Friday, 31 December 2010

2010 - The Year of Going with the Flow!

2010 has far exceeded my very modest but wildly unknown expectations. My sidebar notes started off the new year with the following lines: "I have no idea what 2010 will have in store for me, whether virtually or on terra firma".

Long gone was the person who planned everything meticulously. The Janet who always had Plan A, B, C and then even D, just in case of unforeseen circumstances. The person who had to know everything in advance. I wrote the section below on my blog on December 30th last year - 2009:The Year of Living Technologically.

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!!

Taking the Powerpoint Plunge
Well, my goal of finally taking the plunge and creating my very first PowerPoint presentation has well and truly been achieved. I have created 10 Powerpoints this year and I plan to do many more in 2011. Having waited so long to use this tool, I feel there is a lot I want to learn. How to insert videos and other media into my presentations is a modest goal for the new year. Many thanks to Noel for sending me some great and inspirational videos.

A Year of "Flow"
Many wonderful things have happened in 2010 and it has been an action-packed year which I would never have imagined possible at this time last year. I would like to say a huge Thank You to every single person (and furkid), who has contributed to 2010 being one of the BEST ever in my whole life.

With the help of my amazing PLN I have:On a personal level I have:
  • enjoyed being with my family and friends in Oxford and Abruzzo
  • been back to England on the back of the Aprilia Rally Raid Capo Nord
  • had lots of fun with Samantha, the new furkid on the block
  • written a personal book review of "R U Listenin'? by Terry Bianchini
  • made loads of home made tomato sauces
  • made loads of fig jam / peach jam / apple sauces
  • have made loads of Tiramisu, courtesy of Chikita, Berry, Ken Cluckie, Filito, (& Norris & Nikita now sadly demised)
  • tended to and helped pick lots of olive trees
  • made lots of homemade birthday cards / special events cards and Christmas cards
  • unpacked a few more boxes
  • collected a few more owls!

The Future of 2011
So, what does 2011 have in store for me? Well, this time I do know a little bit about what is planned!

I would like to do a 5-week Tesol Electronic Village Online course starting in January. I haven't chosen which course yet because there are so many fantastic choices.
I am interested in the following courses:
Please do join me in experiencing the excitement of being a student again. It's a wonderful feeling!! I can guarantee you will learn a lot!!

February 2011
I am doing another workshop in L'Aquila for Tesol-Aquila Action Group on Wednesday February 2nd 2011. I am really looking forward to seeing all the amazing teachers again.

On February 5th I hope to be presenting at Connecting Online 2011. My wonderful mentor and former tutor on the Moodle for Teachers course Dr Nellie Deutsch has invited me to present online. It will be a great pleasure!!

In February I will be tutoring on another e-course on behalf of the Consultants-E.

April 2011
I will be presenting at IATEFL Brighton on April 17th. I can't wait to meet members of my fabulous PLN and fellow tweeters during that time.

I would like to brush up my very basic riding skills and do my CBT (Compulsory Basic Motorbike Training) again at Abbey Motorcycle Instructors.

I hope to teach on more Teacher Refresher courses for the Lake School of English.

An Open Year Book
The rest of the year is an open book, waiting to be filled. More book reviews are on the cards. Who knows, I might even get down to writing my own e-book. That would be really cool.

Finally, I hope to achieve the very important goal below:

I would also like to do the following:

That's it!! The rest, I really don't know at this stage. I look forward to the new year and to seeing how it will all evolve.

Once again, many thanks to everyone I know who has helped me develop as a teacher and helped me to do my best.
In particular, I owe a lot to the amazing Shelly Terrell for encouraging me to venture into the thrilling world of online conferences and presentations. Without her constant support, I may not have given it a go.

I wish all my readers and fellow bloggers, tweeters, teachers, and students I have taught this year, a very Happy and successful New Year.

"Don't just dream it. Do it!"

Have fun, and may all your dreams come true!!

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

2 New Moodle Books from Packt Publishing!

Packt Publishing has just published 2 new books on Moodle and I have great pleasure in introducing them hot off the press on my blog! The first one is by Michael de Raadt and it is called Moodle 1.9 Top Extensions Cookbook.

The second new book just published is Moodle 1.9, Testing and Assessment by Jason Myrick.

Both books look very good, so why don't you treat yourself in the new year? Just click here for more information and to see what festive offers are available at present.

I am currently reading Moodle 2.0 First Look by Mary Couch. I hope to have a book review up on my blog in the New Year.

Til my next post coming up soon, enjoy the holidays!!

Friday, 24 December 2010

Happy Christmas Greetings from Abruzzo!

I would like to wish all my readers a very happy Christmas and all the very best for the New Year. This Christmas will be spent in Abruzzo. Weather conditions are looking good, but sadly no snow for the moment.

Below is an interesting seasonal video, which shows the sign of the times in this technology-driven era.

I think you will also enjoy looking through "The 12 Days of Edtech Christmas" by Sue Lyons-Jones from The PLN Staff Lounge.

Felicitacion Colegio Divina Pastora 2010
One of my lovely teachers from the summer Teachers' Refresher course at the Lake School of English has sent me this fantastic video of all her school taking part in a Christmas Greetings' video special. Thank you for sending me this wonderful video, Marga! More than 800 pupils took part in this event. That must have been incredible to organise it all! Many congratulations to all the teachers and pupils involved!

I would like to leave you with my all-time classic Christmas song favourite -"White Christmas", sung by Shania Twain.

Enjoy your well-deserved Christmas break!

Monday, 20 December 2010

An #ELTChat Podcast with a Crackling Backdrop!

I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Marisa Constantinides, straight after the Twitter ELTChat talk on Wednesday 24th November. Marisa is one of the wonderful moderators for ELTChat. The top topic discussed at 4pm (Rome time) on that particular afternoon was " Do ELT lessons need to have a theme or focus, or is it enough just to communicate using English?" It was a bitterly cold day in Abruzzo, and the fire was roaring and crackling away in my living room.

Image above of fireplace found on google search here

You can read the full transcript for that session by pressing on the link: It proved to be a lively discussion and I was very happy to join in with my views. The chance to exchange opinions on all manners of topics with teachers from around the globe on a given day and time, every Wednesday at either 3pm or 9pm GMT is really wonderful and is great for one's CPD (Continuing Personal Development).

While it was very cold in Abruzzo, in Athens the temperature that day was 24 degrees!
You can listen to the podcast interview with the background crackle and pop of the blazing fire here.
There is also another interview on the podcast, directly after mine has ended, with Erika Osváth on the subject of "Soft Skills" that teachers need when teaching. You can see the ELTChat transcript of that topic here.

Leahn Stanhope from Early EFL blog has also followed the discussion up with a very interesting and thought-provoking blog post called "Teachers: Born or Made?" Please do add to the comments on her blog. It is a fascinating question.

A seasonal Christmas message from all the wonderful ELTChat team on Twitter can be viewed here.

If you have never joined in the ELTChat discussions, why don't you pop in this Wednesday afternoon at 3pm or Wednesday evening at 9pm GMT? The sessions last approximately one hour.

The topics you can choose for the chat on Wednesday 22nd December are listed here. I have opted for the topic of "How can we overcome teacher burnout?" Please do join in on Wednesday if you can! All you need is a Twitter account, and then follow the hashtag #ELTChat.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

An Idiomatic Story: Defeating Writer's Block!

Walking along the deserted road in the gloomy fog, the lonely figure made its way wearily towards the village in the distance. He hadn't eaten or drunk for days and he was feeling undernourished and parched. What would he find up ahead? His thoughts lingered as he trudged slowly towards the looming houses.

Having lost everything he owed on the horses a few days before, he knew he would have to start from square one again. He was in the red, he knew it. He had blown everything on one last crazy gamble. He knew people would say he had lost his marbles, but he didn't give two hoots about them.

He came within sight of the main square of the tiny village. It was time to take the bull by the horns.....

Image above found on google search imagesbykids

Can you match the meanings below with the idioms highlighted in the story above?

What happened next???

I wrote this little paragraph a while ago, but for some reason I didn't publish it immediately. Then the days passed and I lost my inspiration, work took over and I realised that the reason was I didn't really have a title that grabbed MY attention. The original title was "An Idiomatic Story". The title was just so uninspiring, and that very fact was hindering my progress in a way.

Then today via Twitter I vaguely tweeted the following:"Still no inspiration for a blog post. I need to think of a title first. No title, no blog post! Usually full of titles, but not today!"

I received the following tweet by @becluwlib saying " Maybe 'overcoming writer's block's' would be a good title. :)". I replied "Yes, thanks! That's a good one - I think I'll just give myself a little bit more time :)". Well, the time has come now, and I have incorporated part of the advice in the title for this post, so many thanks indeed to Cari Teske from Conrad IA!

Again, the power of Twitter is amazing. So, I now have a blog post with a slightly offbeat title, which I am happy to publish. The challenge I had originally set myself was to create a short idiomatic story from a picture prompt. This is in preparation for my presentation at IATEFL Brighton 2011, which is on the theme of "Teaching Idioms".

The inspiration to challenge myself to writing an idiomatic story came from "Every Photo Tells a Story" blog. It's a fantastic source of images and a great resource for teachers. I really like it!

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Lauretum Vinum et Oleum

Set against the magnificent backdrop of Loreto Aprutino's historical quarter, we spent a very pleasant 3 hours last night at the Lauretum Vinum et Oleum Event. A wine and olive oil event which was fantastic and enjoyable. It was also extremely well organised and exhibitors from the local area were there to explain each of the different types of food and wine on offer. For the modest sum of 10 euros each, we were given a wineglass in a special pouch container to hang around our neck and 2 blocks of 15 tickets each for the samples of delights to come.

15 samples of individual wines, including Kudos, Aternum, ModA from the Cantine Talamonti and many more including delicious wines from Masciarelli.

15 tastings of local delicacies, all from around the Loreto Aprutino area.

No, before you ask, I did not get "legless" by the end of the evening, maybe just a bit happy! This was due to the fact that each sample of lovely wine was accompanied with solid bits of food, such as lentil soup, bean soup,cereal soup, lovely ham slices, lamb stew, "baccala", which is a type of very common salty fish, local "aprutina" tripe, lots of bread liberally covered in delicious olive oil, and I could go on. You get the picture..

The picture below shows you a painting housed in the Olive Oil museum of a family of workers relaxing during the olive picking season.

Part of the "Vinum et Oleum" tour involved going into the Acerbo Museum of Castelli Ceramics.
I loved viewing each delicate and intricate piece of Castelli ceramic art - 579 precious pieces, to be precise. The Loreto Aprutino museum houses the biggest collection of Castelli ceramics in Italy. They survived the Earthquake tremors from L'Aquila intact, whereas some of the pieces in the Castelli Ceramics Museum actually in Castelli, did not survive, and the museum remains closed to this day.

I love collecting Castelli ceramics, and I have a 1950s Castelli vase, which I was lucky enough to find in a second-hand shop for only 50 euros. One of my favourite possessions is this wash bowl with stand set below, which used to be in all the bedrooms of the old "casale", or farmhouses.

Below a flyer of the Wine and Olive Oil Event hosted by Loreto Aprutino.

I love this image below from the wall of the Olive Oil museum which shows a family gathered together for a group photo. I have a similar family photo from Abruzzo taken many years ago like this one, but it is still in one of my boxes somewhere. It's a piece of time stood still.

Below an image of our olives, a reminder that we live in an area blessed with abundant amounts of olive trees, a life force for many of the local famers. Some of the prestigious bottles of olive oil on display at the event cost up to 90 euros for a 750 ml bottle, a very special olive oil indeed! Olive oil has often been alluded to as "Liquid Gold" and I guess there must be a reason for this name.

You may also like to read:

If you are looking for somewhere to stay in Loreto, maybe this might be interesting for you. It certainly looks comfortable. B& B Lauretum.

Above you can see an edited image of where part of the fabulous event took place. Very Gothic -looking indeed!

A big thanks to the organisers "Lauretum Vinum et Oleum" for this wonderful event, now in its 5th successful year.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Janet's Nominations for the 2010 Edublog Awards

Here are my nominations for the 2010 Edublog Awards. Of course, it's always a difficult task to choose amongst the many worthy candidates for inclusion. I feel that everyone whose blog I follow should be up here alongside the individual ones I have selected. I would like to wish everyone the best of luck!

Best individual blog: English Raven by Jason Renshaw
Best individual tweeter: Shelly Terrell
Best new blog: Box of Chocolates by Cecilia Coelho
Best resource sharing blog:Cybrary Man's site
Most influential blog post: The 30 Goals Challenge - Shelly Terrell
Most influential tweet/series of tweets / tweet based discussion - #ELTchat
Best educational use of audio: Breaking News English - Sean Banville
Best educational use of video / visual: Teacher Training Videos by Russell Stannard
Best educational use of wiki: Celebr8UandMeDigitally by Eva Büyüksimkeşyan and Alexandra Francisco
Best educational use of a social network: English Companion ning
Lifetime award: The Edublogger by Sue Waters

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Book Review of Moodle 1.9: The English Teacher's Cookbook

I am very pleased to post this book review of Moodle 1.9: The English Teacher's Cookbook by Silvina P. Hillar, published in July 2010 by Packtpub. It consists of 80 fantastic and ready-to-use recipes to achieve some great results.

According to the blurb contained in the packtpub site "This cookbook provides a practical, step-by-step guide to building a complete reading comprehension, writing, and composition course in Moodle 1.9 starting with simple activities and ending with complex ones. It covers many features and techniques in order to allow you to organize your ideas to improve writing using Moodle as a virtual learning platform".

The big question is ...
does Moodle 1.9:The English Teacher's Cookbook actually do what it sets out to achieve? I believe it does, and in the process, I certainly learned a lot more about Moodle features and in addition, new Web 2.0 tools, which particularly interested me. I believe the blurb gives you a lot more practical information about the content of the book, so I will base my review on a few of the features that I particularly liked.

The book provides very clear and thorough step by step instructions on how to accomplish the many and various tasks that it demonstrates. I had a lot of fun trying out the different techniques. In particular I liked the "Let's Moodle it!" refrain that came before getting down to doing each task for yourself.
Below, I couldn't resist creating a Tagxedo cloud of key words in the shape of a cockerel.

The book starts off with easy to use activities, which will enhance your students' reading and writing skills and leads to more complex ones. The use of images plays a big role in creating the activities in Moodle 1.9:The English Teacher's Cookbook and there are many excellent practical examples.
I found out how to create a comic strip using MS word and adding silhuettes and speech bubbles like my basic example below. With more practice, I hope to create some more comic strips which I will add to this post in the future.

I really enjoyed creating this comic strip from Superherosquad. I learned how to do this in Chapter 8, "Creating New Sceneries", which showed fun and versatile ways to enhance writing skills.

You can print the strips straight from the web site and you can download the comic as a pdf. I created a screenshot and then saved the image to my computer, so it's fairly straightforward to use. I really like it!!

In chapter 9 I learned more about the design and upload of different mind maps, Venn diagrams or tree diagrams, which can be uploaded into the Moodle course. This prompted me to start experimenting more with the Smart Art feature on the Microsoft Word programme and led me to do a few digrams for my Powerpoint presentations as demonstrated in my Language in Motion:teaching with the flow ppt, for example.

Below you can see some of the mind mapping tools mentioned and demonstrated in The English Teacher's Cookbook.

You can have a look at the sample copy Chapter 5 -Creating Stories using Twitter and Facebook.
This is a topical chapter, which shows you how to use and embed these 2 popular social networking sites into your Moodle course. Again, the thorough and detailed step by step instructions help you to create and design interactive activities, which are bound to engage your learners! This chapter will give you a very good idea of how the rest of the book is written.

I would highly recommend Moodle 1.9:The English Teacher's Cookbook, because it contains a lot of lovely practical lesson ideas which can easily be incorporated into a Moodle course. I found some of the ideas a bit complex, but on the whole, as demonstrated above, I was able to follow the instructions and create some very nice visuals.

Please note:I have received a free e-copy of the book in exchange for writing this book review in my own time. I really enjoyed reading it and I am very happy to own a copy as a really useful reference guide to dip into for inspiration.

Coming soon!
I look forward to reading and reviewing "Moodle 2.0 First Look" by Mary Cooch. This will happen hopefully in the next few weeks, so watch this space!!

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Back into the Grove!

The cultivation of olive oil makes for a nice alternative to the day job. Recently it was a case of "straight off the plane from England, and into the grove". The olive grove now has 70 trees which were each individually handpicked for 3 days by myself and K. We aim to expand to 100 trees soon, with the help of Xmas and birthday present money from "la famiglia". The posts to mark where each young 2 or 3 -year-old tree will go have already been dug in, ready for the grand event. A 5-year-old olive tree costs 25 euros, and anything older costs much, much more.

I didn't get bored at all. I found it was a very relaxing exercise and the thought of being able to cook with 100% extra virgin olive oil for a whole year and beyond, was a big spur in terms of motivation. After a few initial showers, which hindered progress somewhat, the weather turned out to be perfect for olive picking. Blue skies, not too chilly and peace and quiet. The different types of olives and the colours were fascinating. Small, big, wrinkled, all sorts went into the bucket I had. Perched rather precariously along an embankment, some of the olive trees were a bit challenging for me to pick and I had to do so with great care.

I was aided and abetted by 4 chickens. We used to have 7, but 3 of them are now sadly defunct, due to being whisked away by external wild forces. Trying to remove Samantha from the branches was also a little bit tricky!

Below is a Tuxpi-edited "Swirl" image of Samantha.

Here's me relaxing on the edge of the embankment. Below you can see some more trees in the olive grove.

A view of the back of the car, fully loaded up with our freshly picked olives, ready to go to the local olive mill. We paid 30 euros to have the olives pressed and given back to us in containers. We then poured the lovely oil into a big stainless steel container, which now has pride of place in our cool (no central heating yet) hallway.

Can you guess which of the glasses below contain:

a) 2009 olive oil
b) 2010 olive oil (unfiltered)
c)2010 olive oil (freshly filtered)

If trends continue to go upwards, as indicated in the graph below, I wonder if in the future, I could devote myself more fully to the cultivation of olive oil? It would be something very exciting.

Here is a link to a post I wrote last year on the subject of olive oil cultivation in Abruzzo.
You might also like to read the latest post by About Abruzzo Blog, which tells you about the Abruzzo Sunday lunch that was recently cooked using some lovely olive oil. It sounds absolutely delicious!
Here is another interesting post you might like to read about Abruzzo olive oil.
Have a look at this video from the Guardian, which features "The olive harvest in Italy".
Many thanks to Bits'n'Bobs blog for letting me know about it!!

Before I sign off, I would like to add an image of little Al Capone, taken with his buddy Kelly, shortly before his unexpectedly sudden and rather dramatic demise a few weeks ago.

Lauretum Vinum et Oleum
The historic centre of Loreto Aprutino is hosting "Lauretum Vinum et Oleum" on 4, 5, 6 and 7th December. This offers visitors the chance to taste delicious local delicacies based on the local olive oil produced in the region, and sample the lovely local wine, all at the amazing price of 10 euros a head. The stunning and beautiful ceramics of Castelli will be on display in the Acerbo museum of Castelli ceramics, where part of the wine tasting takes place.

Image above of ornate Castelli pot found via Yahoo search on Castelli images

Here is a link to the information. K and I will be going to the event in Loreto Aprutino this Saturday. We'll miss you N and P!

Friday, 26 November 2010

IATEFL Brighton 2011 - Here I come!

I am delighted to inform my readers that my call for papers has been accepted for Brighton Iatefl 2011. My presentation is on "Teaching idioms effectively with web 2.0 tools". It will be my first time as a presenter at IATEFL.

Last year, the conference was in Harrogate and I wrote some feedback here. I also wrote a summary post of Tessa Woodward's really inspiring Plenary talk on "The Professional Life Cycles of Teachers". I was an online moderator on the Learning Technologies Forum and it was an amazing experience. Being in Brighton in person, and having the chance to meet so many members of my fabulous PLN, will be absolutely awesome, or should I say "wicked!"

I look forward to sharing my experiences in April 2011. See you there!

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Language Flowed in Rome at Tesol Italy!

I am still on a high after a whirlwind 2 days fully intensive and literally flowing and stimulating Tesol - Italy conference in Rome from Friday 19th November to Saturday 20th November. I would like to sum up my experience of my time at the 35th National Convention of Tesol Italy so that I will remember it for a long time. There were over 70 talks and presentations, but of course I couldn't attend all of them. I will give feedback on the talks that I was able to attend. I hope it will give you a little taste of what it was like to be there in person. Below is a priceless magazine souvenir from the conference, courtesy of bighugelabs.

Like last year, I stayed at the delightful and very welcoming Casa Betania, which is situated right next to the SGM conference centre. Sister Serafina welcomed me back with open arms and showed me to my room. After a long train journey from Chieti I was quite happy to retire for the night. I read a booklet about the life of Sister Scolastica, who is buried in the crypt of the church, right next to where I was staying. It was written in Italian and I was pleased that I was able to read it easily.

Talk 1
My first talk of the day was by Jenny Dooley, teacher trainer and ELT author. The title was "Developing communicative competence" and it was fantastic. I loved Jenny's style, presence and dramatic way of presenting. In addition, I loved her elegant LBD and choice of jewellery! She wowed her audience by being lively and very entertaining. "Activation" of the language is key to developing communicative competence, and with the use of mind maps and plans, students can be guided towards this objective. She discussed the merits of fluency over accuracy, the use of proper scaffolding, exposure to real-life language tasks, and the need to expose students to authentic materials. I agreed with everything Jenny said and it was good to be reminded of all these points.

Talk 2
"Sociable media and language learning" was a plenary session by Steven L. Thorne, the renowned author and researcher. I was fascinated by his talk and his research into statistics regarding the use of virtual worlds, including Second Life, computer games, FaceBook, Twitter and WoW (World of Warcraft), which I didn't really know a lot about. He also mentioned fan fiction authors such as Rebecca Black. Bring the world into your classroom was a key message. A lot of theoretical background information was imparted and I learned a lot. It opened my eyes to a new world. A world which could soon become an integral part of everybody's lives.....

Talk 3
"Good lessons: the role of flow and transformation" by Luke Prodromou, the well known ELT author and teacher trainer. This was an entertaining and practical session, which I enjoyed very much. Luke Prodromou was able to craft the session in a very skilful way, showing us examples of lessons with students he has taught. A variety of metaphors including music, were explored in a fun and motivating manner.

"Language in motion:teaching with the flow" was presented by Janet Bianchini, teacher, blogger and olive oil cultivator. She spoke about the new words coming into the English language like a fast-flowing torrent. How could teachers keep up with this ever rapid flux?

She outlined some sources where words came from, mostly from the Internet. She showed some web 2.0 tools that could be used effectively to teach, review and recycle new words. You can see her presentation here. For some unknown reason, she didn't feel at all nervous, even though it was her first big presentation at an international conference. She just "went with the flow" and enjoyed herself to the full!

Note to presenter: Next time, maybe at IATEFL Brighton (???), she should use a remote control to control the slides so that she can walk around and participate more with the audience?

She was asked some very pertinent questions by members of the audience, including the one below:

Q How do you know which words to teach, which words will "stick"?

A. Ermm, I don't really know, I just use my intuition and see how often the emerging word is used in the papers, internet etc.

Janet stressed to her audience that because of the evolving nature of English, she had to keep herself up to date the same as everyone else. Being a native speaker does not give her an extra advantage as a lot of the new words are new to her as well. Her fave site is

She demonstrated a few activities such as the one below. Can you match the pairs of words taken from the Top 20 words from Word Spy?

Did you guess them correctly? Below is their definition.

Hobby bobbies
Flash mobs
Laptop zombies

I have recently found out that there is an Abruzzo "CouchSurfing" wiki network.
Here is an informative post on "Searching and requesting a couch".

You might be interested in this article: 50 Coolest Online Tools for Word Nerds". I think it's a very useful collection of some great sites!

"Shaping the language of the future via the Internet" by Yulia Sergaeva from Russia was a very informative talk, which I enjoyed immensely. She is presently doing research in Neology and Lexical Creativity. I learned about Urban Dictionary containing examples of newly created slang terms.

I also found out about a delightful site called Verbotomy, where you have the chance to create a new word and definition in a competition. I had never heard of this site before, and so I will definitely be looking into it, as it looks fascinating and I love new words!! I was surprised to hear that the average age of the people who submit definitions for new words were in their '80s. Coining neologisms is an excellent brain exercise for "silver surfers". I also love the cartoons which accompany the activities.

This excellent talk finished at 6.15pm and it was time for the special event of the evening: "La Dolce Vite", a play on "La Dolce Vita", an evening of Italian cinema and wine tasting. Bocca di Gabbia , from Le Marche region, was the fabulous choice of wine and I enjoyed some glasses together with strong Parmesan cheese and lovely nibbles and canapes.

I mingled with teachers from all over Italy and abroad. I also chatted to the teachers of L'Aquila whom I had met in L'Aquila last month. It was lovely to see them again! Hopefully, I will be returning to L'Aquila in the new year to do another seminar there.

I hit the sack, very happy after a wonderful first day of events.

The following day I attended sessions until 2.15 pm. I had an action-packed and exciting morning.

"English as a Lingua Franca: idioms as tranlingual flows" by Luke Prodromou, was a great entertaining session, and I enjoyed the focus on idiomacity, "which by definition, is fluid and innovative and at the heart of ELF". Luke pointed out that stress and intonation must be observed for idioms to work. He also gave us some wonderful examples of what happens when students mix idioms up or don't use them appropriately.

The key to being fluent in English is "phraseological fluency". I always stress to my students that idioms, phrasal verbs and natural English (colloquial English) used in the correct context, are vital elements of becoming a proficient speaker of English. The puzzling aspect for students, however, is when an idiom is changed for fun as in "It was raining kittens and dogs!" or "That was a teacup of a storm!"

Image source:

"Learning English through the media: from language to culture" by Roberta Facchetti from the University of Verona was another highly interesting talk. The speaker demonstrated the topic with authentic materials, showing us lots of newspaper headlines, cartoons, comic strips and advertisements, which focused on the social life and cultural aspects of the English language.

Plenary: Talk8
"Flowing in new directions" was the wonderful talk by David Crystal, honorary professor of linguistics, prolific writer, editor, lecturer and broadcaster on Linguistics and the English language. I sat totally engrossed for the full 45 minutes of the talk. There was no Powerpoint presentation, no great fanfare. David Crystal stood and talked without notes, and brought his subject alive with his quietly spoken and convincing demeanour.

Language is like a river, with many new tributaries. Nothing is ever going to be the same again. Two important factors have changed everything: the Internet and Global language. The electronic world is taking over our lives! In fact at exactly 11.55 am, David Crystal coined a new phrase, which with the age of Twitter, would become a possible new word. That newly made up word is "retesolisation". One needs to respect the power of technology!

There is a seachange of language change as I write.
I was surprised to learn that in the future, varieties of Indian English will have a massive potential effect on the English language with phrases such as "I'm knowing it!" becoming commonplace. Note the use of "I'm loving it" - this expression is now no longer frowned upon and corrected. It has become a part of our daily usage. David Crystal stressed the plurality of the English language. We should teach this "global" English from a very early stage.
I was absolutely fascinated by the talk and it has provided me with great food for thought.

Talk 19
The final talk for me was Susanna Licciardi's session "Teaching language in the 21st century: the next platform in education". Susanna is a teacher trainer from Italy. I enjoyed her talk very much and I was able to identify with the challenges she mentioned facing teachers with regards the new media that surround us. "Smartphones, iPhones and iPods have broken the barrier to real communication in real time in the language classroom" Susanna explained. We also watched a very interesting video of what K12 pupils expect from their teachers - to be taught using technology, as that is the world in which they were born. There is no hiding place for teachers who refuse to adopt the new media. We have no choice but to learn about these new technologies. As David Crystal said, we are living in a "Brave New World" and we must deal with it. As teachers, though, are we ready and prepared to change the way we teach? Or will we get lost by the wayside?

Beautiful Flowing Music Rising from the Ruins

Before I left the conference, I attended a wonderful harp concert from a young girl, whose beloved harp was practically destroyed in the L'Aquila earthquake in April 2009. "Atlantide" rose again from the ashes, like the Phoenix, and I witnessed a fantastic and stunning performance from Claudia Pintaudi.

This lovely harp which had been buried under the rubble in Claudia's house for months, was for her, the symbol of rebirth. I was moved to tears. I sat amongst the brave teachers from L'Aquila, who had made me feel so at home in their city last month. The power of hope emanating from the sweet melodies being played so exquisitely by the young and beautiful harpist was something I will not forget in a long time.
Original image of Great concert harp from


I congratulate TESOL Italy for choosing such a topical and absolutely vital modern theme for the conference. Many thanks for providing an inspirational and wonderful event. I'm already looking forward to returning in 2011!!

Dear Marina, Rosanna and Tesol Italy team ,

I appreciated your very warm welcome. It really made me feel at home. Many thanks!

You may like to read this guest post I wrote in May 2010 on OUP ELT Blog called "Renew the Passion and Go with the Flow!"