Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Carnival in Venice

Today marks the end of carnival in Venice and the beginning of Shrove Tuesday.
Click here for information about carnival in Venice.
I only realised it was carnival time when I went into Civitaquana today and saw the posters for the carnival parade held last Sunday in the village centre. How on earth did I miss that??

Cement, wikis, sand, ning, acroprops, blog, bricks
Well, I suppose the last few weeks have been rather busy connecting and intermingling with all of the above. The time has passed so quickly that I really didn't know that carnival 2009 has been and nearly gone. Next year, I'll make a note of it in advance and hopefully I will take part in the local festivities!

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Ning Digifolios and Personal Learning Spaces Feedback

The end of the journey?
Well, I have just finished a six-week online course with EVO on Ning and my life is going to feel a bit empty! I have met an incredible group of teachers, educators, motivators and contributors from all over the world. Thank you so much everyone for making it so worthwhile.
Below is an amazing video created by Jane Challinor and Maria Joao, two of my fellow participants.

The online workshop involved a lot of tasks such as
  • participating in live debates on subjects such as online safety digital story telling
  • creating a blog for personal reflections
  • collaborating on tasks
  • group projects
  • presenting videos
  • joining discussion groups
  • sharing photos
  • sharing articles of interest
  • sharing ideas and stories
  • developing an online presence

These activities were all meaningful and geared towards enriching our learning experience.

Towards a digital ID
The question of presenting an online identity brought up many interesting issues. The "private self" versus the "public self". How do they interact with one another? How can we present ourselves in a safe and constructive way? Should there be defined areas of privacy? An online journey has many variables - we only find out what these variables are when we have the courage to embark on this journey into the unknown.

The idea of sharing my learning journey with like-minded people in whatever way possible has been very enlightening. The idea of a global educational village in cyberspace has been mind blowing.

Ciao, Hola, Guten Tag!
During the course, I have had the opportunity to practise some languages that have been gathering dust!. Using 3 languages on the same platform was absolutely amazing and it was very challenging. I enjoyed brushing up my use of German, Spanish and Italian. Apologies in advance to all of you who are purists and linguists- please forgive any mistakes! The aim was to have fun exploiting the language and discussing different topics of interest.

Below is something I wrote in German in the "Hier Werden Sie geholfen" group:

"Diese Nacht ist Skype mein Lieblings-Tool! Ich habe jetzt via Medium Skype Englisch unterrichtet und es macht mir viel Spass! Ich glaube fur 30 Minuten ist es sehr gut fur eine"virtuelle" Klasse. Vielleicht nicht so gut fur mehr Zeit? Meine Praxis hat verandert ein Bischen. Ich kann nicht am "Whiteboard" schreiben und normalerweise, habe ich gern diese zu tun. Trotzdem, kann ich sofort ein e-mail senden nach die Klasse mit Noten fur die Studente und dass ist gut.
Jemand hat gute Hinweise fur via Skype zu unterrichten? Ich mochte gern lernen!"

Here is something I wrote in Spanish in the "Se habla Espanol" group:

Hola todos del grupo
Que tal? Espero que vayan bien?
He leido Isabel allende, Cuentos de Eva Luna, y me gusto mucho. No he leido en espanol desde hace muchos anos. Me encanta esta lengua y me gusta esta ocasion en el grupo para praticar mi espanol.

Alguien ha leido algo de Salvador de Madariaga? Quando yo era mas joven, y el estava en esilio en Inglaterra, yo lo encontre en Oxford y hable con el. (Mi padre fue su jardinero privado). Escribio "El Corazon de Piedra Verde" y muchas otras cosas politicas y novelas historicas. Fue un gran placer encontrarlo.

Here is something I posted in the "Buon Giorno Italia" group I set up:

"Potrebbe mai imaginare il mondo senza tecnologia? Sarebbe veramente vuoto o forse una cosa per il bene?

Credo che Io non posso tornare indietro perche adesso la mia vita dipende sulla tecnologia che mi circonda da per tutto.

Mi mancarebbe tanto l'uso del internet. Ogni giorno trovo qualcosa nuova che mi serve. Non potere communicare con famiglia o amici tramite email sarebbe molto difficile.

Che ne pensate su questa tema? Che cosa non potete vivere senza? "

My amazing tutors
The tutors on this course have been absolutely fantastic and in particular,Cristina Costa and Nellie Deutsch have been so helpful and I have learned so much from them. They have shared their experiences and motivated me to do my best. They have shown me all about what a good educator and mentor should be like. Patient, kind, helpful, interested, enthusiastic, motivated and motivating, dynamic,caring, the list is endless.

The Journey is only beginning
I am in the wilds of Abruzzo and yet I have connected with people from all over the world and shared a journey with them on a daily basis. Apart from 2 weeks when I was "off-line" , my daily routine has consisted of keeping up with all the messages, emails, questions, sharing of ideas, discussing, giving opinions, and so on. It has indeed been something unique and exciting. I have been a student again and the process of learning new things has forced me to re-assess how I am as a teacher.

So, how am I as a teacher?
I have always been "strict", maybe even "rigid", always in control, always well prepared, always with a firm aim and objective. Maybe all these are good, but maybe is it time for a change? Teaching is geared to be more fluid, reflective, subjective, interactive and here is the biggie - more technological.

21st century teaching? It involves learning from the past. It involves re-assessing the present. It involves embracing the future with all our heart and soul.

View my page on Digifolios and Personal Learning Spaces

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

The Call of the Wild - literally!

Snowbound in the valley
Well, my prophetic words yesterday in my guest blog spot have come true. I am now truly, deeply, experiencing "The Call of the Wild" in Abruzzo! I awoke this morning to a winter wonderland, our young olive trees bent double with the weight of the huge amount of snow, one of our pine trees almost wrenched from the ground and the sight of our 3 dogs gambolling around in the snow without a care in the world. How lovely thought I!


These lovely romantic and whimsical thoughts soon faded. Our car had a "malfunction" issue yesterday on the way back to our home and it managed to gallantly limp us back here. Today the air has been tinged a rather somewhat lilac colour as terminology such as these have peppered the "aria": alternator, rivets, gearbox, electronics , matrix switch, soldering iron, .........
The car is now sadly in bits in "la capanna" and K is doing his best to resolve the unfolding drama. His troubleshooting days with Diamond System USA might save us from a rather tricky dilemma. ie how to get out and about in this weather....without a car? Well, we will have to resort to walking in our wellies a good hour away to the nearest village or send out an SOS to the local farmers! Problemo solved. It will be character building. However, being without a car is not at all amusing in such weather and I will keep you posted...

GUEST BLOG SPOT - Free Technology for Teachers

I was quite nervous before hitting the "Publish" button yesterday. I had already seen the amazing content of the other guest bloggers preceding me and I suddenly realised with a slight chill in my heart that I was way out of my depth. The fact that Richard Byrne had enough confidence in me to risk inviting me onto his wonderful blog saved the day. I will always be grateful to him for believing in me.

What I learned from the other guests
I found out about PREZI from Recess Duty, much more information about using ANIMOTO, Glogster and Wordle from Amy Mayer, Classblogmeister from Mrs L's Rocketlaunchers, read about "Digital Safety" from Laura Costantini and just this very minute I have read about "Edmodo" from Colin Decker. It was truly enlightening to read new information on so many different topics relating to education and technology. I feel privileged to have been selected amongst such illustrious bloggers and educators.

A hive of activity

With the dulcit tones of intense drilling and soldering going on in the room next door, I am left to ponder on life in general. In front of me, I can see the snow falling softly and a wide expanse of countryside all covered in white. A world away from my comfortable existence in Oxford.....

Monday, 16 February 2009

The wonderful world of wikis

My recent wiki adventure
I have just finished a ten-day online course on "wikis" with The Consultants-E. Thank you Kristina! It has been a great experience and I am the proud creator of my very own personal PBwiki entitled "Famous People I know". For the moment it is private because it is in the "beta stage" and as usual with me, I don't feel confident enough to publish it to the www at this stage. However, it is a good example for me to demonstrate to my future students when I return to the Lake School of English next month to do a two-week guest teaching slot.

Wikis are fast and easy to set up. Have a look at the following "Wikis in Plain English" video from Leelefever -"Commoncraft Videos" :

A future project of mine would be to set up a wiki for teachers, for example, to include a bank of warmers and fillers. In my opinion, doing this in a wiki format has many advantages because of the following reasons:

o wealth of ideas ready to use

o group bonding activity

o part of a sharing community

o part of an evolving project

o time saving

o opportunity to learn and grow

o a tailor-made PLE

o dynamic nature to explore

o area for personal reflection

o an arena to use a 21st century E-tool

o engender creativity

The first wikis were produced in the 1990s. Scientists and engineers used them to create dynamic knowledge bases. They have evolved since then and are now created by millions of people from all walks of life.

There are other types of wikis apart from PBwiki such as Wetpaint and Editme. I had a look at Wetpaint and it looks like a fantastic tool with lots of different features to use. I will look at Editme soon.

I have actually been a member of Twitter4Teachers for a few months now and I somehow joined it when I first got into "Twitter". I can be found under the title of "English as a Second Language Teachers". I didn't really fully understand the process until recently but now, with my extra knowledge, things are much clearer. It is a huge bank of teachers from around the world who specialise in certain fields. Check it out for yourself..

The moment is nigh

Well, I am a day away from publishing my guest post slot on Free Technology for Teachers and the butterflies in my stomach are beginning to rumble....The draft is already in the system, just waiting to be tweaked and the "publish" button waiting to be pressed.....I need to check out time zones in the USA as I think Italy is 8 hours behind or forward?? Ahhhh....I think I had definitely better check this very important detail out fairly snappily!

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Live WizIQ online Conference re Digifolios and Personal Learning Spaces

A local Abruzzo eagle flying high in the sky - free to do whatever it wants......reaching new horizons.........living life to the full..........

Well, I have just logged off from my first live online conference via WizIQ. It was the most amazing experience. So much happening in real time- wonderful video presentations, text messaging, live chatting, using an IWB for the first time, connecting with so many people at once, viewing wikis, viewing photos, it was the most incredible experience I have had in a while!

Here is a video created by one of the groups on Ning called "True Blues".

The power of collaboration, the power of sharing, the power of giving, the power of learning - everything mingling and flowing happily along.

I feel I have a "voice" when I am writing but , I was very quiet tonight and that reflects my character. I am very happy to hear what others have to say as I learn so much from observing. Next time, I will try to contribute more. That will be my challenge.

Nellie Deutsch, our online co-ordinator and presenter, was brilliant. The participants were all lively and involved. It was an exciting, motivating, unique, educational experience.

What I have learned tonight is that I want to investigate WizIQ more as a live teaching tool. I'd like to be able to use it by the end of 2009.

I don't believe in setting unrealistic and impossible targets. If I say I want to learn to use it by next week, then that will only engender possible stress and angst. So, the fact that I have "allowed" myself ample time and breathing space to learn this new tool in a very leisurely and relaxed time-scale, is already a very motivating factor for me. This is a little secret that gets me a long way, my dear readers!!

Has anyone ever used this tool in their teaching? If so, would you recommend it?

Here's a video on WizIQ created by the company itself.

Friday, 13 February 2009

Snow in Abruzzo

I created this slideshow of photos I took earlier today by using "Animoto". It was very easy to make.

Students would be able to create their own slideshow on different topics to present to their classmates. This would be a fun activity.

Viral Education 2.0 video

I have just come across this interesting YouTube video created by Coventry University, regarding the future use of technology and the "culture of immediacy" or IE -(Immediate Everything). I found this link via Cristina Costa's Twitter tweet. Cristina is the creator of the fantastic Ning Digifolios and Personal Spaces workshop that I am currently attending online.

The video would be an excellent starting point for a class discussion about the future of the web.
In particular, this quote from the video struck me- "In the future, online social networks will be like air". That is a powerful simile indeed.

My dear readers, what do you think?

Thursday, 12 February 2009

My thoughts on the Twitter phenomenum

What's everyone twittering on about?

Just a short while ago I had no idea what "Twitter" was all about. I thought the title sounded a bit strange - did it mean people "twittering on" about a particular topic? Was it a site for "twits"? (only joking!) I decided to sign on and see what all this twittering was about for myself.

What are you doing?

It started off extremely well. The question in a big box at the top asked me "What are you doing?" So I thought, "ok this is easy, no problemo"! These were my first ever words on "Twitter" in under 140 characters, of course.

"I'm just looking at new stuff re technology on web!" 10:28 PM Nov 28th, 2008

These were my second set of words of great wisdom:

"It's pouring down with rain and it's getting colder here near the mountains". 11:00 PM Nov 28th, 2008 from web

At this stage I had no followers and was following nobody. I couldn't really understand who I was talking to and it all seemed a bit bizarre. I know I talk to myself sometimes but doing it online was a bit different. Anyway, I carried on talking merrily away.......

A desperate tweet

"Hi! I've just got up and am heading off into the big city to do some shopping. What are you up to today?" 9:26 AM Nov 29th, 2008 from web

When I asked my very first question above to the universe in general, I was getting a bit desperate! Nobody seemed to be talking to me and it was as if I was on my own in the "Twitter universe""...until suddenly, one day, don't ask me how, I became someone's "follower" - that was Mr Byrne from "Free Technology for Teachers".

This was my "Tweet" to Richard Byrne:

"Hi I'm not sure how this twittering works! I don't know how I have become your follower but anyway, nice to meet you!" 9:32 AM Nov 29th, 2008 from web

A Twitter newbie

I received a personal reply from Mr Byrne who gave me this very useful tip: "The more people you follow, the more you learn". There was a very useful blog posting on "10 Teachers to Follow on Twitter" which I digested and learned from. From that point, I began to Tweet a bit more and connect with a few more people such as Sue Waters from Edubloggers.

"Hi Sue, I'm a newbie Twitterer. Nice to meet you!" 8:18 PM Dec 13th, 2008 from web

I immediately got a direct reply from Sue and this encouraged me to continue with my Twitter adventure.

The Power of Twitter

Well, since then the Twitter phenomenum has continued to roll and it has got me into a very exciting project!

I was reading my Twitter updates on February 9th when I spotted this Tweet from Richard Byrne:"Looking for guest bloggers". I was intrigued so I followed this link. The rest is history.....I hope!!

Guest blogger

Next week I will be proudly writing a guest piece on Free Technology for Teachers Blog, while Richard is on holiday. I feel deeply honoured and thrilled to be doing this. It is an amazing feeling to see "LLJB" (that's me!) as a "contributor" on his fantastic blog. I can't believe it. It will be an incredible experience.

What are your thoughts about "Twitter"? As always, I would love to hear your views. This time, I challenge you to write in under 140 characters!

Bye for now...

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Come share with me!

BubbleShare: Share photos - Play some Online Games.

Tonight I was just experimenting with a new tool called "Bubbleshare" for doing things with photos. I chose the picture "scrapbook" option and this is the result. It was surprisingly easy to create!

Nb You do need to fiddle around with the text insert option, but perfection will come with practice, I guess!

Friday, 6 February 2009

Towards a digital identity

"Tweetie Pie"

Hi everybody

I have just come across this very interesting site on "Twitips". I have been a member of "Twitter" for a little while now and I still feel it's a bit mysterious. I seem to be talking to myself a lot of the time. I have on occasions, actually had a conversation which seemed to "flow". I recently had a great "tweet-up" with Cristina Costa who shared her fave Tina Turner records with me on "Blip- DJ" which I joined.


So many new things in my life - I sometimes get confused, but it's all in the name of progress. I have just finished watching a live online session with Nellie Deutsch on WizIQ and I learned a lot. I liked the calm way Nellie dealt with the unexpected. She likes to explore reasons why things go wrong. That is so reassuring because of course, not every lesson can go according to plan when one is teaching. It's a good thing to remember.

A technical dilemma

Tonight, I encountered a slight technical problem with my Skype lessson. My "resurrected" computer had a slight "miscommunication" problem, which luckily was solved by my technical assistant. It made me think, though. If I had been on my own, and the computer decided to "crashland and die", what on earth would I have done??

Back to basics?

The answer is that we can't really ever fully trust modern technology. That's why pilots are always trained in learning how to fly a plane by using good old-fashioned manual instruments. In the event of a major technological failure, you can always rely on simple mathematics and manual tools to land a plane.

In at the deep end?

I feel as if I am like the student who is constantly fidgeting at the back. One minute I seem to "get" something, ie "Xtranormal", the next minute, another wonderful tool comes along like "Animoto", which makes me want to investigate and learn how to use. Everybody else seems to know how to use it, so shouldn't I learn in order to keep up with the flow? What is the solution to this non-stop dilemma??

A practical solution

I suppose the answer is this. Relax, take it easy - enjoy the ride. Don't get "het up". Just enjoy the experience. It's not a race. It's not a competition. The only participant in all this is MOI. So. Is that it? That's sorted then! I have freed myself from the shackles of exterior pressures - in one simple step.

The Usual Plea

I would really love to hear your opinion regarding what I have just written. Please feel free to comment if you so wish!

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

History of the Internet

An interesting video

I have just come across a fascinating video from my EVO2009 Ning Digifolios and Personal Learning Spaces course. One of my course tutors, Nellie Deutsch, is wonderful, and she is always adding amazing videos to be shared. I think that I'd like to add this video to my blog firstly so that I can learn from it!! and secondly, so that you, my readers, can view it as well. I feel it's all about "learning and sharing in cyberspace". Click here.

New horizons in learning

This brilliant course is leading me to new horizons and perspectives. I feel as if I don't really know as much about Web 2.0 technology as the other participants, but I don't mind, because I can accept that I will always be in the middle... and that is absolutely fine by me!! There will always be people who have more knowledge than me, and there will always be people who may not have the same knowledge as me. That is life and I accept it wholeheartedly!! It is what keeps my feet firmly on the ground. We are what we are and nothing more.

A leading question

My dear readers, I will ask you this. What is your opinion?

You may have noticed that I am quite a tenacious character. I don't give up easily. I feel that I have asked a lot of questions on my blog, but I haven't had many replies... Never mind. I will keep on asking and maybe one day there will be an answer....

Beautiful Abruzzo

I have just come across this YouTube video filmed by www.inside-abruzzo.com which shows some of Abruzzo's loveliest places to visit.
I am very happy to be living in such a beautiful and unspoilt area. Do you remember I featured a story about Civitella Casanova some time ago? See if you can spot the village during the video.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Diigo Social Bookmarking 2.0

Hi dear readers

I have just joined up with Diigo Social Bookmarking 2.0. I have done it because it is something alien for me, believe it or not! I'd like to see what happens and where it takes me. It's an experiment and a challenge.

Would you like to join me in this venture? I am a newbie "Diigo-er" so I have no idea if I will take to it or not.

The YouTube video gives a demo of Diigo. Is it your cup of tea? If it is, come and join me!

Monday, 2 February 2009

Into the frying pan!

I am back from a two-week online "absence" and I am truly feeling the heat! I am in the middle of a six-week Ning workshop on Digital Portfolios and have just begun a course on "wikis", which involves a lot of reading and collaboration. I also have my blog to update. In addition, I am helping to restore our building project, look after two felines,and considering some online teaching.

Facing the challenge

I am determined to put my time-management skills to the test in order to achieve my goals of keeping track with everything. My personal motto is "Be positive and all should be well", technically and theoretically speaking. "Mind over matter" is indeed a simple mantra to adopt, don't you think?

Life without my PC

Going two weeks without my very own computer to hand was a very enlightening experience. It taught me that life can go on without a continuous online presence. However, I did miss the daily contact and knowledge that can be gained instantly. My verdict? I now know that my life is more enriched with the aid of technology.