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

Friday, 6 November 2009

AVEALMEC Conference 5th - 8th November 2009

The world came into my abode yesterday and will continue to stream through at intervals during the weekend. I fully immersed myself into the exciting arena of globalised "connectivism" via a series of webinars based on the theme of ICT tools, Knowledge Building and Communities of Practice, hosted by the excellent AVEALMEC / ARCALL

From the comfort of my own home I was able to interact with educators and contacts from around the world and participate in a series of fantastic video seminars hosted via Moodle and WiZiQ. Here is a link to the programme of events.
Click on this link to the fantastic selection of Guest Speakers and a link to the summaries of the talks.

If you have time today and this weekend to learn more about so many new e-tools, social networking sites and current modes of pedagogical and andragogical learning practice and principles, then joining the AVEALMEC conference will prove to be a very worthwhile and amazing professional development opportunity.

I attended Nik Peachey's inspiring workshop "From Information to Knowledge" earlier today. The excellent presentation including a number of follow-up tasks can be viewed here.

I missed the following talk by Vance Stevens. The excellent slideshow is now available on the web and I have included it here.

Post Scriptum
I feel "virtually" exhausted after a weekend full of fantastic live presentations. Graham Stanley's talk on "Before and after Twitter: Personal Learning Environments" has just finished and it was most enjoyable. I even felt brave enough to ask my very first question which was "How do you deal with spam?" Graham answered that it was a problem we all have to deal with and he gave a few good examples of what to do.
AVEALMEC have organised a truly wonderful conference and I have learned a lot of new things. I have also had the chance to "meet" and chat with lots of people in my PLN.
I will add further links to the webinars/slideshows if and when they become available so that you can experience the fun and also share the information so skilfully imparted by the guest speakers.
Thanks to the 3 moderators who did a great job of keeping everything running smoothly!

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Moodle:Perfect Timing

To Moodle or not to Moodle, that is the question. To be more precise, Modular, Orientated, Dynamic, Learning Environment. I have been intrigued by this innovative virtual learning platform for quite some time, and I find myself currently right in the middle of it, so to speak, for two reasons.
Watch this short Youtube video which explains what Moodle is.

I like this particular short Youtube presentation which links Moodle with Lego bricks

A bit of a Coincidence?

Firstly, I have begun to follow a 4-week Integrating Technology for Teaching e-course called "Moodle for Teachers". The facilitators are all highly skilled in holding Blended Online Learning Moodle workshops. There are over 120 participants from all over the world. It is incredible to see so many known faces from the blogging world and this is kind of reassuring for someone like me who believe it or not, still has an underlying fear of new technologies. The Moodle WiZiQ webinar on Monday evening was dynamic and involving.

Secondly, it is my great pleasure to announce that I will be reviewing a new (e)-book on Moodle by Jeff Stanford, called Moodle 1.9 For Second Language Teaching. It is literally "hot off the press", published in October 2009 by It is pure coincidence that this event and my course have come at the same time and I guess, it was meant to be. My reading through the book from a learner's point of view, and from a prospective teacher's point of view will give me an excellent further insight into this exciting learning platform. Over the coming weeks I will be reading as much as I can through the relevant chapters of interest and I will write up a review based on my experience.

A Review

I will focus on the operability, functionality and practicality of the content of "Moodle 1.9 For Second Language Teaching" from both a newbie Moodler's point of view and from a future practising facilitator's perspective. I am looking forward to this immensely. From my initial brief overview of the book, I can already envisage it is an excellent, comprehensive and rich source of information for teachers, students and educators alike. An invaluable companion on the journey towards Moodle enlightenment!

In the meantime, to whet your appetite, here is a link to an extracted chapter of the book entitled "Listening Activities". If you click on the highlighted link you can download the whole chapter in pdf for you to read at leisure.

Now I must get back to doing all my reading tasks and assignments! See you soon.

Yes, I have! This is my answer to the question above.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

George Clooney in Castel del Monte - Update

We set off round the mountains to get to Castel del Monte, one of the most beautiful villages in Abruzzo. There was a slight hidden agenda on my part. My quest to meet George Clooney in person. However, I had forgotten that in Italy this weekend is a long bank holiday due to All Souls' Day.

We got to an eerily quiet Castel del Monte 50 minutes after setting off from home. Only 10 miles away as the crow flies, but you have to drive up and down and over mountains and encounter a lot of perilous hairpin bends. Why was the village so quiet? Where was everybody? Where was George? The evidence that a film was being shot in the village was all over the place. Lorry after lorry of cinema/tv production sets were parked up in the centre. Where was the buzz of the international film crew?

Lots of notices everywhere informing the villagers that 200 camera crew plus 500 extras would be invading the small mountain village from 15th October to end of November. The whole village to be transformed into a film set. Ok, so where were the villagers and the 700 extra American and international crew? K and I seemed to be the only people wandering through the bitterly cold streets......

A prominant notice made my heart sink. The filming of "The American" would recommence on Monday 2nd November. I grabbed a local and asked" Do you know if Mr Clooney is here? "Oh no, my dear. He left yesterday and he'll be back tomorrow". End of dream.

A bit of Local Gossip
Not one to be disheartened so easily, I accepted this and hit a local bar and B&B called "Osteria del Lupo", where I drowned my sorrows with 2 lovely glasses of Abruzzo wine and 2 lots of absolutely delicious homemade bread drizzled in fresh olive oil. I spoke to Stefano, the barman and son of the owner and asked him about his feelings on the effect of the film on the village as a whole. He told me it was a fantastic thing and it was doing wonders for the local economy. He told me Mr Clooney had integrated with the locals and that he was very friendly and amenable. Two weeks had already passed and everyone had accepted the temporary disruption to their daily life with great patience and understanding. A lot of the locals had been cast as extras. It was interesting chatting to Stefano and the bar was very lively and atmospheric. Tomorrow evening, scenes of the film will be shot right in front of the bar so I guess the bar will become very famous! Thank you Stefano for making us feel so welcome!

Halloween: "Miss Strega" Contest
Having viewed the information on the Internet about the yearly "Miss Strga" (Miss Witch") pageant held in the centre of the village, we left the cosy bar in search of the venue. We were informed that due to the sudden very cold weather, the event would now be held in the local sports hall. When we arrived, we found all the local villagers waiting for the children to do a "Halloween" parade. A jury would be present, to vote for the best costume. The hall was beautifully and spookily decked out and children all dressed up in wonderful costumes. We stayed for a while and then decided to make our way home after a most interesting evening.