8 November 2018

An Interactive Board for Collaboration

Regardless of how one perceives collaboration and cooperation, asking students to work in pairs or in small groups on mini projects or classroom tasks, is quite common practice. Often, however, learners will have to continue working together outside the classroom and resort to digital tools to communication and complete their tasks. 

Boardthing is an interesting tool to use for teams and small groups. 

Boardthing includes sticky notes, a whiteboard, markers, and index cards, and with its drag and drop features, is really simple to use. 

Team work and cooperation are not always simple, straight forward processes.

Guiding students with tools which may help them collaborate, take ownership of their projects together, a space where they  can share their visions and ideas, is a step towards preparing them for life outside the classroom.  When using a visual board which allows them to share and connect ideas, to brainstorm and communicate, they are developing team work skills which are necessary for their futures.

And, who knows what creative outcomes may occur in a visual, interactive whiteboard?

4 November 2018

Connecting Visuals and Language for Learning

How often do you find ELT students still confusing the same words, repeating the same lexis and wondering how to break those linguistic habits?

As language teachers will know, adding visuals for learning always helps. Here is an example:

GrammarCheck  has a range of infographics which may be used in lessons, from Plagiarism Mistakes & How to Avoid Them (Infographic) to 20 Clutter Words & Phrases We Use Too Often (Infographic) to10 Common Phrases & What You Can Use Instead (Infographic). There are infographics on essays and writing as well as British and American Differences . After analyzing a specific topic, students could create their own infographic with the guidelines and linguistic recommendations that they found most useful. 

How to help learners remember all these recommendations and linguistic rules?

Nicky Case has published a wonderful set of examples and explanations for remembering - How to remember anything forever-ish 

In Nicky Case's  •THINGS YOU CAN PLAY• , you can find further resources, such as How Do We Learn? A Zine - each discovery in •THINGS YOU CAN PLAY• will surely inspire you for lessons and approaches in the classroom. 

Further Suggestions:

(Image from Pixabay)

Proverbs & Quotations with Visuals

As anyone on Social Media will know, their feeds will often contain motivational quotations and accompanying images. And, as anyone who has learnt another language will also know, learning a language is more than learning vocabulary and grammar - there is whole cultural world pertaining to that language to learn and understand. 

Introducing proverbs - with images, is one way to fill that gap, especially for those who teach multi-lingual classes. 

15 wise sayings you've probably never heard of, turned into cute illustrations. is exactly that - 15 proverbs with an image for each, from different parts of the world. Activities could begin with an image or proverb; or by asking learners to match the proverb with the image, then share proverbs and sayings from their own countries (for example, using Padlet is a great way for a class to share their chosen proverbs). 

As for quotations, not all quotations appearing on Social Media feeds are accurate. Quote Investigator is a great place to find out whether or not a quotation is in fact authentic and how it may have been misconstrued (or not). 

As for including visuals in teaching and learning, let me leave you with this guide by David Roberts:

3 November 2018

Collaborative Gaming with Stories

Tapping, swiping. 

Swiping, tapping. 

A world where likes, taps and swipes take power over from turning a page, savoring a metaphor, imagining settings and characters. 

Is the magic of storytelling over?

Not really. Books are still being published, still being read and appreciated. However, multimedia has fostered another kind of reading habit, one that may be collaborative and with gaming elements, making storytelling equally engaging for readers today. 

Storium is a multiplayer, collaborative storytelling game, which a class of students can use to create stories together. 

Instead of struggling with ideas on their own, learners can build characters and plots together within a game-like environment. 

For teachers, steps are clearly explained here:

"Here’s how it works, in a nutshell:

As the teacher, you create a virtual classroom and fill it with accounts for your students.
Students create games and invite their classmates in groups of 2-4. You get to approve every game before it can start.

Each student in the game controls one of the story’s characters, which are just like the protagonists in a movie or book.

Games are divided into scenes, just like in a movie. Students play one scene at a time, collaboratively writing a story as they go.

Students play by taking turns using virtual playing cards called story cards. They serve as writing prompts, so students always have some sense of what they should be writing about and what makes sense for the story.

These cards come from a storyworld. We provide an example storyworld but you can create your own to support your specific learning goals, or you can use ones that have been created and shared by other teachers."

Storium  also includes other tutorial videos supporting how to create characters, story cards and more. Additionally, there is a shared library with stories which teachers may use with their own classes. Young Adult Dystopia is an example.

Storytelling is powerful regardless of one's choice of media. Whether telling a story with  a podcast, orally, written or  with a video, it's the plot and characters which engage the audience.  The more learners are involved in writing stories, the more motivated they will be to read as well. 

How do you get students to write stories collaboratively?

Divers (Short Animation) from Paris Mavroidis on Vimeo.

Further Suggestions: 

Storytelling with Avatars and Timelines

Finding Meaning through Projects and Storytelling

Visuals for Storytelling

Forms of Storytelling

Summer Stories with New Storytelling Tools

Steller Storytelling

30 Storytelling Tips For Teachers: How To Capture Your Students’ Attention

The Future of Visual Storytelling

Ursula K. Le Guin on Redeeming the Imagination from the Commodification of Creativity and How Storytelling Teaches Us to Assemble Ourselves

Using Storytelling in eLearning Can Drive Behavior Change

Why You Need To Use Storytelling For Learning

2 November 2018

Colour Me Beautiful

As celebrations and festivities roll out around the world at this time of year, why not give learners the opportunity to reflect on their choice of colour when they engage in creative projects? Choice of colour varies according to context, age, location, culture,  and so much more. Have a look here below:

In regard to choice of colour, there is also the most popular choice by industry as seen here below:

Image source: Canva
Most popular logo colors by industry

How do choice of favourite colour/s vary in your part of the world? Can you, together with learners, find a sweet spot of consensus?

Blue - CNN from Moth on Vimeo.

Further Suggestions: 

Linking the Classroom Tribe

Exploring the World

Blow Me Away with Images

Free Images for the Classroom

Ikigai - Japanese concept to enhance work, life & a sense of worth

Color psychology: The logo color tricks used by top companies—and how to design your own

A Space for Writing, A Space for Creative Practice

There always seems to be a reason (or should I say, excuse?) for creativity not being embedded into classroom practices. Yes, there is the curriculum. Yes, there are assessments,  yes there are time constraints, yes, yes, yes........

And there is boredom.

And there is the shutting out of learners' needs and interests, sweeping the development of soft skills and creativity away from the classroom. Classrooms and syllabi where creativity is perceived more as an individual gift rather than a practice for all.  Curricula which still ignores the relevance and need of including soft skills for students' futures. 

Many educators are aware of those restrictions on a daily basis.

Despite young people reading more than ever before, there is a need for learners to write more - and not only for the purpose of passing a test or an exam. 

Commaful is a digital space for creative writing.  

Free, (with an app for iOS), Commaful is a more than only a writing space - it is a multimedia space for writing, reading and sharing one's stories. It may be for aspiring writers, but there are also professional storytellers sharing their writing.

Most stories tend to be short and readers can leave comments, slowly creating a community around the stories which are posted and shared.

The multimedia format will hold appeal for learners, as will the possibility of writing shorter narratives and receiving feedback from someone other than a teacher.

It may take some time for learners who are not accustomed to participating in such online communities to get more actively involved, but don't we as educators have some responsibility in introducing such writing spaces to learners?

What's your story?

Creativity from SVA BFA Design on Vimeo.

Kingston School of Art: What is Creativity? from Buff Motion on Vimeo.

Further Suggestions: 

Employers lament lack of soft skills in graduates

The rise of the soft skill – in demand by 2020

Let’s stop calling them ‘soft skills’

What Counts as Student Agency?

How Exam Success Masks Lack Of Writing Skills

Millennials Are Out-Reading Older Generations

Millennials: A Generation Of Page-Turners

Creativity is a human quality that exists in every single one of us

Nesta identifies the digital skills required for a ‘future proof’ job

Writing Skills and Patterns

Creativity and Writing

Writing - The Space Between

Release Your Inhibitions - Writing Resources

Hirshfield on Storytelling, the Art of Concentration, and Difficulty as a Consecrating Force of Creative Attention

Power Learners, #DavidBowie and Creativity

Fashion? Yes! - Fashion, Infographics and the Environment

What does fashion, infographics and the environment have in common?

At first glance, perhaps nothing much. 

However, when thinking about possible projects and classroom activities, introducing fashion as a topic/theme connected to environmental issues, which can later be visualized in a infographic, then the connection becomes much more relevant to learning tasks. 

Whether one takes an interest or not in fashionable trends, fashion is something that does affect and mold one's identity. One's outer appearance reflects choices related to which urban tribe one belongs to, (or aspires to belong to), to personal taste and lifestyle, for example. Aspirations and a sense of belonging too, come under this wide umbrella of fashion and what is trendy; which in turn also influence the construction of one's identity. 

Then there is the impact of fast fashion consumption on the environment and at the same time, how the fashion industry contributes to a country's economic growth. Somewhere along the lines between frenetic consumption and economic growth there needs to be a balance, a call for sustainability and sustainable development. 

Possible classroom activities around this topic would include:

A class discussion which explores learners thoughts and assumptions, allowing learners to focus on their specific interests in the theme and giving them space to express their own solutions and alternatives for achieving a more sustainable practice of fashion.

This discussion could then lead to a mini research project where students may find out more about the impact of fashion, and in particular, fast fashion, on the environment, especially in their local context.

Throughout this process they are actively learning about the topic, how to manage the search for useful information and sources, while also deciding for themselves was is right, what isn't right, what is relevant to their lives and what may not be relevant.

The final outcome could be creating an infographic in small groups, which they then share in a class blog/LMS or if possible, have printed to put up on the class walls. Their visual production would contain both the/an initial problem with fashion (e.g. negative impact on the environment) and possible solutions.

Both Venngage and Canva have free templates which serve as models for creating infographic and which are simple to use. Venngage includes templates for beginners, and both Canva and Venngage include a range of options for images, icons, fonts and more.

Learning is taking ownership of one's thinking, discoveries and problem solving capabilities.

Learning ignores limitations for solving problems in our world. 

Strokes of Creativity: Fashion from FIELD on Vimeo.

1 November 2018

Videos for History, Social Sciences and Contemporary Events

Do you remember days sitting in history lessons and imagining the world at that point in time? 

Or, was your experience of history lessons closer to daydreaming about the next holiday?

However your experience was, learning history today, can truly be quite a different experience in the classroom. From games and creating timelines, to designing posters to interactive tasks,  mixing AR and VR, there are many different approaches for teachers to use in a history lesson. 

Hip Hughes runs his own Hip Hughes History channel on YouTube , with educational videos for the social sciences, history, religion and current events.  Even for ELT, these videos are of interest as his speech is not artificially slowed down for non-native English speakers, thus making listening activities more challenging and closer to reality.  Here are 2 examples:

And, for a contemporary, current touch:

Videos are a great way to add interest in a topic and can be used for flipping lessons (e.g. using Playposit or Edpuzzle) or in class.

While videos are indeed engaging, they support learning, open further opportunities for learner autonomy and needless to say, are motivating for learners.

And then there are videos which provoke, question and  change perspectives with a touch of humour:

31 October 2018

An Environmental Project - Food Waste

While thinking about projects for students, I couldn't help but remember an article by Julian Stodd on 12 Modes of Innovation 
and how it is never enough to only discuss environmental issues in classrooms, but also to give students the opportunity to actually come up with their solutions and options of how best to tackle environmental problems.  

One major issue affecting our planet is how climate change is affecting farming and food waste. 

In a season when many celebrations will be taking place, it is worth pausing and considering how much food is wasted in some parts of the world:

One possible activity for learners, is for them to use Tricider and share their ideas and how they would tackle food waste in their countries/neighbourhoods.

Tricider is very simple to use as you can see in the video below:

Tricider is one possible way for a class to begin brainstorming, sharing and developing what Stodd refers to as sustainability and breakthrough. It doesn't matter how frugal a solution may be; what is important is that students are given time to think through possible solutions to an ever growing problem around the world. Other tools could be a Padlet, a video, a comic or cartoon, a podcast, a Flipgrid - there are choices for all and for levels of learners.

Whatever tool students are suggested to use for their project, it is worth remembering that it is not so much the tool itself which is stressing the learning,  but the activity of identifying a problem, analyzing it from their perspective and together in their groups/pairs, finding possible solutions. Throughout this process students are evaluating, reflecting and thinking critically about the issue at hand.

And in many ways, offering responsibility to solve environmental problems which have been created by others and which are now left in their present and future.

Further Suggestions:

Debate Hub

Debate Graph

Persuasion Map

Climate Change and Our Environment

Extreme Event Materials - Earthquake, Flood, Hurricane

By 2030 we could throw away more than 2 billion tonnes of food

WWF report: Mass wildlife loss caused by human consumption

5 Tips for Teaching Kids About Sustainable Living

Our food system is broken. Here are 3 ways to fix it 

Billions of pounds of pumpkin will go to the landfill after Halloween


Food Waste

Global Flood Map 

Less Wrong WIKI - An online debate tool facilitates the act of debating by helping to manage the structure of argumentation. This distinguishes it from general purpose communication tools such as wikis and forums. Some online debate tools provide graphical representations of arguments, but this is not a requirement.

This wiki page gives a list and characterization of debate tools. 

Food For Thought - Veganism & The Environment from Liron Ashkenazi on Vimeo.

Finding Meaning through Projects and Storytelling

How to give learners space to create a learning project which they can share? Whether it is for information literacies, the environment or any other topic which may be part of their syllabus, Sutori is a great,  user-friendly tool to use to show case a project. 

Sutori creates visual stories and timelines, allowing a range of files to be added, as you can see in the image below:

When logging in, you have different templates to choose from, or simply select a blank template; however, to have access to embedding and the other features that Sutori offers, one has to have a paid account. Sutori also offers a range of resources for educators, with examples of how it can be used for different subjects (e.g. How Social Studies Teachers Use Sutori , How English Teachers Use Sutori and even case studies for Higher Education). 

This is a simple example (very simple,  as I am using the free version at the moment), but it shows how user-friendly Sutori is and how it can be easily shared by students in a class or individual blog.  Students can then also comment on the information included and cross-check links and sources.

Learning is a process, a sequence of steps, a messy continuum, a narrative of growth and growing up.

Whether for stories or factual narratives, there are many ways in which learners can be engaged in their digital creations.

It all begins by giving them the opportunity to learn and create.

Storytelling - Animated Explainer from Basetwo Media on Vimeo.

Further Suggestions:

Poster Projects

Pinning Summer Projects

Forms of Storytelling

What is a Storyboard?

30 Storytelling Tips For Teachers: How To Capture Your 

Students’ Attention

Netprov: Storytelling as Performing Art

9 Innovative Methods for Modern Storytelling

The art of storytelling

(Images from Pixabay)

Information Literacy and Digital Civics

From creating an avatar,  to navigating one's presence and online participation, there is no doubt that giving students the opportunity to reflect on digital citizenship and their online identity is a key element in their educational experience.

This learning experience also includes how they read and select news which inform (or disinform) them in  the turbulent times we are living in.

The Digital Civics Toolkit is "a collection of resources for educators to support youth to explore, recognize, and take seriously the civic potentials of digital life. "

The Digital Civics Toolkit focuses on a range of civic dilemmas and situations and is organized into five main modules: Exploring Community Issues, Investigation, Dialogue, Voice, and Action. Each section comes accompanied by questions for students to reflect on, teacher guides, videos and other sources related to the theme. In the theme of VOICE, for example, "the activities in this module students will consider what, how, when, why and to what end they can create, remix, repurpose, and share civic content and perspectives with others in online spaces."

This toolkit is free and as explained below, can be adapted to different contexts for students, i.e. whether younger or secondary students:

Participate. In this module, students explore their identities and communities, identify issues that matter to them, and consider how they could use digital media to act.
Investigate. Students learn to analyze civic information online and consider what information they can trust.
Dialogue. Here, students practice strategies for navigating diverse perspectives and exchanging ideas about civic issues.
Voice. Students explore how and why they might create, remix, and share civic or political content in online spaces.
Action. Here, students consider a broad range of tactics and strategies for acting on civic issues — everything from civil disobedience to Facebook likes.

(A Toolkit for Digital Civics)

Project Information Literacy 
is another relevant project regarding web information and how students navigate media and in general, being a student in the digital age.

Project Information Literacy includes videos, publications and practical projects to carry out with students and faculty.

Being digitally literate, being comfortable with digital literacies, also means knowing how to distinguish what is real or fabricated online; it's knowing how to be a responsible digital citizen, and an  active participant in the online world.

Further Suggestions:

Do We Still Believe Networked Youth Can Change the World?: A Special Issue

RESEARCH STORIES - A Toolkit for Digital Civics

5 things you can do to counter misinformation

Internet Health

How college students are getting their news, and how educators can help

Media Literacy and News in English

Literacy - The News

Evaluating Websites for EAP

Digital Literacy - Digital Delights

Digital Citizenship