30 September 2019

News Literacy, Digital Citizenship and Problem Solving

Helping students become educated consumers of online information is a corner stone of digital literacy. There may be no immediate solution to the proliferation of fake news online, however, educators do play an important role in guiding students to becoming good readers and discerners of digital information. 

Below are 3 useful links to lessons which educators can use in classes:

Hoaxes and Fakes - How can you avoid being fooled by fake videos and other information online?

For younger learners too,  there are lessons developed by
Common Sense Education. We the Digital Citizens is an example of a lesson designed with younger learners in mind. 

For more mature learners, for example, those participating on an EAP course, SolveinTime
is is a great approach to problem solving and learning - which could include a focus on the issue of news literacy, for example. As with many other digital tools and learning games, it may even be adapted to different learners and different stages.

With so many resources available to educators, it is a disservice not to include digital literacies, in particular news literacy, in lessons. 

Creative Prompts

Creativity - how the concept is chased around in education!

There are ways though to inspire learners to practice creativity when learning - for example by using more visual prompts and interesting prompts for writing. The New York Times offers both for education.

What’s Going On in This Picture? Images are often intriguing and are great to start discussions in class. Learners can then develop their ideas by writing captions to the images or, should the image be relevant to a theme being covered in class, it can then be used for a writing task. 

Also by The New York Times, are prompts for writing. 

550 Prompts for Narrative and Personal Writing is a rich source for educators to dip into when looking for an off beat writing topic. Topics range from making observations to personal writing to narratives and imaginative stories. 

Many tasks can then be shared in a Padlet, allowing learners to share and learn with each other. Often enough, learners are reluctant to share videos of themselves in a learning context but Padlet allows them to record themselves and to share short texts with their class. Because of this collaborative feature, learners can respond to each others' participation and as the task focuses on them and their own production, there is often a much higher rate of learner engagement. 

And where would we be without music? 

Lirica is an App for language learning, and in this case, Spanish. There are Listening and comprehension activities, Grammar and vocabulary lessons as well as Word learning progression. 

How do you inspire creativity in the classroom?

Further Suggestions:

9 September 2019

A Vocabulary Game for #ELT

Words, words, words!

How learning vocabulary can be challenging for non English speakers!

Quizlet , and other word cards are helpful but do become rather repetitive and dull after a while. Enter Knowword.

Knoword is both free and premium and offers teachers the possibility to create specific packs of vocabulary for whatever topic, theme or subject their students need to know.

Knoword is definitely one more digital tool for teachers to include in their digital backpacks
 this academic year. 

Further Suggestions:

Playing with Vocabulary

Learning Vocabulary

Words in my World

Field Related - EAP Writing

Sifting through Words

IceBreakers, Avatars and Reflective Practice

The end of summer in the Northern hemisphere ushers in a new academic year filled with hopes, dreams and dreads. However, as I prefer to look more positively at new beginnings (rather than the dread of pointless admin tasks which only serve to keep teachers busy without much pedagogical value), today's entry focuses on ice-breakers and how avatars may also have a place in the classroom. 

Some of these activities may need to be adapted, either to one's own classroom and teaching context and/or level of education (i.e. primary, secondary or tertiary level). 

How do You Play  offers different suggestions of games and ice-breakers, while Back-to-School Prep Guide: Games, Icebreaker Activities offers suggestions mostly for K12. 

Mozilla has a wealth of resources for educators, in particular with a focus on digital literacies, but also offers suggestions for ice-breakers with students, many which don't even require an internet connection. 

Lastly, 2 more sites which are worth looking at are GET-TO-KNOW-YOU GAMES and CLASSROOM ICEBREAKERS

Often enough though, learners rarely have the opportunity to stop, think and reflect. Teachers are under so much pressure to deliver the syllabus, to meet learning targets, prepare learners for assessments and so forth, that moments of silence and reflection are overlooked. Reflection doesn't always need to be following the reflective cycle as proposed by Gibbs; sometimes a simple task of asking what expectations a student has for a course is sufficient. This can be done in the written form or with a recording which is then shared on a Padlet. Later in the semester, teacher and students can re-visit these expectations and address what expectations have been met, which haven't and which may need to be changed. 

It is when an academic is still fresh and crisp that students sign up to tools such as Edmodo and/or other LMSes. Should uploading a photo of themselves is inappropriate, why not have students create an avatar?

Dollify is an app for both iOS and Android and creates male and female avatars. Below you can find further suggestions for creating avatars as well as here
How will you be starting off your new academic year?

Further Suggestions:

8 September 2019

The Mobility of Hooking Learning with Video

The other day I received an email asking me to remind students to bring their mobile phones to class. I confess that I was rather taken aback - is that really necessary? As I work with students at Higher Education, I honestly cannot remember a time when I would need to remind them to not to forget their mobiles at home. 

And it is not only students at Higher Ed. If a learner has access to his/her own mobile phone, that device automatically becomes an extension of their self; an extension that quite often, educators need to compete with in order to get students' attention in class. One approach that has always worked with me, is to include a video in lessons - and which can be easily accessed on learners' mobiles. 

ClassHook helps educators locate videos from TV programmes and movies which may be useful for lessons, with a special focus on storytelling. There are playlists for different subjects - from Science to History - as well as for different levels of education.

Educators need to consider these 4 steps once they begin using ClassHook:

This may seem simplistic, however, as with other pedagogical materials, it is up to the individual teacher to know how best to include these resources in their lessons. There is also a pedagogical checklist for teachers as well as a blog for  with further ideas on how to engage students with videos.  An example of videos available includes Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children: The Peculiar Children:

Mobile learning can be done in different ways - including video viewing.

Design and Images

Images help learners in so many ways; some well known examples are  - for brainstorming activities, to spark interest in a topic/theme, to simplify complex procedures and most importantly, for self-expression.

Myoats  is site where you can create beautiful designs - for free. It is available to use on tablets and desktops, with stunning results. These can then be downloaded and shared among peers or included in students' blogs or other digital assignments/productions. 

I would also include Myoats as an activity for when students need a calm moment, a moment away from assessment pressures and regular learning goals. These quieter moments often clear the mind and help students focus more closely on following classroom activities. 

Once Upon a Picture  offers a selection of free images which educators may use for lessons. It's divided into different Collections and includes a Challenge Book  with images
to encourage learners to think critically.

Once Upon a Picture is a lovely curation of images for teaching and you will be surprised at what you may find there. 

Lastly, students often ask me how they may remove a background from their images. Here are two suggestions to share with learners:

PhotoScissors Online


Remove Image Background

Once Upon A Picture trailer from OUA Picture on Vimeo.

Further Suggestions:

Free Images for the Classroom

Visual Libraries - Free Images

Posters, Images and Metaphors

Learning Visually with Themes

Snap an Image, Share a Story

Do You Have Visual Swag?

Put yourself in the picture - A lesson by the BBC/British Council

Three Resources for #ELT on the Go

Life on the go.

Learning on the go.

Yet, does learning on the go really happen?

Not every learning moment has to be embedded in a structured lesson; language learners today have a range of learning tools at the touch of a digital device. Here are some suggestions which foster learning on the go - those moments when you are waiting for a friend, for transport or simply enjoying free, relaxing time. 

Free Rice has new look to its site, yet continues to be as useful and helpful for learning vocabulary as it was before, with the addition of Free Rice App for both iOS and Android

As a follow up activity for self-study or classwork, students can design their own crossword puzzle to test their peers. 

Prepositions in English can be challenging to learners,
as there are often more exceptions than grammatical rules. 
When English language learners are then introduced to phrasal verbs, confusion abounds. 

English phrasal verbs can be easily reviewed with a short video:

As a follow up, students can create their own short videos with Powtoons or Animaker, for instance. 

An easy tool for both learners and teachers is WheelDecide. Wheel Decide is essentially a decision making tool,  but can be used to choose discussion topics, vocabulary and anything that you wish according to your teaching context - you only need to change the items. 

What learning on the go tools will you be sharing with your learners this Autumn?

Superheroes for Writing

Learning while playing has always been part of growing up. Long before digital technologies were used in classrooms, foreign language teaching had already incorporated games where skill acquisition and development were regularly introduced. 

Today, however, there is an ever growing choice of digital tools for learners to engage in and create digital artifcacts, such as stories written in visual formats. Comics are engaging for young learners and fun to create, either on their own or with partner. 

Super Hero Maker is an app which gives young learners the opportunity to put visuals of monsters and heroes together to create a story while they narrate their story. 

To create a story, learners can:

* Drag and drop multiple scenes to create a comic strip;

 * choose from 27 background scenes: skyscrapers, space ship, the moon, wild west, ice cave, deep sea

 * include 170+ animated stickers with sound effects

 * record their voice to narrate their story

Screen time doesn't need to be stifling and mind numbing with repetitive games.

Screen time can also enable story-telling with monsters and heroes expressing magical narratives and dreams.

Further Suggestions:

Create a Cartoon

Creating Comics

Narratives for Learning

Comic Life

What is student agency–and why do we need it?

Images - Pexels

7 September 2019

All Aboard with Digital Literacies

How confident are you in your digital skills?

How confident are your students?

All Aboard is a place where you can sharpen your digital awareness as well as your students. 

It is geared towards higher education in particular, but perhaps may even support learners in other contexts, as much of the content is relevant for digital users today. 

Playing with the metaphor of a journey (and what else is learning but a life-long journey?), All Aboard offers a map for raising awareness about  digital skills frameworks and covers different categories of our engagement with the digital. In order to make this "journey" simpler, a map
of the different categories is given to portray the different references and skills of our digital world:

The metaphor extends the notion of exploration, journey and progress, alongside the separate categories in each of the metro lines, each of which corresponds to broad areas relevant to anyone teaching, learning, or indeed being creative in a digital space. "

The site is simple to navigate, and in Stations, you can find different resources for each topic, for instance, Digital Identity which offers content and learning objectives, as well as resources for learners, trainers and developers. 

Under the heading of Travelcards, you can then find further resources such as an Introduction to Digital Research Skills  and a lesson on Tools for Learning

Overall, it is another great resource for both teachers and students to learn, reflect and develop their digital literacies skills. 

How will you be teaching digital literacies
this new academic year?

Further Suggestions:

Analysing Digital Media Literacies

Fragments within Education - A Case for Digital Literacies

Digital Media Fluencies

Digital Literacies with Surveys and Quizzes

Reading: Fact or Opinion

Literacy Ideas

Images - Pexels

Squible Me a Story

As much as one may plan for future events, or wish for a kinder tomorrow, the fact is that we are often only living in the present. And what better time than the present to give learners the time and space for them to express what is relevant to them,  giving them space and time to learn what is meaningful to them, instead of imposing learning materials which are often devoid of context and points of reference to learners?

For foreign language learners, this is especially significant, as so many foreign language learners struggle with the target language they are studying, and need to use that language in more meaningful ways, particularly when writing.

Writing is often the most challenging of skills, whether writing in a foreign language or even in one's mother tongue. What can be more interesting for learners than to write about what they know, what they dream of, what they imagine? And what can be more interesting than to read about your peers' writing?

Squibler is a digital space where learners may sign up and practice writing. After signing up, the learner will need to make a decision on how often he/she will write, what kind of writing he/she is interested in,  and then the dashboard, with the different themes will appear. 

Each theme has templates for the budding writer as well. These writing projects may be shared with others (via email or a shared link) and they may then read and/edit. 

The last stage could be for learners to share their stories/writings on a Padlet, where they could then read each other's work and add their comments. 

Learner autonomy, student agency and creativity are not only empty buzz words or edu-jargon - they can be practiced in different ways, according to teaching/learning context and with different age groups. 

What better way to learn than with and through stories?


You never know where they may lead to.

Further Suggestions

Images - Pexels