26 October 2010

So What's It to You?

In our fast paced world, we sometimes need to step back, breathe and reflect. 

From Wordles to WallWisher, from blogs to glogs, from PhotoFun to Facebook, from Podomatic to Animoto - what does it all mean?

A shift in paradigms.

What does being a digital citizen mean to you?

Wishing Walls

Have you ever wondered what lies beyond a wall?

WallWisher is a cool tool that has been around since 2009. There are endless tasks and activities that both students and teachers can use WallWisher for. By clicking here, you will see just how easy and simple it is to create a wall.  Tom Barret has shared a collection of great uses for WallWisher on Scribd, and I am sure that you will find even more ways of using WallWisher creatively. Jeri Lang, for instance, suggests using WallWisher to share our favourite season or brainstorm ideas in preparation for a writing task. 

Make a wish - make a wall! 

Video art has become so popular today, that the  Guggenheim Foundation  has established awards for the many creative videos that are made around the world.

In celebration of the award winning video clips,  as well as of the creativty that we enjoy on a daily basis when browsing through You Tube and other video sites, I have created a wall to share with you.

All you need to do is click, create a sticky note, include your name, copy and paste your favourite video clip and remember to tell us why you chose it!

Are you ready to break down walls and discover what lies beyond the brick wall? Let's begin by sharing our favourite video clip!

24 October 2010

Making Movies and Vuvox

Scotland is famous for many things which we all know - from poets and to actors, from tartan kilts to green fields covered with heather, from shortbread biscuits to ancient castles. And of course, Edinburgh - the capital of Scotland and for a brief spell in the summer, also known as the world capital of culture when the Festival and Fringe come to town. 

When we tell stories, we can use  our voice to tell a story, the printed word,  images, or images and music - and even by adding a video clip.  You don't need to be a Hollywood director to make a short movie today - all you need is to try out one of the different  movie making tools available online.  These are some that you can choose from - Masher, Stupeflix, Animoto and Memoov

If you would rather experiment with slideshows first, there is Vuvox. As with other tools I have mentioned here, you need to sign up first before you begin creating your very own shows. With Vuvox, you can images, text, music and embed a video clip in your show.  I made a very simple sideshow with Vuvox- do you know the names of the musical instruments that the musicians are playing?

What movies will you be making soon?

22 October 2010

When Dreams Come True

Have you ever had a dream come true?

In the midst of our busy lives, I had a special visitor in my classroom this past week. Susan Bainbridge's new book has just been published and Susan kindly agreed to speak about her book to my students. 

Writing is never easy - whether writing in your own language or in a foreign language. Facing an empty white sheet can be quite intimidating. Frightening almost. 

Yet we all need to write for different purposes. Sometimes we write just to let loose all the magic that words, sentences and paragraphs can weave together. At other times, stories with twisting plots and intriguing characters beg to be let loose and take their own life on the printed page. One has no choice but to let them live their lives on the page and in the hands of the reader. 

Susan watched my own students write their very first digital book and then introduced her book "Hoarfrost and Cherry Blossoms", explaining what the title meant and how she wrote her story at the end of her busy days. 

Dreams take their time to come true; achieving your dream doesn't always happen over night - it may even take a couple of years! And when a dream comes true, there is only thing to do:

To Susan, many thanks for sharing your book, writing tips and inspiration with us.  We look forward to your next dream coming true!

21 October 2010

Seascapes and Photo Fun

Homework, assignments, quizzes, tests, exams - is there never any fun in learning??? 

Today, I would like to show you how you can have fun with images. You don't need to use a personal photo - any photo that you like will do. Or better still, any photo related to a topic or theme that you are writing about.  If, for example, you are thinking about travelling or history, why not consider this possibility here below? 

Remember, the choice is yours and for you to create fun, imaginative photos, all you need to do is to look into   PhotofuniaFunPhotoBoxFunnyWow, or  PhotoFaceFun

You will find a variety of different types of image settings where you can upload a photo and create a fun picture for your blogs or social networks. Keep in mind though, that what you put in your blog is public and so, should not be offensive to anyone who may read it. 

Have you ever thought about writing a book? Why not begin now?

Bookr is an awesome tool which allows you to create a book with photos and your own text.  You have the option of using Flickr photos which are shared through Creative Commons and adding them to your book. Best of all, you don't need to sign up and log in - simply choose a topic you are interested in, type the key word in the tag box, select the image that you want and write your text in the text box. At the end, you also have the option of adding more pages if you want to write more. You may email your book, embed it in your blog or include the URL of your book. 

Remember to edit your writing before saving your book and posting it on your blog!

Yes, seascapes are very much one of my favourite places. How about you? Do you have a favourite place or landscape?

18 October 2010

Reading, Writing and the Digital Learner

Digital learners are learners for life - not only learning for today's exams and courses, but learning skills for jobs in the future. Digital learners have more options open to them; they may belong to digital communities and express themselves with more autonomy than ever before. And, above all, digital learners are readers and writers.

Information is key but so is knowledge - knowing how to implement and use information in order to solve problems, propose solutions and capture their audience's attention with joy and creativity.

Learning, however, is often a spiral process. Sometimes we don't even realize that we have learnt something until the moment we actually do it. Doing is important to learning. Taking control of our own learning is equally important. Digital learners have a wealth of tools at their disposal - including free books which they can download under the auspice of Creative Commons.

One such book is WHODUNIT which you can download here.  Books such as these, as well as the wide variety of online tools, help us all to become autonomous learners, taking control of what, how  and where we learn best.

Another cool option is the  MeeGenius Library, where you can listen to stories as you roll over the mouse and then even write your own story.

Digital learners are also independent learners; reading, writing, taking advantage of their digital world to create, share and collaborate with each other. 

How do you feel about being a digital learner? How has blending digital learning in your every day learning process  changed the way you learn?

I leave you with this video clip which perhaps may inspire in your reflections and considerations.

17 October 2010

Telling Stories

From words to word clouds (see previous posts), words give us the power to tell stories. Stories can be factual, like in the daily news, or fictional, such as Ali Baba. 

The best of all stories, however, are our own stories. Everyone has stories in their lives. Some stories may be part of a country's or community's history, or simply our very own experience in life. Our stories may be from our daily encounters with others or stories we dream up in our minds. 

Stories are always magical; filled with lots of adjectives, verbs, nouns, their magic wraps the reader in a world apart. Sometimes though, we may get stuck with words. Perhaps we can't find the right word which expresses the right meaning or image we want to convey. Besides online dictionaries (which I have already mentioned in my first posting), there are other tools which come to our rescue for words - Wordia and wordnik. 

Both are free and both need you to sign up and then sign in. You may want to have a look and see which one you prefer. Wordia offers short video clips and games, while wordnik offers both a dictionary and thesaurus, as well as pronunciation practice. 

Here is an example of the word  LITERACY by Kate Humble in Wordia


wordnik offers further links to online dictionaries, a selection of photos,  as well as how to pronounce the word you looked up.

Literacy and recipe: important words for us - literacy makes our mind grow and develop while recipes...I am sure I don't need to remind you how memorable a delicious recipe can be!

And so back to words and story telling. Stories are wonderful to read and to listen to. Today everyone can share their favourite stories by publishing them on their blogs or posting a recording with the aid of Audacity or Podomatic. Why not explore Storybird and share a story?

How important are stories to you? Do you have a special story you would like to share?



Every country and culture has their favourite heroes throughout history. Whether a general, a warrior, or even a king or queen, heroes are all relevant to our personal stories and  histories.
Heroes are not only great warriors or generals though; we also find "heroes" in the arts, in the sciences and in sports.

But...what about in education? If you listen carefully to The Parlotones, (a South African band who sings the song below), there are similarities with students, teachers and everyone working together in educational institutions - all working together to help students achieve their goals and dreams; to students, let me repeat what The Parlotones sing - "dreams lift you up and drive you on"! 


Because in our daily quest in education we have successes and moments of less success, to both students and teachers,  "we'll take the lows and cheer the highs!" - and together with patience and perseverance,
may you all remember that you too are a hero achieving new skills,  discovering new fields of knowledge and sharing your dreams with others.

How will you be a hero today?

Why Blog?

Students sometimes ask me why blogs are such a big deal and why they are asked to write their own blog. Well, people all over the world blog for different reasons. One common reason, however, is to be part of a community,  to share and collaborate.

Below I enclose a short video which offers some other explanations as to why blogs are so relevant in our 21st century:

Wordle: Why Blog?

Why do you blog? How can blogging help you in the future?

13 October 2010

Clouds in my World

letter w letter O hangman tile blue letter R Caslon metal type letter D
C letter L letter O u20 IMG_5592_2

In my first entry I mentioned how important words are when we begin learning a language.  In my experience of learning different languages, words are what I want to know first - and of course, some polite phrases such as Thank you! Good Morning! Please!

ImageChef.com - Custom comment codes for MySpace, Hi5, Friendster and more One easy tool to make word clouds is Wordle, which many of you have already seen and included in our class wikis and in your own blogs. You may also have noticed that I sometimes use Image Chef to create short animations with words.  Again, you need to register for an account, check your email, activate your account and remember your password! It's a fun site where you can create different kinds of short messages with words which you can embed in your blog or social network. 

Today I would like to share with you another tool  which makes wonderful word clouds - Tagxedo. You can make different sizes of thumbnails and pictures which you can then share.  I enclose two examples of a word cloud.  On the right, I typed in a short paragraph; do you know from where I cut and pasted the text in the Tagxedo below?

What words will you choose to make an awesome Tagxedo?

12 October 2010

Search Engines

From words to sentences, from sentences to paragraphs, from paragraphs to essays. Writing is something that all students need to do. Sometimes we have our own ideas and sometimes we need to do research on a topic. Whether we are to use our own ideas or research a topic, there are online tools which help us.

One of these tools is eyePlorer. It is a visual map (or eye) which may help us brainstorm ideas or research a topic. Nik Peachey has made a short video with an example of how to use eyePlorer, which I enclose here:

As with other available online tools, you need to register, check your email, activate the link and then remember your password and login for whenever you want to use eyePlorer

You don't like using maps? Google search lists are endless? Not a problem - try using RedZ, which will give you another different layout to your searches. All you need to do is type in what you are looking for, let the RedZ zebra search and then see whether there is any site which may answer your question.

Another search engine which I will leave you with today is Tag Galaxy

Tag Galaxy is a search engine which collects photographs around a certain theme - which may be a country or region but also other  topics, such as energies, health, or education.

As you can see, I first typed Middle East in the box on the home page (Tag Galaxy) which brought up a page with revolving planets and different topics related to the Middle East. By clicking on a planet, you can then search for more specific topics within a theme. In my example, I clicked on the planet desert and will now share with  you with some beautiful desert landscapes.  Do you recognize any of the locations in the planet below?

What will you do with eyePlorer, Redz and Tag Galaxy?

Sharing Slides

 It is not easy for me to say which is my favourite flower as I find all flowers a gift from Nature. However, I do admit that I have a fondness for poppies - they are delicate, bright, and are found in many places around the world. You can find poppies in fields, in clusters or even single poppies by a sidewalk in a busy city. Poppies are like ideas: you never know when or where you will have a bright idea!

Next time you make a Powerpoint slide show, why not upload your slides to Slideshare and embed your Powerpoint presentations to your blogs. It's a great way to share your work, your bright ideas and creativity. 

Are you ready to begin sharing?

11 October 2010

Shift DOES Happen

Shift Happens is a well known video based on Karl Fisch's presentation on education. During these first weeks of this academic year, I have also seen the shifts and changes among my students. 

One of the most striking changes is how comfortable they are becoming with using technology in their classrooms and for their learning tasks.

This is not surprising as young people today use more digital technology than ever before. 
I invite you to watch this video from New Brunswick (Canada) and hope that it may continue to inspire you whenever you think of education and change. Yes, shift does happen!

Grooveshark Widgets - Music Playlists for Your MySpace & Blog

 This is one of my playlists on Grooveshark.

Grooveshark Widgets - Music Playlists for Your MySpace & Blog
I look forward to listening to your playlists.

In the Groove

ImageChef Word Mosaic - ImageChef.com 
 All over the world people enjoy listening to music. Every country has its own traditional music and of course, with our globalized lives today, we all listen to many different kinds of music from different parts of the world.

Do you have a favourite singer or band that you enjoy listening to? Why don't you share with us your favourite tunes by creating a mini-player with Grooveshark?

Grooveshark allows you to select and download many popular songs and more - you may create your very own personal playlist to share with others.

After you select your songs, follow the steps below as shown in the screenshots:

1. Click on Options and choose Share:

2. A new window will pop up and click on export:

3. You then have the option of either mirroring your changes of songs or just copying the songs of this particular playlist. When you scroll down, your playlist will appear on the left:

4. All that you now need to do is follow the instructions and you will have the code of your playlist widget to embed in your blog, webpage or social network. You may also add the link as I will next.

Lastly, if you share your playlist, perhaps you would also like to tell us where you enjoy listening to music (in the car? in your room? in the garden?).

5 October 2010

Homework??? Again???

How many teachers set homework for you? And how do you feel when you hear the word "homework"? Yet again and again? Day after day, week after week?

Doing homework is not as much  fun as going to the mall or spending time with friends but it is part of a student's academic life. So, why do teachers insist on setting homework? Well, mostly to give students a chance to work through daily revisions, to attempt new tasks on their own and to give them a time to learn what they feel they still need to improve. 

Although most students would prefer not to have homework, 
the fact is that we all need to revise what we did in our lessons. Sometimes we want to try out new tasks for which there was not enough time to do in class. Other times, we just need to revise and improve our knowledge of a certain subject or task. 

 Students today also have choices. They
don't only  do homework which was assigned from their course books; students today collaborate on projects together using interactive web tools, they may add entries to their blogs, and use their creativity as never before. 

So, my question to you today is, how do you use your talents and creativity when doing homework?

I also enclose a video with different attitudes towards homework.  Are you like Lucy, Charlie Brown, Shroeder or Linus?

Do you have a special place where you do your homework? Share your thoughts on doing homework - even if you think that homework should be scrapped!