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.

Is this Your Fortune Cookie for Connecting?

As online education and training continue becoming more widely practised, so too do more web conferencing tools surface up on the web. 

Zoho Showtime promises to "Bridge the gap between virtual classroom and in-person training in real-time interaction", offering more than only a web conferencing option.  Zoho Showtime also offers occasional webinars on its services and platform, has a resource page with videos which guide users with using the tool, as well as a complete guide for users. 

Zoho Showtime is not free though; however its starting price is 8 Euros per month- which is not the most costly of platforms for both web conferencing and maintaining an online teaching platform. 

Opting for platforms/tools which demand subscription can quickly add up to monthly and annual bills. It really is up to the user to decide what works best for them - and to remember that going premium may be very much worth the service. However, there are also tools and platforms which still are offered for free.

Go Brunch is free, offers a range of possibilities for webinars and online courses, includes tutorials (which you can access after signing up), allows up to 500 people to attend a talk and offers replay options as well.

One of the features that most attracts me to Go Brunch is its engaging visual approach and innovative layouts for webinars; for example, the user can choose the "location" and room layout for their webinar. Additionally, for those who may teach online, GoBrunch also has break-out rooms which are great for learners to work together on tasks.

Whether you teach online or not, web connecting is a bit like fortune cookies.

You never know what surprise you may find.

What's your go to web conferencing platform?

Further Suggestions:

Hello? Is Anyone Out There?

The Effectiveness of Online Learning Depends on Design

Infographic: The Periodic Table of Instructional Design

eLearning Infographic: The Periodic Table of Instructional Design

27 November 2019

Monsters, Myths and Narratives

Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

There is the scent of fear in the unknown. The fear of failure, the fear of not belonging, the fear of putting a foot wrong. In learning contexts, there is the fear of exams, of assessments and assignments. Perhaps, even the fear of one's peers, of being an outsider, of not belonging within a specific group. 

A teacher may not always detect these fears immediately in a classroom. Yet fear does lurk in learning spaces. 

How to tackle this unspoken darkness that sometimes lingers and may even spark confusing behaviour in the eyes of others?

By bringing monsters and fears out of the silent darkness and into a space where they are openly talked about.

I don't mean by this that teachers need to become something else that they are not professionally; as much as I wish, being a teacher does not equate to solving everyone's troubles. However, for the purpose of learning, and making students feel at ease, monsters and myths have their place too in learning spaces.

Monsters and myths, conquering heroes and heroines can be found in most cultures around the world.  Sometimes they change with the times; other times, they remain steadfast fictional characters even for adults, who may remember them either fondly or with a touch of disgust.

For classes where there are mixed nationalities or learners from different national backgrounds, sharing myths and monsters may serve as building bridges across/between cultures. After all, children everywhere are told stories of monsters and heroes. What is similar, what is different?

Ted-ED Animations has a whole collection of animated videos on myths and lore - Ted ED Myths; animations based on mythes and folklore from different parts of the world. Different examples from Greek mythology are easily found; so too some myths from the the cold North of Norsemen , the Mayan Morning Star, the myth behind the Chinese Zodiac, to whether the Amazons actually existed and even from Finland, comes an animation about the Sampo

And if you select a particular myth, why not share a pop quiz made with Kahoot, focusing on more information from that particular country/region as well?

With Ted-ED Animations you may or not want to use the lesson accompanying the video; there is plenty of scope to use the animation and develop your own lesson and questions for a particular group of students.

Students too could watch the selected animations and in small groups discuss how close (or not) the animation was to the original myth in question.

Better still, as a follow-up, would be for learners to then create their own monster or myth and make a short video with Powtoons, for example, and then share among their class peers.

Today's monsters may not necessarily be mythical creatures. Narratives of monsters may include social fears such as fear of others with a different skin colour or religion; fear of those fleeing war and desolation and settling into one's neighbourhoods, fear of those who support different ways of life to one's own, fear of alcohol, fear of drugs, fear of diets, fear of fads. Fear.

Fears are relative.

Fears are real.

Monsters around every corner.

Yet, for every monster there is a hero or heroine. For every narrative of fear there is light and lightness in the conquest of a new narrative.

For every monster, there is the promise of redemption and a narrative less fearful - if given the chance to lift that curtain of the unknown.

Besides, if monsters and myths fail, there are always, but always, comics to make one's day!

How do you approach myths and monsters?

The Idea from Blue Zoo on Vimeo.

26 November 2019

Visuals, Communication and AI

Is communication ever black and white with no nuances weaved in between?

There are days when I almost wish it were so. Yet, as every educator knows well, what he/she says to students is often heard in different degrees of nuances. Deadlines become more relaxed, more negotiable or not heard at all. And that is just one mere example of what happens regularly in classrooms around the world. 

One communication approach I tend to use regularly, is by turning to images to make a message, hopefully, clearer and more immediate. 

This infographic below, with tips on effective visuals for communication,  may focus on e-learning, but may apply to other types of classrooms as well:

7 Tips To Create Effective Visual Communication In eLearning

Visual literacy is important, and increasingly so when we consider how  AI may create images. How do you really know what is real, what is photoshopped  and what has been created with AI? Consider this below:

This is not the far away future. This is today. 

Telling the difference to what is a fake video to what is not fake, may not be simple to the non-expert eye; however, it is certainly part of visual literacies as well. I don't know whether there is any immediate solution to what is fake/not fake, but including visual literacies and the use of AI in images is worth discussing with students. 

Lastly, whether you teach at primary, secondary or higher education, some food for thought from a recent webinar on AI in Higher Education, hosted by EDEN:

Further Suggestions:

The Future is Today

Photo by Tomas Ryant from Pexels

As I witness the rapid changes online regarding education, I continue asking why digital literacies are still not taught more regularly in lessons. The need for learning and practising digital literacies goes beyond any digital divide (though obviously, the various divides do affect how digital literacies are practised and taught in formal education). 

In a recent report published by Stanford History Education Group, the authors point out how a  study undertaken in November 2016,  showed that young people lacked basic skills of digital evaluation. Later, in another more recent study (from June 2018 to May 2019), another assessment of 3,446 students was carried out. This study was a national sample in the USA of a demographic profile of high-school students, with the focus on their ability to evaluate digital sources on the internet. Among the results this stands out:

"• Two-thirds of students couldn’t tell the difference between news stories and ads (set off by the words “Sponsored Content”) on Slate’s homepage.

• Ninety-six percent of students did not consider why ties between a climate change website and the fossil fuel industry might lessen that website’s credibility. Instead of investigating who was behind the site, students focused on superficial markers of credibility: the site’s aesthetics, its top-level domain, or how it portrayed itself on the About page."

Change happens slowly in education. There may be pockets where educators are striving for educational change, who do provide learners with the necessary skills to be skilful in relation to digital literacies, but frankly? Too little is done. 

The report (mentioned above) concludes: 

"Reliable information is to civic health what proper sanitation and potable water are to public health. High-quality educational materials, validated by research, and distributed freely are essential to sustaining the vitality of American democracy. 

Educational systems move slowly. Technology doesn’t. If we don’t act with urgency, our students’ ability to engage in civic life will be the casualty. "

It is not only American democracy - this is something which affects everyone everywhere. In particular, it affects a generation who is still learning how to manage and juggle their digital lives, still students and who are not being taught the necessary skills they need to fully function in a changing, digitalised world . 

Digital literacies are not something that is taught/learnt only through books either. There are many publications and plenty of books/articles which do clarify and add to the different dimensions of what constitutes digital literacies (see Digital Delights and Voices in the Feminine, for example, both which have plenty on Digital Literacies). From digital safety to considerations on one's digital identity, from the basics of learning how to read a screen and follow instructions to use a digital tool/platform to thinking critically about the use of AI in our lives, all these require exposure to ideas and debate, opportunity to practise and learn, and most of all, time to reflect critically on their uses.

Furthermore, it is possible to access a wide range of sources for information and educational frameworks on digital literacies - this is not something only an elite few can have access to or know about, gatekeeping others out of their ivory towers of knowledge. Certainly there are those who do the much needed research into the field; however it is a wide, wide field which is constantly evolving. Educators who place digital literacies in the forefront with their learners, are equally needed, for they are the ones who really are in the frontline, testing and trialling new tools/platforms and educational practices with their students. They are the practitioners raising awareness among learners, preparing them for their contemporary world.

Future worlds?

Unpredictable shifts?

The future is today.

With all its unpredictability.
ENOUGH from Anna Mantzaris on Vimeo.

25 November 2019

Glazed Illustrations

Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

As I check my digital bills, the irony of not actually owning anything does not escape me. We live in a time when to store information, to use communication tools, to use ICT for educational purposes, our bills pile up and constantly increase.  Nothing tangible. All in the cloud. All necessary services which come with a price tag. 

On the other hand, teachers' salaries remain stagnant, dormant - their services even expected for free. 

So it does surprise me when there are educational services (many, actually, as you can see throughout this blog) and resources for educators which don't cost another annual chunk. 

Despite there being resources for free images, there are times when an illustration may be more adequate. Glaze has a plentitude of illustrations - and is free to use. 

There is something for all subjects and topics - from scenes and objects around the house to Health and Life Sciences,  from Teamwork to Travel

If and when a worksheet is necessary for students,  for example, adding an illustration becomes a lot more interesting for them. The illustrations are colourful, clear and as you may possibly agree, images make understanding a lot simpler and
immediate. They can also be easily added to other tools such as Quizlet and so many other tools. 

How do you add images to documents and exercises you create for your learners?

Further Suggestions:

Writing Prompts for Those Days When Things Go Wrong

Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

We may want to make a day good, but sometimes intentions don't go as planned. 

Sometimes there won't even be a plan B ... or plan C. 

Yet, by the end of the day there is still much to be thankful for. 

Students have those days as well and often could do with a nudge towards more reflection on gratefulness. Or at least, on the positive things that do take place in their busy days. Write About has a set of writing prompts which focus on exactly that - a Gallery of Gratitude 

These are helpful prompts to set up short writing tasks and a useful resource for teachers. 

Write About also has other prompts which are interesting for writing tasks are organised under different themes, Adventure & Fantasy,  Creativity, General Ideas, among others. 
You can also find a Mini Lesson - Thank You Letters which is among other mini lessons open to educators. 

These are great prompts for ELT/ESOL as well and writing can be done with digital tools or without.

Write About is more too than only writing prompts; there are plenty of resources and support for teachers and it makes an engaging tool to use with students. There are different options for membership and even if an individual nor institution can cover the costs, it still is a digital space to visit for inspiration and writing resources.


Making a less than  "good day" into something better. 

Back to gratitude. Perhaps something to re-visit on a regular basis. 

Further Suggestions: