Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Best Ways To Use Photos In Lessons

Pictures are a great resource in any type of lesson, and learning English as a foreign language is no exception.

Here is a useful post by Larry Ferlazzo with some classic ways of exploting photographs in class: The Best Ways To Use Photos In Lessons

It would be logical for teachers to share a 'virtual' image bank.  Talip suggested having a shared repository in the Local Area Network, so that any teacher can upload and store images which can be accessed and shared by other teachers.  This would be an idea that could be pursued with the Computer Centre...Talip, would you like to investigate the options?

Meanwhile, here are some sources I have come across that might be useful.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Persuasive Essay Thesis Builder and Online Outliner

Here is an interesting site for MLP teachers.
Step-by-step guide to writing a thesis statement and creating a persuasive essay outline 

Go to to try it out.  This was suggested to me by my colleague Jennifer Walden, English literature teacher at Pinole High School in California.  I know of Tom March from his work and research with Bernie Dodge on WebQuests (see and his offshoot site at  But, I had never seen this site before.  Semra Hanim -- what do you think?  It is designed for high school students in American schools...would it be relevant for ENG101 students?

If this does have potential, have a look at March's other thesis builder and outlining tool for cause and effect essays at

Sunday, September 25, 2011

A corner or a dead end?

Although I arrived late to the world of Social Networking, I am interested in the 'connectivist' theory of learning, and the idea of 'social language learning', epitomized by the site  As with all things Web2.0, it doesn't seem long before the 'clone brigade' starts cranking out the copy sites.

I got this link from Nilgun Hancioğlu: but I haven't had a chance to try it out.  I've asked a couple of my colleages (students in the TEFL programme here at METU NCC) to have a look and see what they recommend.  Watch this space.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Using Go animate

This is my African animation. 

A few ideas for using this animation with students in the early days:-
  • They could introduce themselves using an interview format
  • They could create a dialogue in pairs about their cities
  • In pairs they could talk about their first impressions of the campus, the SFL, learning Englsih etc etc 
You just need a YouTube account and channel (easy to create) and use Goanimate.  See Steve's post at for more details.

Ideas, suggestions and comments

If you have any ideas, suggestions or comments (about anything related to teaching), please add a 'sticky' note to our public noticeboard.  This functions just like an ordinary noticeboard.

  • The simplest way is to just add a sticky note with a text comment.  
  • In addition to adding test, you can stick on a picture or a document, or embed a video. 
  • You can add your name if you want, or you can remain anonymous. 
Looking forward to a great exchange of ideas and constructive suggestions!

BTW...this is a free tool, and there are obvious ways that you could use this with students.  See for some ideas on using such Web2.0 noticeboards in teaching.

GOOGLE 'define' in class with a data projector

I was recently teaching a class with Iranian, Azerbaijani, Libyan and Russian students, and the word 'primitive' came up in a reading.  I did what I thought was a pretty good job of explaining it, and all the students were nodding their heads.

  • Then, I noticed that the Iranians whispered the translation in Persian to each other to check if they really had understood.  Several other students also sought confirmation on their electronic dictionaries in their mobile phones.  
  • If only I had been able to call up a quick definition on the screen, shown a few pictures, and perhaps had a quick list of common synonyms...all is now at your fingertips with a data projector and the GOOGLE 'define XXX' command.

How to use this on the fly in class:

METU NCC blogs

If you are a METU NCC instructor and you like blogs, but don't want to use a commercial blog server like or (and don't want to fork out a subscription fee for you are entitled to your own METU blog (an instance of WordPress MU) at

  1. Just log in at with your METU username and password (the same one you use for your METU mail) and voila, instant blog!

Generate a debate and a class survey

Generate a debate and a class survey

A new tool that I just became acquainted could be used for a start of the year activity. This is - the name is a morph of DECIDER, to illustrate the three steps in reaching decisions: propose a solution, debate the pros and cons, then vote on the solution.

Again, such a tool is open to your imagination.
  • One idea appropriate at the start of the year, is to highlight some classroom management issues, such as "What should the teacher do when a student misses the deadline for an assignment", and see what sort of solutions the students propose, and what they vote for.
  • This is a great way to inculcate a culture of critical thinking in the class, and if it works well at the start, then you would be able to use it at relevant points during the course. This is particularly good for controversial topics where students may have strong feelings, or current affairs topics that are of interest to the students and can be used to highlight language points under study.

Create a class noticeboard in the cloud

Create a class noticeboard in the cloud

Two tools to explore are and Both are free and students can post to the public noticeboard without signing up. Posts can include text and embedded media.
  • Personally, I find LINOIT neater, as WALLWISHER can end up with a lot of overlapping 'sticky notes' if you attempt to do this in a lab with all the students at the same time. 
  • Again, the use for this is limited only by your imagination.It is worth noting that the 'sticky notes' can be added anonymously, so this could be an advantage if you want to promote candor. It can also be a disadvantage, if your students are not mature enough to take on the responsibility.
  • Some examples could include:
    1. Create a notice board with ideas for class rules
    2. Get students to share what they most like about being in a class.
    3. Share sticky notes with pictures or videos about home towns, hobbies, etc.
    4. Post sticky notes with their favourite song as a YouTube video.
  • Again, you could refer back to this in class if you have a data projector, and students could use these as prompts to generate questions to find out more information, etc.

Create a 'video' on YouTube

Create a 'video' on YouTube

YouTube is an amazing resource, and it now includes some tools to create quite sophisticated videos from uploaded images.
  • Go to (you need to log in with your YouTube account or GOOGLE ID) and you'll see some of the tools on offer.
    • If you don't have a YouTube account, you will need to get a GOOGLE ID.  This is free.
    • If you are creating your YouTube account for the first time, it will ask you to choose a username to store your 'channel'.  You can use the same username as your GOOGLE ID, or something different.  However, you will still use your GOOGLE ID to log in to your YouTube account.
  • There are free versions for all the tools, but normally limited in length (usually a minute) or lines of dialogue (usually 10) Nevertheless, GOANIMATE and SUTPEFLIX have been mentioned in an earlier posting:

  • The great thing about these tools is that the end product is a YouTube video, which is dead easy to share and view.
    • If you have a data projector and internet access in class, you can take breaks to view these in class.
      • If you are a YouTube aficionado like Huran, you will have your favourite ways of downloading YouTube videos.  Huran recommends YouTube Downloader.  It's free, but you have to install it on your computer.
      • If you are like me, and you don't have ADMIN rights for your office computer, you can use a site like to download a YouTube video.  It is a two step process, and it can take a few minutes, but it will work in your office.
    • Since YouTube is a social networking site, students can also visit and comment on the videos. You might need to give some guidelines, e.g., comment on one thing that you like about the video, or perhaps give one constructive comment on how to improve the video.
In the context of the first day of a course, you could ask students to create an animation in GOANIMATE with a dialogue having themselves as one of the characters.
  • They could then write this as an interview...the topic could be as simple as a personal interview, it could be about dreams and aspirations, or perhaps talking about their academic interests or background to their chosen field of study. You could give students a couple of options and let them decide.
  • This is a great way to learn a bit about your students, and get them to find out about the other students in their group. The free version is limited to 10 lines of dialogue, which will keep things short and snappy.
  • Here is a post by Dindy illustrating this use of GOANIMATE in the context of promoting this blog: 
If you want to have an activity that isn't too demanding language-wise, you could ask them to use STUPEFLIX, but require that they add short captions to the pictures and a Title frame.
  • Again, topics could include their home, their neighbourhood, their hobby, their best friends, their field of study...bascially anything you could do in GOANIMATE, but here the story is told through images with only minimal text.
  • The free version is limited to a video of one minute, so you should warn your students to upload between 10 and 12 photographs. Again, this limitation keeps the videos from dragging on, and the students have to make some conscious decisions about what to include.
If you use one of these animations (or have another favourite site that you use), please share your animation here in the blog and let us know how you used it and what feedback you got from your students.

Write an email to the future

Write an email to the future

I remember when I graduated from high school, and we had to write a prophesy about what we would be doing ten years hence. These were buried in a jar on the school grounds to be dug up at the 10th anniversary of our class graduation. Mercifully, they forgot where the jar was buried when the time came. :)

Anyway, the idea does have merit, and there are plenty of alternatives to pieces of paper being buried in a glass jar. The idea is the same. At the start of a new year or course, ask your students to write a simple email message to themselves, to be delivered a day or two before the last lesson of the course--you should set the date and time. There are variations on what to suggest they write, but you want to make it fairly simple.
  • You could ask them to list the most important achievements that they hope to reach by the end of the course.
  • Or the three things that they most want to learn by the end of the course.
  • Or, it could be about other skills, such as study skills, time management, etc.
Of course, to make this exercise as meaningful as possible, get the students to report back on the achievements they fulfilled on the last day of the course (by which time they should have received their pre-dated email message).
  • To encourage discussion, you could ask them to list the reasons for their success. If you have a good group of students, you could also explore the unfulfilled expectations and reasons for not achieving them with some kind of "next course I must..." follow up.
  • If you have a good relationship with your class, you could ask them to forward you their pre-dated emails when they arrive, and you could create a WORDLE (see and make a poster of the keywords from the entire class.
Here are some of the tools I've come across for this. BTW...thanks to my colleague Sercan Çelik for reminding me about these.
  1. - probably the easiest of them all. Just write a message, set the date to be delivered and the email address. No sign up or log in required
  2. - this one requires the user to sign up. Might be useful if the user wants to use this feature as on ongoing way to remind themselves.
  3. - the original site, as far as I can determine. Started back in 2000 (I guess the dawn of a new millenium prompted this). Requires a log in.
Note - if you are a GOOGLEphile like me, and use GMAIL, there is a great add-in you can install in your browser called BOOMERRANG. See -- makes it easy to repost emails in case you don't hear back in a specific time, plus schedule emails for the future.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Words - Collocations based on short filrm

This is a great post with a lesson plan that builds a simple lesson around colloctions and word associations for some common words: play, blow, break, split, run, fly, fall, light, space: Words.

The lesson uses one of my favourite lexical tools (a visual thesaurus at - the lesson could be enhanced by use of a mindmapping tool (Freemind on your computer, or or in class.

Does the huamn mnid raed wrods as a wlohe?

Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.

Or rather...

According to a researcher (sic) at Cambridge University, it doesn't matter in what order the letters in a word are, the only important thing is that the first and last letter be at the right place. The rest can be a total mess and you can still read it without problem. This is because the human mind does not read every letter by itself but the word as a whole.

While scientists and researchers in cognitive science point out some fallacies about this idea that the order of letters is not critical to understanding a text, I can't help but think that this revelation may provide us EFL teachers with a 'trick' that we can use at times to introduce language points.

Trouble is, scrambling sentences by hand in a word processor is a pain.  However, thanks to Stephen Sacks, here is a neat site that will 'scramble' any text according to the algorithm that the first and last letters stay the same:  -- jsut patse yuor snenetce or pagaprrah hree and at the cilck of a butotn, you'll hvae the 'jluembd' vsieorn. :) 

How to use this with students?
  • When presenting a grammar point, give the example sentences to students in scrambled form to rewrite as a warmer.
  • Scramble the sentences in a CLOZE or gap fill, but leave the words spelled correctly that they need to choose to put in the gaps.  This should, in theory, force them to look more closely at the context before deciding which word to put in the gap.
  • Use one of the reading texts that students have already read, and as a review, scramble the text and highlight words in it (choose lower frequency words based on collocation or lexico-grammar with higher frequency words) that you want students to spell correctly.  Give them a tight time limit to force them to look for clues in the context to help them guess the word quickly. When they scan the emboldened words, ask them to identify the collocate or phrase that helped them.  Here is an example from this bullet point (imagine doing this with a one minute time limit, and not having read the text recently):
Use one of the riadeng txets taht sduttnes hvae aelrady raed, and as a rveeiw, sbmalrce the txet and hilghgiht wdros in it (cohose lwoer funerecqy wrdos bsead on colitoalcon or lxieco-gaammrr wtih hghier feuqcnrey wdors) taht you wnat sudtetns to slepl ccltreroy. Gvie tehm a tihgt tmie liimt to focre tehm to look for celus in the cenotxt to hlep tehm gsues the wrod qilkucy. Wehn tehy sacn the eebnomdeld wdors, ask tehm to iteinfdy the cotolclae or parhse taht hepeld tehm. Hree is an emxlpae form tihs belult ponit

What I like about this site
  • Really simple, easy to use, and free.
  • Super example of an elegant code (if you like programming languages!)
What I'm not sure about
  • The research suggests that there is a lot more going on in our brains when it comes to reading the printed word than we realize.  I'd like to find some more research about this, as I'm sure some students will point to this phenomenon to justify their bad spelling. :)  Student to teacher: "Hacom - I no need ccrtelory selpl buacese you etrhieyvng me uennadrtsd, dgiel mi?"

Summer 2011 - Teacher Trainer Journal

Great promotion of the TEFL community in Northern Cyprus with two articles written by four EFL teachers (from EMU and METU.NCC) appearing in Summer 2011 - Teacher Trainer Journal.

Please check out the summer 2011 edition of the Teacher Trainer Journal to read the articles by Sezgi Yalin (Encouraging teachers to fulfill their potential) and John Eldridge, Steve Neufeld and Nilgun Hancioğlu (Working with words on the web - second installment in their series).

If you know of other recent or upcoming publications by EFL teachers based in North Cyprus, please share them.  Thanks!

RAW and OLR vocabulary flashacards

A couple of years ago, Danyal, Huran, Talip and Dindy agreed to create flashcards based on the vocabulary in the Reader at Work and Offline Reading series.  I had set up a system to publish these as ANKI flashcard sets.  ANKI is an open source free flashcard software that works on a PC, but can be linked dynamically to a flashcard set on the web.  It also incorporated the Leitner spaced repetition system.

Unfortunately, the ANKI software proved cumbersome and difficult for students to manage, so this year, we've moved the flashcards to StudyStack.  See the current stack for Reader at Work and Offline Reading at
  • I think the simplicity of the StudyStack (and the fact that it can be ported to mobile phones/smart phones) will make this very attractive to students.  
  • Also, the multitude of 'games' and 'self tests' built in to the site will appeal to students' assessment-obsessed perspective on learning. 
  • In addition, the ability for a teacher to create a matching 'pop quiz' at the click of a button will make this a 'blended learning' tool because it is so easy to integrate the flashcards on the web with a quiz in class.  
  • And, the ability to use one or multiple sets, means that teachers can easily build a cumulative vocabulary range, rather than the unit-by-unit 'test and forget' approach.
See for a more detailed account of StudyStack, with reference to its use with the Common English Lexical Framework (See for the research article describing CELF in a CLIL context).

As you might notice when looking at the flashcard list at, the flashcard sets are open to edit.  
  • There is a 'slight' danger that students can muck around with the cards, but I don't think that they would intentionally do this.  I tend to favour a more 'open' (and therefore potentially chaotic) approach to learning, so I think that the risk is worth taking.  
  • What I might suggest is that if any teachers are interested in volunteering to be a 'moderator' for a stack (or several stacks), they could regularly 'back up' the stack (two click operation to download a stack) just in case, and perhaps be in charge of 'quality control' by checking any new entries.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Edmodo - in the classroom

Here is an concise slideshow by a teacher to illustrate how he integrates EDMODO (a microblogging e-learning platform, similar in style to FaceBook) in class.

Flashcards - StudyStack

Flashcards are a very practical way of learning vocabulary, especially in the initial stages of learning a foreign language.

  • There are a host of web sites nowadays, most of them free, to help students keep their own flashcards online.  See for a list of the popular ones.
  • Most of these flashcard sites have some kind of monitoring system.  The classic method developed by Leitner (see for a quick summary of Leitner's spaced repetition system) is often applied.  In this case, students simply review the flashcards, and indicate whether they know the word or not and they then see the word again according to the algorithm that Leitner developed.
  • Other flashcard sites provide games, activities and quizzes that recycle the content from the flashcards to challenge students to test themselves.
I've been a real fan of QUIZLET, but recently a colleague, Sercan Çelik, passed on a link to a different flashcard site,, which I thought I'd try.  It offers a host of fun and motivating games to play with the words you are learning, as well as quizzes.

Transcribe English to IPA

This is a neat site that will transcribe English texts into phonetic transcriptions in the International Phonetic Alphabet.
Here is the IPA transcription of the text above created at
 ðɪs ɪz ə niːt saɪt ðət wl trænˈskraɪb ˈɪŋɡlɪʃ teksts ˈɪntə fəˈnetɪk trænˈskrɪpʃn̩z ɪn ði ˌɪntəˈnæʃn̩əl fəˈnetɪk ˈælfəbet 

How to use this with students?

First of all, you will need to introduce the IPA symbols to students.  here is a nice GIF that has been designed for classroom use, and made for photocopying in black and white.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Whiteboarding - the low tech way to make a whiteboard 'interactive'

This is a copy of the page at
  • It was last updated over ten years ago, so I didn't want it to end up in the Internet dust bin, so I've copied it here in it's entirety.  
  • If the original site does go offline, we'll lose the images, but not the content.
Three students 'whiteboarding' in class.
This is SUCH a good idea, I don't know why more schools haven't done it.  Simplicity, functionality and it naturally promotes a collaborative learning model.
  • All you need to do is visit a hardware store and get some 'white tile board' cut up into 3 foot by 2 foot pieces (total cost around US$2), one piece for each group of three or four students in your class.  
  • Nice to have a 'hand hold' cut into the board, especially useful if you want to display the board by hanging them on the walls.  Also, makes it convenient to store them like this as well.  
  • Compare that to the cost of buying an Interactive White Board (plus the data projector and computer you need to go along with that as well).
When it comes to maintenance, all you need are dry erase markers.
  • I've seen some teachers suggest  keeping a set of dry-erase marker pens in a sock for each group.  The sock doubles as an eraser to wipe the board clean.  
  • Of course, keeping some glass cleaner (windex or 'camsil' works great) handy, makes the boards come sparkling clean.  
  • Compare that to the cost of running an electronic interactive whiteboard and replacing the bulbs in data projectors.
If your curiosity has been piqued, read on for the article in its entirety.

Using IPA and an Interactive White Board

This is a nice example following on from my post about using the online transcription site from English to IPA.  In Lip & Leap, the teacher explains a lesson plan for a mixed elementary/pre intermediate group that focused on minimal pairs -- reviewing the long 'ee' sound and getting to grips with the short 'i' sound ( /iː/ & /i/).  He's included two YouTube videos to illustrate how he used the Interactive Whiteboard in his lesson.

Monday, September 12, 2011


Dictogloss is a great way to teach grammar inductively.  If you are not familiar with the the technique, you can see how simple and effective it can be from the video below.  Notice also how much the students are involved in the process as they struggle to reconstruct the original text.  This is for an upper-intermediate class, but it can be done at any level.

Note that this is actually an extract from a DVD that accompanies Jerry Harmer's book, "The Practice of English Language Teaching".


Dictation may seem a bit old-fashioned, but it can be a valuable tool in the teacher's arsenal,. and a great integrated skills activity (listen and write, then read and speak.)

Here are some tools you can suggest to students to practice outside of class:

  1. - a 'storyboard' type of activity.  The user sees a text where all the letters have been replaced with an 'asterisk', and have to listen to a dictation and build up the text by typing in the words that occur.  Nice automatic checking of spelling.
  2. - this is the 'old fashioned' web page.  There is an MP3 that you can listen to, and then attempt to write on paper what you hear.  To check, there is a link to see the tapescript.
  3. - similar to the site above, but the encourage a process of listening at regular pace, then a slow pace, before attempting to write what was heard.  Checking is visual, by HIDE/SHOW of the transcript.
  4. - this site also guides students through a process and multiple listenings before checking the final dictation.  Again, checking is visual on screen not done by the computer.
  5. - this last site uses real news videos as the input.  Requires a login to use, but the account is free.  Has several modes of dictation to allow for accuracy and fluency.  Suited for more advanced levels.

Common Words - Turkish translations

Here is another site that claims to include about a basic vocabulary of about 2,000 words arranged in word lists by theme:

Not interactive and no pronunciation, but it could serve as a starting point for some lower level students, as well as a check for more advanced students who haven't studied English lexis in a systematic fashion.  Both could use the lists as sources for their own flashcard sets in a site like  Quizlet lets users add lists of words to automatically create flashcards, so students could easily build up their own flashcards quite easily and quickly.

The same lists can be seen all on one page, with a 'mouse over' tooltip that lets you see the translation of a word when you move your mouse over it:  See

Vocabulary Trainer

This is a very simple site for learning basic words in English.

There are twenty sets of words that appear with a picture and the English word (which is also heard as a spoken word), and then the student has a multiple choice test to identify the correct translation.  Works in a number of languages, Turkish being one.

Not very extensive, and only deals with direct translations, but lower level students might find this motivating.

One could also ask students to report back on words that they have learned, and perhaps ask them to write complete sentences to move them beyond the direct translation state.

Data projectors - we need some training, don't we?

YouTube has come a long way in making it possible for anyone to make animations.  In the summer, YouTube unveiled a new service allowing anyone with a YouTube account to create their own videos.  Just log in to YouTube and go to  Here is one that I whipped up after a conversation with Dindy about the rationale for having a professional development blog to address concerns about the use of technology in the classroom.

This was done with the GOanimate option.  You are limited to ten lines of dialogue, and a handful of scenes and a couple of characters in the free version.  But in most cases, this can be more than enough.  You can type your dialogue and get the computer to convert it to speech (as I did here), or you can actually record your own voice.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

BOOKR - another FLICKR mashup

PHRASR is a nice quirky tool, but BOOKR has much more potential for language learning. Here is a simple example of a 'story' created in BOOKR that would be something that is relevant to a lower level learner: All About Me by Nguyen.

Possible ideas to use with students?
  1. Have students create BOOKRs to describe their home towns.
  2. Get students to explain what interests them about their chosen field of study.
  3. Ask students to create a BOOKR based on a specific writing genre, e.g. argumentation, persuasion, compare/contrast, etc. to help them organize their ideas.
  4. Create a BOOKR to illustrate a process.
  5. You can resize the browser to hide the captions, so you could view the story with the captions, then resize to hide the captions and use this as a 'visual dictation' or 'dictogloss' to get students to work in groups to rewrite the story.  Then, they can compare their group's version with the original by resizing the browser.
Nice things about this tool
  1. Easy to use
  2. Great for visual learners.
  3. Ideal to get students to create them and share them to make writing a more meaningful task.
Not so nice things about this tool
  1. Again, at the whim of FLICKR - images may be inappropriate at times
  2. Only viewing online.  Can't print.
  3. You can't enlarge the final image sequence, but you could use a screen capture tool to grab the sequence and reuse the image in another way or material.
Any other ideas/comments?

PHRASR - a Flickr mashup

Lots of 'mashups' these days that can provide some interesting tools for language learning. This is an example of reading vocabulary prepared in PHRASR . You can enter words or a phrase, and this site will attempt to find relevant images for each word from FLICKR.

Possible ideas to use with students?

  1. Ask different students to prepare a PHRASR of words from a reading in class, and share in the class website.
  2. Use for idoms - resize browser window so words can't be seen and only the images, e.g. "raining cats and dogs" at
  3. Create a PHRASR using a dictionary definition, and then have students guess the word being defined.  Here is one I just created:
  4. Have students choose the keywords in a text and create a visual summary of a reading.  Use the PHRASR as a prompt to write a summary.
Nice things about this tool
  1. Easy to use
  2. Can create PHRASR on the fly in the class
  3. Visually stunning and will be attractive to students
  4. Easy to get students to create them and share them.
Not so nice things about this tool
  1. At the whim of FLICKR - images may be inappropriate at times
  2. Articles and prepositions normally have to be ignored
  3. You can't enlarge the final image sequence, but you could use a screen capture tool to grab the sequence and reuse the image in another way or material.
Any other ideas/comments?

How we can we best use the data projector/computer/internet in the classroom?

The SFL at METU.NCC is installing data projectors with a desktop computer and internet connection in each language classroom.  To get the ball rolling, here are some ideas put forward by one teacher.

Two heads are always better than one.!
Would you propose any of these as a solution?  Do you have any other ideas to put forward for discussion?  Add your thoughts for or against any of the other solutions proposed at TRICIDER and this will help guide us towards the best solution in our specific context.

RSA Animate - Changing Education Paradigms

Thanks to Susan Kaufmann for passing this on...Ken Robinson's classic speech in TED Talks about Educational Reform retold with animation is really fantastic. If only I could draw! But, I'm wondering if this is something that students could do to illustrate their comprehension of a listening passage...

Educational Technology in ELT: Plagiarism-related tools

Educational Technology in ELT: Plagiarism-related tools: A good post listing some ways to check for plagiarism.  I've used the PC-based VIPER tool and found it quite good (albeit a bit quirky at times when connecting to the Internet).  I've also used the 'dustball' website.

If you have any other links or ideas to share, please add a comment.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The future of testing

The future of language testing.  An hour-long video but worth the time.  Embedded from

Reading logs - increasing motivation to read
This is a neat site that lets you set up an educator's account, and then create your own class groups.  From here you can designate what you want your students to read (and monitor how much they read), and give them specific word lists to focus on.  It is designed for K-12 students, with spelling and vocabulary word lists and reading goals in mind.  However, there is no reason why this couldn't be adapted to a

Here are links describing the learning tools available:
  1. Electronic Reading Logs
  2. Vocabulary Card Creator
  3. Listen and Spell practice system
It looks pretty simple to use:
  1. Teachers upload reading goals, vocabulary words and spelling lists.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

History of 'blending' technology and education

Technology, teaching and learning
Technology and teaching have been bedfellows from the very beginning. In the 17th Century, the preferred technology was the individual slate board. Highly efficient–it required no power, never needed replacing and could be reused continually. With this technology, the teacher was in control, but the centre of attention was on each and every student.

Before the blackboard
Before the blackboard, classes were small. Instruction was teacher controlled, but learner-centered.
It wasn’t until 1801 when the blackboard was invented, that technology changed the face of education from small class individualized instruction to large class "mass education".  Contrast the role and focus of the teacher in the slate-based class to the class where the blackboard dominates.

The blackboard changed the learner-centered approach to a teacher-centered one. Mass education became possible.

Of course, not everyone was happy with this change.
“Students today depend upon paper too much. They don’t know how to write on slate without chalk dust all over themselves. They can’t clean a slate properly. What will they do when they run out of paper?” Principal’s Association, 1815
With the dominance of the blackboard as the information delivery system, students had to have a system to record notes using the newly emerged technology of paper and pencil. 
interactive blackboard
Variations evolved to allow interactive use of blackboards. 
But there were variations on the technology, with the lead-based pencil losing way to pen and ink.
“Students today depend too much upon ink. They don’t know how to use a pen knife to sharpen a pencil. Pen and ink will never replace the pencil.” National Association of Teachers, 1907
Almost have a century later, the debate was not about pencil versus pen, but on the nature of the ink delivery system.
“Ball point pens will be the ruin of education in our country. Students use these devices and then throw them away. The American virtues of thrift and frugality are being discarded. Business and banks will never allow such expensive luxuries.” Federal Teacher, 1950
Thornburg, D. (1992). Edutrends 2010: Restructuring, Technology, and the Future of Education. San Carlos, CA: Starsong Publications

A change in colour, but not much else...

Then, after two centuries at the heart of every classroom, the mighty blackboard was threatened by the ‘dry erase board’ — most commonly known as the ‘whiteboard’.  The front page headline in the September 29th 2004 edition of the Minnesota Star Tribune was “Blackboard Blues”:
When Prof. Lawrence Gray enters a math classroom at the University of Minnesota, his teaching tools are his brain and a stick of chalk. He stands at a blackboard and chalk flies over the smooth black surface, spreading strings of equations like weeds. He turns and gestures to his class, taps the board with the chalk for emphasis, swipes a spot clean with an eraser and races on. 
Replace Gray’s blackboards with whiteboards or, worse, a tablet computer that projects numbers onto a screen, and you might as well tie his arms or gag him.  He’s among an army of professors who want to keep their blackboards despite the university’s push to eliminate flying chalk dust that can foil today’s expensive classroom technology.
Despite the nostalgia for the sound of chalk scraping against a board, the days of the blackboard are nearly over.  It has taken less than two decades for the “dry erase board” to take its place, but such is the pace of technological change that the reign of the ‘whiteboard’ will be much shorter than its predecessor, with the ‘smart board’ becoming more and more commonplace in classrooms.
Smart board
And, of course, the computer has also become a feature in the classroom.  And, like any new appearance of technology, not without its critics:
‘The computer will take over everywhere from the operation of thinking, leaving the brain to lie fallow, as the mechanistic technologies of the nineteenth century have already done with the body. People are becoming increasingly zombie-like. It looks as if their brains have been removed and they are merely functioning on their spinal cords.’ (Browne, 1996, ‘CALL and the negative view’.)
But the place of computers in education today is no longer open to debate.  It seems ironic that the ultimate classroom technology may in the near future revert back to the ‘one tablet per student’ that characterized the technology of the classroom in the 17th century…albeit the tablets are personal computers not slabs of stone.  But, one wonders if teachers today will be able to effectively blend whatever technology they encounter successfully with teaching and learning in a principled and pedagogically sound approach.
Have we gone full circle? Back to the 'smart' slate? Back to learner-centered technology?
We hope to explore this issue in this blog, mindful that technology throughout the past two hundred years has promised much, but has failed to live up to its true potential.  In a 2004 survey of schools in the state of California, Larry Cuban found that there was no significant difference in the actual performance of students in classes that had used computers and advanced technology to the students who were in traditional non-technology classrooms.

Computers have been oversold and underused in schools.
Are we really gaining anything with all the technology at our fingertips?

However, Cuban did not find fault in the technology, but rather it was the lack of professional development for teachers to effectively blend the technology with teaching that was the root of the problem:
  • “less than 5 percent of teachers integrated computer technology into their curriculum and instructional routines”
  • “the overwhelming majority of teachers employed the technology to sustain existing patterns of teaching rather than innovate”