17 October 2019

Sustainable Learning - Professional Development Autumn 2019

As the weather becomes chillier in the North, I have been (once again) reflecting on professional development and what courses to attend. As most educators well know, professional development is often expensive, teachers don't always get the necessary time off to attend a conference or course and free time for oneself is increasingly a luxury.  Yet, for those who do wish to continue learning, there are alternatives which are neither far flung nor pinch one's wallet to extreme. 

Created for learners and communities in the  Global South in particular, courses are designed by professionals from around the world. These courses may not necessarily be focused directly on educators and classrooms (e.g. how to teach X, Y, Z), but do offer peer learning communities, as well as different perspectives on important issues and sectors around the world. And, yes, there is a community for education!

Who knows what inspiration you may come to share with your learners and community. 


Storytelling, Podcasting and Making Music with Soundtrap


For anyone who happens to have stumbled across this space, it's no secret that as a teacher, I have always given learners time and tools for them to tell their stories. It's not only a question of giving learners "voice" - they have a voice already. Storytelling is involving, establishes empathy,  allowing the storyteller to captivate their audience. As for students' "voice", what better way to establish their voice in the learning process than with their own story and narrative?

Soundtrap offers a range of possibilities from recording music to podcasts to storytelling. And, as it is cloud-based, students can collaborate across classrooms and borders - and in real time. 

There is also a blog focusing on education and Soundtrap as well as lesson plans  and tutorials

The only thing which differs to most tools mentioned in this blog, is that
Soundtrap comes with a fee  ; however, many schools do have a budget for digital tools, so this could be one to offer to students and teachers. 

On another note, and despite the fact how teachers' personal budgets are increasingly squeezed and diminished (in regard to inflation in so many societies),  sometimes it is worth paying  in full for a digital tool.  In order to have customer support when necessary and for both teachers and learners to take full advantage of all the features a tool/platform offers, there often is a fee to pay. Hopefully too, this will make the tool/platform stay around longer in the webisphere as so often great tools tend to shut down (e.g. Making Movies and Vuvox )

What narratives will your learners be telling this Autumn?

Further Suggestions:

16 October 2019

Sketchboard and Other Web Boards for Collaboration

I love libraries. Whether old or contemporary, libraries are spaces filled with words and wonder. Today, modern libraries are more than only book lending spaces; they have become multimedia spaces to hang out either on your own or with friends, do research, catch up on the wide offer of printed magazines and publications, music and movies, and more. 

In a way, this blog has also become a personal library. As I have said before, blogging (for me) takes on different purposes at different times. Yet one purpose remains constant - it is a space where somehow I find the references and tools I need at different points in time. 

Perhaps owing to the whiteness of the skies which surround me or probably, and more precisely because of the needs of online teaching, today I want to make an entry on whiteboards which can be used for collaborative work with learner when teaching digitally. 

Here you can find some suggestions : 

While GDocs is great for collaborative work, the same essence of variety for teaching F2F is required when teaching online. That is one approach to why online whiteboards are a practical tool to use.

Witeboard is exactly what it says - a simple white board which supports both English and Japanese.

AWW is equally simple to use and you can then export your board either as an image or a PDF.

Conceptboard is really interesting for teams working across borders and also includes the offer of a free account (though without all the possible features as offered for business accounts).

Another collaborative whiteboard worth looking into, is Miro.  Miro seems particularly useful if working with colleagues and/or ESP students, for example, engineering students.  With Miro you can sign up and have 3 free editable boards, which is always helpful to get started.

Then there is:

Do you have any particular favourite web board?

Further Suggestions:

PixiClip - An Interactive Whiteboard

Digital Delights for Learners  - Web Boards

8 October 2019

News Literacy, Beliefs and Practices

Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

Days pass by in a torrent of streams of information telling me 
how to be more successful, 
how to be happier, 
to travel more, 
to travel less, 
to believe so and so, 
to distrust him and her, 
to be thinner, taller, younger,
more ambitious, 
to sleep more, 
to sleep less,
what to eat, 
what to dress, 
what to believe. 

Until drained by so much "advice", I seek refuge, away from the digital world. 

Seeking refuge from the digital world is only temporary; the 24 news cycle and marketing in various forms and formats follows one everywhere. Besides, how would I honestly live without the digital?

Which brings me to news literacy and learners - how to distinguish what is real and what is fake? What is real information and what is misinformation?

Dynamic Landscapes has list of resources which can be used for lessons, including a page of activities  which can be tailored to different levels of instruction and classes. 

You can also find resources for change and the need to read critically. 

Common Sense Media is a great source for lesson plans and ideas, and How to Spot Fake News (and Teach Kids to Be Media-Savvy) is another example of this exceptional resource for educators.

Another great lesson  also by Common Sense Media, is Real Fake News: Exploring Actual Examples of Newspaper Bias,
which as the title says, reflects on examples and the ethics of journalism (recommended for Grades 10-12), but can even be tailored for college students.

Depending on the age and level of your students, The 8 Best Fact-Checking Sites for Finding Unbiased Truth is an interesting source for them to research a news topic. Students can work in small groups and then present their findings to the whole class, recommending - or not - a certain fact checking site. Their final views can also be shared on a Padlet where the whole class participates with their findings and recommendations.

If an athlete participates in a race or sporting event, then he/she will definitely practice beforehand in order to perform at their best. By giving students time to work and discuss together in a safe environment, to challenge their beliefs and preconceptions (at times) their confidence in reading news and different media develops.

News, marketing, truths, non-truths.

How do you guide learners through this maze?

Further Suggestions

Fake It, Make It or Break It? - A Question of News Literacy

News and Media Literacy

Literacy - The News

Media Literacy and News in English

For Young People, News Is Mobile, Social, and Hard to Trust, Studies Find

How to Combat Fake News Online? Bring Reddit (and Other Online Forums) Into the Classroom.

What fake news is doing to digital literacy

Can digital literacy be deconstructed into learnable units?

Are we living in a post-truth era? Yes, but that’s because we’re a post-truth species.

The 8 Best Fact-Checking Sites for Finding Unbiased Truth


The camouflaged self was simply too beautiful not to include it in this blog post. Created by Cecilia Paredes, these are wonderful example of camouflaged self-portraits.

Camouflaged Self-Portraits Conceal Photographer Cecilia Paredes Against Bright Floral Patterns

You find out more about Cecilia Paredes here and here

Fake It, Make It or Break It? - A Question of News Literacy

Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

To be honest, I don't really see how there can be an end to online trolling. It's as if online trolling has become an endless portal of abuse which people would never engage in or tolerate off screen as it is found online. However, with the advent of a post-truth world and alternative facts,  guiding learners through the miasma of fake and misleading news is something that may be done and is another cornerstone of digital literacies and literacies in general. 

News literacy and media literacy is relevant at all levels - even for students who are going to study on post-graduate courses. An example which comes to mind is when post-graduate students claim that the protests happening in Hong Kong  are nothing more than "fake news". There is fake news, and plenty. But there is also news and many available sources to corroborate whether a news article is fake or not.  Discussing these issues and giving the opportunity for learners to explore and think critically in lessons is part of education today. 

The Newseum has a whole section dedicated to new literacy and media literacy. The NewseumED has media packs which include sources and lessons for teachers to choose from; an example is Filtering Out Fake News which includes a video and lesson plans. 

There are other topics as well which you can see here below: 

There are other topics as well which come with a lesson plan; for example 
Is This Story Share-Worthy?

Newseum has more to offer too - 

from Media Literacy  to lesson plans on historical events and digital artifacts, NewseumED is a rich resource for educators, easy to navigate and simple to find appropriate lessons and educational materials for learners from Grade 1 to to tertiary education. 

How do you teach learners news literacy?

Enriching Vocabulary

Photo by Matthew T Rader from Pexels

Lately I have been thinking about how to enrich and expand learners' vocabulary. Yes, there are different vocabulary games (e.g Take a Challenge, Accept a DarePlaying with Vocabulary , Learning VocabularyLearning Vocabulary ; these are but a couple of suggestions. If you use the search bar on the right hand side of this blog, you will be able to find many other suggestions for learning vocabulary). 

However, I have been thinking more on how to develop learners' constant use of cliches and over use of certain phrases and words - for instance, "a lot" springs to mind. 

Grammarcheck offers this infographic as an example which can be shared with students. Later, having gone through this infographic in any way you see most beneficial, students could work in small groups to create their own visual with expressions and vocabulary to substitute the endless, repetitive "a lot of" which so often drowns their ideas when they are writing. 

What other activities do you use to broaden learners' vocabulary?

3 October 2019

And Now? Now Comment!

Writing is not always students' favourite activity in classes and I often find that sometimes it is just more beneficial to set writing for an out of class activity. Why? Because learners find more head space to write when they focus on the topic and skill in their own time. Out of class can also be taking learners to a different learning space - the library, for instance, where they can (hopefully) sit where they would like to and get on with the writing task at hand. Libraries are usually wonderful places where students can dwell on words and worlds, while in quiet, gather their thoughts.

On a personal note, I also have a tendency to prefer writing tasks which learners share with each other - either peer reviewing a writing task, providing feedback to the writing topic as well as reading and responding to each others' written work. 

Now Comment is a versatile discussion space  which is great for both in and out of class writing activities. As it is designed for discussions, there is also a lot of reading involved in order to comment and add to the discussions. 

Below you can quickly see some of the key features that Now Comment includes:

It's free and simple to navigate, with a public collection as well as a rich help section which guides new users step by step. You can upload texts in different formats, including the possibility of including videos and images. And of course, as a teacher you have the space for your own library with your own group collections. 

With the feature of annotating as well as commenting on texts, images and videos in context, Now Comment is an engaging approach to reading and writing, as learners collaborate and discuss with each other through the platform. 

Further Suggestions: