30 September 2016

Are Your Presentations Nifty?

A regular activity in many classrooms is to ask students to make a presentation. Either individually or in pairs/small groups, there are so many reasons for students to engage in this kind of task. Because of this, I like looking into new ways to present to then share with students and see what features they like, which they don't like so much. 

Niftio  is free, has a wide selection of templates and is very simple to use. 

As with  other presentation tools, it is possible to share a presentation by embedding or sending the or link to others, or by email. There is also a blog with articles on presentation skills and tips, which students can browse through and then report back to the class, for example.

Here below you can see what it looks like when preparing - a range of tools to customise a presentation.

Sometimes though, sitting through class presentations feels like this:


One way to get the rest of the class more active and participating during presentations, is to use Sli.do:

May your presentations be interesting, fun and lively this Autumn!

As always, if you have other favourites, please do share in the comments below.

Moving On from ainslie henderson on Vimeo.

Further Suggestions:

Slide Your Show

Adding Spring to Presentations

Presenting for End of Academic Year

Presenting with a Flow

Presentations - selection of articles and slideshows on Presentation Skills 

25 September 2016

Do you Flex Words?

As a language learner, I have always wanted words, words of things, words which makes something happen - usually, words which would help in situations of interaction with others (e.g. how much does X cost? and so on).  I have wanted special words to share with students on special occasions, being able to congratulate them on special days, trying to forge some form of connection other than the one who marks their essays or teaches about writing skills. 

One app  on words and vocabulary that I have come across recently is for English language learners. 

Wordflex is not free, but really is worth purchasing. Using Wordflex is simple - type in the word that puzzles you and watch the screen unfold with meaning and grammatical usuage. 

Below is a simple example:

Better still, is to listen and watch how simple Wordflex is:

Students can keep their own vocabulary records, work with Wordflex in pairs in class and... however you find it most suitable for your learners and their context.

Need a word, need it now?

Free Images for the Classroom

Days when I could use colours on my skin rather than speak worlds of words. 

Days when it is the visual, not the verbal, that expresses what I feel, what I think, what I would like to verbalise but find tedious in a world made up of so many cacophonous corridors. It is not silence that I seek. It is expression. Visual, bold, emboldening. 

There are so many reasons and teaching activities where the use of images makes more immediate sense than long winds of verbal explanations. Images inspire, images provoke, images soothe. 

And when it comes to classrooms,  learners are very often asked to use images for their projects and tasks. 

So, the challenges for educators is where to find images, image banks which are free, suitable and interesting for students. I find many image sources for education quite boring and dull - however, I do not work with young learners and understand that in those contexts there does need to be a lot of monitoring of appropriate images. Here are some other suggestions which are worth browsing through:

Skitterphoto is free and does have different, bright images which may be used in class; it also has an archive where it is possible to browse through past uploaded images, as well as a page for different categories of images. 

Kaboompics  offers free images and includes themes such as City & Architecture
Landscapes and other themes. 

Inspiration-IM Creator  is also an interesting site to look around for some beautiful images that may be used by teachers and students. 

Presented with categories, you may also find sub-categories such as in Nature , where there are then images related to flowers & plants, landscape, animals and weather. 

Visual literacy is important in the classroom. What other recent resources and sources for free images do you recommend?

A Visual Manifesto from Whitcher and Donaghy on Vimeo.


Pink Flower

If/when not indicated, images are my own. 

Learning, Creativity and Amy

Creativity in the classroom and in everyday life is something that I have always sought, reached out to. Innovation in life, innovation in learning, innovation in teaching.

Nevertheless, innovation and creativity don't happen in a vacuum. Nor without time, practice and the inherent re-mix of ideas, histories and one's personal perspective.

Creativity from Jaedoo Lee on Vimeo.

For educators, there are so many ways to find inspiration for learning, for fostering that inner creativity that everyone has. Among webinars, blogs and a myriad of free open sources, there is also 

Learning Now TV  with podcasts and videos, a free source for learning for professionals - including educators from different fields. 

"99% of the time, in my experience, the hard part about creativity isn't coming up with something no one has ever thought of before. The hard part is actually executing the thing you've thought of.

The devil doesn't need an advocate. The brave need supporters, not critics."

THE GAP by Ira Glass from Daniel Sax on Vimeo.


Learning how to do, how to persevere.

This is something that so many of our learners need - and the space, the time to connect the dots. It may not necessarily happen in classrooms, but learning spaces do foster this learning process, this process of creative problem solving and new ways of perceiving the world around us. 

Steve Jobs on Creativity from Tim Goodspeed on Vimeo.

One educator who immediately springs to mind when I think of creative educators,  is Amy Burvall, well known for her  wonderful  productions in videos for History Teachers, her posts on Medium, and other platforms such as Tumblr

Inspiring and encouraging, Amy Burvall will be talking about the importance of creativity at work on Learning Now TV next week - so a great shout out to Amy for her amazing work and talent!

Strokes of Creativity: Education from FIELD on Vimeo.

Further Suggestions:

Mad for Metaphor: On Being a Porous Pedestrian 

Create a 21st Century Classroom

Creativity - a variety of posts and videos on Creativity


Colorful Iris

22 September 2016

Open Learning for ELT Teachers

I have always loved open landscapes. Landscapes which entice one, which give scope for the mind to wander,  wonder, lose oneself in worlds of possibilities.  The pleasure of openness for learning and re-learning, connecting and discovering. 

Autumn days are a wonderful time to wander,  discover and if not necessarily to lose oneself in open horizons, but to participate, learn and reflect on one's educational practices. Among the many options that are available to us today, there is one event that will be held this coming October, of special interest to ELT teachers. 

In October, The British Council is hosting the Teaching for Success online conference

As announced:

"With over 60 scheduled talks by speakers from around the world and panel discussions taking place between Wednesday 5 October and Sunday 9 October 2016, the Teaching for Success Online Conference promises to deliver a wide range of engaging and insightful presentations covering all aspects of professional development for teachers in all contexts. Talks on each of the five days will focus on distinct themes related to the different Professional Practices that make up the British Council’s new CPD framework for teachers and CPD framework for teacher educators."

A global conference, reflecting professional concerns and professional development globally. The conference schedule is already up and you will undoubtedly, come across many presenters who are well known in the ELT world.

Open learning in an open world. Open for students, open for educators.

What other open professional development events can you share/suggest this Autumn?

Why Open Education Matters from Blink Tower on Vimeo.

21 September 2016

Forms of Storytelling


It's so simple to ask students to be creative. 

It's so easy to offer them a choice of digital tools and let them get on with the task of production. 

Quite frankly, in my experience, it is anything but simple. Anything but easy. 

Not only do students need scaffolding, clear instructions, clear goals and monitored team management while doing their task (in this case, if pair or small group work),  they also need time to explore and play with a new tool or platform. Play? Yes. Both in terms of fiddling around, looking at how a tool/platform works as well as the element of playfulness. What creativity can exist without playfulness?

Playfulness brings me to stories and images - both can summon up wild imaginations and/or interesting perspectives in projects, in particular when presenting ideas to solve problems. 

Storyform is  for storytelling - an activity which learners enjoy, using their own worlds, their personal interests, their own views on a topic. 

Not all features of Storyform are free - however, with its ability to include text, image and video, it makes a great choice for students when they are working on a project. Whether the project is fuelled by imagination or related to a specific theme being covered in class, developing a story form to present students' research/inquiry process is an opportunity of creativity.

Another tool worth looking into, especially for its use of images, is Maptia.

Maptia may also be used as an inspirational springboard - images shared are so beautiful, that they will certainly encourage learners to add their own images to their stories.

Being creative is not something that can be snapped up in a sale,  found in a supermarket aisle, nor imposed. It's by giving learners the tools and time to explore, to practice, to develop and produce (as opposed to only consume) that their creative skills are developed.


What other tools/platforms can you recommend for creative projects and storytelling?

29 WAYS TO STAY CREATIVE from 1 minute 40 on Vimeo.

Further Suggestions:

12 September 2016

Apples and EdTech

Looking out and watching maturing apples fill my immediate horizon, I can't help but compare these apple trees to the developments and changes in EdTech. Digital tools and platforms have come and gone; others, starting off as "free" then end up charging the user. Fortunately for educators and learners, some remain both free and very much alive (e.g. Padlet, Edmodo). 

The EdTech tree also has other characteristics other than "fallen" tech (i.e. digital tools which no longer offer service). One can chose what one sees best for one's context - both in terms of one's learners' needs and learning context  - as well as teaching context (online, F2F, blended, subject, level). For each scenario, one needs to also take into consideration which digital device learners are using and how learners may use the tools.  For example, students of mine have not enjoyed using Glogster to create digital posters on their iPads as the screen was too small; they were much more productive and happier once they worked on their glogs with desktops. 

And sometimes, there are moments when paper and pen are needed as well. Just as moments of silence too is part of learning and doing, there are moments when the best apple is one of paper. With that in mind, Graphic Organisers are a great resource for teachers to share with their students. 

Graphic Organizer Maker offers different graphics which teachers can use in their classes, from Venn diagrams to Pros and Cons and Timelines.  These are simple graphics which help learners organise their thoughts before writing or developing a storyline before using a digital tool, for instance. 

The new academic year may have already begun in some parts of the world, and before one knows it, it will be time to re-focus on goals of achievement. WorksheetPlace has some interesting graphics on Goals - simple and clear for students. 

WorksheetPlace also has other worksheets worth looking into - Writing Worksheets to help budding writers as well as Grammar Worksheets and Maths and Science

Another activity which I regularly find of interest for students, is curation.   Wakelet is a recent curation tool which I stumbled across and a place where you can save and share your interests.  
Wakelet is free, shareable and includes a feature where curators can include their notes and decide whether their boards will be private or public. 

From Finland, yet another new EdTech product comes for educators to choose from. (Eliademy, for example, is a Finnish platform for educators as well). 

ClanEd  may be used for a curation/sharing space, but also offers other features to users, such as following other boards you may be interested in and inviting others to participate in a board you create.  For educators this holds special interest as they can create a board on a specific topic and invite their students to participate  and contribute to  it. Students (or any other participant on a board) can pose questions, comments, while the owner of the board can check for feedback and notes on a particular module. 

There is also a feed, through which the user can easily check up on boards they are following. ClanEd does offer more too - definitely an EdTech apple to bite into. 

Student digital portfolios are a corner stone for me as they are a personalised space of creations, developments and interests of the individual student. They are also more than mere  reflections "productions" - they are learning spaces, dynamic, personalised and evolving. 

Apples and EdTech in Autumn - 
a wonderful time to explore the apple tree of tools for learning. 

Tom Rosenthal | “Lead Me To You” - Official music video from annlinchao on Vimeo.