25 September 2016

Learning, Creativity and Amy

Creativity in the classroom and in everyday life is something that I have always sought, reached out to. Innovation in life, innovation in learning, innovation in teaching.

Nevertheless, innovation and creativity don't happen in a vacuum. Nor without time, practice and the inherent re-mix of ideas, histories and one's personal perspective.

Creativity from Jaedoo Lee on Vimeo.

For educators, there are so many ways to find inspiration for learning, for fostering that inner creativity that everyone has. Among webinars, blogs and a myriad of free open sources, there is also 

Learning Now TV  with podcasts and videos, a free source for learning for professionals - including educators from different fields. 

"99% of the time, in my experience, the hard part about creativity isn't coming up with something no one has ever thought of before. The hard part is actually executing the thing you've thought of.

The devil doesn't need an advocate. The brave need supporters, not critics."

THE GAP by Ira Glass from Daniel Sax on Vimeo.


Learning how to do, how to persevere.

This is something that so many of our learners need - and the space, the time to connect the dots. It may not necessarily happen in classrooms, but learning spaces do foster this learning process, this process of creative problem solving and new ways of perceiving the world around us. 

Steve Jobs on Creativity from Tim Goodspeed on Vimeo.

One educator who immediately springs to mind when I think of creative educators,  is Amy Burvall, well known for her  wonderful  productions in videos for History Teachers, her posts on Medium, and other platforms such as Tumblr

Inspiring and encouraging, Amy Burvall will be talking about the importance of creativity at work on Learning Now TV next week - so a great shout out to Amy for her amazing work and talent!

Strokes of Creativity: Education from FIELD on Vimeo.

Further Suggestions:

Mad for Metaphor: On Being a Porous Pedestrian 

Create a 21st Century Classroom

Creativity - a variety of posts and videos on Creativity


Colorful Iris

22 September 2016

Open Learning for ELT Teachers

I have always loved open landscapes. Landscapes which entice one, which give scope for the mind to wander,  wonder, lose oneself in worlds of possibilities.  The pleasure of openness for learning and re-learning, connecting and discovering. 

Autumn days are a wonderful time to wander,  discover and if not necessarily to lose oneself in open horizons, but to participate, learn and reflect on one's educational practices. Among the many options that are available to us today, there is one event that will be held this coming October, of special interest to ELT teachers. 

In October, The British Council is hosting the Teaching for Success online conference

As announced:

"With over 60 scheduled talks by speakers from around the world and panel discussions taking place between Wednesday 5 October and Sunday 9 October 2016, the Teaching for Success Online Conference promises to deliver a wide range of engaging and insightful presentations covering all aspects of professional development for teachers in all contexts. Talks on each of the five days will focus on distinct themes related to the different Professional Practices that make up the British Council’s new CPD framework for teachers and CPD framework for teacher educators."

A global conference, reflecting professional concerns and professional development globally. The conference schedule is already up and you will undoubtedly, come across many presenters who are well known in the ELT world.

Open learning in an open world. Open for students, open for educators.

What other open professional development events can you share/suggest this Autumn?

Why Open Education Matters from Blink Tower on Vimeo.

21 September 2016

Forms of Storytelling


It's so simple to ask students to be creative. 

It's so easy to offer them a choice of digital tools and let them get on with the task of production. 

Quite frankly, in my experience, it is anything but simple. Anything but easy. 

Not only do students need scaffolding, clear instructions, clear goals and monitored team management while doing their task (in this case, if pair or small group work),  they also need time to explore and play with a new tool or platform. Play? Yes. Both in terms of fiddling around, looking at how a tool/platform works as well as the element of playfulness. What creativity can exist without playfulness?

Playfulness brings me to stories and images - both can summon up wild imaginations and/or interesting perspectives in projects, in particular when presenting ideas to solve problems. 

Storyform is  for storytelling - an activity which learners enjoy, using their own worlds, their personal interests, their own views on a topic. 

Not all features of Storyform are free - however, with its ability to include text, image and video, it makes a great choice for students when they are working on a project. Whether the project is fuelled by imagination or related to a specific theme being covered in class, developing a story form to present students' research/inquiry process is an opportunity of creativity.

Another tool worth looking into, especially for its use of images, is Maptia.

Maptia may also be used as an inspirational springboard - images shared are so beautiful, that they will certainly encourage learners to add their own images to their stories.

Being creative is not something that can be snapped up in a sale,  found in a supermarket aisle, nor imposed. It's by giving learners the tools and time to explore, to practice, to develop and produce (as opposed to only consume) that their creative skills are developed.


What other tools/platforms can you recommend for creative projects and storytelling?

29 WAYS TO STAY CREATIVE from 1 minute 40 on Vimeo.

Further Suggestions:

12 September 2016

Apples and EdTech

Looking out and watching maturing apples fill my immediate horizon, I can't help but compare these apple trees to the developments and changes in EdTech. Digital tools and platforms have come and gone; others, starting off as "free" then end up charging the user. Fortunately for educators and learners, some remain both free and very much alive (e.g. Padlet, Edmodo). 

The EdTech tree also has other characteristics other than "fallen" tech (i.e. digital tools which no longer offer service). One can chose what one sees best for one's context - both in terms of one's learners' needs and learning context  - as well as teaching context (online, F2F, blended, subject, level). For each scenario, one needs to also take into consideration which digital device learners are using and how learners may use the tools.  For example, students of mine have not enjoyed using Glogster to create digital posters on their iPads as the screen was too small; they were much more productive and happier once they worked on their glogs with desktops. 

And sometimes, there are moments when paper and pen are needed as well. Just as moments of silence too is part of learning and doing, there are moments when the best apple is one of paper. With that in mind, Graphic Organisers are a great resource for teachers to share with their students. 

Graphic Organizer Maker offers different graphics which teachers can use in their classes, from Venn diagrams to Pros and Cons and Timelines.  These are simple graphics which help learners organise their thoughts before writing or developing a storyline before using a digital tool, for instance. 

The new academic year may have already begun in some parts of the world, and before one knows it, it will be time to re-focus on goals of achievement. WorksheetPlace has some interesting graphics on Goals - simple and clear for students. 

WorksheetPlace also has other worksheets worth looking into - Writing Worksheets to help budding writers as well as Grammar Worksheets and Maths and Science

Another activity which I regularly find of interest for students, is curation.   Wakelet is a recent curation tool which I stumbled across and a place where you can save and share your interests.  
Wakelet is free, shareable and includes a feature where curators can include their notes and decide whether their boards will be private or public. 

From Finland, yet another new EdTech product comes for educators to choose from. (Eliademy, for example, is a Finnish platform for educators as well). 

ClanEd  may be used for a curation/sharing space, but also offers other features to users, such as following other boards you may be interested in and inviting others to participate in a board you create.  For educators this holds special interest as they can create a board on a specific topic and invite their students to participate  and contribute to  it. Students (or any other participant on a board) can pose questions, comments, while the owner of the board can check for feedback and notes on a particular module. 

There is also a feed, through which the user can easily check up on boards they are following. ClanEd does offer more too - definitely an EdTech apple to bite into. 

Student digital portfolios are a corner stone for me as they are a personalised space of creations, developments and interests of the individual student. They are also more than mere  reflections "productions" - they are learning spaces, dynamic, personalised and evolving. 

Apples and EdTech in Autumn - 
a wonderful time to explore the apple tree of tools for learning. 

Tom Rosenthal | “Lead Me To You” - Official music video from annlinchao on Vimeo.

20 April 2016

Writing Bytes

Increasingly I find that creativity and learner autonomy are two of the most challenging skills to develop in education. Both are intrinsically connected with social environments which complement the educational scene. If, for instance, children are encouraged from a young age to solve problems rather than have a maid or someone else do things for them, it is no surprise then that the child will grow up with a more active attitude to problem solving, being creative and autonomous. Being autonomous includes a sense of responsibility and accountability -  neither which are simple to foster only in classrooms. These are characteristics which require a whole society to value and cultivate at home with children. 

 In learning cultures where repetition and regurgitation are still the norm, with the aim to achieve success in exams, it is even more challenging to then later ask learners to be creative in their learning. 

Attitudes towards creativity and learner autonomy, will of course, influence writing skills in language classrooms. Writing is hard. Full stop. Writing in a foreign language is even harder. However, writing is a skill that in no way is going to fade away, despite all the visual media we now have. 

For busy teachers, reaching out to inspirational writing activities to introduce in class, can be draining after months of teaching as well. It's at those moments when dipping into shared resources online really help. 

offers writing prompts and ideas which are both challenging and fun - and which don't require hours of outlining and agony to write a full blown essay.

which is useful for both K12 and even ELT/ESL.

Creativity, inspiration and the will to write don't come easily.

They require constant practice.

Rather than constant requests of long essays, writing in smaller bytes may be an encouraging approach to make students enjoy writing. 

How do you foster a more positive approach to writing in your classes?

Further Suggestions:

Creativity and Writing

A Writing Resource For Everyday of the Year

Writing Prompts, A Story Dice and Book Creator

60 Things Students Can Create To Demonstrate What They Know

Release Your Inhibitions - Writing Resources

Student Interactives - by READWRITETHINK - A rich source of inspirational activities to engage learners

Ma'agalim - Jane Bordeaux from Uri Lotan on Vimeo.

17 April 2016

Climate Change for Young Learners


If you live where I do, before opening your eyes, you will know that the morning sun will be shining bright and that wearing cottons will be perfectly comfortable for the day's weather. However, even in environments where there are few seasonal changes, there have been unexpected changes in weather patterns. 

Climate change is not something which concerns only one nation nor is it something that "someone else will fix".  Climate change, like so many other environmental issues is something which affects us all in varying degrees and stages.  

Climate Kids  is a great space to share with young learners when discussing our planet and the environment. 

There is a special section for different kinds of environments (air, ocean, weather and so on) and a big wheel which presents questions to get started: 

Climate Kids  also offers more - a selection of games, activities for learners to make and build, as well as more resources for teaching  . Information about different ecosystems are clearly explained, learners practice how to  
read and understand graphs
and can even play to test how much they know about to protect our environment. 
Climate Bingo!

There is a wealth of information and variety of activities for young learners here, including a Time Machine, which will certainly excite their imaginations and a game where they can test their skills in using alternative energies for lightening up a town. 

Change doesn't happen in a day nor month.

Creative thinking and problem solving doesn't occur in classrooms unless learners are given the opportunity to learn, to be curious, to be playful.

Raising awareness about the state of our planet and how it will affect their lives, is a necessary change to bring into classrooms.

If nothing else, climate change and protecting the planet,  a topic that demands real world problem solving, is an issue which connects us all. 


Further Suggestions:

A Breeze of Summer Green

Inquiry as Learning - An Environmental Example

Going Green

Earth Day Lessons - by Apple

Pinning Summer Projects

Summer may be young people's preferred dream time of happy classroom-less days, but for many teens, summer also spells out long weeks without being with school friends. 

So how can one fill up summer days without making the task too much like regular school work?

Pindex is similar to Pinterest, but designed for education. 

Once you request an invitation, you can start pinning games, images, videos, texts related to specific themes.

 For teachers this becomes a rich resource of shared materials; for learners, this becomes a simple way of creating a bank of materials on a topic they are interested in. Without any pressure of having to submit their pinning for a grade/mark, it becomes an exercise of personal curation, something they can add to their learning portfolio and share with others. Best of all, is a sense of creation - instead of merely surfing online aimlessly to kill time, they can actually be creating a board of their own interests to later present. 

What other summer projects do you share with learners?