Wednesday, 30 December 2009

2009:The Year of Living Technologically

184 days in England, 181 days in Italy. 2009 was a divided one, but there was one common thread throughout: the quest for learning and sharing knowledge. Life was an open book waiting to be read. And read I certainly did!! Expanding my PLN was definitely the highlight of the whole year and I am grateful to everyone within this circle who helped me to develop on a professional and personal level way beyond my initial modest expectations. My universe changed irrevocably and I was thrust into the dazzling, hi-tech 21st century as a direct result of my unique surroundings.

2009: The Year in Technology
This article from Fox News sums up 2009 in terms of an interesting Technology Review.
Jane Hart has written a fantastic and inspirational personal review of 2009.
Shelly Terrell has written a fabulous post called "Resources for Resolutions and Reflections" which as always is packed full of educational delights.
Burcu Akyol's "Professional New Year's Resolutions" are a real inspiration and motivational force to be considered for 2010.
Ozge Karaoglu reflects on "How to Survive in 2010 - digitally!"
The Telegraph: Social Media 2009 Review

2009: Janet's Abruzzo Edublog Highlights
These are my favourite posts of 2009. I had some fun writing them!
January 2009: The Era of IE?
February 2009: The Twitter Phenomenum This post received the most comments in the whole year.
March 2009: Getting Started on the Road to Technology Integration written as a Guest Post by Richard Byrne of Free Technology for Teachers
April 2009: How to Cook Compost- Book Review
May 2009: Abruzzo Review
June 2009: A Storm in a Teacup
July 2009: Wedding Dance goes Viral ( to date over 36 million views!!)
August 2009: Making Hay While the Sun Shines
September 2009: Acronyms
October 2009: A False Positive
November 2009: TESOL-Italy
December 2009: George Clooney- Who Else?

The Future of 2010
Where do I go from January 1st 2010? I don't really know. I will find out.

Will my life change overnight? I very much doubt it.

Will I continue to do my best in whatever I choose to do? Yes, absolutely!

Will I challenge myself enough? I hope so. Nobody else on this planet will do it for me.

Will I continue writing my blog? Yes, I very much want to. It has become an essential part of my life.

Will I strive to incorporate new e-tools wherever practicable? I hope so.

Will I finally unleash the demons preventing me from creating a Power Point Presentation? Yes, I really really want to!!

EVO 2010
Hard to choose which course to follow. I haven't decided yet. I hope to meet some of you there! You do not need to be a TESOL member to participate in a free, six-week, wholly online session of the EVO, Jan 11 -Feb 21, 2010.

Please visit the Announcement Web page to select a course. I thoroughly enjoyed the EVO "Digfolios and Personal Learning Spaces" course in February this year.

I have created a fun Wallwisher for New Year Resolutions connected to Web 2.0. Please feel free to add your resolution or more by posting a sticky below.

Happy New Year
I wish all my readers a very happy new year. I hope 2010 will bring you peace, happiness, love, good health and good luck. May all your dreams come true!! Once again, thank you for sharing in my adventure as a blogger. I look forward to writing up more posts in 2010.

Monday, 21 December 2009

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to all my readers. I hope you all have a wonderful time wherever you may be.
I'm signing off now with the beautiful seasonal song below. I'll be back just after Christmas.

Sunday, 20 December 2009


Some songs can convey much more than words alone can ever express. Such a song is "When you Say Nothing at all". I first came across this Youtube video in April in Italy and it moved me to tears. The haunting Italian sub-text conveys thoughts on the meaning of life. The message is: "Live life to the full". Doors close, doors open. Life is an uphill struggle but then the sunshine comes back to fill the dark moments with rays of energy. Nobody knows how long this will last, so grab life by the scruff of the neck and enjoy the moment!

Encapsulating Thoughts
2009 started off very badly, very badly indeed. It got even worse. Luckily, my blog saved me from going under during a difficult period of time. I like this song very much. It's poignant to hear it again because it's a constant reminder that "through a glass darkly", there is hope. If you listen carefully to the words and if you can read Italian, it all makes a lot of sense. I have copied the posting in full.

I have just viewed this video song on Youtube for the first time and I like it very much. It is very visual and beautifully made. Its theme is the meaning of life. The song is based on a poem by Paul Coelho. Basically, you never know what is coming round the corner and therefore, it is best to live life to the full.

"Don't just dream it. Do it. Take control of your future".

Saturday, 19 December 2009

The Trout and All Things Christmas

The Trout in Lower Wolvercote, Oxford, was the scene of many an Inspector Morse episode. It was his local "watering hole" so to speak, albeit a very upmarket one indeed.

I had the great pleasure of partaking of two festive meals there very recently and both times were exceptionally pleasant and memorable, thanks to the very welcoming staff and service we received. The Christmas menu was excellent and portions were exceptionally generous. The setting was wonderful, the atmosphere enticing and the company scintillating. What more could one ask for? The perfect venue for a party event.Everything I had was delicious. In particular, the Goat's Cheese starter was excellent and I really enjoyed The Bailey's pot dessert which was fabulous. Baileys just happens to be my favourite Christmas tipple. So if you are looking for an eaterie with great atmosphere to spend a nice time at Christmas and New Year with friends, I would heartily recommend the Trout.

Just as a seasonal aside, here are Delia's fave tipples. In addition, here's how to make a Christmas Pudding!

Some Excellent Links to Fun Christmas Activities!
Ana Maria Menezes of LifeFeast fame shows you 10 fun, Web 2.0 inspired ways to send Xmas greetings this year. Have a look at them here. Ozge Karaoglu also has some fab examples of alternative Web 2.0 Xmas ideas here Which one will you be sending?
Prince Harry and his on-off girlfriend Chelsy have sent their Elves e-Xmas card already. I predict it's going to be the e-card sensation of 2009!
Karenne Sylvester from kalinagoenglish has some different thought-provoking ideas about Christmas here. has a great series of lessons with Christmas songs for ESL learners and kids. Slades's "Merry Christmas Everybody" is one of my favourite Xmas songs ever. Please click here for this lovely lesson. I bet you won't be able to resist singing along!!
For an original Advent Calendar 2009, please click on the "Bits'n'bobs/show'n'tell" blog.
Click here for two alternative Italian calendars from Italy Magazine.

A veritable "White Christmas" 2009?
My all time favourite song has got to be "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas" sung by Bing Crosby. This year it looks as if it's sure going to be a true white Christmas.
I'll leave you all for the moment with the following extract from the original film.

Friday, 18 December 2009

The Edublog Awards - Winners 2009!

I'd like to congratulate all the winners of this year's Edublog Awards. There were a lot of worthy candidates and it must have been very difficult for the judges to choose only one in each category. You can find out who the winners were by clicking on the Edublog Awards page.
I'd like to mention Free Technology for Teachers, which won 2 of these prestigious awards. I had the great honour of hosting Richard Byrne on Janet's Abruzzo's Edublog in March this year. His excellent post was called "Getting Started on the Road to Technology Integration".

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

George Clooney: Who else?


Which adjective above does not appear in the Nespresso ad below?

George Clooney Update
Please click on this link here to read an update regarding George Clooney. This link was very kindly provided by Jeffrey Hill from the English Blog.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

The "Me Me Me" Factor!

For the past few days, I have been unavoidably absent from my blog and twitter. I did a catch-up earlier today by looking at my twitter stream and I uncovered the dying embers of several strands of a heated and fascinating debate involving the role of social MEdia in our lives. In particular, the role of twitter. Wow! I thought to myself. How could I possibly have missed all this in a nanosecond? In a few minutes of surfing and then delving deeper and deeper into the very heart of the tweets and links to blogs, this is what I uncovered. What struck me included the following observations:

  • the role of twitter as a very powerful influential tool
  • a power struggle emerging between digital natives and digital immigrants
  • a heated debate about "twitiquette"
  • the merits of retweeting thank you
  • the unknown fast-flowing direction that twitter is taking
  • the role of "give and take" within twitter
  • the fast evolving twists and turns of real-time debating
  • the concerns expressed about the public "web"persona versus the "private" persona
  • a public arena which was almost like a lion's den!
  • the knowledge that what is said online should be carefully reflected upon
I tamely chose not to enter something which was too hot to handle at this time of the day.

The Twitter Whale
How do you feel when you see the image above? Do you just say "Oh well, no problem! I'll try again later" or do you get a sinking feeling that you are missing out on the party?
I'd be interested to hear your views.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Book Review:Moodle 1.9 for Second Language Teaching

It is my pleasure to review Moodle 1.9 for Second Language Teaching by Jeff Stanford, which has recently been published by This review is based purely from my personal perspective. I hope it will give you some insight into the essence of the book, which is constructed on sound pedagogical principles.

Who is Moodle 1.9 for Second Language Teaching for?
It is aimed at "teachers, trainers and course planners with little or no experience of Moodle who would like to create their own language learning activities". Someone exactly like me in fact! I will definitely be implementing some of the wealth of resources within this book on my next Moodle for Teachers course, which begins in January 2010.

How is the book written?
The book is written in an informative, insightful and knowledgeable manner and contains comprehensive step by step instructions for how to approach each of the activities within the 10 chapters of the e-book. Chapters 11 and 12 are currently freely available to be downloaded. Jeff Stanford is an expert and enthusiastic follower of ICT, a teacher trainer, web site designer and avid Moodle practitioner. His skill and expertise is inherently obvious throughout the book. You can go to this site to read more book reviews. Click for a demonstration of Moodle on this site @

What will you as a teacher learn from reading the book?
If you are a teacher who would like to implement the Moodle platform into your teaching schedule, Moodle 1.9 for Second LanguageTeaching will give you a comprehensive, in-depth guide into how to use Moodle. It covers all the basic ground work for you, all in one extensive tome! No need to search the net for various bits and pieces of information, no need to do investigative research into how to use the various plug-ins that Moodle supports. No need at all, because you will learn all this and much, much more. It is in fact a one-stop resource available at your fingertips. That is the simple, essential beauty of this book. The following mind map shows you some of the functions of Moodle that are fully explained and exploited.

Does Moodle 1.9 for Language Teachers deliver the goods?
Absolutely. Whether you are a newbie Moodler, or seasoned Moodle user, I am certain that you will be satisfied with the content of the book. The aims of the book are clearly outlined by the author from the outset and I feel that all his objectives are fully realised. You will not need to go elsewhere for your research as a lot of questions are already predicted and fully explained by the author in each chapter of the book. Click here for the comprehensive table of contents.

What did I like most about the book?
  • As a fairly newbie Moodler, I really, really appreciated Jeff Stanford's invaluable step by step guidance. The reliable and comforting "Here's how to do it" formula works wonders for someone who is maybe inexperienced and unsure about how to work things out in a totally new learning environment. This explanation is introduced after each activity is outlined.
  • As a newbie, you need something to hold onto for dear life when you venture into uncharted territory. The fear factor of failure to comprehend a totally new concept is huge. This book definitely demystifies the whole process of using Moodle and makes it more easily accessible to the lay person.
  • I liked the extensive use of screenshots to demonstrate how activities work. This is a fantastic feature and helped me to understand what was being explained.
  • From a learner's point of view, I liked the cyclical recycling of major points. This helps to make the ideas more "sticky" and memorable. In particular, the author constantly refers to Chapter 2, "Getting Started with Moodle", which contains pivotal information and a thorough overview of Moodle. This chapter is at the heart of the book and demonstrates the core functions of Moodle, such as how to manage modules, how to set up activities, how to download videos from YouTube and so on.
  • I liked the clarity of the language used to teach the various functions of Moodle. The author writes in a very engaging and knowledgeable manner. You feel compelled to read further and learn more.
  • I liked the use of a stars * grading system for ease/dificulty of introducing activities. One star (*) = easy, two stars (**) =intermediate level , three stars (***) =difficult. I have to confess, activities with *** I did find difficult to follow and I feel they would be of particular interest to more experienced Moodlers, who would find these more complex activities challenging.
  • I liked the fact that it is a true self-help book and it is flexible. You can go at your own speed. You can dip into it in any order that you want. If for example, your main interest is in learning about exploiting the communicative potential within Moodle, then turning to Chapter 4 "Speaking Activities", you will have a host of exciting and interesting projects to try out using the Forum, Quiz, Wiki and Chat modules. If you are keen to learn more about listening, then Chapter 8 has an array of useful and practical lesson ideas. For a free sample of the Listening section, please press here.
  • The author systematically goes through the different options offered by Moodle and he provides a practical analysis of the pros and cons of the numerous resources highlighted in each chapter. For example, in Chapter 10, the author mentions the components and the limitations to the Webquest module.
  • I am very keen on grammar in my own teaching environment and so for me Chapter 5 "Grammar Activities" was one that I naturally gravitated towards. Chapter 5 certainly did not disappoint. In fact, the myriad examples of how to make lively grammar activities on Moodle was amazing. The wide range included recording Podcast lectures to present grammar in a fun way, using polls, collaborative dictations, quizzes, gap fills, True or false activities and using chat session transcripts to provide error analysis. The list of exciting ways to transform a dull grammar activity into an interactive and entertaining experience was indeed formidable and certainly would attract and appease the most ardent grammarian amongst us!
  • The book provides us with a comprehensive bank of Internet resources, which can be adapted by the reader. For example, I learned about Avatars, Widgets and various video making programmes such as Mashable.
  • The clear and informative images really enhanced my learning journey!
Would I recommend Moodle 1.9 for Second Language Teachers?
This is a very pertinent question. Had I not had the opportunity to do a book review, would I have been attracted by the blurb on the book cover and inset details? The honest and truthful answer is a resounding yes! The book has provided me with a greater insight and understanding of Moodle. From a language point of view, it has shown me how to incorporate innovative activities within the 4 key skills of reading, writing, listening and speaking. Moodle 1.9 for Second Language Teaching has taught me how to integrate Audacity, Hot Potatoes, Images, Videos and a host of other external programmes and resources. In fact, a huge wealth of extras, which would satisfy even the most avid techie.

A bit of a coincidence?
Jeff Stanford and I share the same university! I studied at Leicester University for 4 years in the late 1970s and as I understand, Jeff Stanford is currently an associate tutor on the MA TEFL course at the same university. A coincidence indeed. A further coincidence is the fact that Dresden Technical University is a partner institution of the LOLIPOP project as referred to in Chapter 9 on Assessment. I taught at the TUD for a year in the 1980s! It is indeed a very small world, don't you think?

Click on the comic below to read what my final words are.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Janet's Nominations for the Edublog Awards 2009

Where does one begin? The huge array of talent is stunning. The task of choosing only one for each category is overwhelming. Everyone is a "winner" in my eyes. Anyway, here goes. The folowing is a list of the blogs I will be nominating. One thing clearly unites all of them. They are written with great passion.
Best teacher blog
Kalinago english. Karenne Sylvester is the blogger par excellence to measure oneself with. In one year, Karenne's blog has gone from strength to strength. Each post enlightens us. You take something away with you to think about and ponder over. Her strive to help fellow bloggers, her enthusiasm knows no bounds. A worthy candidate.

Best resource sharing blog
Alex Case's Tefltastic. I love the way it is written. The tone is fun and yet has an underlying seriousness which makes you sit up and listen. That engages me. The amount of resources that Alex produces and shares with us all is fabulous.

Best new blog
Ken Wilson's blog. A master racconteur. A true liver of life. Ken Wilson can spin a good tale, wrap you round his little finger and before you know it, you are inside his world, living his experiences. An awesome new blogger.

Best e-learning blog
Life Feast Blog by Ana Maria Menezes is great. It's clear and easy on the eye. There is always some exciting e-tool to try out.

Best individual tweeter
Shelly Terrell's Teacher Reboot Camp is a treasure trove of advice and information. A lot of knowledge shared in a very engaging manner. I love Shelly's "What did they tweet?" series.

Best educational technology support blog
Free Technology for Teachers is a great site for learning about web 2.0 tools and how to integrate new technologies into the classroom. The posts are presented in a succint manner and whet your appetite for learning more.

Best resource sharing blog
Nik Peachey deserves a very special mention. I have learned a lot of what I know simply by watching Nik's video tutorials. I particularly like Nik's Quick Shout. It's a great place for newbie techies to feel at home and enjoy the lessons. The rationale for using each new e-tool is always at the forefront of Nik's choices and my experimenting with Xtranormal is a direct result from his excellent tutorials.

Best educational use of video
Russell Stannard's Teacher Training video tutorials have also enriched my learning experience. From being an easily scared technophobe and wary internet user a year ago, these tutorials have helped me on my way to becoming more "au fait" with a lot of nice tools. The pedagogical use behind them is always emphasised and that is a very important factor.

Best individual blog
The English blog is great for keeping up to date with the news and is the first place I visit every morning. How Jefferey Hill keeps abreast with everything topical is absolutely awesome and his posts are always pertinent. I like the fact that they are short and very effective.

Best educational use of audio
Breaking News English is an incredible resource for the busy teacher. A lot of dedication and hard work go behind such types of posts as they evolve as events happen.

Best class blog
Room 18's Learning Journey blog is amazing. I have been following their progress via the Student Blogging Challenge. I first saw something about Scrapblog from Room 18's sidebar, which has a host of truly impressive e-tools they are au fait with. These young students are certainly making excellent use of resources.

Most influential blog post
How to become an ELT Teacher Educator by Marisa Constantinides. This particular posting made me realise that there is so much more to being a teacher trainer than I had thought of before. It was a very insightful and fascinating article.

Best corporate education blog

The Edublogger. Sue Waters is doing a brilliant job helping teachers and students in the blogosphere.

Click on this link for Edublog Awards to make your own nominations.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Lovely Abruzzo Olive Oil

The region of Abruzzo is blessed with a mild climate which favours the cultivation of olive trees. Nine million of them, including our 61 trees, to be very precise! The olives are mostly pressed in traditional olive presses in mills dotted around the region. Abruzzo has joined the D.O.P. (Protected Denomination of Origin) designation instituted by the EU in order to guarantee the origin and varieties of olives used in the production of olive oil are of the highest standards.

"Frantoi Aperti"
The programme of events looked very inviting. "Open Olive Mills. Discover the World of Olive Oil". The anticipation of a fun-filled morning was even more enticing. The excellent post "Oil in Three Parts " from, filled us with even greater expectations, so with no more ado we set off for Loreto Aprutino a historical village in Abruzzo, full of museums and treasures, set amidst numerous olive groves.

A Guided Tour
We had booked a guided tour via the Loreto Aprutino Information Office for 7th November, starting at 10.30 am. The cost was 5 euros each, an incredible price! We got to Piazza Garibaldi in good time and boarded a mini bus together with about 12 other Italian visitors. We were driven to a local olive farm and the history of olive oil cultivation in the area was skilfully and engagingly imparted to us by members of ARSSA (Regional Agency for the Development of Agricultural Services in Abruzzo). Next stop a traditional olive mill where we saw the beautiful "liquid gold" as it is known, pouring out in front of our very eyes.

Crates and crates of people's olives just waiting to be pressed at the local mill.

As you can see from the picture, the end product is a rich and thick golden olive oil coming straight from the press.

Loreto Aprutino Oil Museum

Together with our excellent guide Paola above, we walked through the ancient alleyways of Loreto Aprutino and visited the historical Olive Oil Museum housed in a beautiful Gothic-looking building in the heart of the village. Here is a link to "Worth a Drizzle" from Life in Abruzzo blog, which features a very well researched article on this museum.

The ancient interior of the museum houses old artefacts and mementos connected to the olive oil making process. Below is a photo of a very ornate press.

Olive oil from Abruzzo has been exported all over the world. It is renowned for its perfect qualities. It has won numerous international awards. The poster below is of an International Olive Oil Exposition held in Venice at the beginning of the 20th century.

Below a scene depicting San Zopito, the patron saint of Loreto Aprutino.

The Regional Oil Art History Museum of Abruzzo
Next and final stop on our grand tour was the Regional Oil Art History Museum where we listened to a fascinating account of the various oils produced in the region. This talk then led on to the art of olive oil tasting. We were shown how to literally "put our noses into the olive oil" to smell and savour its full flavour. This immediately evoked a sense of freshness and fragrance and I could actually taste the actual fruit from which it came from. The flavour was very intense and amazing. I had never tasted olive oil on its own before and it was indeed an experience!

Finally, we were led to a room which had tables laden with delicious, traditional Abruzzo meats, cheeses, and homemade bread drizzled in olive oil. We were cordially invited to sample local wines from the area. As you can see above, I enjoyed myself immensely!
I would like to thank The Loreto Aprutino Tourist Information Office and everybody involved for organising such a wonderful and fascinating guided tour. K and I had a fabulous time and as relatively novice olive oil cultivators ourselves, we learned a huge amount about the history and background to this fruit which has been cultivated in Abruzzo for centuries.

Characters from Loreto Aprutino
A curious cat peering over a wall.

Aforementioned cat in model pose.

A Sophia look-a-like we encountered on our delightful walk through the village.

Some of my Favourite Books
You might be interested in the following books which I have enjoyed reading:
Extra Virgin by Annie Hawes (set amongst the olive groves of Liguria) and the sequel,
Ripe for the Picking
The Olive Farm by Carol Drinkwater (set in the South of France)

Please do let me know if you have read any similar books you would like to recommend.

Post Scriptum
Are you living in an area surrounded by olive groves and would like to recount your experiences on this blog? I would love to hear from you!

View from my home.

Monday, 23 November 2009

TESOL-Italy 2009

I had the most amazing time in Rome this weekend. The 34th TESOL-Italy National Convention was everything I had hoped for and more. I learned about the following things:

(For some really useful tips on how to manipulate words on Wordle, have a look at Jamie Keddie's blog.)

From Virtual to Reality

I made friends with English teachers and educators from Italy and shared experiences with them. This gave me a fascinating insight into the status quo of English language teaching in Italy. I was also able to meet two of my Twitter contacts and this was a fantastic feeling. I spoke to Valentina Dodge, who gave an excellent talk on wikis. When we saw each other, we greeted each other very warmly. From virtual contact to real life contact was a very exciting experience for me. Valentina's talk on wikis was both entertaining and practical. I learned about a new tool which I will highlight later. I also met Lindsay Clandfield, of Six Things Blog fame, who gave a very interesting and informative workshop on meeting the challenge of mixed ability classes.

Use It or Lose It!!
One fascinating plenary talk was given by Dr. Janet Zadina. The title was "Multiple Pathways: using brain research to orchestrate language learning." I discovered new pathways to learning and I came out of the lecture theatre feeling re-energised and on a high. I treated myself to Dr Zadina's book "Six Weeks to a Brain-Compatible Classroom - a workbook for educators." I read it from cover to cover on the train on the way home from Rome and it is definitely money well spent. In fact, it has made me question some of my long-held pedagogical principles! I was utterly fascinated by the study of the multiple ways the brain can learn new things. We need to use what we learn and recycle new information, or else, we run the risk of losing the ability to retain the new information. Hence, "Use It or Lose It!!"

"DiWine Words"
The participants of this year's Convention were invited to a literary wine tasting event with music and poetry. It was hosted by TESOL-Italy and Boccadigabbia. It was a memorable evening and whilst listening to romantic poems and relaxing music, I tasted the following delectable fine wines:At the end of the delightful evening I was given a bottle of "Le Grane Colli Macerati". It truly is a classy and divine wine!!

Magazine Covers
During Valentina Dodge's excellent presentation on wikis, she introduced a site which was new to me. You can find it at I had great fun doing the magazine cover below. It took seconds to generate.

I reckon Joe is quite a well-known feline by now!

A Big Thank You

Thank you very much to all the organisers of TESOL-Italy Convention. A lot of dedicated work was involved. I had a fabulous time and I feel enriched as a result. Thanks to Patrizia for making me feel so welcome as a newbie Tesol-er and also thanks to Rosanna, who very kindly took the time to answer questions and give advice to newcomers. It was greatly appreciated!
Many thanks to Sister Serafina for looking after me so well at Casa Betania. I had a lovely time!

A big hello to Filomena, Luisa, Daniela, Esterina, Melanie, Jose and Laura. I enjoyed meeting you. Hope we will keep in contact.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

20x20:Pecha Kucha!

I had never heard of Pecha Kucha until quite recently and now it is the buzz trend of the day. Basically, it consists of presenting 20 slides of images each lasting 20 seconds = 6minutes 40 seconds, on any subject of your choice. It is really great fun to watch and it is spreading around the globe like wildfire! Many cities are hosting special "Pecha Kucha" evenings where people get together for a fun-filled and exciting event.
Lindsay Clandfield has written up a post called "Six Things about Pecha Kucha ELT" which is really informative.

I attended Heike Philp's exciting and excellent Virtual Round Table Pecha Kucha event last Friday night. I observed a lot of great teachers and educators giving fantastic presentations on a huge variety of interesting topics, which I really enjoyed. It was fun to say hi to quite a few people I follow on Twitter, so it was a nice evening with Montepulciano d'Abruzzo being offered around in the "virtual" sense of the word, of course! I found out about this evening via the wonderful Shelly Terrell's blog called "Teacher Reboot Camp".

Teaching Adult Beginners
I have always enjoyed teaching adult beginners' classes ever since I started off a few decades ago. Why is this? Well, it gives me great satisfaction to teach people who are sometimes the same age as me and who share the same interests. Being a beginner, you are in a very vulnerable position as everything is new and a bit scary. The intricacies of the English language are many and mysterious and it can all be rather overwhelming. That's where as a teacher, you have the opportunity to really help and guide students. You need patience and understanding and empathy to bond with a group who have zero knowledge of a language or any subject, for that matter.... It's also a lot of hard work but great fun. A teacher trainer/educator I admire immensely is the wonderful Marisa Constantinides. Here is an excellent and very thought-provoking post she has recently written on Kalinago English blog on" How to become a good ELT Teacher Educator". She gave her first Pecha Kucha presentation last week and I feel she sums up perfectly what it involves to teach beginners.

Top 100 Tools for Learning 2009

Jane Hart has come up with the latest edition of top learning tools for 2009 and it is an excellent list to refer to if you are interested in keeping up with trends in technology. You may not be surprised to see that Twitter is the number one tool! Here is a link to a Virtual Round Table panel discusson on Twitter.

TESOL-Italy 2009
No rest for the wicked, so they say! I am off to a 2-day conference in Rome tomorrow. I am very excited about going to the "Eternal City" and attending the 34th National Convention called "Multiplying Voices". I will be offline for 3 days, so no tweeting or blogging or anything technological at all. This will be a bit strange, but maybe it's good to spend more time on "earthly" matters for a change. I will report back later!

Roman Holiday
"Roman Holiday" is one of my favourite films ever, starring Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn.
I wonder how much Rome has changed since the scenes were shot in this short trailer below?

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

1989 - The Berlin Wall

A lot has been written about the fall of the Berlin Wall and the liberation of the former GDR on that momentous night in November 1989. I wasn't there to share the jubilation of my GDR friends that evening. I could only imagine the sheer joy, exultation and huge emotion of them all.

BBC News has an interesting and interactive article called "Where is the Wall Now? Well, a small part of the wall is in one of my unopened boxes! Our friend Orv was in Berlin on that historic night and he brought us home a piece of history.

I remember crying buckets the day I first crossed from East Berlin into West Berlin. I almost felt guilty in a way that I had the freedom to go to the west ,whereas my GDR friends were obliged to stay within the walled perimeter, at risk of death. I met a former DDR border guard who explained that he was trained to shoot to kill if he saw anyone attempting to cross the border from east to west. They lived in a state of constant fear and surveillance. Those days are happily in the past now.

My life behind "The Iron Curtain"

One of the best teaching experiences in my whole life took place from 1981-1982 in the former GDR in the city of Dresden. I taught EFL at The Technical University of Dresden. I had just done my PGCE in EFL and I was offered the golden opportunity of seeing what life was really like in a Communist country during the end of the "Cold War" in the early 1980's. It was to be a fantastic learning curve for me. Please click here if you would like to read more about this experience.

My Trabant

I will never forget one of the professors in the English department at the Technical University of Dresden telling me he had no car. It would take 7 years' solid wages to buy a car such as a Trabant or Skoda. A car was indeed a luxury in those days. Imagine my excitement when I had the chance to buy a Trabant a few years ago in Oxford. Browsing through a charity shop I couldn't believe my eyes when I spotted a perfect miniature version. I snapped it up at the bargain price of £1. It was found in one of my box openings by coincidence a little while back and it has taken pride of place on the mantelpiece.

Pure nostalgia
I have kept everything from my 1981-82 GDR days. Books, postcards, letters, pay slips, bank statements, social security book, night club entrance tickets, a few stamps, posters, ephemera of everyday life. I knew then that I was living in an historical period. My physical memories reside on my bookshelf and in a box marked simply "DDR". My spiritual and innermost memories lie deep within my heart, never to be forgotten.

My East German Hat

I came across an original East German winter guard's hat for the princely sum of £5. It must have been a young boy's as it was a small size and fitted me perfectly. I bought it in England and wore it for about 2 years until the day I mislaid it in a shop. I was extremely upset. That hat had kept my head warm on freezing cold daily bike rides to work and back during the winter months. In addition, a piece of history had vanished into the proverbial thin air. At least, I still have a lovely picture of Joe wearing my hat.

I haven't been back to Dresden since 1982. Twenty seven years is an awful long time!

Links to 1989
Bits 'n'Bobs, Show 'n' Tell: Breach of the Berlin Wall
Free Technology for Teachers: After the Fall
BBC News and The Night the Wall Fell
The English Blog has also posted some great resources on this topic. In particular I like the collection of amazing photos as found in the Boston Picture.

Monday, 9 November 2009


One year has passed since I started writing my blog. A lot has happened since then. A new universe I didn't really know existed prior to November 9th has opened up. It has changed my life irrevocably. I really was living in the Dark Ages before technology entered my life. My innate fear of wiping out whole systems, of unpredictable computers, of losing data was put to the test. My anxiety about going "public" was great.

Thank You

I would just like to take this opportunity to say a very big Thank You to everyone who has helped me on my way to becoming the blogger I am today. All my mentors, fellow educators, friends, colleagues, family, have all played a part in giving me the encouragement to carry on.
A big thanks also goes to all the staff at the Consultants-e who started me off gently on the journey to becoming a blogger. The 2-week e-course was pedagogically sound and exactly what was necessary for a technologically-challenged person like me, who needed an expert guiding hand. The path was paved for the Future, which has now become the Present.

My very own Virtual Classroom
The sense of being in control of my own destiny in terms of my learning journey has given me enormous satisfaction. I have become a "digital" citizen or a "netizen". I am a student in my own specially created classroom "without walls". The educators I have personally selected to surround me have all opened a huge portal of information, which is certainly keeping me involved, engaged and motivated. Five key words are vital in empowering myself to do what I am doing via my blog.
  • Sharing
  • Motivation
  • Involvement
  • Learning
  • Engagement

My Favourite Postings through the Year
I have selected a few postings which reflect my journey on this great blogging adventure.

The Google-isation of our Lives

The Call of the Wild- Literally!

Kalinago English Blog Carnival - My Advice Post for Noobie Bloggers

Some of My Fave Tools

Slang Xtranormal Video

Animoto: A Year in The Life of Janet's Abruzzo Edublog

Twitter V Blogging in 140 characters
I like Twitter as a flowing, dynamic, 24/7, express learning tool.
I like blogging as a more reflective, in-depth, personal learning tool.

What about you? Which of these two tools do you prefer and why? (in up to 140 characters )

"Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself."
John Dewey