21 November 2018

iEARN - Do You?

I have always been wary of those who claim to know everything within a particular field; of those who are such "experts" that anything that they perhaps may not know or be aware of, is not worthy of knowing. This attitude towards learning and knowledge makes little sense to me. Regardless of one's academic qualifications, learning is a life-long process and one that has open options today for educators. 

These learning opportunities do not necessarily need to cost a small fortune either - from free access webinars for teachers and MOOCs, to professional training videos (e.g. Teacher Training Videos), there are educational networks and communities which offer other opportunities for educators to continue learning and doing professional development. 

iEARN, (International Education and Resource Network), offers educators a number of events, international collaboration opportunities, as well as a newsletter, professional development and forums for teachers and students. 

You can easily find participating countries, (140 countries) get in touch with  country coordinators, and make use of language resources. These language resources include: " (...) a listing of resources to serve as a guide to the various language communities and resources available across the network. Among these links are actual iEARN-Center websites, online project forums,and translations of materials such as the project description book, newsflashes, etc."

There are over 100 global projects for educators and students; Don't Waste - Create, is one example where a recylcing/re-use project is global and collaborative. One feature of these projects is their connection with the UN Sustainable Development Goals; there is also a template for educators to propose a new project (the 2018-2019 iEARN Project Book will be published in September 2019).

Coming up soon (27th November 2018), are the following webinars:




Learning is personal in the sense that it is the individual that needs to make the effort to acquire new skills and knowledge.

Learning, however, is also a social activity; a social process with exchanges, debates, discussions, and above all, meaningful, transparent collaboration and cooperation.

Learning is open to all educators.
Learning choices are open to all. 

How will you be collaborating with colleagues this academic year? How will you be opening collaborative learning opportunities for your learners?

Further Suggestions:

(Images - Pixabay and Unsplash)

20 November 2018

Quizzing with AI

I look out through the window pane, through the rain, through the neon flashing lights,  at the sleeping city below me. I should be asleep as well, but....

There is still a test to write for tomorrow. Another cup of tea, another glance at the rain drenched urban night.  Fresh ideas for a test elude me. I stare impatiently at the blank screen, struggling against the tiredness which seeps though me. Flickering light from the outside reminds me that I must complete this task before tomorrow. Tomorrow.... 

Where is my test? What format shall I give it?

The rain continues and my screen remains blank.

For the record, none of the above is really factual - I neither live in a big urban centre nor do I leave assessments to be written at the end of the day. Nonetheless, I do remember times,  when, at the end of a busy day, I still had to write a test/quiz for that particular week. For that purpose I needed to set aside quiet time, revise what I had written, tweak, correct, consider the degree of learner achievement, the degree of challenge, purpose of the quiz, timing of the quiz and so forth. 

Does any of that sound familiar to you? And if so, have you ever wished that you could sit at the screen and somewhat magically, a quiz would write itself? Enter Quillionz

Quillionz is a tool to create quizzes with the aid of AI. 

As with most digital tools you need to sign up and then simply begin "designing" your test or quiz. 

For the sake of testing it out, I chose parts of a random text from Georgia O’Keeffe on the Art of Seeing and below I include images of the steps and the final result. 

There are 4 steps:

1 - Selecting content which pasted into the Quillionz interface (slide 1); you then have the choice of the pull down menu to indicate which field of study the test belongs to (i.e. science, history, humanities and so on); at the bottom of the screen you will have feedback on whether there are enough words to create the test and then the choice to proceed or not. After submitting the content, you are given the choice of key words taken from the content you provided.

2 - Once you have included a title to the content, Quillionz will indicate whether the content needs tweaking ; there will be a "content readiness meter" at the bottom of the page; there will also be suggestions on the right hand side, in regard to what needs or should be corrected; in this particular case, sentences were too lengthy and there were suggestions to replace pronouns.

3 - The "content readiness meter" of my content was only at 35%, and Quillionz proceeded by informing me with a pop up screen, that I needed at least 90% readiness. Nevertheless, as this was only a test, I continued.

4 - In the last image, you can see that  17 questions which were generated - this took a couple of minutes; 1 question was a short answer,  5 questions were based on a multiple choice format and the rest of the questions were recall questions. There is also the possibility of checking variations of some questions, should you want another type of question.

Finally, you can save the quiz to your dashboard and export the quiz:

I have yet to test Quillionz further and see up to which point it may or not be of practical use (for my teaching contexts).

Nevertheless, I do find it interesting how digital tools are developing and the introduction of AI into educators' practices, in this particular case, the practice of writing quizzes for learners.

What has your experience with AI and testing been like?

19 November 2018

The Environment, Recycling and Infographics

One doesn't need to travel far to become aware of how shifts in climate are affecting local residents and travelers around the world. From soaring temperatures to droughts and extreme weather phenomena, rarely a day goes by when environmental shifts don't hit the news. 

Discussing the environment is also not novel in many educational contexts. What I do find however, is when presented with the topic of the environment, students fall back on ready made answers almost, without actually thinking through possible solutions and outcomes. There will often be a reading text and reading comprehension questions, with perhaps, some light follow up activity. Little critical thinking is required and often, learner attitudes express boredom and ennui (they have heard it all before). 

Being able to think critically, without studying for an exam, is a need which is not new either. Achieving on exams, is precisely that - the skill to achieve on an exam. On the other hand, being able to "do', to think through problems and find possible solutions to the problems outside the classroom, is an imperative which needs to be practiced in classrooms - one that has become even more pertinent with the shifts that digital tools and the spread of the internet has enabled all learners today. 

Here on the left hand side, is a chart resulting from a business survey from 2015 (The skills agenda: Preparing students for the future ).  Problem solving, team-work, communication and creativity continue in the top league of the chart - results which one can find in many such surveys which are regularly published. 

One way to to avoid this simplistic regurgitating of environmental solutions and further cliches of how best to protect the environment, is to have learners in small groups and have them actually find solutions under determined themes.  Working in small groups, learners are indeed engaged in the 4 skills above mentioned, as they need to express their ideas, listen actively to their group members as well as contribute towards their group's discussion. In other words, effective team work will (hopefully) result in a more realistic and creative approach to problem solving. 

Below is an infographic as an example with how environmental topics may be presented under certain themes:

Without presenting this example initially,  to students, teachers may divide students into small groups with a particular theme (as in the example above) and have them then present their findings and possible solutions in an infographic - visuals create a stronger impact on audiences and by creating a visual artifact expressing solutions, keeps learners more actively focused on the task. These infographics can then be printed and posted on the classroom wall, or included in a class blog. The final activity could be a class discussion and reflection on what learners learnt, how they experienced the team work process and what in fact they will be doing for environmental protection in their day-to-day lives. 

Sketches from Tomin on Vimeo.

16 November 2018

Backchannels for Participation

There are different ways of "giving" voice to learners and participants on a learning course. Giving voice is a simplistic way of expressing what I mean because learners do have their own voice - it's usually a question whether their voices may be heard or not and what role their voice may (or not) have on a course. 

So perhaps, what I mean is giving learners (and course participants) a space for them to express their views during a lesson or  presentation (at the moment for the purpose of this blog post)- which is commonly known as a backchannel. Backchannelling is also another way to keep learners focused and engaged (hopefully), while giving them an opportunity to ask questions, share comments and carry out a digital conversation. Yes, there is the risk of perhaps some inappropriate language, but it is a learning opportunity for students to understand how the use of language is relevant in digital communication (and another reminder of their digital footstep). It's also a great way for quieter learners to participate and have their voice heard in the learning process.

Twitter is a popular choice,  but perhaps may not be the best option for many classrooms. Padlet is definitely a simple way of creating a backchannel board, (and includes a backchannel feature)  and  there is also Answer Garden. Here below are some other suggestions to try out (Please note that not all freemium):

Made with Padlet

What others would you recommend?

Further Suggestions:

Using Google Drive - Infographic

Photo by Andrew Pons on Unsplash

Despite the many digital tools available, there is one that I often find myself returning to for both personal use and to share documents with learners. 

And that is Google Drive.

Whether you teach F2F or online, GDrive is definitely a resource which can be used in a range of teaching/learning contexts. This infographic below contains tips and suggestions on how best to make use of your GDrive.

(You can either click on here to see the infographic in more detail, or simply on the link/s below):

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.