18 September 2018

Digital Sticky Notes

If teachers often ask learners to work in small groups or pairs, isn't it expected that teachers themselves are able to collaborate among themselves as well? Sharing ideas and resources with digital sticky notes is one way to collaborate and get things done throughout busy schedules. 

One of my favourite collaboration tools is Padlet, which is no longer free to use regularly (there are different plans though and it's worth looking into them). The reason I like digital boards is that they are simple and efficient to create and share - not to mention how practical it is to share with learners and colleagues. There are some other alternatives to Padlet which I'll mention here in this post. 

Pinup and Notely are similar with their boards having a cork background. Pinup does however, offer a group chat box at the bottom right of the screen, which may be of interest to participants of the board. 

Pinup.com Introduction from Wayne Bond on Vimeo.

And then there is StormBoard, which offers different ways to collaborate, including in realtime. StormBoard offers different templates for the boards, depending on the purpose of collaboration (e.g. problem solving ), including board templates for education.

There is a range of prices (including one free board for a small team) as well as a blog with ideas on how to use sticky notes for improved productivity.

Further Suggestions:

Brainstorming and Collaborating

Trello  - Work Collaboratively

Tricider  - Collect Ideas and Vote

Sticky Note Generator

Conserving Sounds - An Online Museum

In a world changing so quickly, it is worth taking time to stop, to think back and remember. Cityscapes and landscapes change, habits change, teaching approaches change. So much of these changes have happened quickly; others have been more gradual; both provoking the recent past to slip into memories or oblivion. 

What sounds do you remember of your childhood? What sounds do you remember falling asleep to? What sounds do you remember in kitchens and around the home?

Storytelling helps us to detangle the present, to make sense of contemporary life. Storytelling also looks back into the past, whether recent pasts or mythical. Narratives emerge to give meaning to events but most of all, to make sense of where one finds him/herself at a certain point in time.  With visuals, words and sounds - all this too is learning. 

A beautiful project for narratives is  

Conserve the Sound is an online museum for sounds which used to be part of our daily lives and have either vanished or are in the process of disappearing altogether.  By clicking on different items, you can hear the sound it makes. There are also interviews and videos, which further enrich this online museum. 


 There are many different kinds of activities educators can introduce to learners by visiting this online museum - including asking learners to contribute to their own class sound museum.

Sustainability is usually related to keeping the environment healthy,  fighting poverty, to food supplies and so on. In terms of narratives, developing and maintaining  an online museum may also be another aspect of sustainability at a different level,  i.e. sustaining elements which have been embedded in our lives but no longer are being used. 

They are part of what defines us.

They were stepping stones of change.

Further Suggestions:

Supporting Sustainable Development

Free Sound for Educators and Learners

Creativity, Global Issues and the English Language Classroom

14 September 2018

Digital Bibliographies and Citations

For learners beginning to do research (or even for those who already have experience), managing bibliography lists can be challenging. There are different styles as well as including websites and online publications.  Every institution will have its preference, whether that may be Harvard style , APA or MLA and students need to write their bibliographies and citations in that particular style.

Below are some suggestions for creating and managing digital references - some are more individual,  while others also allow for collaboration.  As with any other tool, it is up to the individual  to choose which one will be most useful in his/her context. 

Made with Padlet

Citations for Beginners from Imagine Easy Solutions on Vimeo.
Citations for Beginners from Imagine Easy Solutions on Vimeo.

What other tools do you suggest to share with learners?

11 September 2018

Writing - Reflections and Narratives

unsplash-logoClem Onojeghuo

Time and time again, I face learners who struggle with the challenge of writing. Often, they are writing in a second or third language. Often, they have not had the academic training or practice of writing well in their first language and then often enough, feel insecure when it is necessary to write in English.  For any educator who teachers a second/foreign language, this scenario will quite likely be familiar. 

Nevertheless, writing continues to be an important skill, both in academic and professional environments. Increasingly, reflective writing is taking a more visible role in the learning process - not only requiring learners to keep a learning journal, but for learners to think critically about their learning process.  Again, this is not necessarily new, even though the role of reflection is now being more widespread and becoming common practice in many educational settings. 

As Nigel Coutts points out, 

"Our students require now, as perhaps they have for a long time, skills and dispositions which will allow them to find and solve problems, deal with complexity and ambiguity and communicate their ideas with clarity. Knowledge may not have the value and power that it once did in times before Google, but being devoid of knowledge is a state of being no-one would argue for. Skills or knowledge alone have little real world value. Intelligence is being able to use what you know in new ways and to solve new problems. "

One of these skills is, writing. Writing helps one to reflect and to clarify ideas which may otherwise be transient and consequently lost to the learner. Writing helps one to make sense of our experiences, our learning and how one can best relate the learning experience to the world outside the classroom.  In many ways, the act of writing, of reflecting, is learning by doing - something all learners need to have experience of. 

Below are 2 videos which help learners to understand the reasons for reflective writing,
based,  as many may be familiar  with, the Gibbs reflection cycle. 

As for writing for pleasure, for discovery and letting one's imagination run loose, and creating one's own fictional narratives, there is Edward - .
Write your First Novel

For budding authors or simply for learners who wish to write, Edward - Write your First Novel  is a great place to start.

Lastly, I'd like to thank Nik Peachey with whom I first learnt about Edward - Write Your First Novel. 

unsplash-logoKaeyla McGee

How will you be encouraging writing this academic year?

What narrative writings will your learners experiment with?

Further Suggestions:

Debating false dichotomies: a new front in the education wars - Nigel Coutts

The Trick Question

Reflecting Learning on Teacher Training Courses

Do You Imagine?

30 August 2018

Sifting through Words

Guiding learners through the steps of carrying out research is never simple. Approaches need to be engaging, meaningful and above all, clear to students. 

One approach to encouraging learners  how to do  research  is by using WordSift.

WordSift creates word clouds but also does a lot more. It creates connections between concepts and words, as well as offers a suggestion of images and videos for students to continue exploring a particular topic. 

Here is an example with "Culture Shock":

Students can also type in (or paste) a small chunk of text and get further results/suggestions on the theme or topic. Below, is an example taken from What Is Sustainability and Why Is It Important?

WordSift gives learners the opportunity to interact with vocabulary in an engaging and playful way - as well as helping EAP students with initial research practices. 

In some ways, there is a lingering perception that EAP must be dry, serious and "academic". After all, EAP focuses primarily on academic learning skills. However, learners still need to be supported and encouraged to undertake projects and manage their own learning - what better than adding some digital playfulness which opens up doors to learning?

What other tools have you been using to encourage vocabulary learning and doing research?

Dolly Said No To Elvis (official music video) from Heather Colbert on Vimeo.

Further Suggestions:

22 August 2018

Reading with Iris

How to encourage reluctant learners to read and do research?

Iris.ai  comes to the rescue with it's user friendly search and suggestions for scientific research. 

Students need to sign up (free), there is a an exploration section as well as a training section (for both scientific papers and TED talks ), while navigation is easy for all. 

Below is an example:

After clicking on, for example, "liver", a number of suggested articles will appear for the reader. 

Iris.ai will also provide suggestions for reading/research, from topics such as architecture to contemporary issues regarding refugees. 

With other features based on AI, Iris.ai is definitely a great source for reading and learning how topics connect with the aid of AI. 

Further Suggestions:

News in Levels - World News for Students of English

21 August 2018

Frameworks for Digital Education Practices

Finding balance. 

Finding the balance between worlds of digital knowledge, digital sharing and the analogue, the IRL where days unwind and wrap us with urgencies, duties and pleasures. 

For many educators, finding a balance between teaching with digital tools and reams of paper is still a challenge - not to mention all kinds of questions which arise when engaging with the digital for educational purposes. 

Here below you can find references for digital frameworks for educational practices, which hopefully may shine some light and lightness on implementing digital practices in education:

Made with Padlet