21 December 2017

Visual Libraries - Free Images

Every now and then I come across sites which are really useful for dipping into for visuals and can be shared with colleagues and students alike. Below are some suggestions. 

Picography  - fairly straight-forward to use; you can scroll through images or use the tool bar to search for a topic or theme. 

Gratisography  gives you the option to either browse
or search through images or to subscribe.

Snappy Goat will bring up a selection of related images after you type in the theme/topic in the tool bar.  A similar source is Free Images  with images and clipart. 

With a more interesting variety, at least for me, are these that follow below:

RawPixel  - has a mix of images which are free and in the public domain, while others are for sale. You do, however, need to sign up and have an account to access the free images for download. You can also save your favourite images in your account. 

A similar source is Unsplash where you create an account,  and organise your favourite images according to themes/topics
of your choice. You can also share your collections with others.

PicWizard is yet another image library where you can sign up for an account, browse, search as well as give up a thumbs-up (or down) for images. You can see how many others have viewed that particular image and how often it has been downloaded. And you can also keep track of your own personal favourites in this visual library. 

For more sites on visuals and design, have a look here where you can find much, much more on images.

What other sources do you use for free images?

Further Suggestions:

Digital Delights - Images & Design

Memeois - A Meme App

Visuals for Storytelling

Editing Images and Image Sourcing

10 Intriguing Photographs to Teach Close Reading and Visual Thinking Skills

Adding Magic to Images

Free Images for the Classroom

Create your own Jigsaw

15 December 2017

Videos with Tubequizard

A lovely tool for lessons and self study purposes is TubeQuizard. TubeQuizard is great to use with ELT/ESL learners - and teachers can find quizzes according to level, type, category and variety. 

There is a search tool , and more for teachers.

Below is a short video explaining how to use TubeQuizard to create quizzes for learners:

TubeQuizard can be used with a wide range of learners and levels. One particular set of quizzes which I have shared with teacher trainees is on Sir Ken Robinson's well known talk "Do Schools Kill Creativity?" . Even if you don't particularly want to take time in class to go through the exercises offered on TubeQuizard, for some learners it meets their wish to do grammar and vocabulary exercises - and on a media that they are comfortable with using. 

Further Suggestions:

Here you can find other articles and interviews on and with Sir Ken Robinson

4 December 2017

With a Little Help for Educators - A Teaching Resource to Explore

Toa Heftiba

Time and time again, I hear the same statements from learners- I was soooooo bored! The lesson was soooooo boring! 

This state of semi-permanent boredom in classes is not restricted to only teens and young adults - but to teacher trainees as well. Despite the richness of resources for active learning,  so easily available today, there are still lessons where reading from a PPT  (or even just sitting and listening to a pre-recorded PPT) seems to be the norm. Reading from a PPT is merely that, i.e. reading aloud in front of an audience who probably is literate to begin with.  Little wonder that boredom shuts down any chance of learning. 

Learning is an active process. There needs to be a healthy dose of curiosity, of humour, of reassurance that not succeeding at first is part of the learning process. And though to be original and creative is not that simple for many, it is necessary to keep an open mind as an educator, to encourage different learning approaches instead of only repeating the same formatted  PPT endlessly or the same stale teaching "method"  (who doesn't know that teacher who takes pride in publicly saying that he/she will only use one particular method, regardless that there are many different options for learning and teaching today?) - it simply won't foster learning anymore. 

Bryan Minear

And why should it when there are search engines which so quickly serve up a range of facts and figures to so many questions that learners may have in lessons? 

One approach to deal with this is what Steve Wheeler calls ungoogleable questions, i.e. giving students questions which demand more than a click of a button. 

Yet, as educators well know, learning and teaching is much more than having all the answers or in fact, much more than providing answers. 

If teaching may be understood as modelling good practices, then as educators we need to  regularly reflect upon them. As educators, we also need to push our limits, seek new approaches which will stimulate curiosity and an appetite for learning. As educators we need to give learners the space and time to practice, to create and not only consume knowledge. 

Applied Digital Skills (a free technology curriculum aligned with ISTE), provides free lessons  for teachers to dip into and use or adapt to their teaching context. Each lesson indicates the necessary time, level (i.e. who it is most suitable for), a focus on the skills which are meant to be developed, as well as a rubric. If-Then Adventure Stories is an example of an interactive lesson with Google Slides - which could be adapted with the use of other visual tools. 

Joshua Newton

There are so many digital resources today, so many great educators who are regularly sharing ideas for teaching, so many fantastic ways to tell stories, to focus the learning process on the interests and abilities of learners, that when educators complain that their students are not engaged, when learners still shrug with boredom from their lessons, it is certainly time to stop and to look carefully at why this happening. 

How do you light the fire of learning?

Further Suggestions:

24 of the Best Writing Prompts for Middle School Students

1 December 2017

Decisions, Debates and Discussions

Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

Every educator has choices, no matter how complex they may be. Sometimes it may be easier to just focus on routine and teach grammar towards a test/exam, thus keeping those who perceive learning as a mere number, satisfied with test scores. 

Yet we all know that learning is not a test score. Exam results reflect the ability to take exams.

Decisions, decisions!

Some of my most memorable lessons have always centred on discussing sensitive issues with students. Obviously, this depends on context and course goals. For instance, when I taught English for Medical Purposes, a springboard towards writing was giving the students the opportunity to think through ethical issues and debate them. When the writing phase followed up, they already had discussed the topic through different lenses and had the necessary scientific lexis and their own ideas to write about. Most importantly, they had actively participated with each other and with the topic at hand, understanding different perspectives while also building up their own arguments. 

Debates and discussions don't necessarily need to be kept to HigherEd.

Language learners, for example, need the opportunity for fluency activities at different levels (though of course, it does make a difference if learners are at a higher level of language ability, e.g. C1,  as well as maturity. That though is another discussion). 

Kialo offers a wide range of topics of debate and discussion, (again, teachers need to make appropriate decisions as to which topic should be chosen for their learners).

It's really easy for students to collaborate and use:

Kialo may be used before a lesson where students will orally debate or as a follow up
to a class discussion; learners may be given a certain amount of time, for example, a week, to contribute to the discussion. The choice is yours and your learners'. 

ProCon  is another site which offers a wide range of topics to discuss/debate in class. There is a corner for teachers, highlighting how ProCon may be used, while topics can easily be found in alphabetic order. Many topics also have accompanying videos which add further ideas and interest to the discussions.

Among the many reasons that fostering critical thinking skills is so necessary in education, there is also another perspective - the more informed a learner is, the easier it may become for that learner to make more informed decisions in life. 

Debates and discussions are not mis-spent time. Students often need to collaborate and research the topic (again, depending on context and topic). There may be writing follow ups to the discussions as well or other learning artifacts such as video /audio recordings. Depending on level, students may even be given the opportunity to express the outcome or debate experience with a shared visual (see Nik Peachey's Get Students Sharing Opinions ).

Decisions are not always simple to make. However, putting learners' learning experience first and foremost at the centre, giving them time and space to reflect and think through complex and, sometimes, sensitive issues,  debate and discuss, (in a safe place - which classrooms should be) does seem to me, an urgent decision to make. 

What other resources have you found of interest for debates/class discussions?

Further Suggestions:

Using Debate to Develop Thinking & Speaking Skills

The Big Issue


Debating Matters

Images by Pexels

29 November 2017

News and Media Literacy


If digital literacy hasn't been a burning issue to focus on in classrooms, it certainly has become one now. In particular, the skill to reflect critically on news and media.  Here are some resources for educators to use in classrooms. 

Games for Change  offers a wide selection of games, ranging from human rights to fitness. For this post though, it is Fake It to Make It,
that called my attention. Why? With "fake news" being dealt with on a regular daily basis, Fake It To Make It  is an appealing simulation to raise awareness of how misinformation can so easily be taken for reality. 

"Fake It To Make It is a simulation-style game where players take on the role of someone creating and distributing fake news for profit. Players learn how misinformation is created, spread, and emotionally targeted, and leave better prepared to be skeptical of misinformation that they encounter in the future."

Another great resource to deal with this topic, is Nik Peachey's Writing & Discussion Activities to Promote Awareness of Fake News.

Earlier this year Doug Belshaw also put together a Fake News and Digital Literacies: some resources, which is of interest to educators and higher level students.

And can you really tell what is fake news or not?

Factitious is a free game which tests your news sense - go on! Test yourself then share with your learners and observe how well - or not - they know how to tell the difference between fake and real news.

Common Sense Education  also has some great resources for raising awareness about news such as a backgrounder on misinformation and a long suggestion of resources on Media, News and Information Literacy for students   .  You can also consider using or adapting suggested Lesson plans  . Facts-vs-Opinion" is an example of a shared lesson plans. 

What other resources for news and media literacy have you found of interest?

Photo by Victor Freitas from Pexels https://www.pexels.com/photo/person-with-teal-and-yellow-left-eye-685526/

Further Suggestions:

Making Media Literacy Central to Digital Citizenship

Teaching Current Events in the Age of Social Media

Post-truth teaching: coming to a lecture theatre near you?
Open University report looks at key trends in teaching and learning - Published 7th December 2017

Supporting Sustainable Development


Every year there is World Environment Day   (as well as other celebrations which you can find here and here ); and every year, in so many different curricula, learning about the environment is part of the syllabus. 

But can our learners really save the environment? Can our learners really make a change?

In my experience, yes. Undoubtedly. 

Environmental issues stare at us all everyday - whether it is public litter, poverty in our societies or making decisions about day-to-day shopping. Discussing these issues, in particular issues which directly affect our learners' everyday lives, helps  raise their awareness to other global issues, which may or not directly affect them. 

Among other resources available, (e.g. videos ), Sustainable Development Goals by the United Nations, has compiled a simple list of how every individual is able to make small contributions towards sustainable development. These may be shared among leaners - for further discussion/ for them to add their own ideas and create their own guides. 

Overall Sustainable Development Goals is a great resource for teachers and learners. 

After all, learning is not only passing an exam or filling in a gap correctly (if ever that could really reflect learning). 

Learning is being involved, open to curiosity and finding solutions.  

Learning is an activity.

Learning is doing. 

Further Suggestions:

A Breeze of Summer Green

Achievable Change in 2013

Climate Change for Young Learners

Inquiry as Learning - An Environmental Example

Using Computer Games to Raise Global Issues - by Nik Peachey

Let Me Tell You a Story - A Writing Tool for Storytelling

Come, let me tell you a story. 

A story about a magical place, where, within hours, you can leave cold greys and darkness behind. A place which will lead you to cities of light, red shimmering deserts, warm turquoise seas. 

Come! Let me tell you a story. 

And as I tell my tale or two, you too may add yours, with your characters, your dreams and decisions. Together we shall create our own stories. Together we can end boredom and create twists, bends and all the upheavals we wish to within our stories. 

StoriumEdu seems to promise the opportunity for learners to write stories collaboratively, where teachers set writing goals, learners are given a character and together, write their stories within a game-like environment. 

It will be accessible for desktops/laptops as well as tablets and smartphones. 

Although still in Beta, this is a writing tool that I am really looking forward to trying out! 

For what is learning but a collection of stories?

Stories of success, stories of failures, stories of discoveries, stories of life. 

What other writing tools have caught your teaching imagination lately?

8 November 2017

Sharing Learning and Professional Development with Videos

If you happen to live where Autumn has set in, this post is especially for you. As conferences become increasingly expensive to attend, one of the best alternatives for professional development is to turn to what is offered online.  Here are some suggestions. 

IATEFL Webinars  are open to members and non-members and have topics which relate to language teachers as well as to other fields.

You can also find recorded webinars, which is always helpful if you can't attend the event live.

Another of favourite of mine, is the well known site of
Russell Stannard, whose videos are full of ideas and clear instructions regarding edtech and teaching. Teacher Training Videos is not only for ELT teachers but for all educators who wish to update their practices with technology and state of the arts approaches. 

Landesinstitut für Pädagogik und Medien is another site to follow closely for professional development. With free webinars offered regularly, you only need to sign up to receive the link to the webinar. 

The best part is that none of these suggestions are video or PPT dumps, nor someone reading from their PPT (because a presentation and/or teaching is not a read-aloud exercise) - but real practitioners sharing ideas, teaching approaches and know-how that actually do bring life into classrooms, while interacting with colleagues who attend the webinars. 

On the left hand side of your screen, you can probably notice a video log with video resource suggestions for teaching. Two videos resources which are really worthwhile dipping into are ESL Video  and the already much talked about ISL Video Lessons which 
also offers video lessons in languages other than English. 

These are some suggestions for professional development; there is a wealth of opportunities for learning on the web and no reason not to keep up-to-date in education. 

What other webinars or learning sites for educators would you recommend for this Autumn?

Further Suggestions:

Viewpure - Videos without Clutter

3 October 2017

An Autumn Game and Resources for Teachers

Having a stock of games to use in classes, whether analogue or digital, is common practice among language teachers and other subjects. Quiznetic is one more digital game that is simple to create for class revisions, with the teacher only needing to share the automatic code for a specific game.  So far it is free and when learners have used it several times in class, they too could sign up and create team games for each other, thus having them more involved in their learning process. 

It's also possible to share one's quizzes with colleagues though I think I would also like to have the option of embedding a quiz. Here is a short quiz with videos that I am including as a quick test to Quiznetic, while below is a short video on how to create a game. 

Two other interesting resources for educators which have caught my eye are Oxplore and Poetry by Heart .

Oxplore offers a variety of topics to be discussed and debated in class. Each topic offer a "yes" or "no" option which then leads to further questions, short quizzes, short readings and videos on the topic. 

It's an open resource and very simple to use or to dip into,  regardless whether a teacher is digitally skilled or not.  And, for many educators, a time saving resource.  It's especially great when students are working in small groups and then share their ideas and decisions with the whole class. 

For students who are not accustomed to working independently nor collaboratively, it provides positive practice. Additionally, if you happen to be working with EFL learners, working in small groups/teams encourages learners to speak up more easily and gain confidence in sharing their ideas in English. 

Poetry by Heart is a dynamic site which encourages learners to engage in poetry and to take part in competitions. 

What other resources will you be using this Autumn?

Other Suggestions

27 July 2017

Asking Questions, Challenging Learning - A Resource for Educators

What is learning if not questioning?

What is learning if not the provocation of questioning?

The Learning Challenge with James Nottingham from Challenging Learning on Vimeo.

The Learning Challenge  is a space where educators can find resources to reflect on their teaching approaches and mindsets. 

Resources include videos, downloadable lessons and more:

From reflections on Carol Dweck's Growth Mindset to Hattie's influence in learner feedback and teaching strategies, Challenging Learning is a great resource for educators. 

The best part?



Believing in learning changes.

Further Suggestions:

How Educators Can Assist Learners in Developing a Growth Mindset

MindSet Kit - The Mindset Kit is a free set of online lessons and practices designed to help you teach and foster adaptive beliefs about learning.

Recognizing and Overcoming False Growth Mindset

Glossary of Hattie’s influences on student achievement

Fixed vs. Growth: The Two Basic Mindsets That Shape Our Lives

Images - Pexels

23 July 2017

Boosting Vocabulary


I want words.

Words to describe the spaces in between.

The spaces of light, the spaces of dreams.

Untouched, unspoken words.

I want worlds of words.

As a language teacher I want my leaners to have words. I want them to have the power of expression. So easy, yet always so challenging when learning a language.

Word Booster, a recent tool I learnt about with Nik Peachey ), is a helpful tool for busy teachers.

3 simple steps:

Select an online article,

Copy & paste link, (URL),

Click and download PDFs.

Below is an example which I did with a recent blog post by Philip Kerr on Evaluating Personalization:

This type of exercise may not be to everyone's liking; a language teacher may need to look carefully at the language selected and consider whether the focus and examples are of interest or not. 

However, for teacher trainees, this is a great tool to use in a workshop. They may try it out on each other in small groups and then decide how useful or not, such a digital tool may be for teachers. This requires the ability to select an appropriate online article (perhaps connected to a theme/topic they are covering on a training course), challenging another group of peers, and above all, being comfortable within the learning group to reflect on how they could use this vocabulary tool with their learners.

Words, words, words!

How have you been teaching/exploring vocabulary lately?

Words from Enle Li on Vimeo.

When Teachers Still Say "I Don't Know about Computers"

Mid 2017 and I still hear educators publicly state how they don't know much about "computers" and so will not be able to carry out X or Y teaching task. 

Excuse me? 

Given the choice, would these same teachers go to a doctor who practiced medicine as it was practiced in another past century? Given the choice, would these same teachers live in a house which didn't have the basic facilities of running tap water and electricity??? Do they not even know the
difference between a computer and digital literacy skills???

For those not know where to start learning, The Global Digital Citizen Foundation 
is one of the many, many places to begin learning about different issues in education today.

There is such a wealth of ways that digital technology may support and encourage learning, that it is, quite frankly, unacceptable that teachers still excuse their lack of interest in today's world by saying "oh, I am not very good at computers". More than ignorance, it is a disservice to our learners. 

However, it is also necessary that teachers don't mistake the use of PowerPoint and Kahoot as evidence that they are integrating digital education in their classroom practices.  These are tools; and as all other tools, there needs to be constant reflection as to the learning outcomes and pedagogical purposes which support learning. Additionally, merely including digital media (in any form) is also not the only answer in education. Educators should become familiar with the learning tools available to all today and their pedagogical implications, while also fostering a more critical approach to pedagogy. 

So where does one begin learning?

With others.

Through collaborative networks and communities.

By reading, by participating, by engaging with others.

By taking risks of failure, risks of ridicule, risks of learning.

By active learning.

Learning does not happen in an empty vacuum; learning is not something that is done to you. It requires participation and being active. As George Couros so well expressed, "isolation is now a choice educators make" .

Perhaps if educators were more willing to update their teaching and learning skills,  they would find themselves complaining less about their learners, and actually be more likely to be pleasantly surprised at the creative thinking and production their learners are capable of.


Further Suggestions:

1 July 2017

Need Inspiration?

Summer.... and quotations abound across SM.

InspiroBot  comes to alleviate the (possible) boredom of long, lazy days.

Click on "generate", sit back and be prepared to smile.

How many ways could you use this with your learners?

Further Suggestions:

Soundbites for the Classroom

Stories for Autumn

Do You Have Visual Swag?

Posters, Images and Metaphors

Wing It from Peter den Hartogh on Vimeo.