22 October 2019

Podcasting for Learning

Photo by Anastasiya Gepp from Pexels

On a recent course I taught to a group of students who had come to study for their first time in Europe, I asked them to video record themselves for an out-of-class task. They were in their 20s and sensing their reluctance to use video, I then asked if a simple voice recording would be more acceptable. They all smiled in agreement. 

Voice tasks are great for learners, especially language learners in so many ways; often a short voice recording can be shared on a Padlet so that the whole class may listen and add their comments to the speaker's contribution.  It's a simple way for learners to continue engaged in their learning process when they also carry out short, simple tasks outside the classroom walls and in their own time. 

This a short post with a variety of tools which may be useful for podcasting or other tasks which may require voice recording. 

Made with Padlet

Do you have any favourite podcasting or voice recording tool?

Further Suggestions:


Collaborative Gaming with Stories

Teaming (or Taming?) Teens

Listening for ELT and Learner Autonomy

10 Tools for Developing Students’ Listening Skills

Listen Up, Book Lovers: 10 of the Best Podcasts for Bibliophiles

                                                                                               Photo by Raka Miftah from Pexels

21 October 2019

Identity/ies and Digital Wellbeing

Image by Simone Held

Who are you?
Where are you from?
What do you do?

Simple questions, perhaps.

For me, they are neither simple nor innocent. For my answer will immediately put me in box where I won't belong. 

Not that I refuse the "box", the label; just that they won't fit nor even be close to reality. 

Identity/identities are complex and have many layers. Which layer is the question looking for? Which answer would be the most simplistic (and therefore, most acceptable as it meets the expectation of who asks)? And will a simple reply meet the other's point of reference? Will there be understanding of points of references if they have not been shared? 

(image by MAi-128)
Identity, tribes and cultural appropriation has been a lot on my mind. I find that because people have the means to raise their complaints so easily and freely today, that so much has become a motive to rage about - using the word "tribe" becomes an outrage, cultural appropriation is shouted out and  thrown around randomly (often without a hint of accepting how globalisation has become ingrained around the world). Never mind that there are "tribes" who have lived and grown up around the world and hence carry with them reminders of those different cultures within themselves. A question of mobility - even before the mobile age. Besides, what ever happened to the remix?

Yes, there are clearly cases of cultural appropriation but as in most other cases in life, there needs to be a context and clear reasons for pointing that out. Not simply because one can so easily accuse  other of cultural appropriation (because of free digital platforms). 

Steve Wheeler has written a series of posts on Identity and Tribes  where he explains and discusses the variations on digital tribes and clans. Identity, whether as a scholar, an academic, educator, digital participant, is often reflected on and written about. Maha Bali points out how identity is something alive, ever-evolving, Identity as Evolving, Dynamic, Contextual #el30 and I include her talk with Stephen Downes here below:

Where does this lead me to in regard to students?

Allowing learners to reflect on their digital identity and digital tribes is part of their learning process. It is not frivolous nor in vain - it is connected to their digital profile/s and wellbeing.

The BBC has a project on Digital Wellbeing, which focuses on 14 core values:

All of these affect us all - and are especially relevant for learners who despite growing up digitally, still struggle with many of the consequences and implications of our digital world/s. As a resource for educators, there are cards with values and questions and a booklet,  which explains more about this project and how it focuses on wellbeing:

"The human values project has stripped it back to the core human level to understand what is
fundamentally important to people in life. Using a psychological framework, and being
informed by key models of human needs such as Schwartz[7], Maslow[1], and Deci and Ryan[8],
we have researched people at their core. In doing so, we provide the understanding of the
underlying needs and psychological drivers of the 16-34 year old audience."

Identity and wellbeing - a perpetual cycle of learning, un-learning, re-learning. 

A perpetual motion negotiated between the different worlds we inhabit. 

How do you approach wellbeing and identity in your classrooms?

Further Suggestions:

Mobile Learning 2019

Photo by Matheus Bertelli from Pexels

24 hour news cycle, digital devices regularly plugged in, eyes diverted, eyes on screens. Playgrounds with carers by the swings, not smiling at the child, but with eyes glued to screen. Dog walkers bumping into trees, while focused on their mobile screen. Yes, the pros and cons of constant digital mobility are visible to all and just anywhere where there is a signal to connect. 

Digital mobility also means choices when it comes to learning. I can play a game on the go, listen to a podcast, watch a video, collaborate while waiting for transport. These examples may not be my personal preferences but they are possible options - and many of our students engage regularly in these situations without second thoughts. 

Mobile trends in 2019? Take a look:

Mobile Learning Trends For 2019

Mobile Learning Trends For 2019

Some suggestions to develop mobile learning:

1. BYOD or Bring Your Own Device policy: Empower your learners to select the device they want to learn on and encourage learning "on-the-go."

2. Mobile first (responsive) approach: Opt for smartphone optimized designs and see the learner engagement and training impact soar.

3. Mobile learning for formal learning particularly in a microlearning format: Adopt microlearning-based training to facilitate the consumption of content "on-the-go" in short, snackable bites.

4. Mobile learning for informal learning, particularly in a microlearning format: Add job aids or performance support tool to support your formal training and encourage social learning.

5. Personalization: Provide relevant and relatable content to the learners (based on their interest or proficiency).

You can find more suggestions here

Further Suggestions:

Photo by Arun Thomas from Pexels

Converting Documents and URL

Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

So yes, there are plenty of times when I am stuck in a web of forgetfulness and cannot locate exactly what I need at a particular point in time. 

Ever find yourself in that murky space where there seems no light to be had?

As in between 24 hours there isn't a way for me to squeeze another hour or so into my days, a short post on my favourite converting tools - a humble way to turn on the light in an overloaded web. 

Zamzar though not new nor recent, continues to be one of my to-go sites for converting documents. 

Another of my favourites is LightPDF , which has a broad range of conversion tools, simple and quick to use. 

yet another conversion tool which is great to have at hand.

Another practical tool to have at hand, is an URL shortener. 

Yellkey Bitly is one option while Bitly and Tiny URL are two other options. 

Do you recommend any other go-to converting tool or URL shortener?

Further Suggestions:

Social Media, Internet Safety and Ethical Design

Photo by sebastiaan stam from Pexels

How much time do you usually spend on Social Media? 

How much time do your students spend on Social Media?

Social Media is not only a space/s for sharing and like-clicking; it's also a space for student collaboration and learning. It's become a keystone to creating, developing and maintaining a digital identity. And learners are participating in this world of social media at ever a younger age. That is why bringing internet safety discussion into the classroom continues to be as important as ever. 


Whether seeking privacy, a private world away from parents', guardians' and teachers' eyes, whether connecting or escaping day-to-day realities, our learners are definitely active on the web, being shaped and shaping the web day by day. There really is no excuse not to include digital literacies, digital safety and digital identity in the curriculum anymore. 

Equally relevant, is to reflect on ethics, on ethical design and the tasks ( and digital tools for that matter) teachers present to learners. 

This may have been created with devices, websites and social networks in mind, but may be applied to so much that teachers and students do in classrooms. Yet, when a feature of education is to prepare learners for life outside classrooms, when teachers strive to mirror real life (as opposed to classroom life) activities into lessons, reflecting on ethical design provides students with the opportunity to discuss what they would take into consideration when creating their own apps, websites, and how to manage their online identities. 

Further Suggestions:

Ethical Design - An infographic to download

How Social Media Shapes Our Identity

Ethical design is the answer to some of social media’s problems

How the Digital Age Is Affecting Students
Addicted to Apps

Ethical Design


Social Media Privacy Infographic

Digital Celebrations in February 2013

Internet Safety and Student Privacy

Games for Digital Safety

Internet Safety and Student Privacy

Photo by Burst from Pexels

"In higher education, we must work not only toward providing better security around student data but also toward educating students about the need to critically evaluate how their data is used and how to participate in shaping data privacy practices and policies."

How this may be  effectively carried out is another issue. In this paper, Caines and Glass present the following guidelines to ask students at Higher Ed:

"Your personal data is valuable and important, which is why it is often collected by the digital tools you use in your educational activities. To better understand how and why your data is collected, the potential risks of this collection, and how to better protect your personal data, consider asking yourself the following questions:
  • What types of personal data do you think are collected through your use of digital tools for educational activities?
  • What value does your personal data have for different contexts and entities? Consider how your data might be valued by your instructor, the institution, yourself, and companies.
  • Who owns your personal data, who can sell it, and who can use it?
  • Do you have concerns about how your personal data can be used? If so, what are they?
  • Are there aspects of your identity or life that you feel would put you in a place of special vulnerability if certain data were known about you or used against you?"
When our digital data is being surveilled, tracked and harvested, it is important to also teach younger learners about internet safety. It is not a question of keeping young learners sheltered in a make-believe bubble; rather, to give them the strategies to navigate their digital data as safely as possibly. 

20 October 2019

Cultural Empathy

Two women stirring their coffees on a sunny morning. Two women from different parts of the world. Two women, two different view points. 

"I always try to do my best.. we need to solve problems. "

"Yes, so do I."

"But, you know, I am not God. .... I am not perfect.  "

A shrug as she continues her thoughts.

"Besides, God is boring."

Without meaning to insult anyone or any belief in God, this snippet of conversation lead me to remember how empathy may grow and be fostered in classrooms. Two women from different cultures, thrown together through circumstances yet still seeking each other out for solutions and companionship. Seeking empathy for each other's circumstance.

In multi-lingual classrooms, for instance, there is an initial pause in the air at the start of a course - will the other students accept me? Will my peers include me? Even in monolingual classrooms this occurs at the beginning of a course.  Teachers as usual will begin a course with suitable ice-breakers and warm ups, weaving the beginning of students' classroom culture. Yet, is it enough when it comes to social empathy?

Despite using digital technology in lessons, I also do a lot of activities without edtech. Classrooms have become a space where learners need to learn how to collaborate comfortably with others; not only being able to listen to others and differing opinions but even being able to look into another's eyes - human eyes instead of a digital screen.  

With a world population in constant flux, with social changes and different social patterns emerging in all of our societies, focusing on empathy, on social empathy towards others who are perceived as different, should be part of our teaching practices. Respect towards other cultural groups who find themselves in foreign lands or  cultural groups who are struggling to maintain their identity and way of life in their own lands - all humans need empathy and respect.

Learning about other cultures, respecting their way of life and struggles to juggle 21st century changes on their lands and culture/s is also an integral part of empathy and our human environment. These are real people facing real problems often created many, many miles away from their homelands. 

Closer to home for many, and closer to our classrooms, here are some resources which are designed for fostering a stronger sense of community and empathy towards others.

Rigged  is a game designed for young people trying to graduate from highschool, which illustrates the different challenges secondary students face.

Teaching Tolerance focuses on diversity, equity and justice and offers a rich array of classroom resources for educators.

Florence is a lovely app (not free though) about love and life, directed especially at young people growing up, highlighting the need for compassion and understanding.

Put yourself in the Picture
by the British Council is wonderful lesson, targeting C1 level of English language learners.

CenterVention - Hall of Heroes, has a range of Free Social Emotional Learning Activities, aimed in particular at young learners.

How do you introduce social prejudice and raise social empathy in your classrooms?

Further Suggestions:

Games, Documentaries and Images for Empathy and Social Skills

Where Empathy and Tolerance Grow

The Art of Giving, the Craft of Thinking

Unwrapping Ethics - A Resource for Educators

Empathy: College students don't have as much as they used to


The technology of talk: How we can reclaim conversation

Rethinking U.S. History through an Indigenous Lens

Civic Online Reasoning

Facing History and Ourselves - People Make Choices. Choices Make History.

Teaching Empathy: It's More Than Fun and Games

40 Kindness Activities & Empathy Worksheets for Students and Adults

Four Strategies for Introducing Empathy in the Classroom

Lesson 2 - Developing empathy (Secondary Education)

A Quick-Guide To Teaching Empathy In The Classroom

We All Teach SEL: Empathy Activities and Tools for Students