31 December 2019

Find the Sound

Images are wonderful for storytelling, learning/expanding vocabulary and basically, for immediate understanding. Images spark one's imagination and memory. Images transport one's soul.

Scents and sounds equally trigger memories and longings. Sounds, too, can transport one to worlds past, to worlds of the present.

FreeSFX offers free sounds - from insect sounds to strings to oceans, from ice cubes to magic portions brewing, there are sounds to delight, sounds to remember, and plenty of sounds to add to stories. 

Or simply to listen, guess and create the context of that particular sound. 

How will your students make use of these sound effects?

Further Suggestions:

Creating Charts for Learning Projects

As 2019 crawls to its end, I turn (once again) to this space which I use when in need. No, this is not a post about predictions nor remorses; not even hopes and dreams. Those are to be written across the skies and perhaps, by others who make predictions their daily routines. 

As a practitioner, I tend to focus on what learners need in classrooms, on what may open up learning processes and connections. And, of course, what may be interesting, possibly provocative to stir critical thinking and useful beyond the classroom walls. As such,  it is practical to end this year including two practical tools for creating charts. 

Charte.Ca is a free chart editor for "non-techies", simple to use and with interesting features as shown in the image on the left. 

I particularly like how charts can be embedded and may be interactive (as the example below indicates):

Charts Factory is another free tool for creating visual data,
which students may use for their research projects. Easy and simple to use, learners can choose the visual display they prefer, adding whatever colours they most like as well.

To anyone who happens to click by, may the new year bring you light and lightness.

And skies sprinkled with dreams with light. Naturally.

Further Suggestions:

Visualise Anything You Want

Create Your Own Infographics

Visualising Data

4 December 2019

Managing Notes and Meetings

If meetings make your heart flutter with the desire of freedom or make your mind switch off, knowing full well what pointlessness will chew up your time, I completely understand. It always amazes me how many meetings in educational settings could be more constructive with a clear email sent to participants, rather than the counting of heads in a room. 

Instead of dwelling on the uselessness of many meetings, the fact is that people do need to get together at times to exchange ideas, update projects, and ensure that any possible problem is being looked into and taken care of. One of the purposes of meetings is to agree on a plan of action and not for mindless rambling of what could be easily shared in an email. A meeting should also be collaboratively constructive.  But I digress. 

As increasingly more teachers work online, Hugo may be a possible tool to use for online meetings. 

Hugo has a free version for 40 users,
with whom you can share agendas and notes. It integrates with other web tools and apps, including Zoom. 

For anyone who may be interested in checking this tool for meetings, there are also these considerations to look into   - Evernote vs. OneNote vs. Google Docs vs. Hugo vs. Notion

One feature, however, that I don't particularly like, is how the user has to use their email address to sign in for an account. 

Nevertheless, it probably will be a new tool to add to my digital bag-pack for further exploration in the coming new year. 

With web-conferencing and digital meet-ups happening so regularly, how do you keep track of documentations and notes, sharing agendas and follow-ups?

Further Suggestions:

Do You Have a Digital Office?

Is this Your Fortune Cookie for Connecting?

Connect. Ask. Learn.

Adding Interaction into Presentations

Learning How to Learn with Notes & Maps

Young Juvenile Youth 'Animation' from Kosai Sekine on Vimeo.

2 December 2019

A Grammar App for those Lazy Days

Sometimes it's the simplest of mistakes that give it all away.

Or perhaps not.

Perhaps it's just a question of distraction, lack of attention, multi-tasking.

However, despite all the business that fill up our days, I am sometimes left wondering whether what I read is a typo, a distraction or quite honestly, a mistake.

Grammar Fix  is free and has decided to end those hesitations and possible misunderstandings in written English. 

Once you have downloaded the app, you can go ahead and begin checking your hesitations. There is a short explanation for each of these most common writing mistakes, as well as some practice. 

Do your students ever need a nudge with spelling?

Further Suggestions:

Rubrics, Assessment, Evaluation - A Re-Visit

Photo by Bich Tran from Pexels

I never liked exams much. Yet, as an educator, yes, I have administered and written many tests, quizzes and exams. Just something that comes with the job. 


No. Not really. 

Not only is evaluation/assessment an integral part of formal education, giving feedback to learners is important. Whether that feedback is continuous, formal/informal, formative or summative, peer feedback or self-reflecting feedback, providing learners with feedback and strategies on how to be better achieve their learning goals, is a cornerstone of education. 

Any assessment/evaluation approach will obviously depend on context and purpose. In many instances I tend to favour awarding badges and having students submit a portfolio with their work. However, this may not always be possible in different educational contexts. 

Teach Thought sums up 20 different suggestions on giving feedback to learners:

Although individuals may have their own rubrics and evaluation criteria to follow, when it comes to digital learning tasks, Teach Thought also offers a Bloom's Digital Taxonomy which is of interest, especially when selecting digital tasks for students:

Whether it be feedback, evaluation or assessment, these elements are embedded in learning processes. And just like the range of tasks one may choose, there are also different perspectives and considerations to bear in mind according to each teaching/learning context. 

Perhaps the most important is that rubrics are kept simple, clear and transparently shared with learners - no one appreciates unexpected tasks for assessment or evaluation of tasks not practiced in lessons. 

How do you carry out assessments, evaluations, student feedback?

Further Suggestions:

Do You Have a Digital Office?

Over the years that I have maintained this blog, I have watched as web tools and apps slip slide into fashion and then quietly, glide to a silent retreat. With web culture, in general, changing so quickly, it is no wonder that digital tools and platforms also go through trends and waves of change, whether in terms of popularity or merely because of the features they offer. 

One interesting trend is how there have been efforts to create visual connecting spaces. The other day I attended a webinar with GoBrunch (mentioned here) and really enjoyed the novelty of its visual layout and features for webinars and online classes. My Digital Office offers similar features in regard to visual support when connecting online. 

My Digital Office is mostly geared for professionals in the business world, but also have a free version allowing 3 team members. 

It's interesting because (besides the similarities with GoBrunch and their visual digital spaces), My Digital Office includes video conferencing and chat features for meet ups, indicates the local time participants log in from, and the ability to exchange files/documents with the team. My Digital Office also includes a practical User Guide  and the integration of Zoom

For teachers who work online/remotely, this could be an interesting option to connect for online meet-ups.

Further Suggestions:

Learning How to Learn with Notes & Maps

Learning how to learn may come easily to some students - but definitely not to all. Whether one is going to point their finger to a particular learning/academic culture or social setting, doesn't help students achieve either. 

Equally, mind-mapping is not a recent learning/study approach. However, there are different digital tools which help create mind-maps for generations now accustomed to working/learning digitally. 

Transo is one of these mind-mapping tools but with the additional feature of creating mind-maps out of outlined notes. 

With Transo, the user can work individually but also share their notes/mind maps and collaborate with others. 

Once you sign up, you can see different templates to choose from (example below):

Transo also includes clear tutorials for those getting started using it; there is a tutorial for who uses it on a mobile device, as well as a tutorial for using Transo on the web

For students of EAP and at Higher Ed in particular, this approach to note-taking and mind-mapping 
may be really useful, supporting them in their note-taking and learning skills. 

Further Suggestions:

Images for Writing Bytes

Writing doesn't always need to be a long-winded, painful and boring affair. In between the daily fractures of attention and distractions, writing helps learners focus, giving them the opportunity to actually think critically, to think clearly, to organise their thoughts and points of view.  

Caption Cat posts daily images for the public to add a caption and then vote on their favourite caption. Though this may involve some risk (e.g. how appropriate is the image for use in a classroom, language used) in classrooms, teachers could choose their own image from Caption Cat for learners to write their very own caption for the image. 

This is a short writing task; one that can be done at the end of a lesson, the end of a day or week. 

After sharing their captions, students could then vote on their favourite caption. 

After writing a couple of captions for given images (these on the left hand side are taken from Caption Cat), the students themselves would become responsible for sharing an image to caption - for instance,  the person whose caption received the most votes would be responsible for taking a photo to share for the next class where the whole class would be writing a caption for their image. 

A simple activity like this adds fun to writing, includes images and most importantly, brings into the learning space possible topics and images that students find of interest. It's their choice for their learning community. 

Playfulness when writing is also part of learning. 

Further Suggestions:

30 November 2019

Adding Interaction into Presentations

Times when sitting through another presentation  or professional training session just makes you go...


But it doesn't need to be like this. One way to increase engagement when presenting, is to get the audience involved - and without hopping around the room. Adding to the interactive tools already mentioned here, one can also consider Swift.

Swift has different price ranges, and also includes a free version which teachers could try out. With the free version, Swift includes 150 responses per month as well as unlimited questions, text to vote (SMS), online polling and PPT integration. 

Students too could use Swift as they rehearse their talks and use the feedback/experience as building up their presentation skills. 

AhASlides is yet another option to integrate with presentations.

Their free version includes:
  • Up to 20 live participants
  • Unlimited presentations
  • Unlimited slides
  • All question types
  • Quiz and Leaderboard
  • All content slide types
  • Background and colour customisation
  • Customisable presentation links
  • QR code
  • Presentation sharing
For anyone with class sizes up to 20 students, AhaSlides could be a possible option to use when presenting.

Giving a presentation is nerve wracking for many students, especially those who are studying EAP or studying in another language which is not their first language. It needn't be all pain and jitters. With supportive scaffolding and practice, giving students choices to include an interactive presentation tool to their talk, and helping them understand story-telling elements in their presentation, pre-presentation fears may become yesterday's lore. 

And, if nothing of the above is helpful for developing presentation skills, well, there is always coffee.

Do you use any of these interaction tools when you or your students give talks?

Further Suggestions: 

Are Your Presentations Nifty?

Presentations and Audience Interaction

Slide Your Show

LiveSlides - Embed any website seamlessly in PowerPoint and Keynote slides

Office Cat and Fish - Time For Coffee from Monkey Tennis Animation Studio on Vimeo.

Learning Reflections and Time Management

Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

While some students are able to manage their time in order to have sufficient time for their personal, private lives (including their time on Social Media), there are many who struggle with only 24 hours and the accumulation of assignments. 

Although study habits and recommendations may not have changed that much over the years (e.g. how to avoid plagiarism, the need to manage one's time and so on), the fact is that distractions have increased. So too have social pressures to conform, to rebel, to fit in, to meet expectations of others and the foggy process of finding one's own identity in the heady mix of offline and digital lives. 

In between all this, learners need time. Time to reflect, to slow down, to come to the surface for air and clarity. To think about how they can best use their time, while ensuring that their studies are not negatively affected. Below is an infographic which may be a springboard for reflection and possible action for learners. Rather than giving students the whole infographic, a suggestion is to give small groups/pairs of students a section of the infographic and they would have to complete the suggestions with another couple of suggestions/recommendations of their own. Then, the small groups/pairs could be paired with another small group/pair of students to compare their ideas. This would go on until all students have shared their own ideas with others. The final step would be to compare their own suggestions with these given in this infographic below:

Throughout this process, students are creating their own content, expressing their own choices within a theme. Perhaps some of the above recommendations are effective suggestions for them; perhaps there are some recommendations which don't resonate at all with students' contexts. Nevertheless, the focus is on the learner, their reflections and choices. As individuals they share ideas; as a class community they learn with each other.

Should there be time (and interest), a follow up for students would be to either create their own infographic (in a small group) or video animation to share with another class.

How do you get learners to reflect on their time management
and academic success?

Further Suggestions:

Choices when Searching

Field Related - EAP Writing

Decision Making in Class

Study Skills - Taking Notes

With Eyes Wide Open - Plagiarism

Helping Students Write like a Pro

10 Tips for Developing Student Agency

(Photo by Eugene Shelestov from Pexels)

29 November 2019

Connect. Ask. Learn.

Do you have a magic ball for learning? A magic ball for teaching? Any magic ball at all?

I'm afraid that I don't.

However, beyond classroom walls there is online teaching and learning. Practical for some, comfortable for others, unacceptable still for many. Nevertheless, and despite the realities of online teaching for many educators, distance teaching, in particular live online teaching, is a growing field. 

Which brings me to consider web conferencing tools once again. 

8x8 Meetings is a free application for connecting online. It's available for desktops and as mobile app, meaning that it is easy to schedule and join an audio or video meeting anytime, anywhere.

With a free account you get a custom domain, a personal meeting space, scheduling syncs with your calendar and one meeting room. 

Livestorm is another video conferencing tool for webinars and online meetings.
There are different price ranges and the free version includes what you see in the screen shot on the right:

If you are looking for a possible free platform for online teaching, then quite possibly may not be a preference as it only allows a webinar of 20 minutes. If, on the other hand, you are looking for a tool which is easy and snappy to use, then perhaps this could be an option.

MegaMeeting is yet another video conferencing tool to look into. Among the different subscription prices, there is also a free version, which is for 1:1 participants, so basically would work for a 1:1 teaching context.

28 November 2019

Presentations and Audience Interaction

Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

Despite there being an array of alternatives to PPT, Keynote and GSlides, these still seem to be the most popular tools for presentations. 

For anyone who uses PPT, this is a suggestion for more templates - ShoSweet, which offers free PPT templates as well as templates for charts and diagrams, maps, and different shapes and objects

What if you could do more with your presentation though?

SlideLizard is a tool for audience interaction with PPT. 

All the features may not be free, but there is also a free version which gives you the possibility to have 20 attendees, 20 slides per talk, polls and audience questions, shared feedback and share additional resources with the audience. 

Some other tools for live interaction in a presentation include:



Meeting Pulse (Free version includes 3 polls per presentation and 1 brainstorm; integrates with PPT)

Poll Everywhere (which now has live competitions feature included as you can see below):

Swipe (mentioned already here)

How open and interactive are your presentations?

Digital Bling for Images

Photo by NaMaKuKi from Pexels

There is something compelling about bubbling gold, warm, mellow yellows, glittering fields dotted with yellow blooms.  Yellows bring bright sunshine to mind, summers and golden sands, soft calls to prayer, punctuating another fiery, golden tinged sunset. 

Those are some of my favourite blings in life. But let's be honest: who doesn't delight with a bit of digital bling?

When it comes to digital bling for images, there is a sea of choices. These are some image editors which have caught my eye lately:

For those images which you would like to share on Social Media or online, yet have the challenge of the right sizing, there is PromoFree Image and Photo Resizer, which even resizes videos for YouTube.

Visionn by BeFunky is also very easy to use ($1.99 on the Apple App Store)

Introducing Visionn from BeFunky on Vimeo.

D'EFEKT  is a creative, digital playground where you can create very different  kinds of images videos with movement and sound. With distortions, colours, image echoing, there are new features added on a monthly basis as well.

And then there is Nception
which creates amazing distortion effects:

Whether you use Nception  or not, if you have an interest in images and digitally edited visuals, Nception even has its own Instagram page which is worth visiting.

If this kind of bling is not to one's interest or taste, well, then there are always Open Doodles to look into  for visual communication.

Because in other recent posts I have included writing tools which use AI, I would like to include a recent presentation by Inge de Waard:

As for learners... they are creating content, by sharing their creations with a restricted or wider audience, they are participating in a community of their choice. That too is learning.

May the magic of digital bling bring joy and happiness to your creative process.

Further Suggestions:

Image Editing and Collages

Popping Editors for Images

Editing Images and Image Sourcing

Adding Magic to Images

Watching and Learning

Why is #AI useful to pro-actively prepare #learners in a changing world? #skills

Fractalicious 8 from Julius Horsthuis on Vimeo.