15 December 2016

Listening for ELT and Learner Autonomy

One of the challenges that many ELT students face, is listening. When it comes to international exams such as the IELTS, they struggle in keeping up with the listening passage and end up in a sea of useless frustration. Learning to listening to English and becoming an autonomous learner are important skills. Among other sites where learners can improve their listening skills, these 2 come to mind at the moment. 

Lit2Go  offers readings of poetry and novels, is easily accessible with indication of authors, genres and readability scale and every audio comes with a PDF. 

LingoRank is a collection of TED talks, which students can  set their level then go ahead and select the talk they are interested in listening/watching. Each talk comes with target vocabulary for each specific level. 

With a wide selection of topics, there is no reason why learners shouldn't be accessing these resources to improve their listening skills.

What other listening activities/sites do you suggest?

Further Suggestions:

21 November 2016

Blending Spaces

What could really help educators?

Among so many educational issues and items, a space to help teachers keep lessons, share lesson ideas and to create a digital portfolio would be welcomed. 

And that is what TES Teach with blendspace offers. A space to have lessons, share lessons while combining digital resources all in one space. 

Lessons and materials can be shared also on different social media platforms, as well as on Edmodo and Google Classroom.  (for those who use these with students). Besides tips for using TES there is also a library for teachers, where they can find shared resources for their subject.

TES Teach is really simple to use for creating lessons. You can also assign classes and share with learners so that they too contribute to creating lessons. 

For educators who teach online, this is a great space to keep teaching materials and lessons to share with students.

Learning doesn't have to be a solitary process for either educators or students.

Collaborate & Curate from langwitches on Vimeo.

Nor does learning need to be only directed at passing exams. (within ELT, the IELTS comes to mind)

Learning does, however, demand personal and direct participation.

Having a space to keep lessons and materials, to share with colleagues and learners, and to have students contribute as well, is a stepping stone forward in collaborative learning.

How do you encourage learning collaboration?

Further Suggestions:

Students as Contributors: The Digital Learning Farm

I'd like to thank Stephen Collings who recently shared his wit regarding the IELTS exam. 

18 November 2016

PixiClip - An Interactive Whiteboard

There are so many ways to add variety in F2F classrooms - from class discussions to pair/group work to individual assignments, the possibility of learner centred activities is endless. So how can one transport this range of variety to online students? One way is to ask learners to create short recordings - either audio or video recordings. 

Pixiclip is a free, interactive whiteboard. You can draw sketches, type messages, upload images, record video and audio messages. Sharing with learners is simple too - you can email them the clip or embed it in a class blog.

When sharing clips, you can choose from public, private, hidden and password protected - if you use password protected, you then to share the password with students (in turn, learners need to share their password as well).

Further Suggestions:

8 November 2016

Learning with a Spoonful of Sugar - Games for Learning


Learning may be many things, but at the end of the day, learning is personal, something one does to one's self. Using games to engage students in their learning process makes learning more appealing and is definitely a great way to do revisions. Below are two suggestions which learners can use both in the classroom and for self-study.

Sugarcane  is a free educational game, which allows you to create different kinds of games, from matching to categorizing to 
ordering and spelling. 

Games can be shared with learners with a link or by sending them an email. Here is an example of different games focusing on Classical Music Composers.  Teachers too can share their games, see other games which have been already made and edit them according to their context. 

Playbuzz is also free, features different kinds of games to make and offers 
tips on how best to create different kinds of games.  Games can also be embedded - always a plus if you have a class blog.

Though not necessarily designed for educational purposes, Playbuzz can be used with learners provided the quizzes focus on their learning context.

Which games do you use for revisions?

Further Suggestions:

Grades, Games and Grammar

Financial Responsibility with Learning Games

Digital Games - a list of suggestions

Games - a list of suggestions

4 November 2016

Genial.ly Genius!

As 2016 slowly heads towards its end, the rich tapestry of celebrations around the world crosses my mind - from the many different ways wedding and birthday celebrations are held,  to mid-summer celebrations,  to traditional, religious celebrations which make part of  our global culture and history. 

The theme of celebrations is in itself a common topic for language learners, for instance. They can describe celebrations in their own town/country, find out about celebrations in other countries, learn and teach other new vocabulary on the types of celebrations they have chosen when they present their findings. Why not give them a tool which they can present/share  their work, which is interactive and full of surprise?

Geniall.y can be  used to create interactive presentations, infographics, posters, and even resumes (example down below at the end of this post). 

Professions/jobs is another theme which is commonly approached in language classes. With Genial.ly, you can ask students to add places where people work, qualities which are needed for each job/profession, the pros and cons of each line of work. 

These are just two suggestions for a language class; there are so many other ways to use Genial.ly, depending (as always) on the context and purpose of your learners. 

Genial.ly is free but with options; one of which allows collaborative work. You can share with a link or embed creations; there is a blog (in English and Spanish) with tips and ideas on how to use Genial.ly's features. 
Genially - Do it different, do it Genially! from Genially Web on Vimeo.

Use Genially and feel like a Genius!! from Genially Web on Vimeo.

How do you make your students feel like creative geniuses?


3 November 2016

In A Nutshell - An Activity for Business English Students

How many educators really know their students?

Perhaps when you are teaching classes of 20+ learners, are swamped with administrative duties which eat away at the time that could be spent preparing lessons, when teachers are demanded to be everything to all, it's not realistically possible to really know one's students beyond their names and perhaps, their grades.  

So let me start again, how well do your students know each other?

A regular activity when teaching Business English is to ask students to write out their CV for a possible role play (a role play focusing on interview skills, for instance, or writing application/covering letters for a job). Today, there are digital tools which enable this quite easily, adding visuals and easy sharing among social media. 

These tools not only offer a real world practice to learners but also help them to learn about each other, thus opening opportunities of better class dynamics and ways of collaboration with each other.  They also help educators to get to know their learners in a different way, beyond the grade, beyond the attendance list. 

Me in a Nutshell  brings together one's contributions in social networks. The user can design
their own page and connect the social networks they want to.

The result is a personal page with an individual's personal, social narrative.

Once students have completed their webpage, it can be shared on a Padlet, or in the class LMS.

In this way, they can learn more about each other, and as participation in social networks becomes shared among them, they may find unspoken talents among themselves, peers with similar interests, making their class space less anonymous.

They may also be provoked to reflect on what is appropriate to appear in their digital CV/resume and how best to find paths of collaboration with others.

How else do you learn about your students within an ESP/Business English context?

How else can your students tap into the hidden talents of their class/group?

#unexpected from The Others on Vimeo.

Further Suggestions:

Visualize Your Life

Future Careers

The Career Dream

Are You Known?


Wet Reflection
Skating Anyone?
Ballet Music

I am still playing around with my own Me in a Nutshell, but you can have a look and see the initial webpage. Please note, though, it is something I have in progress and will not be the final version. 

Digital Media Fluencies

Time and time again I see how institutions portray long lists of requirements for candidates. Sometimes there is even a mention of how they want candidates who can work with technology and electronic environments - which, in other words, is really whether candidates are able to work with the institution's LMS and other means of internal communication platforms.  Never do I see mentions of one's approaches to digital literacies. Never do I hear questions regarding digital citizenship and learners. 

At times I also see how being able to use an institution's LMS and communication platforms seem to be the one and only skill understood as being able to work with technology. Which begs the question - what about learners using digital tools for learning? What about digital writing and its implications for learning?

In regard to a report on Digital Literacy, Maha Bali poses the following question:

"(...) Who is going to champion students in their  use of these tools in critical and creative ways? Don’t we need teachers with digital literacies to do so, or support and consultation on helping teachers develop these literacies themselves? The “Literacy Across Disciplines” section does call for curricular integration but there is no advice on how to do that – it simply says “In some ways, digital literacy as curriculum is the most ambitious version of digital literacy as implementing it requires a broad-ranging curricular redesign”. This is not enough. We will need people to enact changes of this scale. People with skills yes, but more importantly, people who have an understanding and respect for the complexity surrounding the relationship between digital literacies and digital tools." 

Oddly enough, it is those skills which never seem to be touched upon in many recruitment processes. Equally baffling to me is how the discussion of digital writing is often left unspoken, as if it is something taken for granted - yet not always understood. As Sean Michael Morris points out:

"We approach digital writing as if it is the same as our old familiar writing. But as our occupation of the digital continues, we discover the only familiarity left is our approach."

 These are the skills that will be called upon when learners join the workplace. These are skills not for tomorrow but for today. 

Digital media fluencies are an integral part of our lives today and of our students' learning process - learning not only from a restricted syllabus in a classroom, but learning with everything which surrounds us, and that includes the digital world. Especially the digital world. 

I also think that one cannot really talk about digital media fluencies without touching upon
digital identity and digital citizenship - elements of learning which require reflection and discussion in classrooms.

Nevertheless, these are conversations which I rarely see invited and open- other than on the web. I am left with questions, wondering about those long lists of requirements which do not include the world of today nor the needs and interests of our students. I am left wondering about the true contemporary dynamics of educational institutions who understand the practice of digital technologies as the ability to use their moodles and internal communication platforms only. 

As for resources related to digital media fluencies and digital citizenship, why not check these links below which contain great videos for lessons and discussions:

6 Great Videos for Teaching Media Fluency

For colleagues teaching ESP or at Higher Ed, why not explore  Top Universities Video Search Site where you can find a wealth of video resources for you and your students.

How do you embed digital fluencies in your classroom practices?

Further Suggestions:

If you are interested in learning more about Digital Literacies (and more), why not follow 

DIGITAL PEDAGOGY - A community of educators, thinkers, writers

1 November 2016

Where in the World? Awakening Geography

Respect for the environment, for nature, for cultural differences, comes with learning about our planet, about our world and the worlds within it.  Learning Geography always fascinated me, opening up far away horizons, opening up my mind and understanding of what surrounds me.  There is so much that one learns through natural environments too - how nature influences a local culture, culinary traditions,  traditional stories which are treasured and shared, reinforcing cultural identity and belonging.

Why not have learners carry out mini research projects and engage in jigsaw activities and then present their final projects to the class?

How do you awaken the interest in Geography?

The rest of this post is here and some resources follow below. (a great way to open up a lesson on those grey, bleak, dreary days).

National Geographic Kids offers videos, facts, games, quizzes and more to spark up  interest in the world.

Lizard Point has notes for teachers, quizzes and more.

The National Geographic has Interactive Educational Games which cover Science and Engineering, History and Culture, Geographic Decision Making and more.

Action Quiz has a selection of quizzes which you play against computer components - including quizzes on Geography

Digital Delights for Learners - Geography

Star Wars - Official Star Wars Website

The Jigsaw Classroom


Where in the World?

Where do you think this image, on the right, was taken?

UPDATE - 17-November-2016

I would like to thank the 10 people who took time to participate in this poll.  This blog post has been viewed 509 times since it was posted.  The correct answer is Santorini. 

31 October 2016

Avatars and Poetry Generators for Halloween

There is something about Halloween that brings avatars to mind. Perhaps it's the playful dressing up, or perhaps the elements of storytelling that both bring to me. Here you can find other suggestions for creating avatars, while below the avatars were created with My Blue Robot and Mad Men Yourself.

While My Blue Robot creates head-shot avatars, with Mad Men Yourself, you can create 3 different sizes - full body, fully body with a background or just the head shot avatar.

Both avatar generators create both male and female avatars.

Avatars - Kizoa Movie Maker - Video Editor

If you teach young learners, you may want to them to write a special poem for
Halloween. Halloween Pumpkin Personification is a poem 
generator which guides learners to write their own poem - a great task for English language learners as well!

Should you have teen learners who lean towards the Gothic, let them feel inspired to create a Goth poem this Halloween - The Goth-O-Matic Poetry Generator  is all you need to nudge that extra bit of darkness!

To all, with new avatars or without, Happy Halloween!


Further Suggestions:  

Holiday Poem Generator

Take a Challenge, Accept a Dare


(from Halloween Pumpkin Personification

29 October 2016

Interactive Videos


What if learning could be as simple a playing with coloured blocks? What if learning could take place anywhere, anytime, with moving pieces, with a focus and re-focus on what one really wants?

Nothing particularly new in that thought. However, reinforcing this notion of learning autonomy to students is can be done differently and more dynamically. 

One of my favourite tools for learning autonomy is interactive videos. These can used in the classroom by students individually or in pairs, for self-study, for online teaching/learning, and for blended courses. Educanon, now Playposit,  
has been a calling port for me to create interactive videos, as it is simple for students and educators to use. Here you can find an example of how I have used it in a lesson. 

Nevertheless, as with all digital tools and platforms, some disappear after a while; either they are discontinued or after using the free version, they suddenly end that option and to continue using them, teachers/students must pay for their service. 

On another note, the choice of tools depends on the individual educator and his/her own teaching context, i.e. what is most appropriate for what they are teaching and their students' needs and interests. For some, there may no immediate reason to choose to use Playposit instead of Edpuzzle ; in the end, at least for me, it is a personal choice. 

With that in mind, I'd like to point out some other alternatives which I find of interest for learning and may offer some kind of backup if a particular tool becomes discontinued (e.g. Zaption). Two creators of interactive videos which have caught my attention are H5P and Vizia

With both H5P and Vizia, (example of Vizia on the left) you can include different kinds of viewing activities, such as adding polls, quizzes with short answers and multiple choice)  as well as embed the videos.

H5P offers even more features such as
memory games and highlighting words - excellent for language classes and revising concepts.

Below (at the end of this blog post) is an example of a quiz with H5P and here you can find tutorials which guide you with how to best create these interactive videos as well as an author guide

Wirewax is a different kind of interactive video platform, but one that could be used by students for different kinds of projects. 

What other interactive video tools can you recommend?

Of interest but not free:



Rapt Media

27 October 2016

Reflecting Through Writing

If April is the cruellest month, then November must certainly be a month of reflection, of balancing the past year and slowly making those New Year resolutions to express in January.

Finding time to reflect is not always easy. In our busy lives, this is what seems to characterise us most today:

James & Evander – “Living the Dream” from Dissolve on Vimeo.

To reflect, one needs to give learners time and purpose. November is the month of writing, either fiction or non-fiction. Why not encourage learners to stop, to break away from the perpetual liking of digital chatter and actually write a reflection of their year?

Maria Popova wrote a beautiful reflection on her seven years of reading and writing - Happy Birthday, Brain Pickings: 7 Things I Learned in 7 Years of Reading, Writing, and Living and has this video about it, which is great to share with students:

7 Things I Learned in 7 Years of Reading, Writing, and Living from Dissolve on Vimeo.

Even if you do not keep a class blog, there are options with other tools to share students' work digitally.

Atavist  is simple to use, with a choice of themes/layouts, and with its drag and drop, quite simple to add images, videos, sounds, maps and most anything learners wish to include in their reflection. 

Their reflection becomes their story, their personalised digital trace of another year which has gone by so quickly. 

And perhaps, through their writing, they may also reflect
on how essential it is to be in the moment, to find inspiration in their future plans and reflect on how best to achieve their goals for this academic year. 

Further Suggestions:

Writing - The Space Between

Life, Light, Action! Videos for Storytelling

Animating Stories

Blogging Platforms Around the Block

Learning Fractals with Stories and Video

Celebrating Writing in November

The Seven Most Important Things I Learned in Seven Years of Reading, Writing, and Living: A Cinematic Adaptation

Fun Fall Writing (Write About)

26 October 2016

The Art of Giving, the Craft of Thinking

Late October, and Halloween will soon be here. A few more weeks and the season of giving will descend with a thud of consumerism that has now become practically the norm. My thoughts sway between classrooms and realities that I witness. My thoughts circle this notion of education, which drives learners to only focus on exam results, for schools to push the agenda of grades and academic success, regardless whether learning actually happens or not nor whether students are learning what it means to be human and responsibly social participants in their societies.  

A few days ago I watched in silence as a teenager rejected his father's birthday gift, flatly saying that he had no interest nor use for it. 

I watched in silence as this same teen paid no attention to the efforts that had been made for his birthday meal, as he left the table without bothering to push his chair back to the table. 

I watched in silence, wondering what has happened to the values which children should receive at home and at schools. 

It takes more than good grades to speak about "education". It takes more than good results at school to become a well balanced human. 

Throughout travels in Nepal, I went west, where the government's state school books rarely arrive,  to distribute school books to children. In the Omo Valley, I realised that children did not particularly want my water bottles with water to drink - they wanted the empty bottle, preferably smaller, so that they could fill it with sorghum to take to school with them - their portable lunch. In Myanmar, I learnt how there are not so many beggars in public - everyone is welcomed and taken care of in the temples and by neighbours; there is a quiet consensus that leaves no one out in the gutter.  In the industrialised world, I watch in painful silence how children can take what they have so for granted, without a whisper of gratitude nor consideration towards their elders. 

I remember too how when I began teaching, the staffroom was often filled with frustration of how parents did not give time to their children, did not bring them  up at home and how now teachers were burdened with this extra responsibility of teaching civil attitudes for social purposes.

That was many, many years ago. And in my silence, I wonder what those same teachers would say today. 

What has happened to the art of giving thanks, of showing kindness, thoughtfulness? What has happened to the art of empathy?

I am not pointing the finger at anyone; I am neither blaming parents nor educators. It is a seriously huge effort bringing up children. It is a seriously huge effort being an educator today as well. 

Nevertheless I need to ask, where are these values of kindness, thoughtfulness, empathy and thanking others? Where are these values in the hectic days of meeting national standards, completing national curriculums and pushing learners to pass one exam after the other?

There are choices. 

Even in education. 

Learning the importance of empathy, of kindness towards others, the value of thanking others and being thoughtful to others are not in vain nor a waste of time. They are part of what makes us human. They are part of what makes us social.

Just like stories. 

Just like writing. For it is in writing that one often makes sense of ourselves and our world. It is in stories that one discovers what it means to be a social human.

Things to Think About is a free app (iOS) which offers writing prompts aimed at young learners. 

From thinking and writing prompts related to classrooms, family environments, personal safety and even topics such as receiving gifts, there is a choice for both teachers and learners to choose from. 

Besides prompts, there are challenges too - challenges to think about the future, making decisions and justifying choices. Below are two examples:

Perhaps the art of showing gratitude,  the art of being empathetic and kind towards others is more of a craft. 

If so, then it should also have place in classrooms, where skills and crafts are touched upon through learning tasks.

Giving is not only an act for a particular social/religious event/celebration. Giving thanks, consideration towards others, being able to be empathetic is part of everyday life. 

Do you think these are important values to embed in classrooms?