Tuesday, 29 March 2011

A Wordle in the Gallery

Dave Dodgson from Reflections of a Teacher and Learner blog set a very inspiring challenge during his excellent presentation on Word Clouds at the 4th Virtual Round Table. He asked fellow bloggers to create a word cloud from the current URL of their blogs and then to answer the following questions.

  • What does it tell you about the content of your writing?
  • What does it tell you about your writing style and use of vocabulary?
  • Is there anything that surprised you?
Well, not surprisingly, my Wordle can be summarised using the following key words:

I enjoyed the fabulous online Seeta Reading Challenge course with Marisa and teachers, because of the many lovely digital texts, activities a
nd resources that everyone shared!

One thing that strikes me is the juxtaposition of the word "time" near "day. This refers to the fact that I recently haven't had much free time during the day due to my recent virtual and face to face presentations. It's a coincidence, I feel.

It looks as if my wordle is dominated by the recent Reading course challenge. Maybe this is because I enjoyed it so much!

My choice of vocabulary seems to be quite simple judging from the words generated, and I feel that is a bit odd. I do try my best to write as interestingly as possible and yet, there are no unusual or difficult level words at all!

My wordle also contains references to the recent devastating earthquake in Japan, and you can read My Message to Yokko in Japan.

There is more about the earthquake from Barbara Sakamoto's moving and very insightful posts about the aftermath and also how people can help here.

Thank you very much Dave for setting such a lovely challenge! You can read about all the bloggers who have also done the challenge here.

There is only one reference to "cat", and no references at all to the rest of my menagerie, and so Wordle hasn't really represented the contents of my blog very accurately!! I therefore decided to create a Tagxedo in the shape of a dog to make up for this absence, and here is the image below with quite a lot of different words.

Technology, Twitter, conference, blog, English, Abruzzo and virtual - all figure prominently and I believe this is an accurate reflection of what my blog is all about.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

4th Virtual Round Table -Janet's Presentation On Digital Storytelling

As promised during my 4th Virtual Round Table presentation on "Storytelling in the Digital Era" I have embedded the slideshare in this post for you to view it. You can link to the live sites from each slide. For viewing all the episodes to date of my "Idiomatic Digital Story", you can press on the IATEFL Brighton label here. I am hoping to come to the conclusion of this Evolving Idiomatic Digital story by inviting my students at the Lake School of English to come up with a suitable ending. If not, then I will have to get my thinking cap on rather snappily before April 17th!!

Embedded below is the official Virtual Round Table 2011 Animoto Highlights. The lyrics were composed by Heike Philp and they are sung brilliantly by Sue Lyons-Jones.

Despite the butterflies circling a few moments beforehand, I managed to get into the swing of things and I thoroughly enjoyed my live virtual session.

Many thanks to everyone from around the world who attended. I recognised many names from my PLN! It was lovely to see Jane and Carmel from the Lake School of English!! Thank you for your support.

A huge thanks to the brilliant organisers, Heike Philp, Berni Wall and Shelly Terrell.

Click for details of the recording of my presentation here.

You can expand the viewing box by clicking on the full icon below.

Storytelling in the Digital Era

I attended Barbara Sakamoto's fabulous webinar called Little Tech for Big Result. It contains many great examples of how young students can create lovely stories and projects with low technology tools. Here is a list of the fab tools she showed us on her wiki here.

I also attended a wonderful session on Storytelling in ESL Classroom by Faisal Al Shamali.

Visit Virtual Round Table Conference

Friday, 25 March 2011

Standing Out in L'Aquila!

I couldn't resist the title and you can see why above. This piece of realia was used to demonstrate the meaning of "stand out from the crowd" during my Fun with Phrasal Verbs! workshop yesterday in L'Aquila, Abruzzo. I had a fabulous time and 2 hours shot by!!

Below you can see the spectacular mountain scenery as we approached l'Aquila.

Thank you Annamaria and all teachers for welcoming me back with open arms!! I really enjoyed my stay with you all and the buffet and "Ferratelle" you provided at the end were all yummy!! I hope to see you all again soon.

Some photos taken of the group of very enthusiastic teachers!! There were 15 teachers in total. Thank you so much for attending!

Below is my presention on phrasal verbs, which I have published via Youblisher.

Fun Phrasal Verbs in L'Aquila 2011

Sorytelling in the Digital Era
I am doing another presentation tomorrow at the 4th Virtual Round Table Conference!! This time it will be online. Fingers crossed it'll be ok!!

Please do join in with this fabulous free online conference, which started today. There are many exciting presentations all day tomorrow until Sunday! Below is the full timetable of events. See you online soon??


Saturday, 19 March 2011

Seeta:Reading Challenge Feedback!

I entered the Seeta Reading Challenge e-course with great excitement. An educator whom I have admired from afar for a long time was to be my tutor. This wonderful tutor was Marisa Constantinides. She organised a fantastic 7-day course on Moodle. It proved to be a real challenge for me and one which pushed me in all the right directions. It was lovely to be a student once again amongst members of my PLN. By chance, the week in question was a good one, because on a few of the days, I had slightly more free time than usual. This was a very fortuitous sign. I approached the course with gusto. This means "with pleasure and enthusiasm".

I would like to share the 3 main activities for reading lessons that I created during the course. I don't think I've worked as hard as this in a long time (lol), and it is all thanks to the excellent motivational skills of Marisa. At one point due to other pressing engagements that cropped up, I wasn't sure if I could do everything. My way to get round the lack of time was to stay up burning the midnight oil and I was able to achieve the tasks.

Day 2 Seeta Reading Challenge: The Man with the Golden Voice
Ted Williams below was part of my reading task for Day 2 of the Seeta Reading Challenge. You may be thinking why is he here? Well, I had to find a text and then devise a series of pre-reading tasks to use with the text. Photo below edited with photofunia

You can read the set of activities that I have published via www.youblisher.com. It's a free and very fast tool, which converts your pdfs into nice-looking "books". These booklets can then be easily embedded on a blog or wiki! Please click on the book to view the activities inside.

The Man with the Golden Voice

Day 5 Seeta Reading Challenge:The Cat that got the Cream
Cats seem to follow me wherever I go online. It can't be helped, I suppose. 3 of them are a part of my life and one of them is my dedicated and trusty logo. The Cat that got the Cream comes as a direct result of a very challenging piece of homework that was set for Day 5 Reading Challenge. We had to devise a set of creative activities for an authentic reading text of our choice.

Below is part of my lesson plan.

I was informed yesterday that my slideshare of this particular lesson plan was a "hot Twitter topic" of the day!

Day 6 Seeta Reading Challenge:Physical Training in Your DreamsPlease see below a list of activities that I created for the Day 6 reading challenge task. Marisa asked us to create some pre-reading, while reading and post-reading activities to share with the group. We had to use the techniques that we had read about in the resources and reading materials that Marisa had included as reading matter every day.

I actually thought of all these activities in the car during our weekly expedition to Penne for our shopping. I was exceptionally quiet and very focused. I just brainstormed a list of things to do with the text that Marisa had kindly supplied us. I really enjoyed having to think up the following tasks, which are, I hasten to add in mixed up order.

I caused my dear tutor a bit of a headache by submitting this homework in this mixed up format. I owe her a few drinks in Brighton as a most humble apology!!

Final Thoughts
I wish to thank Marisa for a wonderful course, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Marisa was able to skillfully select the right level of stimulating reading tasks, and I felt refreshed as a teacher after the course had finished. It made me question some of my methods and it made me want to incorporate new ideas and strategies in dealing with reading skills. A lot of web 2.0 tools were incorporated into the Moodle platform by our expert tutor. It was a great experience for a lot of us to try out new tools in a relaxed and stimulating environment.

I have only included a taster of the course content. There was much, much more!! A lot of superb materials for teaching effective reading skills were shared on the course, and I can't wait to try them out in my upcoming lessons!!

In particular, this post on Advance Organisers was very practical and good background reading matter.
This post on "Tech Tools & Pedagogy 2 - Word Clouds" was great as a review of all the different word clouds that are available.
I also enjoyed this post on "Embedding Creative Thinking Skills Training into our EFL Practice."

Although the Reading Challenge course is officially now over, it is still open if you would like to find out about the reading challenge. All you have to do is register on the Seeta site! There are some more fab courses coming up as well!

Finally, I would like to say many thanks to my co-participants on the course. Together we shared a lot of experiences, resources, ideas, techniques, advice and it was amazing. Most of all, it was great fun learning together!!

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

A Message to Yokko in Japan

Flower Text - ImageChef.com

During the past few days of momentous upheaval in Japan due to the devastating earthquake and consequent Tsunami , my thoughts and prayers have been with my former Japanese students and friends I know.

In particular, I have been in regular daily email contact with Yokko, my lovely EFL student from way back in 1988. I taught her 1-1 English via Sheakespeare's plays. I have always considered this to be one of the more unusual series of lessons I've ever taught.

Yokko comes from Hiratsuka, near Tokyo. I have heard from her perspective about how the earthquake has affected her daily life. Luckily, she and her family are ok. There was a quake yesterday near her home in Tokyo, which measured M.4. She has been able to go back to the office along with 80% of her colleagues. She spent the actual night of the earthquake in her office, without knowing whether other family members were safe and sound. I was so happy that she answered the mail I sent to her shortly after the events unfolded, and we have established regular contact with updates ever since.

This morning I felt touched that she asked me about how my furkids were. I responded and mentioned that the chicks aren't laying so many eggs due to the cold.

I can't imagine how everyone is coping, but cope they must, in order to get on with their every day lives.

My thoughts and prayers are not only with the people I know personally, but for everyone involved.

Below are 2 blogs I read regularly, which have featured news of the recent tragic events.

Barbara Sakamoto, an English teacher and author, who lives in Japan, has written on this subject in these posts below:
Aftershocks 2

Richard Byrne from Free Technology for Teachers blog has posted up some resources outlining the recent events for teachers to use and share here

I believe it is important to read, talk about and discuss the issues involved with our students in classes. Real life issues such as these shouldn't ever be hidden away and ignored.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

My Forthcoming Presentation is.....

...... at the 4th Virtual Round Table e-Conference on Saturday March 26th at 10.30am GMT. My talk is on "Storytelling in the Digital Era." I am really looking forward to presenting at this fantastic online conference again!

This free online conference takes place from Friday March 25th to Sunday March 27th and it is hosted by Heike Philp, Shelly Terrell and Berni Wall!! There will be many great presenters talking about language learning technologies. The sessions will be of interest to all educators keen to learn more about current practices. Please click here to see the full exciting schedule of events.

I must get my skates on though, as I need to finalise my presentation this week for an online dress rehearsal!

I do hope to see you online at the 4th Virtual Round Table e-conference!!

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Moodle - Packtpub March offers!

Are you in the Mood-le for some fabulous offers via Packtpub? Packt is currently running a Moodle March campaign this month on its website. As part of the campaign, Packt is offering an exclusive discount on all its Moodle books to celebrate the forthcoming publication of the Science Teaching with Moodle 2.0 book. Here is the link which explains it in detail: Moodle March. A percentage of all sales go towards the Moodle Trust. You can read more about this here.

Update on Latest Packtpub Moodle Books
Packtpub has just published 2 new books on Moodle. Have a look at the links below.

Moodle 2.0 First Look - Book review
Soon I will hopefully be posting a review of the latest book by Mary Cooch called "Moodle 2.0 First Look". Watch this space!

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Max My Dream: Part 7 of A Digital Story: Frederick's Descent into The Abyss

Press on the link above to see what Frederick was dreaming of as he descended into the abyss waiting in the depths below him. As you are viewing him fall, can you imagine the answers to the following questions?

  • Which 3 things were on his mind?
  • Who was he thinking of and why?
  • How had he got himself into this pickle?
  • Which idiom springs to mind when you view the dream sequence?
  • What was going to happen to him next?
  • Where in the world would he rather be?
  • What very quick and snappy question would you like to ask Frederick as he is tumbling down?
Try out this cool site called "Max My Dream!" I have discovered it via my fabulous Twitter PLN recently. You just write down what your dream is and press on the link, and you will see your dream visualised!! It's very clever indeed! If the background noise bothers you, simply unclick the sound icon at the top.

I have just remembered where I first saw Max My Dream and it was on Ana Maria's Life Feast blog. You can view it here.

Friday, 4 March 2011

In A Jam! - Part 6 of An Idiomatic Story

Frederick gets into a bit of a jam or indeed a pickle in this episode of an evolving digital and Idiomatic Story. Both these idioms mean that Frederick gets into trouble!

I have used Bitstrips, a nifty comic strip maker to embellish my digital and idiomatic story. I first found out about Bitstrips via Ana Maria's fantastic Life Feast Blog here. This tool is easily embeddable as a sliding strip or as an image. It has lots of lovely functional features which I found easy to use. The comic strip only took a few minutes to create.

I have included both types of style as I can't make up my mind which is better. I like them both!! Do you have a preference??

Please click on the image below to enlarge it.

You can view a YouTube video of the amazing effect Bitstrips has had on motivating school children to create comics here.

The Future of Frederick and Isabella is Up in the Air!
I feel that Frederick needs to be brought back to Isabella very, very soon. The reason being is that they have to have a meaningful ending before my presentation at IATEFL Brighton, where I hope to introduce this story to the audience. A suitable conclusion to this evolving story is therefore on the cards.

... maybe I could leave it as an open-ended grand finale and let the audience decide on how it should end?? I will have to put my thinking cap on for this proposition.....

Anyway, the next exciting installment will be "The Brutal Road" - Part 7 of An Idiomatic Story.
I have no idea what this chapter will consist of. I just like the title, so hopefully my creative juices will start flowing soon..

More Lovely Idioms!
For some enjoyable lessons on Idioms, please take a look at a Clil to Climb's blog posts featuring some fabulous idioms, in particular FOOD idioms here and here. However, I have to confess, I absolutely love Chiew's amazing interactive EGG idioms! They are right up my street, so to speak, what with my Chicks'R'us..

Looking for Caterina:Continue the Story
If you are up for an even more exciting storytelling challenge, why don't you have a read of this amazing interactive opportunity to continue a love story???
ProfesorBaker has set a challenge: to bring a Princess and a Pauper together. The title is "Looking for Catarina". Why don't you try it??

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Goal 18: Share A Story - 30 Goals Challenge

Inspired by Shelly Terrell's brilliant and inspiring series of posts, this one - Goal 18: Share a Story 30 Goals Challenge, has prompted me to share the following piece of writing which I did recently on my fab EVO Digital Storytelling course.

One of the Week 2 tasks was to post about an object which had a special significance in our life. I didn't have to think too much about the one special object which had helped transform me into who I am today. The single act of owning my very own computer helped liberate me from the irrational fear I once had about technology. I would like to share the story of my change here, and hopefully it may inspire someone else to promote a change which will have positive effects. As Shelly says, stepping out of one's comfort zone, to embrace change is essential for us to transform ourselves. Find out more about this quote - "Soil is the substance of transformation."
I have just read "Soil" by David Warr. It is an amazing post.

It's a coincidence that I mentioned I'm avidly reading "Soil, Humus and Manure" the other day. A very apt and topical subject!! You might also like to view "The Good Earth", a post I wrote a few years ago and which ties in with the same theme....Soil is definitely the topic of the day!!

The image above is one of my favourite ones and I have posted it before. I have just added a tuxpi colour swirl effect to change it a little bit.

My Computer

I can't imagine my life without my faithful and vintage computer. It has become an integral part of my daily existence. Its meaning is immeasurable. And yet, just a few short years ago, this simply wasn't the case at all.

I was a true "technophobe". I lived a simple life. Creating lesson activities using basic Word on the school computer, sending a few emails to friends every now and then. That was it.
No Powerpoint presentations, no Twitter, no blogging, no Web 2.0 tools, no Flickr, no Facebook. A very simple and easy life indeed!

Until that is, something happened which was to change my life overnight. The one and only computer we had, which belonged to my husband, and which he used for his work at home, crashed. It died a slow, painful death, sometime in November 2008. We had to buy a new computer to save the day. It was then I decided that I would like to have my very own computer, but only if the "dead" one could be brought back to life again. My logic in this was that if a computer had already sunk to its lowest depth, then a technophobe like me would have no worries if I accidentally "broke" it again. It wouldn't matter to anybody else but myself. The computer had already "been there, done that and got the T-shirt" to prove itself.

Armed with this very basic logic, and with ever increasing confidence, I set about actually using the computer as you see above, slowly but surely on a more regular basis. I began to use a webcam, I started to Skype with my former colleagues at the Lake School in Oxford, sometimes joining in with the monthly Academic Meetings.

My new world in the Abruzzo countryside with only the gentle patter of hundreds of sheep occasionally roaming past, the swaying of olive tree branches, the barking of wild dogs, the occasional sound of gunshots being fired from hunters seeking wild boar, the chickens clucking merrily away, all these things blended gracefully into my new adventure with technology.

If it weren't for my Gateway 865OGB computer, I wouldn't be doing this Digital Storytelling course today.

I owe it my life, which is full of exciting technology. I will hang onto it tenaciously until the day it eventually bites the dust.

Until that fateful moment comes, it will continue to be my Gateway to the outside world.