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