18 November 2012

ACEIA 2012

Nick Saltmarsh, Flickr
Another year and another successful ACEIA event in Seville. ACEIA is the organisation for language academies in Andalucia, Spain and holds the second biggest teacher training conference in Seville every year.  There is a huge range of presenters and talks to choose from so there is always something for everyone.

First of all, one of the reasons the conference is always such a great success is because of the hard work of the people involved in the organisation, all volunteers, who give up their weekend and a significant amount of time before and after the conference, to make the day such an enjoyable and successful event.  Thank you to everybody involved - it really does make a difference to have friendly, helpful and efficient people to help out for any problem, large or small.  Thank you all!

This year, I did a version of my Blogs presentation for teachers interested in starting a blog with lots of practical tips and ideas to get started.  I had a great audience who participated enthusiastically by asking lots of questions.  It's always difficult to know what to focus on in this type of session because there is a range of language teaching experience as well as technical experience.  I try to gauge what I need to focus on more by asking if anybody has any questions, with an eye on the clock, and responding to what the audience needs.

After doing my own presentation, I had the opportunity to see some other talks.  John Hughes has some interesting ideas for using video in class and, as well as learning something, I've got three activities that I can use in class on Monday - that's always a good thing when you give half your weekend up to go to a training conference.

After some great video ideas, I went off to see my colleague, Jacqui Toon, who gave her first presentation at an organised event, Craft in the Classroom.  As I'm not a particularly crafty person I was hoping to pick up some simple ideas.  I wasn't disappointed.  You can see her blog here with lots of ideas and templates to download - as well as video tutorials for those non-crafty people (like me) who feel like giving it a go.

Finally, I was ready for a bit more technology so went to see Nicky Hockly.  As ever, Nicky is very forward thinking about using ICT in the classroom and, in this talk, highlighted the life and social skills, as well as English skills,  we can help students develop by using ICT.   Her blog,  eModeration Station, is packed with information and ideas for online teaching, mLearning and any kind of technology use in the classroom.

So, another year over and looking forward to the next one:-)

04 November 2012

Addicted to Grammar Practice

It's been a while since I wrote about mLearning but last week it suddenly became a hot topic at work.  It turns out that one of my colleagues found out that his teenage students are using their mobile phones to do online exercises for homework. So, I did some investigation (especially at Nicky Hockley's e-Moderation Station blog) to find out what's happening in the world.

When I last wrote about this, only about six months ago, my students were horrified by the idea of using their precious mobile phones to learn English.  The reasons at the time were they didn't have/had a limited Internet access, didn't have Smartphones or hadn't thought about using them for anything other than SMS messages or What's App with friends. I limited mLearning to using the camera, voice and video functions for in class and homework activities.

This week I downloaded a few Spanish learning apps to try out language learning apps first hand.  I'm an advanced level Spanish learner so the first thing I noticed were that most apps are aimed at the beginner to intermediate level, with lots offering grammar and vocabulary exercises. There are literally hundreds if not thousands of apps available but three that I really like are:

  • Busuu (free version)
  • Babbel (free version)
  • Spanish Class (paid version)
These all have English language versions too.  It's difficult to say which is the best as they would all suit different needs, ages and types of learners.  I've been using Spanish Class (I like it so much I paid for it!) to review Spanish verb forms and learn a bit of vocabulary.  Spanish Class suits me because of its flexibility.  You can pick and choose what you want to practice in any grammar or vocabulary exercise so you can easily grade it to your own level.  Busuu and Babbel organise the exercises into levels for you.  All three have listening and speaking practice - although not the best features - and Babbel also has a PC version where you can buy online courses.  I would recommend all three to my learners, depending on age, level and needs and, of course, I'd recommend downloading the free version before deciding to pay as well as spending some time looking at other apps available.

After one week, I can't say I'm an mLearning guru but there's one thing I do know - there's something addictive about doing repetitive grammar and vocabulary exercises on a mobile phone.  It passes the time while you're waiting for someone, having a coffee, watching something boring on the TV or any spare few minutes you have.  I had wondered about how much learning actually takes place in such short and sometimes distracting circumstances.  Well, I've already learned/remembered a few things I'd forgotten from basic Spanish and I like the short sharp bursts of learning that make it easier for me to remember grammar points and vocabulary.

For me , I've discovered an easy, convenient and pleasantly enjoyable practise and revision tool.  Boredom isn't really an issue because you only need to spend a few minutes here and there doing exercises.  It's the perfect tool for young people (who, we are told and in many cases have noted, have shorter attention spans) and busy adults trying to improve their language skills.  Combined with guidance from a teacher, mobile apps for language learners give learners exposure to the language between classes when and where they can or want.  Frequent short periods of learning is better than no learning at all.  In my opinion, this can only be a good thing.

03 November 2012

Wiggio - a social network with a difference

It's been almost three months since my last post but since the beginning of the academic year I've had so many different projects going on that I haven't had anything to talk about! 

One of the things I've been doing is using www.wiggio.com with a small group of Intermediate level adult students as part of a pilot blended learning course.  Wiggio is a free group working platform that is clean and simple to look at, and intuitive to use.  Although there are dedicated social networks for educators, such as Edmodo, what I like about Wiggio is that it has a range of inbuilt tools that are ideal for language learners.  Remember, this is a free platform and here are just some of the features it includes:

  • folders
  • create documents
  • to-do lists
  • calendar
  • video and voice notes
  • chatroom
  • meeting room
  • email and SMS functions
I'm using it as the forum/virtual classroom on the course (the course involves 70% online study and 30% face-to-face study).  The students love it and regularly start up mini conversations as if they were chatting on Facebook.  The only difference is they're using English to communicate.

As a teacher using it instead of an LMS, it does have it's drawbacks.  It's not an LMS/CMS and when I need to supplement the course with my own materials, it's not as easy to organise them in a student friendly way.  I've been creating folders relating to each unit then uploading supplementary materials or links to the folders.  This seems to be working well for now, but I keep a copy of everything on my PC so that they are available for the next course.  I haven't found a way to move uploaded materials from one "group" to another yet!

If you're looking for a way to get your students to work together between classes, on projects or homework assignments or to contact you, this really is the answer.  All you need is an email address to join up.  You can create as many groups as you want and assign permissions so you can control what your students can do (if you want to do that) or let them have free rein of their group and see where they go with it.  The best thing of all is you don't need to spend time showing your students how to use a range of voice, video and other tools to help them with their learning.  It's all built in to Wiggio.

11 August 2012

My First Powtoon

Powtoon is an easy and fun to use presentation software that lets you create animations - you know, those really professional looking animated videos - without any technical expertise.     The best thing about it is that if you're already a Powerpoint user, you'll have no trouble getting to grips with Powtoon.    It's still in Beta so you need to send your email address and get invited (which happens pretty quickly).  Here's my first Powtoon presentation.

To create a Powtoon, you can either create it from new, or use one of the templates to help you get started.  There are also some video tutorials to help you plan your presentation.  Once you've started, there's a range of images, props and other presentation type tools that you can drag and drop into position.  Then, you add any animations to the objects and upload a sound file.

The only part I found a bit tricky - but not difficult - was adding the sound file.  I wanted to narrate the text so I needed to record the voiceover using Audacity as there is no option to do a direct voice over.  It wasn't difficult but it just meant I had to go back in and change all the timings for each slide.

When I first looked at Powtoon over a month ago, my first thoughts were how to use it in the classroom.  I decided to do this short informational presentation as I wasn't sure if I'd be able to use it in the same way as Powerpoint or not.  While I was working on this it soon became clear that a lot of things we do in Powerpoint could also be done in Powtoon.  Here are a few ideas:
  • Get students to create their own Powtoons explaining something worked on in class
  • Create language presentations for students to look at at home.
  • Pronunciation work - the ease of resizing, colouring and placing words is great to show students how word and sentence stress works in English.
  • Games and quizzes - similar to how you would do in Powerpoint.
  • Instructions - this is a fun way to get students' attention
If you have any other ideas for using Powtoon, I'd love to hear them.

23 July 2012

Power Searching with Google (Part 2)

Well, I had lots of fun on the Google Power Searching course and, even though I already knew a lot of the tools and features, it was still worth doing.  Why?  Well, it wasn't only about learning about the search tools, it was also about learning how to use them in ways you might not have thought about before.  
Google are going to put the course videos on Youtube but they're not there yet.  In the meantime, if you want to see some of the goodies on offer, have a look at www.google.com/insidesearch.  Most of the features are listed there - and there are lots of them.
I found almost everything could be useful for English teachers so trying to decide the most useful isn't easy.  Anyway, these are probably the most useful to get started.  Do you agree?

Content Type

On the left side of the search results page you can choose the type of content you want to search.  Useful for comparing genre, style and formatting with students, or if you're looking for a specific text type.  Also click on more and the more menu at the top of the screen for even more options.

Image Search
Search  by colour, similarity, size and type.  Drag a picture into the search box and click on the little camera in the search box (on the right) to find out more information about the image, and similar images.  Scroll down to see more options for searching on the right side of the screen, such as searching by colour.  Wow!! 

Use the search box as a dictionary - type define word to find definitions of words in some of the best dictionaries on the web.  You can get similar searches by typing in synonym or antonym, etc.

Type your calculations directly into the search box.  Great for working out exam results!

There are lots of operators but here are some of those that I find most useful to narrow searches.  Use all of these in the search box.  My favourites are:
  • filetype:xxx - if you're looking for a pdf file, type "pdf" immediately after the colon and then your search term (ie.  filetype:pdf learner autonomy will return only pdf files about learner autonomy).
  • site:xxx - will search only on a specified site (ie.site:cambridgeesol.org fce handbook will only search the Cambridge website)
  • -xxxx - the minus (-) operator excludes words or sites containing the word (e.g. pet -animals will exclude all searches with animals in the website and direct you to the Cambridge website)
  • OR - useful when there is more than one word to describe what you are looking for (e.g. xxxx study OR research).
  • "xxx" (quotes) - use quotes to find the exact phrase or phrases in a website.
So you can see how these can have a huge impact on the time you spend searching for resources and materials!

Specific words on a website
Use Control F to search for specific words on a website.  This can save you lots of time reading the website looking for information.

Time Parameters

Click on show search tools in the left column to choose a date range.  Very useful for finding recent and topical articles, videos and other materials.  Combine this with content type for an even quicker search!

In addition to the above, and not covered in the course, there are two more very useful search features that I use a lot.  These are:

Reading Level
Click on show search tools in the left column, scroll down to all results and choose reading level.  This is useful for finding easier texts for language learners.

Usage Rights (Copyright)
Click on the Options button (top right of screen), choose advanced settings and scroll down to the bottom to usage rights.  This is especially useful if you're looking for images or texts that are free to use.  An alternative to this (which I often find more useful) is to go to creativecommons.org and create searches through this website.

This is a very brief taster of what you can do with the features and tools and as I've already mentioned there's more information on Google's  Inside Search website. Don't forget  A Google a Day - a daily search challenge - that'll help you hone your search skills.  

16 July 2012

Power Searching (Google MOOC)

Do you spend hours searching for materials for your students?  Or searching for information that will help you teach something in class?  Or just for your own personal or professional development you want to learn a little bit more about something?  Well....if you do, you need to have great search skills.

When I saw the Google Power Searching online free course I thought I'd sign up for it and see what I could learn.  I already know a lot of the secrets to cut down search time, such as "allintitle", "-" or just plain "xxx" to narrow search queries - in fact I included some popular operators (the technical term) in a teacher training session I recently gave to help teachers find materials on Youtube (which use more or less the same operators).  So, I have to admit, that half way through the course, I haven't really learned anything new yet related to search operatores.

That doesn't mean I'm wasting my time.  It's making me sit down and think about all the different information, links and colours on a Google results page and how I could use it all to benefit my students and my own personal/professional development.  I've also learned about A Google a Day Challenges and think that would be a great classroom activity for English learners to practise reading skills - as well as honing their search skills.  I've also learned that in Google Earth you can find famous treks and expeditions that you can download and save on your computer.  This could be really useful for geographical vocabulary!

Maybe in the second half of the courseI'll discover some more neat goodies and tricks to hone in my search skills.  If not, I'll look forward to learning more about other Google goodies that I can use with my students!

01 June 2012

Last week of the MOOC

I’ll start this final post by answering some of the questions in the polls from the live session (which I did not attend but have since watched the recording):

  • I’m going to miss this MOOC
  • I didn’t have a favourite week but I found Weeks 1 and 2 the most interesting initially (motivation/retention, diversity and learning styles), and became more interested in the following weeks 3 and 4 (creativity and using video) as I worked through the resources.
  • I’m still excited about MOOCs and will be looking out for future courses.
  • I will continue to use this MOOC for resources and to interact with other participants
  • I have already mentioned this MOOC to colleagues, and will continue to talk about my experiences with this MOOC and what I have learned from it in the future.
  •  I would be interested in learning more about online assessment, copyright issues, online course quality.  I`m not sure what`s involved in  assistive technologies and universal design for learning but it sounds interesting.
I’ve previously mentioned that I was unprepared for a MOOC.  I really had no idea what to expect and was surprised when I saw the quality (and quantity) of resources, the ease of accessing materials and how quickly the course organisers responded to a rapidly changing participant base.  

I stand by what I said in my first post and would go further to say that I feel I’ve learned as much, or even more, than if I’d attended a paid online instructors course.  I think the reason for that is the openness of this course.  Links to resources are made available, with some resources compulsory reading, and further resources for extended learning.  Perhaps the only difference between doing this course and doing a degree/masters course is that no essays were required! 

Although the course is finishing now, the resources will remain available and the forums will remain open.  This is great news for me (and I’m sure for some other participants) because a hectic work schedule meant I haven’t kept up with the course in the final week.  I’m still very motivated to watch all the videos and read all the extra resources and will be using the resources over the next few weeks. 

With no experience in designing an online course, or as an online tutor, doing this course has made me feel more confident in planning, designing and managing an online course and I feel well-equipped to change a course to suit the needs of the learners.  I’m currently designing a hybrid online/f2f English language course and I’m really looking forward to putting a lot of the ideas I’ve learned on this course into practice. 

Finally, I’d like to say a special thank you to the course organisers for making it such an interesting, challenging and enjoyable learning experience.  This has definitely been a worthwhile experience for me and I’m looking forward to participating in future MOOCs!

13 May 2012

Two weeks in…

Here's a link to my recent post to the Instructional Technologies and Online Teaching MOOC blog.

Two weeks in…

11 May 2012

Flipping Youtube

I've finally got round to flipping a Youtube video using TEDed's new beta program.  It's great!  All you have to do is find a video and set a few questions, links and other relevant resources, and you've got a ready-made lesson.  It's not perfect yet, but it's a great way to build up a resource of video lessons with your colleagues and students.

Here's the link http://ed.ted.com/on/BIoUL7UK

Here's what I found:
  • quick, easy and intuitive to use
  • Create an account.  If you don't do this, you won't be able to find your lessons in progress.
  • The "Quick Quiz" option doesn't work if you're creating a new Youtube video lesson.  This is a shame, especially for English teachers, who like to set initial comprehension questions.
  • If you create an account, you can click on Recent Activity and find your lessons in progress, flips in progress, etc.
  • The videos are private except to those who you share them with.  Once you publish your video you can email it or share it on your blog, wiki, Facebook, Twitter, etc.
  • Once the video is published, you can't edit them again - but it's easy enough to re-flip the video
Although the idea behind this is for flipping the classroom, there's no reason why you can't create the lessons to use in class.

29 April 2012

My First Open Course

I'm really excited to enrol on my first open course, "Instructional Ideas and Technology Tools for Online Success" run by Dr Curt Bonk of the Indiana University.  A few weeks ago I subscribed to a couple of online magazines, eCampusnews.com and eschoolnews.com, and saw an article about an open course that had over 1000 subscribers within the first day or so - amazing!  Now, there are about 2,500 participants for this month long course which starts today.

The course is self-directed so you can spend as much or as little time as you want participating.  If you complete certain stages of the course, and participate in a number of activities set by the course providers, you can earn a badge.  The badge system is something I'd love to see developed recognised by more employers and institutions.  I've previously posted about Delta v. Masters v. Lifelong Learning  and the prohibitive costs involved in formal education that is sometimes not relevant to your own working environment.  It'll also be interesting to see how many people are still there, at the end of the course.

So far, apart from not being familiar with the Blackboard LMS, the main problem I've had is finding people to connect with.  This is expected with so many participants from all over the world in diverse areas of education.  I've so far joined a couple of groups and had some interesting conversations so I'm looking forward to making new connections.

On a final note, if you're involved in educational technology in any field I'd definitely recommend that you subscribe to the news magazines, ecampusnews.com and eschoolnews.com mentioned above.  Although the content is strongly leaning towards the US education system, there is lots of useful information about technology trends globally.

26 April 2012

BYOD Dogme for Kids?

I hate asking my teenage students to get their books and pencils out as much as they hate getting them out.  It's always the same "Do we have to?", "Oh no!", and the general look of disbelief on their faces as they transform into human snails and spend as long as possible doing this simple activity, causing chaos in the process, .  I often factor "getting books out" time into my lesson planning because it can seriously reduce the amount of time for learning!  

But try telling them to get their mobile phones out.  Not only does the whole room spring into life and there's a general buzz of speedy activity, they are also keen and eager to talk - and in English!

For a first BYOD lesson, I decided to digitalise a common TEFL activity using a mystery picture that the students had prepared for homework.  See my lesson plan here which can be adapted for different ages and levels.  I got the original idea of a mystery photo from a recent American Tesol Webinar presented by Shell Terrell .  American Tesol has lots of recordings of webinars - and they're free so they're well worth watching!

The students were so engaged and motivated that I was able to extend a simple questions and answers warmer activity into a speaking, writing and grammar review lesson all using student generated materials.  Students recorded their "presentations" using the voice recorders on their phones, took photos of the grammar review on the board, and photos of their writings at the end of the class.  So now they have revision materials too!

What was so good about this lesson was how it developed its own course led by the students. I realised it was a "Dogme moment" so decided to keep the momentum going and respond to the students by listening and watching them closely to see what happened next. As well as new vocabulary, we reviewed comparatives and superlatives and except for occasional instructions for putting phones away and getting them out again to do specific activities, the students were in control.  It was very exciting for me and one of the most enjoyable lessons I've had with a normally lethargic group.  The students seemed to enjoy the lesson too.

I learned a lot from that first lesson, especially how to manage the mobile phones being used and not used. At one stage, I told the students to put their phones under their chairs, to which half the class replied "go in the pocket!".

The lesson wasn't perfect and there was more L1 than I would have liked.  Also, on reflection, I would have organised the groups differently and finished the class remodelling their original presentations.  But we can always do that another day.

24 April 2012

BYOD (YL) (Bring Your Own Device (Younger Learners)) - Part 1

If you teach kids and teenagers, it can sometimes be difficult to engage them with the course book and the activities you prepare for them. Especially if you work in an academy and the learners have been to school all day so are often tired and obliged to be there by their parents.

Most younger learners and teens enjoy technology but it isn't possible or appropriate to to use computers all the time. Most educational institutions can't afford to provide learners with their own devices.  By getting students to BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) you can incorporate technology into any lesson, whether it's book based, a role play, exam practice or if you're planning to do project work either online or paper-based.  In fact, that's how younger learners (and most of the rest of us) use their mobile devices in general - they take photos and videos of everything and anything, they play games and they communicate through social networks and texting.  Why not encourage them to do the things they do in L1 on their mobile devices in L2?  Not only will this make a lot of their learning more relevant, they will be using the language in an authentic way.  Get them to BYOD.

Before charging ahead and inviting your students to BYOD, I'd like to share my experiences with introducing BYOD with my class of 10 students aged 10-14 (yes!), and beginner/elementary level English.
  1. Speak to your IT department/guy about student wifi.  IT Departments are always very wary about giving free access to a network for security reasons (quite rightly) but ensure that the password is not too complicated.  When we are asking 10 year olds to connect their mobile devices to a network it needs to be easy enough for them to manage.
  2. Check who has mobile devices.  It's important that none of the students feel that they cannot participate because they don't have the device.  I offered my own mobile phone to the one student who didn't have a mobile phone.  I've asked my school to get a set of six cheap 7inch Android tablets for students who do not have their own mobile devices and they agreed to this.  You might want to investigate this too.
  3. Classroom management is important.  At first, students are very excited and want to show you and their classmates their phone.  Make this into a presentation style activity getting them to describe the phone, what games they play, when they got it, who bought it for them, etc.  I have found putting students into groups of 3 or 4 works well.  Assign a "leader" or "director" depending on what you are doing.  Give them clear instructions on a handout or on the whiteboard.
  4. It's useful to get the students to use the Bluetooth function if they don't already know.  Allow them some time to figure it out for themselves and help each other.  This way, they can send their photos/videos to your mobile device so you have copies of everything and you can keep them all together.
  5. Alternatively, setup a secure wiki or blog where students can upload their own materials.  If you're dealing with younger children, make sure you have parental permission to take photos/videos and put them online.
  6. When you are not using the mobile device, tell students to put them in their pocket.
  7. You do not have to rely on your students having Smartphones.  There are lots of activities you can do using basic mobile phone functions such as voice, camera and video.
  8. For Smartphones, choose activities that do not rely on a single operating system (iOS, Android, etc).  You will find that students have different phones so if you want to use apps, make sure that they are compatible with all systems, or there are suitable alternatives
Remember, any activity can be adapted to use with a mobile device, even if it only involves taking a photo of some writing, or recording an interview.  Students will love the variety, and it can be used later for revision.  I'll be following up this post with some BYOD activities I've been using with my students.

05 April 2012

Finding Android apps for Education

If you've got an Android device and wondering where to find the latest apps you can use with your students or yourself, then www.androidzoom.com is a great place to start.  It's a search engine for Apps organised into categories so you can head straight to a category and save time looking for what you want.

www.android4schools.com  by Richard Byrne, the teacher behind the fabulous www.freetech4teachers.com, has also created a blog giving a more detailed description of educational apps and tips on how to use them.

04 April 2012


dayzipping.com is a neat little website that suggests and describes day trips in a wide (and growing) selection of cities.  Information includes main attractions, information about the attractions, maps, distances and time.  The few cities I've looked at are easy enough to read for good pre-intermediate+ students with a little bit of help.

What I like about this site is it's simplicity.  Everything is clearly laid out with pictures and maps and there is some great vocabulary for describing attractions and places. There's also an Android app so students can use their mobile devices to read or plan a project.

This website is a good starting point for students to create a "dayzip" about their own or an imaginary town or city.

Be Funky - Photo Editor

Befunky.com is a great photo editor that you can use on your computer or mobile device (Android or  iOS).  All you need to do is upload your photo to the website and you have a wide range of editing options - including speech bubbles - even in the free version.  If you (and/or your students) are using mobile devices, you can upload existing photos or take a new photo and upload it to the website.

Ideas for using in class:
  1. Find a photo on the Internet to represent a vocabulary word and write a sentence using the vocabulary.  Use for revision.
  2. Take photos of classroom objects, student possessions and write short descriptions of them.
  3. Take close-up pictures and students write clues.  Play "What is it?"
  4. Take photos of marked class or homework.  Students edit the photo to reflect their mood and write a brief  "reflection" on their work.
  5. Find and edit photos relating to a topic.  Students discuss why they chose the photo and edited in the way they have.
  6. Describe a photo and compare and contrast photos (Cambridge exam style speaking and/or writing practise).
  7. Have a photo festival and students write reviews.
 Have you got any more ideas?

Digital Story Telling - Fotobabble and Blabberize

www.fotobabble.com and www.blabberize.com are two simple digital storytelling tools that you can use with students of all ages.   Here's a Blabberize created by one of my students.


www.fotobabble.com is simpler and quicker.  You upload your image, or link to a URL on the web and record a message of up to one minute.  There's also an iPhone app so you don't have to spend time transferring photos from camera/mobile to computer.  Android and other mobile users keep an eye on the site - they say apps for other platforms will be coming soon.

www.babblerize.com has a fun "mouth" feature but as far as I'm aware there aren't any mobile apps yet.  With Blabberize, you upload your photo then add a "mouth".  You can record a message of up to 30 seconds, and you can also upload wav files.  When you play the Blabberize, the mouth moves.

Click here for a lesson plan to create the Blabberize above.

25 February 2012

Blogging in EFL

Here's a Storify pulling together articles from the web about blogging in the classroom.  If you're new to blogging, you'll find some handy tips and ideas here.

23 February 2012

Live Typing

LiveTyping.com looks like a fun way to get students writing.  I came across it on Live Feast, Ana Maria Menezes blog, while looking for ideas for mini sagas.  I like doing "live writing" with my students which involves appointing a typist or passing the keyboard around the class and getting them to create a group story or other writing text.  With LiveTyping.com students can replay what they've written and it can be emailed or posted on your class blog.  If you're working with tweens or younger teens, it's better to put the students in smaller groups

22 February 2012

English for Critical Thinkers

English for Critical Thinkers is a project by Don Wilson to create lesson plans based on video.  What's interesting about this website is that the content is based on topics often not covered in course books so can sometimes be controversial, which makes it all the more interesting!  Suitable for CEFR B1 to C2 older teens and adults.  I love using materials created by other teachers as a change from the coursebook and I find students appreciate them too - the lesson plan about Garzon looks especially interesting as it's a big topic in Spain at the moment!

21 February 2012

Phonemic Typewriter

Phonemic Typewriter is one of many phonemic typewriters on the Internet.  What I like most about thiswebsite is that you have a lot more control over what you want to type, such as marking stress, which many other websites don't allow for.  It's easy to use, just click on the phoneme you want to use, and you can easily copy your online texts into a Word document.

It's especially useful for transcribing listening texts to show the changes that occur in connected speech.

NY Times - The Learning Network

I've just rediscovered this fabulous website The learning Network at the New York Times.  There are lots of activities based around news articles that are very accessible to Intermediate+ English Language Learners and many are also suitable for teens. 

As well as using for non-exam Intermediate and Upper Intermediate (teenage) classes, I've found articles that are especially useful for exam classes and can be used for extended reading and speaking activities that relate quite nicely to course book topics.

Using authentic materials is always stimulating and motivating for students, especially teens, so it's well worth spending some time to look on the webiste for activities you could use to supplement your course.  

FECEI Madrid

Last Saturday I had the opportunity to talk at the first FECEI event in Madrid.  Speakers included Carol Read and Russell Stannard who, although ill, was able to "attend" via Adobe Connect.  The atmosphere was very relaxing and friendly and the whole event was a pleasure to be at.  Let's hope it's the first of many more!

08 January 2012

Delta, Masters or Lifelong Learning?

I've just been reading an interesting discussion on Alex Case's blog tefltastic.com, "Is a TEFL Diploma worth more than a relevant MA" which made me think about the whole question of Diplomas and Masters, and formal education in general!

I want to raise the question of cost and relevance of these qualifications for some (perhaps the majority?) of us. I've just completed the Delta which, although I learned a lot and enjoyed it, has little relevance to my