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

28 October 2018

Building a Learning City

How can you transform your city into a learning city?

UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning asks this precise question - How to build a learning city? :

How to build a learning city? includes a set of videos which enable thinking
about the issues involved when planning cities as well as published guidelines  which are free to download and are published in different languages:

"These guidelines provide cities with strategic approaches for building dynamic and sustainable learning cities. They contain a set of actionable recommendations that can be referred to at every stage of the process of becoming a learning city. The documents are available for download in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish."

"Lifelong learning"- only another banal buzzword?

Perhaps not.

Perhaps lifelong learning is simply that - the ability to access learning, managing constructively how to solve problems in our environments and inspiration for better living throughout one's life. 

Further Suggestions:

Climate Change and Our Environment

Supporting Sustainable Development

Integrating global issues in the creative English language classroom: With reference to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, edited by Alan Maley and Nik Peachey

We the Future: Talks from TED, Skoll Foundation and United Nations Foundation

5 Transformational policies for a prosperous and sustainable world 

The 2017 Atlas of Sustainable Development Goals: a new visual guide to data and development

(Image from Pixabay)

27 October 2018

Media Literacy and News in English

In my small corner of the world, golden Autumn is turning to winter greys. Every season brings different degrees of change but for the past two years one critical change seems to be here to stay for a while longer - the daily shattering of public truths, the quick erosion of public trust and having to accept life in a complex world of truths, falsehoods and ever deepening, aggressive partisanship. 

From bots to misleading digital identities, from cyberbullying to  images which claim "no filter" on Instagram (but which in fact are heavily filtered and perfected),  there are times when I question where  human understanding, empathy and clear logic have gone in the midst of so much murkiness. 

With that murkiness comes hesitation - what is real? what is not real? how can I know what is true or merely made up as fake news yet again?

Project Look Sharp is media literacy initiative created by educators for students and which " acts as a liaison between educators and the media literacy field at large."  
Among the different activities and resources  that Project Look Sharp offers educators, you can find a choice of lesson plans on media literacy and curriculum kits which include different subjects,  resources on media literacy for educators and media literacy handouts, - news accuracy and credibility

An example of these resources includes one called Discourse or Disinformation? 
and includes:

Discourse or Disinformation? Lesson Plan
Discourse or Disinformation? Teacher Guide
Discourse or Disinformation? Student Reading
Discourse or Disinformation? Student Handout
Discourse or Disinformation? Student Worksheet
The Great Global Warming Swindle (A) Video Clip

Project Look Sharp also includes webinars and The Do-It-Yourself (DIY) Online Guide for guiding teachers on how to design a lesson plan while including a focus on media literacies. 

For those who may teach ELT, there is the well known BBC Learning English and BBC Learning English on YouTube , both which have plenty of ideas for lessons. 

CNN now has lesson for English  where learners can listen while reading the news. A recent example is How will Meghan make maternity fashion her own? which comes accompanied by a list of vocabulary on the left hand side of the screen and flashcards. The site is free, and as by the example I have included, there are a range of topics, i.e. not only politics, but other news related to  current affairs and possibly, interests that students have and may be following in their first language. 

Whether focusing more closely on visual literacies or media literacies, there is such a need to include digital literacies in everyday educational practices, there is little excuse for educators not using the many teaching resources available today. 

Further Suggestions:

Analysing Digital Media Literacies

News and Media Literacy

Fragments within Education - A Case for Digital Literacies

Digital Media Fluencies

How Do You Learn Learning?

Literacy - The News

Russell Stannard: Teaching Students about Fake News

(Images from Pixabay)

Sharing Presentations with a Deck

If you ever felt the need to find alternatives to PPT and Keynote, well, there certainly are other options for sharing presentations (and yes, besides Prezi). 

SpeakerDeck is one option that has called my attention lately. 

SpeakerDeck is free and simple to use.  Basically, all you need to do is upload a PDF document and SpeakerDeck will turn into a set of slides.

You then have different options of sharing your slides,
as you can see on the righthand side:

SpeakerDeck also allows you to browse through other presentations, which are organized thematically.

It may not be an immediate alternative to the popular SlideShare, but definitely worth looking into.

As well as being another possible digital tool to use for storytelling with learners, it's a digital space to store and share presentations and ideas.

(Image from Pixabay)

This is an example where I used a earlier blog post to try  out SpeakerDeck :

26 October 2018

Noise Pollution and Learning Civics

Days when all there seems to exist is noise. 

Drilling, banging, hammering, exploding. 

Explosions of hate, of racism,  of waring cultures.  Ignorance, divisions, subdivisions. Deeper,  sharper, more dangerous. Divisions. A post-truth society navigating the noise of fake news and world events which will have far reaching consequences. 

As an adult, I long for quieter, healthier, safer times. 

As an adult, I wonder about our students and how they process this all. 

With different countries having elections in the coming days and weeks, perhaps it is a good time to introduce learners to iCivics

While iCivics does have a focus on a particular country, (e.g. Win the White House ) some of the games are broad enough to be relevant in many other societies.  Students can play different games and compare/discuss what and/or how is similar or different to their own cultural context. 

We live in fast changing times - regarding both socio-political changes which will affect everyone globally as well as climate change, which is already having it's effects around the globe. (e.g. Global Warming News, Climate Change First Became News 30 Years Ago. Why Haven’t We Fixed It? Global Climate Change - Vital Signs of the Planet )

One form of pollution - which affects so many of us every day - is noise pollution. Many perceive noise pollution as just another feature of daily life - but is it really something that one must accept without objection? Have we become so immune to the effects of this form of pollution? For many of our students, this is an important issue to raise when discussing the environment and global changes. 

Made with Padlet

If, on the other hand, you would like to discover different kinds of music, (not necessarily noise) why not dip into a map of sounds and music and let yourself be surprised!

Times we live in.

Ravaging changes affecting our planet, our civil rights and liberties.

These issues too, have an urgent place in classrooms, for without debate, discussion and reflection, one is left with fewer choices.

Further Suggestions: 

Take a Challenge, Accept a Dare

Games, Documentaries and Images for Empathy and Social Skills

News and Media Literacy

Fake News - Resources for Learners and Educators

An Urgency of Teachers

(Images from Pixabay and Unsplash)

25 October 2018

ePortfolios for Creative Learners

I have been participating on a MOOC on Visual Literacies, and because of that, my memory has been jolted back to the need for learners to have their own spaces for their art, photography, digital design and more. 

There are the blogging options,  as well as other types of ePortfolios, but why not introduce learners to portfolios designed more specifically for  graphic and artistic work? 

imcreator  (also known as XPRS) is a website which is designed for creatives (among others). 

Steps are simple, as you can see from the video below:

Another option is PortfolioBox.

PortfolioBox  builds websites for people who create and who would like to have a portfolio of their photography, videos and artistic work. 

Students can develop pages or a whole site to their art. Some schools have partnered up with PortfolioBox, making Pro Accounts free for students. 

Last, but definitely not least, is Dropr - a space where you can can drop a whole range of different kinds of files, follow streams of others' work.

A simple tool to share one's art, to connect with other creatives, and  with the added bonus that what you see/work on a bigger screen, will be the same on a smaller screen (i.e. tablet or mobile screen).

What ePortfolios do you use for creative arts?
David Garland - The Long View from TAKAHIRO KIMURA on Vimeo.

Further Suggestions: 

Prompting Writing and Discussions

Have you ever come to the end of the day, only to find that you still need a writing or discussion topic for tomorrow's lesson? If you use a course book, there may be suggestions - many that learners have already been exposed to in other courses or lessons. On the other hand, you may find them outdated, out of touch with your learners's real worlds and interests. 

Here are three suggestions which you may find of interest to dip into when time is short and creative prompts are running low (because that too happens in the daily lives of educators). 

650 650 Prompts for Narrative and Personal Writing is exactly that, i.e. prompts for writing which engage students by stimulating personal reflection and inquiry. 

An example is "What Are Your Secret Survival Strategies?", and there are plenty more to choose from. Writing prompts include topics ranging from overcoming adversity, to family and neighbourhood, to growing up and technology. Each topic includes a text which serves as a springboard for the topic at hand and follow up questions. These are simple to tailor for your own context and level. 

is another compilation of prompts by The Learning Network of The New York Times. 

Some include short videos, text and again, questions to stimulate writing or even class discussion. Topics are contemporary and easily relatable to learners. (for example, Does Technology Make Us More Alone? ) 

One more compilation combines topics for both writing and discussion -163 Questions to Write or Talk About . 

One more suggestion, also from this source, is a compilation of questions, which are published daily for example,  Do You Wish You Had a Different Morning Routine? 

Questions are corner stone to learning,
to opening up new thoughts and perspectives. 

Questions help one wonder, help one discover new meanings and pathways. 

The Questions We Ask [2013] from Kalum Ko on Vimeo.

24 October 2018

The Video Hero

I don't really know whether heroes are born or made or even, a bit of both. What I do know, however, is how so often our learners are indeed heroes.

In the classroom, teachers are focused on delivering content, managing activities and learning tasks, monitoring progress, managing the classroom in general,  as well as managing time, providing feedback (and let's pause here as teachers are multitasking constantly in classrooms, juggling demands and obligations). This sometimes leaves little time and space for teachers to really know what and how each individual learner is feeling on that particular day or lesson. It takes time to get to know a class of learners more individually. Additionally, teachers may not always be equipped with the necessary skills and training to deal with particular problems that a student may have. In those cases,  teachers may need to ask support  for those cases from other departments in their institution, so to best support the student. 

As a language teacher, and a language learner, whenever I read disappointment or frustration in the classroom, I always tell my students that they are heroes. Because that is what they often are. All learners are heroes - they come into our classrooms and are expected to engage in the activities provided, to overcome learning inhibitions, learning barriers, leaving their private worlds behind them. Students who are studying abroad experience culture shock at varying levels, go through periods of homesickness and often, a great deal of frustration when adapting to new teaching and learning styles. Yet, in the end, they do succeed and that is what matters. 

All heroes need stories and what better than having students create their own narratives with video? 

These narratives may be factual or imaginative. All learners have stories to tell and create, either individually or in pairs or small groups. These stories/videos can then be shared in the classroom, in a class blog or LMS or/and used as class activities (e.g. a listening exercise with a video made by students).

Below are some video tools which can be shared with students and a tool for teachers to provide students with feedback on their work. 

Made with Padlet

Further suggestions:

A Spring of Thinking, Curation & Videos

Life, Light, Action! Videos for Storytelling

Did the Internet Kill the Video Star?

Sharing Learning and Professional Development with Videos

History's Heroes, Smart History

10 Video Project Ideas Every Teacher Should Try

Editing Video in Google Slides

22 Powerful Tools to Create and Edit your Own Instructional Videos

10 Awesome Places to Find Background Music for Video

(Images from Pixabay)