Friday 15 October 2010

Resources and Ideas for a lesson about Water

It´s Blog Action Day again and this year it´s about water.
I have found many interesting infographics and stats that can be used as starting points in the debate about water in the world. Infographics are great for visual literacy and to get students thinking and producing language from facts. I thought I would share these with you.

Other websites with plenty of resources on water education are

 It would then be interesting to make students calculate their water footprint


To do this you can use National Geographic´s Water Footprint calculator or Water Footprint´s quick or extended calculator

After you do this, you can ask your students to brainstorm and debate ways of saving water, which they can later post to a Wallwisher

Alternatively they can also do an image search for water education campaigns and discuss the images used.

If you have any oher ideas, please leave a comment.

If you feel like doing a bit more|Start Petition

Thursday 16 September 2010

8 voice recording tools for language learning

One of the greatest benefits of web 2.0 tools for English language learners and teachers is the possibility of recording audio and voice to share online. These tools lend themselves for a myriad of tasks you can set up for different levels and purposes.

This is my personal choice of the audio recording tools available. It is only a showcase of the available tools.  Links to ideas on how to use the tools are provided in some cases.

Audacity is a downloadable program for your PC. It is a simple yet powerful audio recording and editing studio. You can read about ideas for using Audacity in this blog post by Keri Lee Beasley here

Voki is a creative voice recording tool to create speaking avatars. It offers multiple customization options. Registration is needed and you get an embeddable widget in various sizes and colours. With Voki you also have a text to speech option. You can see a Voki in action at the top left column of this blog.
You can read about how Shelly Terrell and Ozge Karaoglu used Voki with their students here and here

Voicethread is a tool to build conversations around images, videos or documents.
Registration is needed and you get an embeddable widget which you can add to any blog, wiki or website. For ideas on how to use it, check this Voicethread

Voxopop is a neat tool to create asynchronous conversation threads. Registration is needed.
For more detailed information you can check Nik Peachey´s tutorial and ideas on pages 8 to 11 of his “Web 2.0 tools for Teachers Guide” 

Vocaroo is a very simple voice recording tool. There is no registration needed and you get a small embeddable widget to put on your blog, wiki or website.

Audiopal is another very simple voice recording tool. Again no registration needed, You just need to provide an email to pick up your small embeddable widget to put on your blog, wiki or website.

Chirbit works in the same way as Vocaroo and AudioPal, but you need to register first and the embeddable widget is slightly bigger.

Cinch allow you to record a message to which people can reply. Registration is needed and the recording is available on their website but also embeddable or linkable.

Odiogo is a bit different from the previous tools in that it is not really a voice recording tool but a text to speech one. But it works really well so it was worth mentioning.

I hope this list is useful and if you know of other tools, please leave a comment! 

Readers suggestions

Wimba Voice (Suggested by Teresa) 
Wimba Voice is a web-based service on subscription that allows you to create voice forums for e-learning courses. 

Fotobabble (suggested by Shaun Wilden)
Fotobabble allows you to upload a photo, record voice to it and share it with friends.

AudioBoo (suggested by Alex Wilson)
AudioBoo is a free web-based audio recorder. Registration is needed. It also has a free Iphone app worth checking.

Voice Activity (suggested by Paul)
This is an online (desktop version for Windows, Mac OS, Linux) short voice messages service. You can use it as a training/learning tool as well.

SoundCloud (suggested by Vernon)
It has a web app and an Iphone app. The great thing about it is that you can add comments at specific times of the message/audio track. Worth checking!

Thursday 12 August 2010

Online Vocabulary Games

I have been looking for some specific vocabulary games to use with my classes and I found some really interesting options. So I decided to share them with you!
I have chosen to categorize the results into:
  • Pre-school games
  • Games for specific vocabulary topics
  • Games for mixed vocabulary topics
  • Tools to create games

Pre-school games
Pre-school games
A variety of simple games for colours, shapes, animals, numbers and the alphabet.
Another collection of games: colours, feelings, numbers…and more.
Yet another collection of simple games.
What colour is it?
A simple game about colours.

Games for specific vocabulary topics
Actions and commands (based on suggestions by Larry Ferlazzo from his blog post)
Subservient Chicken 
Give orders t the chicken and watch him perform your commands… only if they are appropriate!
Simon Sez Santa
Tell Santa what to do. Many languages to choose from!
I Do Dog Tricks 
Give order to the cute dog and watch him perform the actions.

Spelling City 
Create your own game with your word list. 
Another collection of spelling games that you can customize.
Spelling Connections 
This game is about spelling and sounds…interesting to try.

Body parts
Matching words and pictures of body parts
Listen to the a sentence and find the picture for the right body part 
Listen to the word and find the picture.  There´s a study mode and a quiz mode.

Collections of games
Vocabulary Building Games 
Free English Lessons Online
More than 40 English vocabulary picture matching quizzes on a variety of topics such as Weather, Sports, Transport, etc created by Sue Lyon Jones.
Word Games
A great collection of word games categorized by difficulty.
Digital Dialects
A nice collection of simple games about numbers, colours, food, clothing and animals. The main page offers 60 languages to choose from!
Learning chocolate 
Great variety of topics and several types of games for each topic, including word recognition from audio recordings, matching, etc.
ESL Fun Vocabulary Games 
Picture labeling games on a variety of topics like parts of the house, school, pets, fruit, etc. You can also check the assorted vocabulary games menu for more options.
Language Guide English 
Lots of quizzes for more than 40 topics available in study and quiz modes.
Learning Games for Kids 
A great site with thousands of games. Check the vocabulary games section.

Games for mixed vocabulary topics
Rain words 
Complete the crossword by dragging the images to the appropriate place in the crossword. You can choose the level of difficulty.
A Flickr-fed game where you have to guess the tag for the given image.
Photo Munchrs 
You are given a tag and must click on the pictures that match it. I hear about this one from Nik Peachey in his Daily English Activities blog post.
Vocab Sushi 
Multiple Choice game to develop your vocabulary. Good for upper intermediate learners.
Free Rice 
Another multiple choice game. Your scores are translated into help for the World Food Programme.

Tools to create games
Eclipse crossword 
An easy to use crossword puzzle creator.
Word Magnets
Type or paste a text and get the word magnets for it to play around. I heard about this one from Russell Stannard, who has a detailed video about using it.

You will certainly need to explore them to see if they are appropriate for your context... I hope the list is a useful starting point!

Update (22/9/2011)

These articles from Free Technology for Teachers are worth sharing


Friday 23 July 2010

My transformation as a teacher: from part-time instructor to full-time educator

First of all, I want to be straightforward about the content of this post: it is not about technology. So I want to apologize in advance to my techie audience but I have wanted to write about this for a while and this is the best space for it, anyway.

After the article I wrote for Ken Wilson’s blog, “Daring to move away from coursebooks”, some people asked me if I had always been daring in my profession or how I was able to make such a decision. And it was a really good question that got me thinking about my present as a teacher and how I got here.

So this is the story...when I finished the secondary school, I was offered a part time job teaching English to children at the private institute where I had myself studied. At that time, my professional interests lay elsewhere (I am a PE teacher) but I took the job as a way to help my family and start earning my own living, partly. After all, I really liked English. And I have never stopped teaching it ever since!

As I said, it was only a part-time job and I did it for many years at different private institutes with the only concern of instructing my students according to the specific guidelines from my superiors, who had the decision-making power. This went on for about 12 years. Then something happened... I was already working at the school where I still work and was asked to develop a specific project for the school. Immediately after that I was asked to take on the brand new position of English department coordinator, which I did.

This new position brought on to me several new responsibilities. I was now in charge of all the students and all the English teachers in my school, not just my own classes. So I had to start reflecting critically on the decisions to make. I have always taken this responsibility quite seriously although at the beginning I chose to go safe by staying within traditional paths. Later on, I joined Webheads in Action community of practice and I have to say this single and apparently insignificant event changed my professional life forever.

I learnt from them, experimented with their suggestions, shared and discussed experiences with teachers from all over the world. In time, I dared to try my own ideas and share them. I learnt that there are many different ways to do things and that educational contexts are so different from one another that you need to take risks and innovate. I also learnt to be critical of whatever I read in order to discover its true value as related to my context. Without realizing it, I became so absorbed in teaching, concerned with so much more than language learning! I discovered that I no longer wanted to go with the flow but change things if necessary. I realized that I am living in exciting times for education, as I discussed not long ago with Jeremy Harmer. Times of innovation and profound change, times for making these changes happen and being a part of it! And this realization came with the feeling that this professional self was much more satisfying and challenging!

It is now that I understand that all these years’ experiences both in my school and out, sharing and meeting with people from distant places and seemingly different contexts to discuss education have made me the teacher that I am today: a full-time educator, ready for the challenges of a 21st century education!

Wednesday 26 May 2010

What I learnt at IATEFL Harrogate 2010

I must say that before March 15th, Harrogate 2010 seemed inaccessible. The reason is very simple: I live in Argentina and work full time on a teacher’s salary. Harrogate is not only 11,259.38 km away (6,996.45 miles) and more than 16 hours away by plane, but has with it a consequent travel cost. However, good things happen to those who try! On March 15th I was notified I had won the Latin American scholarship to attend the conference only a few days ahead. So I plunged into organizing the trip!

During the days before the conference I felt really excited about attending the biggest ELT event of the year and kept thinking about what I was going to learn and how I would make the best use of it afterwards. But I also thought about what I was going to do after the day’s sessions were over, so I pictured myself going back to the hotel, dining on my own… as I didn’t know anybody, except for Nik Peachey and Gavin Dudeney, whom I had met in Argentina the previous year.

So I got to Harrogate on April 6th, the day before the Pre Conference Events and time flew by! Before I realized I was on the plane back to Argentina. So here is what I learnt at Harrogate:

- Although I believed my country’s education system and context was far from ideal, I got to know about other countries´ contexts more closely and I can now understand where we, ourselves, stand and I can focus more readily on what needs to be changed.

- I am mostly interested in technology integration in language education so I chose sessions related to technology. I attended amazing sessions on the use of web 2.0 tools, Twitter, digital game-based learning and virtual worlds by young innovative ELT professionals such as Graham Stanley, Burcu Akyol, Shelly Terrell, Ozge Karaoglu, Russell Stannard, Kyle Mawer, Nicky Hockly, Gavin Dudeney and Petra Pointner among others. In fact, all the technology-related sessions were packed! That shows quite an interesting trend in language education. I am happy to be a part of it in trying to contribute to its development and spread, by promoting change at school level and training teachers in technology integration for language teaching and learning.

- Although I am quite an active “twitterer” myself, I surprisingly found a widespread use of Twitter by teachers, teacher trainers, writers and publishers:

· to get to know people from different parts of the world

· to increase continued professional development options among the members of your customized PLN (Personal Learning Network)

· to set up e-twinning projects with classes all over the world

· to learn about and share valuable resources

· to tweet during sessions both as a note taking alternative and to share what was happening with other “twitterers” either not at the conference or attending other sessions.

- Social life was far from inexistent! That’s definitely also thanks to Twitter. Two hours after arriving in Harrogate I was surrounded by about 20 ELT professionals from around the world… who called me by my name when they saw me! What a nice surprise! I am grateful for the opportunity of making so many new friends who share my passion.

- I also attended sessions by well-established personalities and found out why they are so respected. ELT stars are accessible! I shrank at the sight of ELT celebrities, such as Jeremy Harmer, Ken Wilson and Herbert Puchta to name a few, only to discover they were warm and willing to engage in deep conversation about education and life. I was amazed at their honest commitment to the profession and willingness to keep on learning!

All in all, there is no doubt that this has been the greatest professional experience in my life so far. And the only way to top that is coming back next year as a presenter. So that’s where I’m directing my energy now!

Sunday 23 May 2010

Digital Game Based Learning: an introduction through videos

Darren Elliott from The lives of Teachers and Karenne Sylvester from Kalinago English have come up with the nice idea of a sharing a blog post that has been overlooked for some reason.

So I have decided to share a blog post from Digital Play, a great blog on Digital Game Based Learning by Graham Stanley and Kyle Mawer. I somehow missed it when it came out and, given my interest in using games to promote language learning, I decided to bring it back to light as I think it is a great collection of videos to introduce teachers to DGBL.

So here it goes... read on

10 Online videos to watch

Sunday 16 May 2010

10 Blogs Worth Keeping an Eye On

I have been following the 10 Blogs Worth Keeping an Eye On initiative with great interest as a way to discover new gems in cyberspace. And it is now my turn thanks to Ozge Karaoglu, who included my blog in her list!

I could of course mention the obvious blogs that everybody talks about: those of Jeremy Harmer, Ken Wilson, Larry Ferlazzo, Shelly Terrell, Burcu Akyol and Karenne Sylvester, among others.

But since I run an educational technology blog I will focus on blogs specifically related to technology integration for language learning. So here´s my list of 10 blogs in no particular order:

Now, it’s your turn to nominate if you are on the list!!
  • Add a picture and a link to the blog that has nominated you
  • Choose 10 blogs to nominate
  • Tell them that you have nominated them on your list
  • Spread the word & spread the love!!

Thursday 13 May 2010

Visual literacy: Flickr-fed web 2.0 tools

I am positively convinced of the potential of using images to develop language so I have put together a collection of very interesting web 2.0 tools that feed from Flickr, an online photo sharing platform.

Flickr CC search allows you to find images within Flickr that are under a Creative Commons (CC) license. This is indeed useful when we teach our students about copyright issues.

Tag Galaxy is another creative way of searching images from Flickr. You enter a tag and then narrow your search adding other tags. The search parameters are shown as planets.

When you are satisfied you click on the chosen tag bundle and you get a sphere covered in the images corresponding to those tags. This is how "Audrey + Hepburn + portrait" looks

FlickrPoet generates a visual representation of a poem of phrase. In the example you can see a haiku come to life through related images. Although it is very attractive, there is no possibility of choosing the images.

Phrasr is a tool that allows you to illustrate a sentence of your choice with images taken from Flickr. It is useful for working on word and image associations because you are given options and you have to select an image for each word in the sentence.

This an example of a sentence created by my daughter Jazmin (so bear with the spelling mistakes). It is about her cat Morgan, who, by the way, looks just like the white cat in a hat!!!

A very similar tool is Flillustrator

Bookr allows you to create a book from Creative Commons images taken from Flickr. You choose the images and you can write captions under them. They are great for simple vocabulary books or for more sophisticated digital storytelling. The books can then be embedded somewhere else!

Bubblr is similar to Bookr but instead of creating a book you create a sliding stream of pictures to which you can add captions in the form of speech bubbles.

The final product is also embeddable and looks like this.

You can check Russell Stannard's detailed Bubblr tutorial on his great site Teacher Training Videos.

Earth Album is an interesting mashup between Flickr and Google maps. You can search images according to geographical location by clicking on any place in the map.

Once you have the image strip at the top, when you click on any image you can see a larger size and its information or caption.

Gickr allows you to create animated gifs based from selected images from Flickr. This is the Puente de la Mujer in Puerto Madero, Argentina.

pimp myspace
Make your own animation

Flickr-based games are abundant and have already been blogged about so I'd rather send you to the original blog post by

I hope you have discovered some new tools and ways to use Flickr images. If you have any ideas about other tools or how to use these ones, please leave a comment.