students to study in a personalised way.

How?

Making homework an integral part of my courses

  • To encourage students to study outside class.
  • To expose students to native-speaker culture (British or otherwise).

How?

Presenting and grading writing

  • Focus on Advanced students, especially those preparing for CAE.
  • Motivating students to write, as this is something they are often unwilling to do, even when preparing for an exam.
  • Being consistent and constructive in my marking and comments.

How?

Provide student-driven lessons

  • Increasing motivation by studying what students need / want to study.
  • Empowering students – allowing them to direct the course.

How?

  • Peer observations
  • Follow up on other teachers’ suggestions from CAM Session 1
  • Reading:
    • ‘Learner-based Teaching’ by Colin Campbell and Hanna Kryszewska
    • ‘Learner-Centredness as Language Education’ by Ian Tudor

One month in…

(Originally posted on my googlesites blog, 26 September 2010)

After a month back at IH Brno my timetable has finally settled down, just in time for a public holiday on Tuesday 28th September! I have a range of classes covering:

  • three general English classes (one Intermediate and two Advanced)
  • a teen class
  • a YL class
  • a one-to-one with a near-native 9-year-old
  • an FCE Intensive class (5 x 3 hours per week)
  • a CAE standard class (2 x 90 minutes per week)
  • a one-to-one with a proficient ex-translator and Legal English specialist
  • two other one-to-one adults
  • an ESP financial English class
  • two other company classes (one studying Business English and one General)

So, a little bit of everything really!

And as if all that weren’t enough, I will also be studying for my Certificate in Advanced Methodology (CAM) starting on the 1st October. I will use this space for my course journal, as well as for my aforementioned thoughts on technology in the classroom, which so far has run to creating a space on Edmodo for all of my groups. The FCE Intensive group have really embraced it, replying to questions and posing their own, as well as submitting homework through the site, and generally taking the ‘community’ out of the classroom, and practising their writing skills at the same time! There’s an example of some of their exchanges below. Hopefully this can be repeated with at least some of my other groups!

An example of Edmodo use by my FCE Intensive group
I’ve also done a technology survey with almost all of my groups to find out what they already aware of. In the next month I hope to put the information I’ve gained to use and start encouraging students to make the most of the technology they have at their fingertips.

The start of a new academic year…

(A slightly edited version of a post copied from my Googlesites blog, 10 August 2010)

…and my (Academic) New Year’s Resolution is to use more technology in my classroom. In my two years of teaching at a school with only two computers in the staffroom and my laptop as resources, I have only used it to do a couple of webquests, some Powerpoint-based exercises in class and for my own research. I also keep all of my materials on my computer.
So far, I have created a website with Googlesites, signed up to twitter (@sandymillin) and read How to Teach English with Technology by Gavin Dudeney and Nicky Hockly.
I already have some ideas for wikis, GoogleDocs and digital cameras. Watch this space to find out how it all goes!

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