12 March 2018

Video Editing with Kapwing

A great tool for educators is Kapwing. Among the different features that Kapwing offers - from adding sounds to videos to video collage, my favourite is the online video trimmer.  You can choose the video you wish to use for lessons and cut out any additional advertising or inappropriate content. 

Here is an example on conference calls:

The video continues with advertising for Zoom (a video conferencing service) which perhaps you may not want to use in class.

Kapwing is free and you can sign up with your Google  or Facebook account. If you would like to have the watermark removed, then there is a small charge of $2, or if $10 per month for  creating as many videos you like every month. 

What other video editing tools have you found useful lately?

9 March 2018

A Feedback Activity for Learners

In many ways the digital world has brought teachers under increasing pressure - are they using the most up-to-date tools? Are they selecting the "best" digital tools for their lessons? Are they sufficiently "engaged" in all the Twitter chats, ongoing PDs, MOOCs, .reading the latest articles/blog posts on SAMR, TPACK, attending webinars.....and the list goes on. 

As someone who has taught students with access to desktops, laptops and iPads in the classroom, I have to admit that my first thought has always been my learners' needs  - what will they learn with X digital tool? How will using it enhance their learning experience and what is the problem if X tool adds some fun as well (Kahoot is a well known  example which adds fun element to a lesson.). 

At the same time, I give value to learners creating their own content, whether that be in digital or analogue forms (because sometimes as teachers we have little choice in the matter when preparing students for exams, for example). 

Another regular demand on teachers is feedback, whether that be grading or giving immediate feedback in a lesson. Teachers themselves often only receive feedback at the end of a semester or the academic year - and that is if the institution shares that feedback with the teachers. 

Being able to understand how well learners are progressing is part of the DNA code of being an educator and in every context educators will know how best to proceed. Yet, because I think that the digital world is also a world where learners should participate by creating content, why not give them the opportunity to give feedback with a visual artifact?

A simple activity is for students to create their own feedback for a week or two by using Canva. Canva has a range of free visual designs which can be used. From designing infographics to book covers and cards, to name a few, there are designs which can also be used to give feedback. For example, learners can select the design of the card they like, use the given image or choose another and then write 2 or 3 short sentences on how they felt about lessons that particular week. 
For instance: 

These cards can be shared in their Edmodo group or in a Padlet. When students know that their work will be seen by others and not only the teacher, needless to say, they pay a lot more attention to the task at hand. By asking students to provide their own feedback, instead of merely ticking boxes, also invites them to think more carefully about what is important to them and to be more engaged in the task. 

Thinking about what they want to say in their weekly/bi-weekly feedback, choosing their design and working on their feedback card may take some practice - but isn't that learning? 

Tamara Qaddoumi - Flowers Will Rot (Official Music Video) from Pablo Lozano on Vimeo.

7 March 2018

International Women's Day 2018

International Women's Day is being celebrated tomorrow, 8th March, the theme this year being Press for Progress.  Pressing for progress, pressing for change, is vital for both women/girls and education. 

Education wise, it is still the curriculum which dictates the worksheets to be completed, the tests to be marked, the regurgitation to be endured (in between checking Snapchat or IG). Why not make tomorrow a different day, a day to remember?

Steve Wheeler highlighted the purpose of remixing -HOW TO REVITALISE YOUR LESSONS: REMIXING RESOURCES - by giving learners their own space to remix content, to create content and add their own meaning for learning. As I have said throughout this blog, learning is a personal process. By giving learners the time and space to create something which has personal meaning to them,  and then sharing among their peers, raises their performance and ownership of their learning process.  As Wheeler points out:

"Remixing may offer several solutions to struggling teachers in pressurised environments. In school, there is very little time for reflection or creativity. Much of classroom time is taken up with behaviour management, record keeping, delivery of content and assessment, and evenings and weekends consist of endless marking and preparation of teaching plans and resources. There is little time for teachers to create new activities and experiences for children, and often the same, tired resources are recycled year after year. The photocopier is the place where teachers gather every day to reproduce content time and again. It's little wonder that some lessons are boring, students lose interest, and resources are less relevant and not as up to date than they should be.

By 're-mixing' relevant content, teachers no longer have to 'reinvent the wheel', and gain more time to make new activities and exercises. In the hands of students, remixing can be a powerful motivation for learning. Textbooks and videos may not always excite students, but being able to extract content and personalise it for learning can be creative and gives students ownership. Further, remixing content allows students to extend and deepen their learning, allowing them to explore an extended context around the topic they are learning. Finally, sharing this new, remixed content among their peers and wider audiences through social media, can offer students incentive to raise their games and produce a higher quality performance. "

Learning and teaching contexts define what may be appropriate or not for a lesson; there are always so many factors to take into consideration (age group for instance as well as educational resources). 

However, it is simple to ask learners to discuss the role of women in their society and then to think about a woman who may be prominent in their society or history; or a contemporary female figure they respect and admire, who doesn't necessarily need to be a public figure.

There are always role models in our lives, even if they are not public figures. A compilation of learners' choices may be collected in a Padlet and shared. Learners would then present their choices and explain why they chose that person.  It's a simple way of focusing on adjectives, for instance, if in an ELT lesson (with the revision and introduction of adjectives carried out before they participate in the Padlet board). 

You can also try out International Women's Day Activity Task Cards from Teacher Starter, which offers a range of ideas and teaching resources (some free) for educators. 

International Women's Day also has free resources for education, which can be used or remixed to suit different learning contexts. 

More than just creating a selfie or clicking on a pledge for change, let learners really reflect and consider what positive gender changes in attitude would mean for them - whether that be the right to choose what profession they would like to take up or how they would like to dress. 

Equal rights for women does not exclude men.  Equal rights is for both. International Women's Day is an opportunity to get away from the photocopy machine, to give students ownership of a world which is theirs - letting them express how they can contribute to, by learning, reflecting and creating. 

6 March 2018

World Environment Day 2018 - The Problem of Plastics

Undoubtedly beautiful.

Undoubtedly wonderful.

Yet the truth of our oceans also tell other stories which may not be so appealing.

The World Environment Day is celebrated on 5th June and more than only a celebration, is a call to action. This year, the overall theme is on plastic - plastic pollution. Plastic pollution has become an epidemic world over, affecting all kinds of different environments:

As the environment theme is often included in language programs, it's a great way to (once again) raise awareness among learners about the need to recycle and cut down on the use of plastic in everyday life.  Padlet is a great way for learners to share their ideas (whether text or images) , while Canva offers great graphic designs which students can use to create visuals and share their ideas as well. If learners are not camera shy, then why not create a short video which can then be shared in class and with their families? This involves storyboarding, decision making  and working collaboratively while developing their ideas. With all the free apps today, creating a short video has never been simpler.

TedEd has this lesson plan for this video below:

And here is a possible vocabulary exercise that learners can use before watching the video:

Further Suggestions:

Climate Change for Young Learners

A Breeze of Summer Green

Games and Quizzes about the Environment

Waterlife Games 

ELTsustainable - English Language Learning gets eco-friendly - A blog full of great ideas and lesson plans

26 February 2018

Virtual Conferencing Tips

With so many different ways to communicate online (Skype, Zoom, Google Hangouts, Adobe Connect - just to name a few of my favourites),  there also comes a couple of etiquette essentials to run virtual conferencing more easily. 

Besides logging into your chosen platform a few minutes ahead of time and checking sound (and video connection),  and ensuring that your environment is quiet, here are some other suggestions:

What other tips would you include?

Further suggestions:

24 February 2018

A Reading Resource

Reading, learning how to read in between the lines, understanding words, hidden meanings. skimming, scanning - all of these skills have never been as relevant as today. For teachers who need to dip into a different educational resource looking for reading materials, Common Lit is a great option. 

Reading materials are organised into grades, themes and genres. Reading passages  come accompanied by some exercises, as you can see here with Fish Cheeks  (below) with a navigation bar on the top right, making it really simple for learners to follow instructions. 

If you would like to have further access to lesson plans, then you will need to have an account. 

In an age where so many of us are accustomed to hyperlink-reading, it is important to maintain reading habits among learners.  Here below is an infographic to help learners as well.

How do you keep your learners reading?


Playing with Vocabulary

As much as learners may like Kahoot, there are also other tools to revise and learn vocabulary, which give added interest to vocabulary activities.

Vocabulary.com is one of them.

There is a free account as well as an Educator's account, with more features. 

One of the things I most like about Vocabulary.com is how simple it is to create word lists for learners and then, how equally simple it is to share the list with them. 

Basically, 3 steps:

There are also shared lists to dip into, though as my lessons are usually tailored to my learners, I tend to create my own word lists for them. One of my favourite activities with Vocabulary.com is the Vocab Jam, which you can use anywhere, even without a screen in the classroom. All you need is Wifi and hopefully, learners with their own mobile devices. There is a choice of vocabulary games though which either the teacher may assign or students work through. 

You can also assign a set of vocabulary items for learners every week
and it is their responsibility to go go through them for revision. This really does foster learner autonomy without the pressure of completing the exercises in class. Or, for students who have finished their tasks early in class, going through a specific list of vocabulary may be just the task they can do to revise. 

As with other learning sites, there is also a blog for teachers to dip into and learners may keep their scores when signed in, if they wish. 

I wish that Vocabulary.com offered the possibility to embed games but for now, it's easy to share link with learners, give them the code and lets them jam away with vocabulary!

What other digital games are you using this winter?

17 February 2018

Reflecting Learning on Teacher Training Courses

Learning is challenging as it pushes one out of their regular comfort zone. Yet learning is also joyful as one accomplishes the previously unknown through trial and error. 

Teachers are constantly learning from a myriad of sources. And with learning, there comes reflective learning and identity building. Below are some possible questions to guide teacher trainees towards active reflection when they are about to complete a training course. 

What other reflection questions would you add when completing a training course?

9 February 2018

Training Resources for Educators

There are a number of ways educators can continue doing professional development, even without exorbitant fees for training courses. Besides, blogs, newsletters and the myriad of MOOCs available,  teachers can dip into these two spaces for professional development and skill training. 

Google for Education  is free and even if you don't work with Google's G Suite, there are many ideas of how to use Google Apps. 

For anyone using Apple devices, then there is Apple Teacher Education , which is free 

and offers another way of developing professional skills for the classroom.

Lastly, if you are in a context where discussing bias is part of your syllabus, or whether you have any interest in touching upon the issue of bias,
there is Unbound

The tool kit explains how it offers:

 "Having Brave Conversations About Bias

The toolkit contains a high-level overview of the facilitated conversation, with individual PowerPoint presentations and materials containing detailed notes, resources, and activities that will help you move through each part of the conversation. Educators are encouraged to modify these presentations so they work for your school community."

What other resources do you suggest for free professional development?

6 February 2018

Curating and Sharing

Ever fell down the internet rabbit hole only to find yourself stumbling link after link into more interesting territories?

The problem is that often there simply isn't enough time for all the links, websites, articles one can read at a time. Keeping track of them in a curation, for example, may be useful. As some visitors to this blog may know, I myself use Scoop.it regularly. More than curating for others, it  is a resource that I turn to whenever necessary. This does not mean that sharing with others is unimportant.

Among the different tools I have used for curation, elink.io
is one that is quite useful for educators. You can share links and visuals with colleagues, learners and anyone you would like to share information with. These links can be shared as a newsletter, a webpage  or embedded in a blog. The one below is an example made from pages of this blog:

elink.io is free and really easy to use - and as a teacher, I think that there are so many benefits in sharing a selection of web links to learners and colleagues with an attractive format and visuals, which always add interest and helps to boost one's memory.  Instead of a bibliography list, why not try a simple digital webpage with elink.io for example? Learners too can create their own webpage when working in groups, submitting all their work and research in a digital format which can be shared among the whole class. Possibilities extend as far as one's needs and contexts when considering curation and sharing.

How are you sharing learning links this year?

Further Suggestions:

Curation - Why, Because and Then

Curation Re-visited

Curating Tribes

5 February 2018

My Badge, MyMantle

Digital badges are a great way to curate one's skills and achievements as well as to recognize learners' success. They are easy to share and with time, create an asset to one's digital portfolio which can be shared professionally. 

MyMantle is a digital space which awards digital badges. What I liked about MyMantle is how close to curation it is, allowing the user to add work samples, badges and portrays of skills. 

With approaches and values in education changing, (slowly changing), awarding learners is also changing. Education is not happening only at traditional edu-institutions but in so many other ways as well. Learning is becoming increasingly less structured, more open, with individuals following their interests to learn something new, a new skill or topic on their own. 

How to showcase this effort? How to showcase this learning process with others? Digital badges are a simple and great way to acknowledge learning a new skill and to share it with others. 

Have you been using digital badges with your learners
or for your own professional development?

Further Suggestions:

Assessment with Digital Badges

Appreciation - With a Badge

What’s inside an Open Badge

Digital Badges for Educational Achievement

The Teacher’s Guide To Badges In Education

Images: Pexels

2 February 2018

Let's Write!

One of the most challenging activities for many learners (and not only language learners) is the skill of writing. Of course, good models for writing are helpful but it is really once learners begin writing, that the fun begins.

Eddtor is one of my favourite writing tools right now. Free and easy to use, it counts words and and how long it takes to read a document.

It's writing space is clean and quiet, and yes, it does have a spell checker as well.  It's fairly simpler than Word, but that is the beauty of Eddtor - a clean, quiet space with the basics so that the writer focuses on writing.

And with the advantage that you can log on from anywhere, at anytime.

What other writing tools do you recommend for 2018?

Further Suggestions:

Writing Skills and Patterns

Authenticity Through Collaboration

22 Online Tools That Will Help Learners With Improving Writing Skills

Images - Pexels