Saturday, 29 August 2009

WikiEducator - Spreading the Word

Lightening struck last night and with it came some form of illumination for me and my studies. I am half way through my excellent WikiEducator Content4Learning workshop and I am now the very proud owner of a Level 1 Wiki Apprentice badge. I have conscientiously worked my way through the various tasks on how to format the wiki and have been practising the use of bold, italics, headings, lists, "piped" internal links and external links, in my specially created "Sandbox" which is found on my WE User page. This sandbox is a place where you can do rough copies of your work in progress. It is very good to have something like this because you can practise to your heart's content and can edit and delete as often as you wish. I am doing the course at my own pace and I feel it is going well. I am constantly amazed at what the other participants have achieved in their lives and it is an excellent learning environment for me. It is challenging and at first I did have doubts, but hopefully I am overcoming those inner fears. Read my previous posting on becoming a student again here.

My Level 1 WikiApprentice Badge

Reasons for doing the course
I am doing this course because I want to learn more about "Open Education Resources" (OERs) and also, I would like to have a working knowledge of WikiEducator and what it entails. The idea of sharing knowledge openly and in a mutually respectful "open" community is a very exciting prospect for the future course development of education throughout the world. Below is an extract from the WikiEducator home page.

The WikiEducator is an evolving community intended for the collaborative:
  • planning of education projects linked with the development of free content;
  • development of free content on Wikieducator for e-learning;
  • work on building open education resources (OERs) on how to create OERs.
  • networking on funding proposals developed as free content.
Another good reason for doing this course is that it creates an avenue for my Continuing Personal Development (CPD). Feel free to join me in my PLN ! (Personal Learning Network)

Working in Collaboration
The team of facilitators, Wayne Mackintosh, Patricia Schlicht and Nellie Deutsch are very skilled in their respective fields and are experts at conducting online workshops such as this one. They are also efficient, helpful and very supportive. They are prompt in answering any questions from the participants. There are approximately 170 participants from all over the world. They come from India , New Zealand, Usa, Canada, Kenya, Brazil, Peru to name just a few countries. There is only 1 participant from England and there are 4 from Italy (myself included). During the course, I hope to communicate with as many participants as possible and build relationships for the future.

Becoming a WikiEducator Ambassador?

I would like to tell the world via this blog about WikiEducator, as the concept is a truly awesome one. If you don't know about WikiEducator, have a look through the links on this page and you can register for an upcoming course by looking at the information here.

I hope to take part in the online WizIq Virtual Classroom event on Monday 31st August. I believe it's at 7am Rome time so I will need to set my alarm. If you are awake then, come and join me and find out what WikiEducator is all about!

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

In The Land of Wolves

Living within the Abruzzo National Park, it does not take us long to get to the Wolf Centre in Popoli. This is where we headed at the weekend with some friends. It was my second visit and I enjoyed the walk and guided tour immensly. Read about "Canis Lupus Italicus" from my first visit last year.

Abruzzo Earthquake- a Brave Survivor
Our charming and very knowledgeable guide came from Aquila, the city devastated by the earthquake on April 6th this year. I asked her about how it had affected her life. She was lucky to have survived the impact of the earthquake despite the full force of a big wardrobe falling on top of her in the middle of the terrible tremors. She was too busy helping other members of her family who were injured to care much about what she was suffering that fateful night.

During our walk up the path into the woods where the wolves were waiting for us, she spoke quietly and with great dignity about the horrors of that night. Her house was destroyed and her life has changed irrevocably as a result. She told me that coming in to work at the Wolf Centre was a blessed relief from the chaos and sadness that pervades her city. I admired her stoical approach to life. She has seen so much suffering and yet life carries on as it has to.

Monday, 24 August 2009

Becoming a Student Again with WikiEducator

I am a student again! I adore studying and learning new things and I am very happy to be participating in the 10-day WikiEducator Learning4Content 29th Online Workshop, which began today. I hope to share this journey with you and I will keep you updated on my progress. Like all new students on any course, I am excited about the new challenges that lie ahead, but also a bit apprehensive. Will I be able to keep up? Will I understand everything? Will I be able to contribute effectively? What can I contribute? Will I be able to focus on the tasks? How will I interact with all the other participants from around the globe? Will I be able to participate in the course without any obstacles?

I had enrolled on two occasions on this particular course earlier in the year, but was unable to participate due to unforseen family circumstances. Fingers crossed, I can complete the course this time! One of my tutors is the wonderful Nellie Deutsch. I look forward to having her as my tutor again. She is very kind and very patient. These qualities are so vitally important as a teacher.

Towards a Free Education
The main aim of WikiEducator is to create a free version of the education curriculum by 2015. This is an incredible goal and the following video shows Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu talking about the importance of freedom in education.

Friday, 21 August 2009

Feedback on 4-week Teachers' Refresher Course in Oxford

The above picture shows 2 classes together on the final day of the Teacher Refresher courses.

It's time for me to get down to some TEFLing stuff after focussing on Abruzzo news recently. I had the great privilege to teach at the Said Business School on behalf of the Lake School of English during the whole of July. I was looking forward to it very much as I had never worked there before. The place is fantastic with excellent facilities and lovely big classrooms. My classrooms were fully equipped with computer and huge screen which I took advantage of most days.

A Cosmopolitan Mix
I taught approximately 54 primary school teachers in four different groups. They were delightful, keen and very receptive to my "Update your English" sessions. I taught phrasal verbs, everyday English, idioms, collocations and grammar points and we did a lot of speaking practice. I tried to integrate technology whenever possible. I used ideas from "Blended Learning" and "How to teach English with Technology.

Some of my lovely teachers on the last day of course 1
I introduced myself with this Xtranormal video here. I had made it specifically to use during the summer courses. It was different from the way I usually do Introductions and Icebreakers. I felt a bit nervous about using it for the first time. I hope it worked.

I mentioned blogs and in particular my favourite ones such as Kalinago English. The excellent slideshow below hadn't been published then but I would like to include it here. The "Blog Carnival" consists of great advice for newbie bloggers and Karenne Sylvester has combined loads of brilliant information all under one roof. It is definitely a must-read post and an inspiration for anybody wishing to start blogging or who already has a blog.
English Language Teaching Blogging

View more documents from Karenne Sylvester.

I highlighted "The English Blog" as being one of my favourites for keeping up-to-date with news of the day. Jeffrey Hill's use of cartoons is amazing and he always picks interesting ones which lead on to good debates. He always has his "finger on the pulse" and I can rely on his postings for interesting snippets. For example, today, there is a great post on "My English Images": Picture Resources.
I used Jamie Keddie's excellent Make and Do collocations lesson and it went down very well. For me, it was really stimulating to exploit something completely different with make and do verbs and I think it's a brilliant lesson, because it is very varied. We loved the Mr Men lesson as well!

I adapted some of Lindsay Clandfield's innovative Six Things postings and used the Six Contradictory Proverbs lesson as a discussion opener.

I highlighted Nik Peachey's Learning Technology Blog and we looked through and commented on some of his practical postings.

I mentioned Larry Ferlazzo's amazing resources of lists and their implication for education.

Of course, it goes without saying, that onestopenglishblogs was highlighted as an incredible resource for teachers.

Primary School Blogs
Have a look at this blog by primary school children in New Zealand. It's called Moturoa's Blog.
This is Miriam's (Teachers Course B) class blog here.
Check out Guillermo's (Teachers' Course C) school website and activities here.
This is Maite's (Teachers Course B) blog, which includes some of her students' blogs, here.

The Importance of PLN is a cool tool for mind mapping and it is easy and functional to use. I demonstrated this e-tool when I was highlighting the subject of PLN in connection with CPD (Continuing Personal Development). CPD is indeed a Buzz word and it is a very important feature of a teacher who wants to keep up to date . See Richard Byrne's excellent slideshow regarding how to build your PLN here.

We discussed the validity and practicality of e-portfolios for young learners. We mostly agreed that this was the way forward. The following is a very interesting slideshow presentation by Ray Tolley from eFolio in the Uk

Read this interesting article by Ozke Karaoglu on e-portfolios and creating your digital self.

I wrote this article in January 2009 called "The Era of IE" in which I discussed the role of e-Portfolios. I received a very in depth comment from Ray Tolley, who created the slideshow presentation above.

Class D created 3 beautiful word clouds on the last day of the course. The themes were pubs, slang and experience in Oxford. They looked absolutely lovely! We didn't save them, unfortunately, but they can be viewed on the open web.

A Cliltoclimb blog has got an excellent idea for using Wordles in class. Click here for a slideshow
Here is an example of a Wordle I created a while back. Can you guess what the article is about??

I used Dvolver to teach some phrasal verbs and it added a different dimension to the usual way I teach them. I found it a bit frustrating that I couldn't control the music and so it seemed to come on all the time. Maybe it was just me and my lack of technological ability! I do like it as an e- tool, however, as it is quite fun to use.

We talked about the Number One e-learning tool of 2009 and its application in education. Here is a link to an interesting article from Time Magazine about how twitter will change the way we live. As a result of my mentioning twitter in class, I now have 4 new friends from my teachers groups! Happy tweeting! Check out my MakeBeliefsComix on the subject of "fun Twitter expressions" here and read this very interesting posting from English Raven Blog here.

Picture Activities
I showed my Bookr story called The Prince and The Maid.

Here's my Speechable picture of Joey.

I found out about Picture and saw excellent examples of it from Cristina's lovely"Let's Learn English 2008 blog"

A fantastic source of picture activities can be found in Jamie Keddie's Blog.

The Picture Dialogue Game
This is a fun writing activity which involves a selection of pictures of people talking( from magazines, the internet). You put the pictures of the couples in the middle of the table or on the classroom floor. Ask students to secretly choose one of the couples talking and then give a time limit for students to create a short dialogue between their couple. Students are invitedto read out their mini dialogues open class and the class members have to guess which picture the dialogue refers to.

There are many alternatives to this activity. Another version is I show them a picture of a famous couple and get my students to guess what they are saying. I then reveal the dialogue which focuses on slang/idioms/phrasal verbs etc and I invite students to create their own, which can they be placed around the classroom for others to see and comment on.
This is a short dialogue for the picture above.

David: Hey Babes. Come on! Give a big smile for the cameras!
Victoria: I'm really not up to it today. Can't we put this meeting off?
David: Too late, babes. They're all looking forward to seeing us.
Victoria: Right! Let's get down to it then!
David: Ok here goes!

Language in Motion
New words coming into the English language were highlighted and discussed. One of the words was "staycation". Have a look at this video regarding "staycation" posted by Jeffrey Hill from the English Blog.

Another word was "wardrobe malfunction" which is featured in

A mob of carrots?

Carrotmob was a new word which I personally learned about during the course. Before that I would have thought it was a mob of carrots getting together! (Only joking). Seriously though, I wouldn't have had much of a clue to its meaning prior to its inclusion in Wordspy.

We discussed where new words came from and, hey presto! Hot off the press is this new worksheet with answers from Macmillan English Dictionary.

I explained the meaning of ASBO, and today, two buskers have been given Asbos because they played the same 2 songs again and again. Read the story here.

The C-Factor
We brainstormed the important qualities of the Survivor Teacher. All the qualities had to begin with the letter "C". Below is a photo of the whiteboard with the list of brainstormed adjectives. I am embarrassed to say my board work does not look neat and tidy and that is why I don't usually do a lot of boardwork! It's not my forte. I have always envied teachers with lovely writing. Angus: take note - your boardwork is brilliant!

Can you think of other adjectives beginning with "C" which would apply to a "Survivor" teacher?

Personal Feedback
I thought it went very well and I certainly enjoyed the experience. It was good for me to branch out with integrating technology and it was a chance for me to showcase a few of the e-tools I have been learning about. It was nice to share my knowledge and to have some good discussions about the future of e-learning. I shared my classes with Catherine and I'd like to say a big thank you for being such a lovely, calm co-teacher. It was good fun liasing with you!

Useful Links for teachers of young learners
Gail Lovely: Top Ten for Young Learners (Thanks, dear Lidiana!!)
Free Technology for Teachers: 10 Spelling games and Lessons
British Council site for Kids
English Raven
Tech ELT Blog

The Meaning of Teaching?
For me teaching is all about learning together and collaboration and hopefully, my students learned something and will go back to their schools armed with some new techniques to use in their classes.

Fancy a Cuppa?

I taught this expression to my teachers and now that I have finally finished my feedback, I am going to make myself a nice, relaxing brew!

Click here for an interesting post by the English Blog on The Power of Tea.

Bye for now....

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

A fantastic Teaching Opportunity at the Lake School of English

I have just been contacted by Carmel Engin, one of the directors of The Lake School of English in Oxford. The school is looking for an EFL teacher to cover for maternity leave, starting in October 2009. It is my great pleasure to follow up this request to place the job advertisement on my blog and here it is below. Take note. It is a prestigious Oxford-based school, with excellent staff and wonderful teacher-support. I spent more than 20 very happy years there and you never know, I might see you, the successful applicant, in the future! Have a look at some of my previous Lake School postings on my blog sidebar and see what the school is like. Good luck!

The Lake School of English in Oxford is recruiting an enthusiastic English language teacher to start October 5th, 2009.

A lively, dynamic professional is required to join a friendly, experienced teaching team in a well-established school in the centre of Oxford.

The contract is fixed term (6 months' maternity cover), with a possiblity to extend.

Candidates must be graduates, DELTA qualified native speakers of English, with a minimum of 4 years' recent teaching experience, and available for interview in the UK.

The successful candidate will be expected to teach 21 contact hours per week and to attend occasional social activities and regular academic meetings.

The Lake School directors are committed to ensuring that teaching in our organisation is a positive, interesting and enjoyable experience, with opportunities for professional development. Visit our website to learn more about the range of courses we offer:


Candidates should forward their CVs to the Director of Studies, Susan Barber,

Please note that only candidates suitable for interview will be contacted.

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Making Hay while the Sun Shines!

Whilst out collecting old grass cuttings and hay around the garden I realised I was surrounded by a NATURE Idioms lesson on the make! So inspired by my wheelbarrow full of hay and out in the hot midday sun (yes, I know!! Before you say it, here it is-Only Mad dogs and Englishmen/ladies go out in the midday sun!), I began to muse about which idioms or similes I could use for this particular blog posting.

As Busy as a Bee
Photo above courtesy of KRB
Here is a very nice lesson from BBC Learning English on "BEE" idioms.

At the same time as trying to do my bit to control the jungle that is getting ever bigger by the day, I am in the middle of writing up feedback on my recent teaching experience in Oxford. I was truly "as busy as a bee" during those 4 weeks with work and family committments but I managed to "juggle a few frogs around". Talking about frogs, I spotted one this very morning in amongst my plant pots. It won't last long on this planet if Joey or Victoria get to see it!

Frog photo courtesy of KRB

Here are 3 "BIRD" idioms from BBC Learning English.

I have just found a fascinating article about Blue Tits embracing aromatherapy. Read more in BBC - Earth News. I love lavander and I would like to have a garden full of it (one day...)I also like the sound of apple mint...

A Great Site for Nature Idioms
Have a look at these 20 Idioms on Nature and then try out this fantastic Nature Idioms quiz from

Here's another quiz on Gardening Idioms from the BBC Learning English Quizzes website.

Photo above taken from Barnet Bee Keepers

Have a BEE-utiful day!

Friday, 14 August 2009

Famous Last Words

It was indeed too good to be true. Having just hit the publish button on my "Animoto:Living the Dream" post the other day, I thought, "Oh dear! Have I tempted fate by posting something which seems so idylic?" Well, my dear readers, fate was definitely tempted by my words and slideshow and so it came to pass, that yesterday, K and I were towed home 20 kilometres by a huge emergency recovery truck courtesy of the Automobile Club of Italia - ACI.

As Happy as Larry?
The day started off ominously calm. Blue sky, beautiful sunshine, plants watered, veggies gathered, furkids well fed, compost checked. All systems go! Time to do a weekly shop at the local supermarket 20 kilometres away in Penne. We got into what is affectionately referred to as "The Tank" and off we set as happy as the proverbial Larry . (Thank you Michael Quinion for the meaning of this expression). Shopping duly acquired, loaded up and ready to go home, looking forward to a BBQ on the balcony......It was at this very timely point that FATE decided to pay me back for being rather cheeky the previous day.

Keep Calm and Carry On
The alarm on the car was going absolutely haywire. The annoying wailing sound was high and intermittent. By now crowds of shoppers were looking in our direction and K and I were beginning to get a little bit hot under the collar. I stress "a little bit". In such situations in Italy you would hear the common refrain "Mamma mia!!" meaning "Oh my goodness!" Instead K, in true British fashion, kept calm and carried on trying to work out why the control panel was saying the following: Gearbox: disabled, ABS: disabled, and a host of other ominous failings and dire warnings. With great understatement intended, the signs were not good.... To make matters worse, I had left my mobile at home and the battery on K's mobile was as flat as a pancake and so was as useful as a chocolate fireguard!! It was turning out to be a bad day in my so-called dream world....

Gabriele the Saviour
K remembered he had an ACI membership card for his motorbike and vaguely recollected that possibly our car could be covered by it. In desperation, we asked an employee of the supermarket for help and the polite and very helpful young man kindly phoned up the ACI centre with our details. Bingo! We were indeed covered and so we were informed that an ACI recovery lorry would come and pick us and our vehicle up in precisely half an hour at 16.18pm on the dot. I quipped to K. "We'll be here for hours, I bet!!" I was proved wrong. The huge truck turned up at exactly 16.18 on the dot and the very efficient and smiley representative Gabriele was the saviour of the day. He hoisted the tank up onto the truck and we jumped into the front seat, high up in the air and off we went! After gently driving along the stunning Abruzzo countryside for half an hour, we were duly delivered half way up the dirt track that is our road to home. It was physically impossible for the truck to go any further up our rather torturous and winding"road" without it in turn needing emergency recovery! Whilst there, the car miraculously started up. Maybe the small picture above of San Gabriele that I keep in my bag was indeed looking over us and helped us?

The Moral of the Story?
The theme of "Living the Dream" and its unexpected consequence yesterday, has inspired me today to take the opportunity to use a few idioms and similes in an appropriate context. There is always a story behind every event....

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Animoto: Living the Dream

Animoto has to be one of my favourite e-tools. A slideshow can be easily and speedily created and it looks very effective. Looking through Richard Byrne's Free Technology for Teachers blog yesterday, I reviewed his posting on Animoto here and was inspired on the spot to create another slideshow based on images taken from my life in the wilds of Abruzzo.

The Homecoming
Being away from home for 50 days is quite a long time, I have to admit. I missed K, my furkids, my home and my daily routine. Come to think of it. What routine? Every day is a new challenge. Watching a forest sprouting before my very eyes, tending to mega tons of fresh homegrown veggies, checking the olive trees, making homemade tomato sauce, listening to the birds actually singing, sowing fresh lettuce seeds and seeing the first shoots after just a few days.... Life in the country is a far cry from my city girl days. I can honestly say, I have taken to it quite well. Ah. I mustn't forget. My online activities and my unquenchable quest for learning also play a pivotal role!

The Future

Who knows? I don't. It's going to be interesting to see what life has in store for me for the rest of 2009.

Mamma Mia!

Mia mamma, Anna Lucia Bianchini, has defied all the proverbial odds to survive her horrendous and life-threatening brain injury sustained in a bicycle accident on February 25th 2009. She is now back home after 154 long and worrying days. I was in England for 100 of those days to provide moral and physical support to my family. My mother was strong enough to pull through those critical weeks in the Intensive Care Unit at the JR Hospital, Oxford. We will be forever grateful to all the doctors and nurses there who helped my mother towards the next stage of her recovery. The care she received at Isis House was fantastic and the final stage of her rehabilitation at the Oxford Centre for Enablement was second to none.

The Healing Power of Time
With expert care and help, guidance and treatment over the 5 months, mia cara mamma seems to be nearly back to her old self. Of course, after serious brain injury, fatigue is a big problem and my mother now requires a lot of rest periods throughout the day. Pre-accident, rest was definitely not a word in her vocabulary! She was a whirlwind of activity, multi-tasking cheerfully and the centre of our universe. Memory loss is another big challenge. There are sections of my mother's life which have been literally wiped out. She has had to relearn how to walk, think, move, react and essentially "be". The healing power of time, however, knows no bounds and I hope that eventually, things will get easier. Like the picture of the bright moon taken by K from our balcony the other night, the usual cycle of life will carry on and my mother will shine ever brightly to illuminate our lives once more.

A Happy Birthday
In August, shortly after leaving the excellent OCE Rehabilitation Centre, we were able to celebrate my mother's birthday in style and the photo above shows my parents together at long last. It was indeed a special day for all of us.

A Formidable Abruzzese Woman
My mother is a worthy candidate of the strictly limited membership of the Formidable Abruzzese Women's Club. The Wordle below sums up the reason why.

A Huge Thank You
On behalf of my father and my sisters, I would like to say a very BIG thank you to all family members, friends, carers, hospital-support staff, colleagues and well-wishers who helped us throughout this difficult period of our lives. Without your moral support, kind wishes, thoughts and prayers and most of all, practical help, this story may not have had such a hope-inspiring conclusion. We appreciate your help enormously.

My mum on Sunday August 2nd in Marilena and Paul's beautiful garden in Oxford.