Sunday, 27 February 2011

In the Money: Part 5 of "An Idiomatic Story"

Parts 1 - 4 of this evolving digital, multi-media Idiomatic Story can be viewed here.

Frederick's story continues via Dvolver, a great animation tool!

Lesson Tips for Students:
Watch the video again and find:
  • an idiom meaning to work very hard
  • 2 expressions which mean to make a lot of money
  • an idiom meaning to have a fantastic time
If you like, you could get your students to create a Dvolver scene of their own to show what happens next in this digital story, or they could create their own made up story to embed in their class blog or wiki.

Learn how to create a short animation Dvolver film here.
See Nik's Quick Shout for more tips on how to use Dvolver.
Study Easy Peasy Phrasals!

Next exciting installment Part 6: "In a Jam", coming very soon on a computer near you!!

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Winter Wonderland in Abruzzo & News Update

A very well wrapped up Janet in her favourite winter jumper!!

These are the wintry scenes that greeted me this morning. The weather forecast predicting buckets of snow proved to be correct! My concern is for the 20 young olive trees that were planted recently. Will they survive this patch of cold weather? Will the part of the house which has no roof yet, be ok?

The Dream
When we bought our abode a few years ago, there was a huge amount of work to do on it. Having sold our house in Oxford to buy this house outright, we were able to do up the kitchen and the upstairs sleeping quarters, slowly but surely. There is still lots of hard work left to do, but Rome wasn't built in a day!! Now, with an irregular source of income coming in from time to time (lol), each step is taking that little bit longer.... My optimistic aim and dream is for us to live off the land in the future and thus be completely self-sufficient.

Living off the Land - The Reality
Well, with each year that passes, we are getting a bit more off the land and via our livestock, namely from these eggceptionally lively chickens here. With fresh eggs being dutifully laid every day, we can make fresh pasta, pancakes, omelettes, fried eggs, scrambled eggs and so on. Unfortunately, the chicks haven't been laying as many eggs as usual during this cold spell, but egg production should pick up again very soon.

Last summer, we had enough tomatoes, peppers, runner beans, French beans, melons, cucumbers, lettuce, apples, peaches, olive oil, eggs, almonds, figs, a few cherries, pears, and various fresh herbs to keep us from the wolf's door. I need to learn so much, though, about farming the land and to be honest, it's still a hit and miss affair!! I can't say I've got green fingers, just lots of enthusiasm!

Soil, Humus and Manuring
I have just finished reading a fascinating horticultural book by Shewell Cooper called "Shewell Cooper's Guide to Soil, Humus & Manuring", published in 1952. I learned an incredible amount about the value of worms in the soil as a guide to the soil fertility, and found out more about the joys of composting. I enjoy making my own compost to put back into the land. I wrote a review of "How to Cook Compost" a while back, which you might like to read, if you are interested in this topic.

I also love dipping into "Food from your Garden". Published in 1977, this book is a fantastic compilation of everything you need to know about growing your own food. I bought it from Oxfam last year for a few pounds, and it was a real bargain! It contains a lot of fantastic and timeless tips which are highly relevant even in 2011!

News Update! New Seeta Course
I have signed up for another Professional Development mini course on the SEETA site. The tutor is Marisa Constantinides, a highly experienced teacher trainer, with her own teacher training centre in Athens.

The course title is "The Reading Challenge: Motivation and Creativity in Reading Lessons". It starts on 27th February for 7 days, so please do sign up, and learn with me and lots of other keen teachers!! I hope I can be a good student and keep up with the course content. A lot of people I know have already signed up, and it promises to be a very exciting and enriching few days of learning.

Why do I Blog?
I have just submitted a guest post on the subject of blogging to the British Council Teaching English site. It is an honour to be included as a blogging guest in the blogging marathon. You can read the post here.

Countdown Challenge
I have been featured in Bits 'n 'Bobs/Show and Tell blog recently. The "Countdown 28 Challenge", which ends on Monday 28th February, is of a very innovative nature. Will my suggestion of "is" as the final word on the 28th day of the countdown challenge be the one that is indeed chosen by the author? The tension is mounting...

Electronic Village Online - Digital Storytelling
This fantastic 5-week course on Digital Storytelling finished a few weeks ago, and I am planning to write a feedback post shortly with my impressions and some of the work I was inspired to create during the weekly sessions. Watch this space!!

An Idiomatic Story - A Series in Motion
I have been busy drafting more episodes for my digital series of An Idiomatic Story and have been experimenting with Bitstrips and Dvolver. This evolving series is very exciting, and I am having fun using different digital media and Web 2.0 tools. The story of Frederick and Isabella is developing in an interesting way. Anyway, I'm doing my best, and the latest installment is due out tomorrow. Can you ermm...feel the excitement bubbling away???

Post Scriptum
I was very surprised just now and delighted to see that Part 4 Go Animate installment has had 18 views since I created it a few days ago. Maybe I am doing something right? I hope so!!

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Badge Maker from Big Huge Labs

My tinkering with the Badge Maker came about from a comment on my blog by David Deubel. It led to my viewing his excellent blog and reading about something he had learned about. This was the cool Badge Maker feature on Big Huge Labs, one of my favourite photo editing tools. I hadn't noticed this Badge Maker facility before, and so I was curious to try it out after being inspired by David's post. It was quick, fun and easy to create, and I believe students will have fun creating their own badges for many different activities.

Students could easily create their own role play characters and design their badges accordingly. The badges can be saved to one's computer and / or printed off directly from the site.

In the example badge below, you can see details of me as a tourist guide!! I had great fun creating it. Why don't you give it a go in your classes and see what your students can come up with? You could get your students to imagine they are sales executives trying to pitch a sale for a particular product / holiday destination etc. It would make for a great mingle activity!

Thank you very much for bringing this tool to my attention, David!!

Monday, 21 February 2011

The Ultimate Word Search Maker

Looking through the archives of Nik Peachey's blog "Quick Shout" today, I came across this fab posting from July 2009 where Nik explains the merits of The Ultimate Word Search Maker. This is a great tool which allows you to create fast and easy to use word searches. Please read Nik's posting here to find out more.

What I really like about the Ultimate Word Search Maker is that it is easily embeddable into a blog or wiki. Try out this word search I made as a test!! All you need to do is click on the first and last letter of the word when you find it.

Make Your Own Word Search

Comic below inspired by
David Deubel's helpful suggestion in the comments section.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Life in Civitaquana on PhotoPeach

I have been inspired to create a new PhotoPeach slideshow after looking through the fabulous examples from participants on the excellent EVO Digital Storytelling course. I will be writing my feedback as soon as I can. Watch this space!

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Janet's First Vocaroo!!

Image above created easily via

Below I have embedded my very first Vocaroo. It was incredibly easy to use. Just click on "Record", say what you have to say and then press "Stop". You can then listen to your recording immediately. If you are happy with it, you can email the link to anyone you like, and the best part is that you can easily embed it in a blog or wiki post by just grabbing the "Embed code". You can sign up and register in order to keep all your Vocaroos in one place. If you don't, then the Vocaroo will disappear after a month or so. I think you need headphones to listen to the recording clearly.

You can listen to Russell Stannard's video tutorial on Vocaroo to learn more about how to use this very versatile tool! There is also an explanation of how to use another recording tool called MailVu.

Friday, 18 February 2011

Homage to Nicaragua

I wrote this poem as a result of my amazing trip to Nicaragua in 1996. My sister Giulietta was working there for Oxfam. Until today, this poem was hidden in a box, in the confines of an attic. Now it has been found, and I immediately knew I had to transform it into a Bookr.

When I wrote the poem in 1996, I had no idea about web 2.0 tools and it was written down on a simple bit of paper, which I kept and then lost. I am not a poet, but Nicaragua got to my soul. I will never forget the power it had over me. Below is my homage to this proud and remarkable country. I used each letter of the country to spell out my feelings. I hope you like it.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Feedback on CO11 Conference

Connecting Online 2011 was a great success, thanks to the brilliant organisation of Dr Nellie Deutsch and her Integrating Technology for Lifelong Learning team. It was a huge honour for me to take part as one of the 40 presenters over the 3-day free conference. It was a truly global affair and an exciting array of fabulous sessions took place. Please click on the link to see the presenters and to view all the video recordings! You can also view many of the actual slideshows here. I was able to attend the excellent "Leaping over the Ditch of Digital Illiteracy" by Silvia Purpuri, and the fabulous "Blended Instruction with Blogs and Wikis for Young Learners" by Shelly Terrell and Greta Sandler.

A very big thanks to all the 35 people who attended my session. I was thrilled to see everyone and it was so nice to recognise lots of the names! I greatly appreciated your support and kind words during the presentation.

I have embedded my slides (from the wiziq site) on Language in Motion:Teaching with the Flow so that you can see all the links and resources I shared at the end of the slides. I do hope you find this is useful! I haven't yet read through the lively chatbox but I will add any comments at the end of this post as soon as I have got round to doing it. I know I had a few "senior moments" (not able to remember something, due to my increasing age, lol !!!) during my talk and Marisa Constantinides, one of the founding members of the very popular Wednesday sessions of ELTChat on Twitter, very kindly reminded me of the "Call my Bluff" game I referred to on slide number 21. Can you guess which definition is correct??

Answers to above: 1a, 2b

For some reason unexplained, slide number 14 entitled"Mostly from the Internet" had a missing section, and I have done a screenshot of it below.

Below is an image I created using 3 new words jumbled up. As a fun activity, I invited the audience to match the pairs of new words. Can you guess what they are? Answers below!

Velcro + dog :
Flash + mob:
Slow + cinema:

I would definitely like to participate in CO12 next year and it would be lovely if anyone would like to join me and do a presentation there as well. I will add links and more information nearer the time!

Please view the slides in full screen for better effect.

CO11: Language in Motion: Teaching with the Flow by Janet Bianchini

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Reminder - CO11: Free Online Conference 5th, 6th, 7th February 2011

The CO11 Free Online Conference , organised by Integrating Technology for Active and Lifelong Learning will commence shortly on Friday 4th February!! There are over 40 great presenters that you can listen to over the course of the next 3 days. This conference will provide the perfect opportunity for you to learn more about how to integrate technology into your classes and the curriculum to improve instruction and learning. I wrote an earlier post about it here.

This fantastic free conference kicks off on Friday 4th February at midday (Rome Time) with a very interesting session by Silvia Purpuri called "Leaping over the Ditch of Digital Illiteracy".

On Saturday 5th February, I'll be attending Greta Sandler and Shelly Terrell's joint presentation called "Blended Instruction with Blogs and Wikis for Young Learners".

Janet's Presentation
I am very proud to be presenting on Saturday at 9pm (Rome Time). My presentation will focus on ways to teach new words flowing into the English language in an effective and memorable way using face to face and online instruction. You can find more details for the session here. I look forward to seeing you there!

YouTube Tutorial by @shamblesguru

Below is a screencast tutorial just created by @shamblesguru on Twitter. It shows you how the CO11 conference is organised via the WizIq platform.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Introduction to mLearning: Vimeo Feedback

Please press on the title at the top to see the video in full size!

Thanks to the excellent Introduction to mLearning course with Nicky Hockly from the ConsultantsE, it's given me the confidence to try out something completely new, and here it is!! I have just uploaded my Day 7 Task via Vimeo and I am very pleased with the video quality. I feel it is much better than the one done via Blogger on my previous blog post.

I uploaded my mLearning video from my computer to Vimeo very easily after seeing a message posted on Twitter via @ sandymillin regarding commenting on one of her student's work via Vimeo. To comment on a video, you need to be registered on the site, which is free. So, without hesitating too much, I took the plunge there and then, registered, and then was able to leave a comment. What happened next is what you see here!

mLearning in Practice
If you are interested in doing a fuller 6-week mLearning course directly with the ConsultantsE, then you might like to view the information on "mLearning in Practice", which tells you everything you need to know about it. The next start date is 03/05/2011. I would highly recommend it.

You can gain a great insight into the current mLearning in Practice course by reading "A Party With an Atmosphere" by one of the tutors and Directors, Gavin Dudeney.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Feedback on Introduction to m-Learning Course

Can you unravel the words in the wordle above, which form a motto that was repeated during the course? Answer at the end of this post!

The fantastic 7-day short introductory course on mLearning (Mobile Learning) conducted by Nicky Hockly, Director of Pedagogy of The Consultants-E has just finished. The course was hosted by SEETA. I took the course, because I was curious to learn more about what mLearning entailed. It lived up to all my expectations and I have come out of it, feeling much more confident as to its current and future implications within a teaching context. This article from Nicky's EModeration Station blog has provided some great resources connected to this topic and also helped me to understand it more: Mobile Learning-6: Six key m-learning resources.

The practical daily mLearning tasks, which were manageable, included the following:

  • looking at current research journals
  • reading carefully selected articles
  • viewing blogs relating to the topic matter
  • references to academic papers
  • viewing videos
  • learning about mLearning projects around the world
  • reading case studies
  • contributing to forum posts relevant to the topic
I liked the structured outline of the course very much as it enabled me to reflect and then exchange opinions with the rest of the group. The global participants came from a huge variety of teaching backgrounds with different skills and technology-based experience. All of us, however, were united by one common goal. We all wanted to learn and share as much as possible in the 7 days. Luckily, the course content will remain open for the forseeable future and this will allow participants to review the contents and if they wish, continue to post in the forums.

From Newbies to Techies
I considered myself a newbie regarding the use of Smartphones, iPads, iTouches, Androids and all the various "apps" that are currently available on the market. A lot of the participants already had some experience of using mobile or handheld devices in class. In this respect, it was a fantastic example of a typical mixed ability class, and a huge one at that, with over 260 people on the course!! Despite the high number of people attending, our very experienced moderator Nicky was able to handle all our different levels and needs very skillfully.

Here is a feedback summary of the course from the tutor's perspective: MOOCS, mLearning and mobseeta. Don't worry if you are asking yourself "What on earth is a MOOC when it's at home??" All is explained very clearly in the article and more besides.

Below is a quick cartoon I created which partly sums up my impressions.

mLearning 2011

Not Just Mobiles!
Before the course, I thought that mLearning meant learning solely with the use of a mobile phone. Well, I discovered that mLearning is NOT just about using mobiles. It involves a multitude of different things. A mobile device is any device that can easily be carried ie "portable". "Learning on the go", being able to access learning possibilities on the move, whether it's via an iPod, Apple iPad Touch, Apple iPhone, mp4, cell phone, Smartphone, camera and other handheld devices. Using Flip cameras to video record students, asking students to do research with any of these means, all of these form a part of the mLearning revolution that is happening around the world.

A Tinkering Mind
I have come to the gradual conclusion that maybe I have already been experimenting or indeed "tinkering" with some basic form of mLearning for some time now by:
  • using a portable laptop with projector in class
  • getting learners to email me tasks from their laptops
  • advising different sites and tools for learners to explore OUTSIDE the classroom
  • allowing students to use their electronic dictionaries for translation if necessary
  • getting learners to do basic tasks in the classroom using their handheld devices (once!)
  • directing teachers to various ning groups and blogs on the web
  • directing learners to relevant web 2.0 tools
  • directing teachers to do cool e-courses such as this one!
  • advising learners how to develop their interest outside the class via their laptops
  • advising learners about Internet sites where they could expand and deepen their learning
Engage Me!
What I will remember from the course is that we as educators have to prepare ourselves for the Brave New Technology - based World of the Future. We cannot stop still and hope that this digital revolution will go away. It won't go away!! Let's embrace it and see where it takes us! It's here to stay. Young children nowadays expect their teachers to be up to date with what technology has to offer.

iPhone Info
The course has actually made me interested in finding out more about the different devices that I read about and in particular, the iPhone, caught my eye. I have started to build up a list of useful bookmarks for me to read, including the links below.

Larry Ferlazzo has just posted "The Best Sites For Beginning iPhone Users Like Me". It includes a list of great apps that can be added to the iPhone.

Here is an article found via my co-learner Lesley Ciocarelli comparing the iPhone 4 and the iPhone 3GS.

Further Bookmarked Articles
Cell Phone Computers or Mobile Learning Devices (MLDs).

Blackboards to Blackberries:Mobile Learning Buzzes across Schools and Universities"

Build an App for Nokia Phones by Free Technology for Teachers.

A Huge Thank You to Nicky, SEETA and my Fellow Course Participants!
I would like to say thank you once again to my fantastic tutor Nicky and also to SEETA for hosting this very special course. It has made me reflect about many new things and has directed me towards accepting that the future of mLearning has already arrived. Thanks also to all my co-learners on the course. It was great fun to share these 7 days with you all! Let's keep in contact.

M-learning motto which evolved via Lesley and everyone on the course! "Get ready, start slow, use what you have!"

Below is a video just done from my digital camera!! I have Kelly with me, who is recovering from being ill and Joey, who is very camera shy! In the background you can see Samantha viewing us with interest. I didn't realise she was there at the time. I am in front of my olive trees! The video quality isn't brilliant, and I'll have to learn how to improve on that if I can.