23 March 2013

Creative Movements

Pictured is "Empty Quarter Collage" by Ana Cristina Pratas. 
It's Day 21 of the "Crowdsourcing 30 Days of Creativity Tools" project! 
This is a guest post by one of my favorite curators on Twitter, Ana Cristina Pratas,@AnaCristinaPrts, an award-winning educator with a passion for knowledge-sharing. A great curator is a great teacher. A great curator uses a finely tuned sensitivity to ideas to make connections. In this beautiful post, Ana shares some favorite tools and introduces you to the world of "Creative Movements." 
My world. Sounds and visions from the sands, hyperlinked across digital bytes and open frontiers.
In my world, there is no secret to the key of inspiration – I drive through streams of thoughts, dunes with questions, endless blue skies.  With rolled down window, a warm breeze and music playing, I am transported through the dunes, open to creative plots which I wish to surprise others with. Each surprise I weave and share, becomes a gift to others, for them to create, for them to find their creative expression with music, text and visuals. 
It is when I am driving that inspiration is unleashed within me. For those who may know a little bit about me, this may come as a surprise, for wouldn’t inspiration come from being online?
Not always, not necessarily.
It is when one is off-line, away from the flickering screen, the clackering of voices and digital clutter that scream for one’s attention that my mind wanders most freely. Together with the natural silence and sweeps of sands, drifting music, my body in harmony with hot metal, my mind lingers in creative movement.
Two tools I enjoy using in my classrooms are both simple and pleasing.  PhotoPeach andVuvox are both easy to use, creating a different kind of presentation, one with movement and sound. Much more involving than a regular PowerPoint presentation, my students use these two free tools to develop and create digital stories. Digital elements of web literacy and digital literacy are part of today’s education. Story-telling has always been part of learning and living.
My world is based on oral traditions. Stories of genies, of women who loved far too much, of heroes who defended oases and homes.  In every world I participated in, there were stories. Stories by the fireplace, stories by the rolling waves, stories among rice paddies. For what else does one travel in life with, if there is no story to tell?
Story-telling is part of what makes one human. Story-telling involves one, begging for individualization, for drama, for lights and action! There are characters to meet, voices to listen to.
By asking others to create digital stories, one is empowering their voices, acknowledging their imagination and abilities to communicate with an audience. It is by opening doors and minds, fostering creativity and identity, that young people may achieve the voice within themselves.
And so I return to travels and dunes. This is not meant to be a lesson nor even less, a gospel of truth. A reflection from the open skies, where I constantly endeavor embedding education with creative movements.

Ana Cristina Pratas is an educator in the UAE who shares tools and resources through her scoop.it collections which to date have garnered almost 370,000 views! On her resource-rich website, CristinaSkyBox, Ana has specific sections for EducatorsTools, and Curation
From Ana: "I have been teaching EAP/ESP for over 20 years now, in a a variety of settings, from Universities and Colleges, to Financial companies and Industry. I currently teach in the Middle East and one of my main interests is to encourage learner autonomy, creativity and critical thinking skills through the use of technology."


Re-blogged with kind permission from blogbrevity's posterous - 21 Days of Creativity Tools, September 2012, a blogging project initiated by Angela Dunn

22 March 2013

Your World is Open - Why Wait?

I often hear how educators struggle with time to keep up-to-date with todays educational trends and technology. It goes without saying that implementing change in institutions without training support is pointless and that all professional training has to bear in mind teachers' most immediate needs. 

However, often one may find that the training provided does not quite meet one's needs or interests. What then? Again, there is no excuse today for our world is open. There are so many ways to keep one's professional skills and interests up-to-date and here are some suggestions to explore. 

Let's begin with Xperts, a search engine for resources. Simple to use and which takes you exactly to where you need. Podcasts, science or humanities are all there at a click of a button. 
Other search engines of interest are Free Learning,  schoolr, and zyndle, which searches for PDFs.

Remember to explore Open Content as well and let yourself be surprised at what you can find!

Among the many open resources available to educators, Annenberg Learner  and Open Tapestry are two great places to look for content, ideas and open resources to explore and use. 

Free Resources for Educational Excellence is yet another source for open materials, ranging from animations and videos to documents and images, all neatly displayed by theme and topic. 

From the Commonwealth of Learning MIT's Open Courseware, educators are almost spoilt with the choices they have today.  These sites are not only for the developing world, but for all to use and re-use. 

There is also the Open Learn and other institutions' open resources - if one choose to look them up. 

Bloggers such as Nik Peachey, Russell Stannard and Nicky Hockly (to name just a few) have been publishing teaching ideas and how-to-do for years; Ann Foreman who manages the award winning Facebook page Teaching English, has no time to rest with the constant liveliness that it receives.  Here you can find other educators who I follow, learn with and highly recommend. Yet, even so, those are a mere glimpse of a window where there are so many educators sharing and debating ideas. 

My world is open.

Your world is open. 

What are you waiting for?


For further information regarding Open Educational Resources, see here

20 March 2013

Teachers, Classrooms and Digital Tech

Close your eyes. 

Go back to the classroom and think of your teachers. 

What images rise to the surface?

Teachers today share many images, many styles, many approaches. One common bond is their dedication to their students and the world of education. Another increasing bond, is their exploration and use of digital technology in the classroom. Whether with web tools or apps, many teachers are breaking traditional images of the dusty classroom teacher with powder chalk and ink stained fingers. Increasingly, it is these teachers who are paving the future of our youth, of nations, despite all odds and obstacles. Creative uses of digital technology are being implemented, often without any recognition of teachers' efforts and dedication to prepare learners for their todays and tomorrows.

If the internet has opened windows of life beyond one's immediate surroundings, educators strive to light the fire of learning and passion for knowledge and understanding with their novel uses of technology. 

How about you? 

How do you feel about introducing digital tech in your classroom?

 What do we Know Infographic 
 (Courtesy of Online Universities.com)

Did You Know?

Little houses all in a row.
Little houses all quiet from the outside.
Shutters closed. Dim lights outlining hunched backs.

What is happening behind those closed doors?

The opening of other windows, other doors, other worlds.

Photo by Pixabay from Pexels
Flickering screens and active fingers. 

If one bears in mind how much data is being put on the internet, one also has to remember that students are quite likely active participants of what happens in one minute on the internet. It doesn't take much to realize how many posts to YouTube are uploaded by teens; how many fashion blogs are written by young people, how many learning games and resources there are for education. 

Education is not the ability to remember and repeat; education is not intellectual conformation. Yes, schools do play a crucial role in moulding their future citizens. However, learning does not stop at the school gate or library door any longer. There are endless windows of learning freely available. Intellectual curiosity and development does happen. Theoretical learning only will not advance nations. 

Learning, unlearning and re-learning are essential qualities for with today's pace of technological change, the flow of innovation is constant. Students need to be prepared to handle these changes. Despite this blog being mostly about digital tools which may be introduced in the classroom, it is not the tool itself which is worth considering, but what that tool may enable. Critical thinking, decision making, refining digital literacy skills. These features add to the ability of intellectual flexibility and learning. 

In regard to educators, there too is no lack of resources for innovation and pedagogical support. One particular site I'd like to highlight is The Best of Bilash - Improving Second Language Education. Although it may appear that it is only for second language education, there is in fact, much that may be applied to other fields of learning and pedagogy as well. 

We cannot continue pretending that the internet does not exist. 

We no longer live in the pre-digital age. 

Mobility and connectivity have opened all doors and windows on that quiet row of houses. 


33 Digital Skills Every 21st Teacher Should Have

Mobile Learning: We Cannot Continue to Live in the Pre-Digital Era

What Happens Each Minute on the Internet


If you would like to read more about education and other pedagogical tools and trends, you will find many current points of views and articles in the sites below:

CristinaSkyBox TumbleBlog

Digital Delights - Connecting Online Education

Digital Delights - Digital Tribes

Voices in the Feminine - Female Voices Around the Web

17 March 2013

How Do You Tell Stories?

Where is this? Who is he? Guard, poet of the land, keeper of the castle, warrior before the final battle? 

And those pots? What secrets do they bring? Recipes, jewels, foods from afar?

Sunset and fires, sands and winds. 

Who do they all belong to?

To you.

To me. 

I have always loved stories, so it is no surprise that throughout my teaching years I have shared this with learners. Everyone has stories to tell, just as everyone enjoys hearing stories about the far and distant, the close and mundane. 

Stories connect us. 

Stories make and define us. 

We are our stories.  

From visual prompts, to a wealth of digital sites to choose from,  to apps which help create visual stories, from chalkboards to sitting on the floor in a circle, there is no excuse not to practice storytelling in classrooms.  Fotobabbles, timelines, images with captions, newspaper clippings, wishing boards (either analogue or digital)  - the options are endless!

Begin by asking your students to take a picture of their favourite space when they are at school/college and let yourself be taken away with their stories. 

How do you best like telling stories?

Further reference:

Tellagami - an App for short stories

UTellStory - sharing stories with images and video

9 March 2013

A Wall of Magazines

In my previous post, I highlighted some suggestions to create a class newspaper. Here below you can find a wall of magazines, or rather, further suggestions to create an individual or class magazine.

I've also included some recent blogging platforms as alternatives. 

What other digital tools would you suggest for creating a magazine? 

Please feel welcome to add your choices to this wall with a comment below! 

Made with Padlet

Further Suggestions:

These are suggestions to create magazine images:



For more images and effects, see Digital Delights - Images & Design

A Newspaper Stand for Learners

Some say that life is a box of chocolates, as you never know what you may find. Others, liken life to a box of drawers, as it takes courage to open a drawer, never knowing what may in it. 

Which brings me to magazines and newspapers - one looks at the cover, but never knows exactly what will be in them.   It is with these saying in mind, that I consider writing for a class newspaper great fun for learners. Writing for a school newspaper/magazine is not new and has been done for years. Here are some tools which may add a digital slant and ease to both teachers and learners for their class or school newspaper. 

Make A Classroom Newspaper offers guidelines, templates and ideas for students when they are preparing to write their articles. You can also find quizzes about newspaper, for example, Newspaper Comprehension Quiz  or choose a cloze activity with journalistic vocabulary. For either L1 or L2 speakers, there is plenty to choose from and activities for everyone. 

Newsmania (requires flash) is a game to start off learners thinking about being reporters, with a focus on general knowledge. There are 3 levels to play and would definitely be fun for a class divided into 2 teams to play. 

A follow on activity would be to have students create a similar type of quiz on the topic they are studying or about their own country - who would know more? 

Biography Book Reports is another way to create newspapers - instead of traditional book reports, students can write up their book reports but in a newspaper format.  In addition to newspaper templates, there are writing tips and rubrics - always a help for busy teachers. 

Auryn is giving away free apps this month in support of National Reading Month, so keep eyes open for lots of reading apps.

Mostly for young readers, you can find the  daily announcement on Facebook or Twitter. Below are the titles and when they will be offered:

Editable PowerPoint Templates  lets you choose from a range of newspaper templates in powerpoint format. They can then be easily embedded in a student's blog or class-newspaper. 

From Newspaper Template, another wealth of templates is offered, from sports publications to school templates. 

How do create newspapers in your classroom?

Further Suggestions:

All You Can Read - US Magazines and Newspapers

Printing Press - Create a newspaper, brochure or flyer

Tiny Letter - See who reads your newspaper and reply

Extranewspapers (templates for Word)

The Newspaper Clipping Generator

Newspaper Club - make and print your own newspaper

Rag Linen -Curated and published by  Todd Andrlik, who has built one of the most significant and comprehensive private collections of Revolutionary War era newspapers.

Newspaper Map

Biography Book Report: Fun Newspaper Projects

6 March 2013

You, Me, and Others - Bullying in the Playground

There has always been the play-ground bully, just as there has always that certain teacher who bullied both students and colleagues. Those individuals still exist everywhere. In some places, professional harassment goes undercover, silenced, secret and illegal. Playground bullying, however, has moved on to a wider and more dangerous stage. 

Recently, many have  referred  to the moving video by Shane Koyczan:

I would also like to highlight To This Day - a project started by Shane Koyczan and to which so many in education and other fields, could and should participate in.

To This Day from To This Day on Vimeo.

For it is not only on the school playground - bullying continues in adults' lives and among the youth, has found its space online. Silent. Secret. Public shame.

No matter what one has done or not, no matter what religion, skin colour, gender choice, no one deserves to suffer bullying in silence, shame and in extreme isolation, take suicide as the only alternative. 

Raising awareness in classrooms, playgrounds, staffrooms, is the obligation of all educators. Whether on the playground or online, learners need to know that they are not alone, that there is always someone there to listen and help. And keeping silent is not the solution. 

Take time to raise awareness. Take time to prevent, and maybe, even stop the bullying.

Further References:

Cyber-bullying and Learning

Another Dimension of Digital Literacies

Bullying Words Can Kill 

Fighting Cyberbullying in the Classroom

Kids Helping Kids - George Couros

School Bullying: Kids React (video)

Survey: 41% of Teens Experience Cyber-Bullying on their Cellies

The New Bullying


Teachers' Essential Guide to Cyberbullying Prevention

Tips and Resources to Prevent Cyberbullying

3 March 2013

A Homage to Girls, to Women, to All


Words that once were the epitome of what a girl should be. In many places still today, girls are expected to live in the shadows, accepting hard labour and harsh treatment. 

Nevertheless, times have changed and aspirations, dreams, goals for girls as well. 8th March celebrates International Women's Day.

I would like to briefly wish all a happy day, a successful day - for it is not only women and girls who should bear the day in mind: brothers, husbands, fathers too. Both genders make up life and our world, both genders help the other. Simple truth but one too often forgotten. 

More than equality and respect, my wishes extend everywhere where women must still travel long distances to collect water, where women breathe abuse in silence, where girls are denied an education; to all I wish a swift end - if a girl is not educated, if a girl is not healthy, how can she and her children contribute to a peaceful, thriving economic society?

Change may come slow, change may take time. Change also needs support and a will to change, a will to contribute, a will to help.

How smart are you?


App - Women of the World (Free)

Fotopedia Magazine - Women of the World 

March into Women's History Month

The Reconstructionists - A celebration of remarkable women and more

2 March 2013

Healthy Eating in Spring

In my part of the world, days are balmy, bringing memories of green fields, blooming orchards, and scents of Spring. Many of these memories belong to another continent, where people still plough the land, living off what they reap. There will be seasons of abundance and seasons of lack; crops which blossom in their native soil and land erosion when outsiders demand planting seeds which are foreign and harmful to the land. 

In other parts of the world, Spring reminds people to start exercising, before they stretch themselves on beaches and by the pool. Diets are rushed in, miracles demanded.

One may still believe in tooth-faries but miracles are far apart as one grows up. 

Good nutrition is vital for all, especially for those who are growing, for they will teach the following generation of the benefits of keeping a healthy, balanced diet. 

As fast food chains multiply at a terrifying rate around the world, it is urgent that a spotlight on nutrition is introduced in the classroom. And what better time than Spring?

Nourish Interactive  is a great place to start. There are printables for young learners on food labels and healthy habits, as well as games. You can also find posters and other tips and guidelines on healthy eating. 

Additionally, younger leaners can play the Food Label game, while older learners can challenge themselves by considering calories.  

At Nutrition Explorations (connected to Fuel Up to Play 60) you can find Educational Resources related to Nutrition, such as, Breakfast in the Classroom, with the focus on children learning how essential a good healthy breakfast is for their start of their day. 

Even if a teacher does not want/cannot carry out the activities in his/her context, having a lesson around the importance of why and how a healthy breakfast is good for everyone, is an important way to raise learners' awareness. 

Regrettably, too many educational institutions have vending machines with cheap chocolates and crisps - certainly tempting but not in the least healthy for the long, busy days of learning. Sugar highs only contribute to the growing epidemic of obesity among the young.

The info graphic below is another suggestion. Learners can work around how fresh the food in their homes are, and compare with the chart below. 

The Shelf Life of Food
The Shelf Life of Food infographic by LindsaySnowOsborn.

Vitamins  and Cooking and Processing are two crossword puzzles which may be suited for learners as well. 

Though personally I sometimes wonder about how real certain allergies may be, the fact is that increasingly more and more young people do suffer from food allergies.

Sometimes these allergies are provoked by environmental pollution which doesn't affect adults so badly; other times, allergies spring from the chemicals and preservatives found in food today. 

 Learnist  has an interesting selection of articles featuring food allergies , which may be used in lessons or adapted for classes. 

And of course, after nutrition and healthy eating is discussed, why not find out more about eating habits in other parts of the world or through history? Working in pairs or small groups, it's always wonderful to see what learners will present to the class. 

In which historic period do you think people ate the healthiest diet?


Further references:

5 Activities to Celebrate National Nutrition Month

History for Music Lovers

If It Were My Home  - Compare living conditions outside your country

Improve Your Eating Habits - 5 Infographics on Nutrition

World Food Programme


Count Your Peas ($0.99)

Fooducate  (Free)

Food and Nutrition (Free for limited time)

1 March 2013

A Contribution for Our Todays

What will today's youth think of us, us who build bridges for their future through their present?

How will the children of today look back at us, us who juggle the changes from an analogue to digitalized world?

Just like at other moments of deep changes, stories and histories will be written by those who win and support the change.  I cannot predict the futures, but I can contribute to the todays of now.

And this is my contribution to today.


To Me By Me - letter sent to future self

Daily Feats - reach your goals  with small steps.

Resources to Create Online Quizzes

As much as students would prefer no quizzes or tests, evaluation is part of the educational process just as evaluation and assessing is embedded in  life. I often remind learners that even before a teacher steps into a classroom, they are already assessing the teacher - sound familiar? Evaluating, assessing, judging  others  are part of our social lives whether we accept that or not. 

On the other hand, learners do need feedback and regular pop-quizzes function as reminders of what they have achieved and what they still need to improve. Despite not being in favour of the over load of examinations which students have to endure in so many parts of the world, weekly or bi-weekly tests/quizzes are helpful to learners, contributing to their continuous assessment. Bearing in mind that evaluation is part of formal education, here are some suggestions to create quizzes online.

Quiz Tree - great for K12

ESL Elementary - Quizzes and videos

Vocab Head  - K12

Fling the Teacher - Games and Quizzes

Quiz Me Online - Quizzes, Flashcards, Study Guides

Google Quizzes

Do you have a favourite which is not mentioned here?

Further Suggestions:

Blubbr - Create and play video quizzes

Create Gap-fill Exercises 

Free E-learning Quiz  Tool by Saffron

Games and Quizzes - Compiled by David Mainwood

12 Free Online Quiz Makers to Create Online Quizzes

Google Quizzes - a Screencast

QuestBase - Create online quizzes

Quiz Hub - K12 and compatible with iPads

Quiz Revolution - embed quizzes anywhere


Quiz Slide - Create quizzes from PDF or PPT


Word Master - BBC Learning English



Quipper Quizzes