Blog Archives

Twitter for Professional Development

I have just written an article for an Argentinian magazine called “The Teacher’s Magazine” about Twitter.  Since it’s been a long time, since the last time I wrote on this blog, I thought of reposting it here.  Somebody may find it useful.  Would love to hear your comments about it, or just a greeting! Kisses and hugs from lovely Panama… (I’m travelling around America at the moment, that’s why I’ve been so disconnected)

Everybody seems to be using twitter at the moment. Most celebrities, politicians, the city government, and some of your friends are twitting and retwitting. For that reason, you may find yourself wondering what this is all about. Or maybe you are already one step forward, and have started to ask how it can help you with your teaching.

I believe it will not only help you, it will open you a door to the whole world. You will be able to interact and connect with hundreds of other teachers from all over the world. Teachers coming from all walks of life, and  from all sorts of different teaching contexts. You will have the opportunity of listening to and interacting with those professionals you admire – fellow teachers, teacher training specialists, authors, publishers, etc.- at a very personable level. Apart from that, you will get extremely fast up-to-date information about what is happening in your field, plus a great amount of links and recommendations for materials and teaching ideas. Even though at the beginning twitter may look a bit chaotic, once you start following educators that work in your field of expertise, everything starts to make sense. In this article we will provide you with a step by step tutorial on how to set up your account, and develop your PLN (personal learning network).

Setting up your account:

1)      Enter www.twitter.com and register. You can use a nickname, if you prefer.

2)      Upload a picture of you. People like looking at the person they are talking to.“Your profile picture defines who you are to the online world.  It might be the first and only impression you get with people you meet online.” [1]

3)      Write your biography. It should be 160 characters in length. Include your interests and your relevant expertise in teaching, so that others can get to know who you are and decide if they want to connect with you.

4)      Now it is time to start following other twitter users. Following somebody in twitter means that you subscribe to their twits or updates, which will appear in your timeline (a list in real time of all the accounts you are following, which appears in you twitter homepage). To follow somebody, you can click on “Who to follow” and view the suggestions or make a search by name or topic.

Once you find a person of your interest, you click on follow and voila, you are already following them. If you do not have any clue on who to follow, you can start by following me. I am @sabridv. I will be glad to follow you back, and help you in whatever you need. If you enter my profile http://twitter.com/#!/sabridv  and click on “following”, you will find all the educators I am already following http://twitter.com/#!/sabridv/following . You can browse through the list, and start following some. They are all very friendly and excellent professionals, who love learning collaboratively.

How to interact with other teachers:

 

1)      The main way is by writing your own twits: write about your projects, ask for guidance to solve problems you encounter in you professional life, ask for ideas on how to deal with a specific grammar topic, share interesting links or useful resources, and many more.

2)      You can also read other people’s twits, which appear in your timeline. Remember that you do not have to read every twit the second you see it appear on the screen. You can click on the star, and it will be sent to your profile “favourites” tab, so that you can  read it when you have time.

3)      You can also address a specific person by writing the @ sign in front of their name/handle at the start of the tweet. Beware that the message will still be public, and will therefore appear in your own timeline. The only difference with an ordinary twit is that this message will be sent to that person’s “@mentions” tab, and will be easy to find even if he is not online at the time you are writing. If you click on your “@mentions” tab, next to your “timeline” tab you will see all the twits that were aimed at you.

4)      If you read an interesting twit and you want to share it with the rest of your followers, you should place the cursor over that tweet and click on “retweet”.

5)      Finally, if you want to send a private message to someone, enter their profile and click on the envelope icon. To read your own private messages click on “messages” on the black bar.

To sum up, I truly recommend you to start building your professional learning network If alone we can get to do a simple and easy project, by being with others, we can always go a step further. I have learnt a lot by sharing ideas with others. I have been able to perfect my own creations by exchanging thoughts with colleagues. I am always refreshed and full of new ideas after a short trip over twitter. Being part of this online community of educators has made me realise how important it is the presence of others, who are undergoing the same learning journey, in order to motivate us and push us forward. Of course, we can learn on our own. However, by interacting and exchanging information with others, we can achieve a lot more and the trip becomes more fun.

References:

The English Language Teacher’s Guide To Twitter, tech tip #11:  http://kalinago.blogspot.com/2009/08/english-language-teachers-guide-to.html

 

Literature in the Classroom: Photostories

You may all know by now that since last year, I’ve been trying to incorporate literature in my classroom. Last year I worked with The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (you can see some activities related to it here and here). This year I started a project called “Myths, Legends and Folktales from Around the World”. I have started a wiki for the project here.

In both cases, I thought that a good way of checking understanding and having fun at the same time was by creating photostories. At first, I thought of using voicethread, and I even wrote a tutorial to explain my students how to use it. However, as soon as I started explaining them what we were going to do, one of my students said “Why don’t we just use powerpoint instead?”. He really had a point there. He made me realise that sometimes the simpler, the better. If they already know how to use powerpoint, why not just let them use that programme, and forget about spending a lot of time trying to teach them how to use another application that would serve the same purpose.

Another lesson they taught me on that day, is that whenever we want our students to start doing something totally new for them, we have to allow them some time to toy around, to get acquainted with the idea, to get the point of what they are expected to do. The first time I asked them to create a photostory, they spent ages to create just the first slide. You can imagine I was walking up the walls. However, the next class they all managed to finish the other 5 slides in just one hour. We, teachers, have to relax sometimes, lots of things are going on inside our students minds that we can’t even imagine.

My two experiences with photostories were very rewarding. The students final productions were great. Here you can see the ones about The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and here the ones about an Asian folktale called Who Will Marry Mousie? Hope you like them.

Invisible Technology

I have already exploded the first myth in this post, and now I will try to explode myth nº 2: Dogme ELT = no technology?, as an answer to the Dogme Challenge Nº 7.

Again, as in my previous post I will continue writing from where my fellow bloggers have left. In this case, I really recommend you to read Mike’s and  David’s post. David concludes that:

“It’s not the tool, it’s how you use it.”

Technology at its best (specifically the internet) offers the chance to break down the classroom walls and bring the real world into our schools. At its worst, it leads to another pile of meaningless language practice activities. As teachers, it’s our job to ensure technology is used at its best to support the needs of our learners.
I totally agree with his statement. Technology allows us to open the classroom and let the real world in. It is a great source of authentic material: newspapers, videos, movies, cartoons, supermarket catalogues, you name it, the sky is the limit. You can find absolutely everything. Is there a better way of catering for students likes and needs?
However,  I believe that we have to use technology as a solution to a problem, and not just because we want to start using it in our classroom without a clear purpose. As Tyson answered me in this comment:

So many teachers I’ve seen use technology in class meaninglessly (ie. to kill time, impress students, feel obliged, etc). Really, the biggest factor contributing to this use is a lack of direction. It takes thought in order to determine how to best integrate the technology into lessons. Without this thought, its use comes off perhaps impressive at first go, but progressively as a weak attempt at being cool.Twitter (and many other sites) not created specifically for language learning offer functions that can facilitate our lessons with a little creative thinking.

That’s the key I believe: Creative Thinking. Using the tools we have at hand in a creative way to do things better than if we do them without technology. I think that Tyson’s use of Twitter is a perfect example of this. Relating to my own experience, last year I had a teen course that had lots of problems with writing. They were not really that interested in it. They would never hand in a composition, and I knew that writing is an important and necessary skill to develop. For that reason, I created a blog for them, in which they were going to be writing with the focus on communication and not on accuracy. Writing became meaningful for them, they had a real audience and most of them were motivated to take part and WRITE!
To sum up, as Ana Rossaro pointed in her blog technology should become invisible (The following picture is part of a power point presentation created and done by Ana Rossaro, I have just translated it into English. You can see the original version here) :

Flashforward! Isaac Asimov and the use of NTIC in education!

I saac Asimov, the famous science fiction writer, was interviewed in 1988 by Bill Moyers. And guess what? He spoke about the use of NTICs in education. He made some very sensible points about it. He was obviously a visionary and what he said in that video is totally up to date. I believe that it is very related to what Sir Ken Robinson said in his speech about creativity and education. You can see the video and my reflections about it in this post. ( Sorry, it is in Spanish but if you need a translation just ask me for it) Well, I ‘ll stop babbling and let you listen to the expert…. I would love to read your opinions and comments after you watch the video.

 

Nineteenth Edition Of The ESL/EFL/ELL Blog Carnival Is Up!

As Larry Ferlazzo has already announced in his blog, the new edition of the ESL / EFL/ ELL carnival is already online. This time it was hosted by Ms. Flecha (if you haven’t taken a look at her blog yet, this may be a great opportunity to start browsing it).

In this edition of the carnival you will find inspiring ideas from 20 teachers. I have known some of them but some others are new for me. Apparently, we’d never end finding interesting teachers to add to our PLN. There were so many contributions this time that they’ve had to be organised into different categories. Here goes a preview of the categories, if you want to know the content, you’ll have to go and visit Ms. Flecha:

  • A Conversation on Language
  • Dynamic Teaching…Games, Teaching Tools and Strategies
  • Classroom 2.0
  • Learning and Teaching with Eyes Wide Open (reflective teaching)
  • On the Job Front

Finally, I would like to say that I’m very honoured to have taken part in this edition of the carnival and especially to be hosting the next carnival. It will be published on December 1st and I’d love to receive contributions from all of you. You can contribute a post to it by using this easy submission form. If the form does not work for some reason, you can send the link to me via email. Looking forward to your posts.

Easy ways to make your photos talk!

Preparing a project with my 5º grade students about animals, I’ve remembered that there are many ways in which we can make photos talk. I thought that would give a fun twist to my students writing assignment. In groups they would be assigned an animal group (reptiles, mammals, insects, etc) and they would have to choose an animal from that group and talk about their characterisctics in the 1º person form. Of course, they could add some humorous information too. This would become more fun if they could make a photo of that animal speak and post it to their class blog: http://www.saintexupery5.wordpress.com.

I’ve prepared an introduction to the assignment using the programme crazy talk. Here is the description of it you can find in the website ” CrazyTalk is a revolutionary tool for creating sophisticated, zany or dramatic talking characters for unique digital content. Simply import an image and CrazyTalk guides you through the process to bring it to life with wizard-like menus for beginners and in-depth power editors for pros.” It is very good and easy to use and here you can see the result:

However, at school I cannot install new softwares. Therefore, my students cannot use that programme to create their own talking photos. Apart from that, we don’t have microfones. In spite of all the drawbacks, I’ve found a way out. You may already know about it: Blabberize and text-to-speech. Here, you can read the tutorial I’ve written for my students:

Instructions for creating your own talking photo:

1) Choose an animal and look for an image in Google images http://www.google.com.ar/imghp?hl=es&tab=wi

2) Right click the image and save it in the computer (Remember where you have saved it!)

3) Enter this webpage: http://www2.research.att.com/~ttsweb/tts/demo.php

4) Choose the speaker in step 1

5) Insert your text in the white box (step 2)

6) Click on download and right click on the link that appears in blue to save it to your computer. (Remember where you have saved it!)

7) Enter this webpage: http://blabberize.com/

8 ) Click on “MAKE”

9) Click on “Browse” and find your picture file.

10) Select the area of the image you want to use and click on

the blue arrow. 
11) Move the blue and green circles to accomodate them surrounding the mouth and click on the blue arrow.

12) Click on the pink arrow to upload the audio file you have stored in your computer. Click on browse and upload it.

13) When you finish doing this, call your teacher so that she can save it in the class account and upload it to the blog.

I would love to know whether you think it is clear or not and other ways in which we can use blabberise. Here you can see their creations, will be more than grateful if you can leave us a comment with your thoughts about them.

Blogs Worth Taking a Look at…

I am very honoured because Philb81 has tagged me in his wonderful blog Classroom201X as one of his 10 blogs worth taking a look at. This is a new  initiative in the ELT blogosphere at the moment. If someone tags you in their list of 10 recommended teaching blogs, you then prepare your own list of 10 other blogs you would be willing to recommend, paste the logo above into your post and link back to the person/blog that initially tagged you. So here goes my list of 10 blogs to recommend (they are presented in alphabetical order):

  • David Truss Pair-a-dimes: Great reflections on education, technology and learning.
  • ELT notes : I always find a lot of food for thought from Claudia’s reflections.
  • English Raven: It helps me to have a look at TEFL from a different perspective
  • Kalinago English: I have taken lots of ideas from this blog and I have already tried many of her lesson plans. Thanks Karene for all the hard work!
  • L_missbossy’s ELT PLayground: A great blog about TEFL for Young learners
  • Marisa Constantinides- TEFL matters: Reflections on TEFL from a teacher trainer.
  • Movie Segemnts to Assess Grammar Goals: It contains a series of movie segments and activities to assess or practice grammar points through fun, challenging exercises. Thanks for sharing Claudio!
  • Succesful Teaching: A blog where you can get some strategies and ideas in order to have a succesful teaching experience. Thanks Pat for all the inspiration.
  • TEFLclips: A site dedicated to the possibilities for YouTube and other video sharing sites in the classroom. I love using videos in my classes and this site has helped me a lot. Thanks a lot Jamie.
  • Tu remanso: A blog in Spanish worth having a look at for some good reflections on education. Thanks Cinthia for sharing your reflections.

Hope you’ve found some new blogs WORTH TAKING A LOOK AT…

Ask me anything!

Just out of curiosity I have started trying out Formspring.me. Basically it is a new social network that allows people to ask you questions. What type of questions? Any type. Then, you can decide whether to answer them or not.

I started wondering about the uses we may give to it. First, I thought about the most obvious one: how-to-make-questions practice in an EFL classroom. Secondly, I thought about my blog. It may become a very useful tool for direct communication between blog-readers and blog-authors. I’m still thinking about all of this. I have just started using it, so I believe that as time goes by, we’ll see the results. I invite you all to leave your questions about me in: http://www.formspring.me/sabridv . I’ll be glad to answer them.

The Edublog Awards

I am very honoured because my class blog: Saint Exupery 6 have been nominated for the best class blog in the Edublog Awards 2009.

There are lots of excellent blogs nominated with us. You may have a look at all of them here. Select your favorite class blog from the list  and click Vote OR scroll down the page to check out all blogs nominated in this category!

A big thank to all those who have motivated us to start and continue with that blog. Classes have ended here in Argentina so we will continue working in that blog with the students in March, after a reinvigorating summer holiday. We all deserve it!

Glogster- Poster Yourself

I have just learned about Glogster thanks to a tweet by @jenverschoor (thanks a lot Jen!). With this application you can create an online poster. You can mix graphics, photos, videos, music and text into slick Glogs.

The great thing is that now there is an edu-glosgter page. You are allowed to create up to 200 students accounts for free. If you are wondering why bothering to use Glogster, in their webpage they provide you with some reasons:

  1. A fun, imaginative, and powerful learning experience which fosters independent creative self expression, positive learner-teacher relationships, and teamwork on collaborative class projects.
  2. A vibrant, multi-sensory learning experience which integrates learner’s knowledge and skills into traditionally text-oriented subjects and motivates learner’s desire to explore topics in which they may previously have been less interested.

I think it is worth giving it a try. If you do, please share with us your experience. Maybe, we can also share ideas on how we can use it in our classes. Looking forward to your comments.