Tuesday, 28 June 2011

OBI, RSS and QR Codes!

Image found on wikipedia here

There is a connection between these groups of letters, and one of them is an odd word out! Can you guess what it is? Well, the connection is that they have all been on my mind recently and the odd word out in a way is "OBI" as it is a name of a DIY shop in Pescara. The other two are acronyms linked to the Internet.

At the end of my post I have added a little comic test to review what these three groups of letters mean.

OBI and QR Codes
It all started in OBI, a local garden centre when I picked up one of their magazines and to my surprise, I noted that QR codes were on practically each page. I felt pleased that I recognised these as QR Codes! Only a few short months ago, I would not really have recognised them or indeed known the name or what the function of them was. Below is an example. Do you recognise it? They are now becoming ubiquitous, and I think they are definitely here to stay.If you would like to learn more about QR codes, you can read an excellent and comprehensive article written by Nicky Hockly from The Consultants-E. It's called Mobile learning - 9: A Dummies Guide to QR codes.

Below is a fantastic QR Code cartoon created by The Daring Librarian on Flickr.


You can read this excellent blog post by Gwyneth Anne Bronwynne Jones, aka The Daring Librarian, called Hot QR Codes in the Classroom, written in December 2010.

If you are interested in this area of technology, you can attend a free webinar on QR Codes On Saturday 30th July at the Reform Symposium presented by ShamblesGuru (Chris Smith). It promises to be very useful and extremely interesting!

ImageChef Custom Images

RSS or Really Simple Feed syndication

RSS? Well I have been discussing Really Simple Syndication with a group of online learners recently. Only a few short years ago, I didn't have a clue to what RSS refered to, but now I do!! I use my RSS feed on my blog sidebar to gather all the latest updates on my favourite blogs and links. It's time-saving and very convenient.

The Circle of Knowledge
So the circle is complete. I was in OBI, I saw the QR codes and I felt chuffed that I recognised them and had an idea of what they were. So like a few years ago when RSS was a new and alien concept for me, I don't have any real experience of how to actually use QR codes actively yet.
QR codes are relatively new for me now, but I would like to know much more about them as they seem to be everywhere. Maybe in the future, they will be commonplace for me like RSS feeds are now, and I will be using them effortlessly? Watch this space!

Comic Testing Items
In preparation for my talk at RSCON3 on using comics and cartoons, I have just created a little test for you using cartoons as a prompt. These questions will check if you have read this post including all the links carefully :-)


QR Codes 2011


Super Hero Squad Comics

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Abruzzo Diary of a Country Lady - Part 2: Voltaire & Wild Gardens

This view from home formed the basis of my recent "unplugged" lesson here.

A growing squadron of toads in pots, chickens crowing ever more heartily and fluffy kittens up olive trees is all part and parcel of the country jetset lifestyle. All slugs and snails have miraculously disappeared since I last wrote on this topic in Part 1, and I guess it's all due to these lovely creatures below, one of whom is seen squatting comfortably in my prized pots.

An image-edited photo of mum Samantha and kitten in the garden.

Wild Nature versus The Internet
The pull of nature or the pull of the Internet? These are things I have been thinking of recently. It's difficult to manage the two together as I can't be in two places at once. The more work I take on online, the less time I can devote to trying to keep the vegetable plot in order and tame the weeds that threaten to engulf the plot. This leads me to the next paragraph, where the eminent French gentleman below has a lot to answer for...

Il Faut Cultiver Votre Jardin
Voltaire famously wote these words in his mordant satire called Candide. I read this for my French degree and it made me realise that yes, it's true. A wild garden reveals a lot about the owners. You really have to "cultivate your garden" in the most basic sense of the words.

As I write the strimmer is whirring away in the distance. K valiantly and single-handedly trying to keep the ever growing jungle in check. The state of the garden is a constant topic of household conversation. Voltaire's words keep ringing in my ears. Why do these simple words have so much resonance after 32 years since I last read Candide??

"You have to cultivate your garden". If you don't cultivate your garden, it will become unruly and unmanageable. If it becomes wild and untameable, it will dominate your thoughts. If it dominates your thoughts, it will affect your life. If it affects your life, things will stand still. If things stand still, you are lost or doomed.

I guess that's the pretty hard-hitting message that I imagine is contained in these few simple words. So, what to do? Maybe this gentleman will have the answer?

Before I sign off to cultivate my garden, I'd just like to point out this great quote by Thoreau I found on this very interesting blog post simply called "Cultivate your garden". It's a good quote for discussion, don't you think? I'm not sure I agree with it entirely, though.

Anyone care to make a comment?

"In wildness is the preservation of the world."
You might also like to read this fantastic guest post by Eric Kane on Teaching Village blog, called "Proactive Discipline - Tend to your Garden". I love the gardening analogy!

Kittens in Olive Tree
Below is a short video of 3 of the kittens playing happily, freely and fearlessly amongst the olive tree branches high up. This video was taken this morning in the garden.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Oxford Blogs!

I've had the pleasure of teaching at the Lake School of English for just one very intensive week. I taught 2 lovely groups of students.

I spent some time helping my students to create their very first blog. First they created a google account and then went to blogger to register their blog name and address. You can see the fantastic results above and below. I feel very proud of their achievement.

Well done to Maria Anna, Maria Eugenia and Fenisia, seen above in an Oxford college.

Teaching Unplugged
In the morning classes I actually made a big effort to teach "Dogme" style, and I found that a lot of vocabulary soon filled the board as you can see in the second image. It was all language and questions that cropped up from this picture of the Abruzzo countryside where I live.

If you look more closely at my board work below, you can see some of my drawings! Can you spot the picture I drew of a dog? I am certainly no Picasso! As usual, chickens, cats and dogs played a major part in some of the questions and answers....

Getting Down To Phrasals!
I also enjoyed teaching my group of Primary school teachers in the afternoon. I taught my favourite sessions on Using Images, Phrasal Verbs and Britain Today. We discussed topical social issues and then went on to do some vocabulary work on a grand British tradition, the pub.

To bring up the topic of pubs I hid a bar mat in an envelope and played the 20 questions guessing game. I told my class that the envelope contained an object which was very common in Britain. It took only 5 guesses for beer mat to come up. I was very impressed! We then did some vocabulary related to pubs and reordered a dialogue.

I've enjoyed both classes and this week has flown by!

Below a photo of myself and Gosia, a lovely teacher from Poland. More photos to follow..

Thursday, 9 June 2011

The Fabulous PLN Challenge - Interview with Leahn from Early EFL

Brad Patterson's inspirational PLN Interview Challenge brought me to Leahn Stanhope, a member of my fab PLN. Leahn writes the lovely Early EFL blog and she lives and works by the beach in the Canary Islands. I was delighted when the opportunity arose to ask Leahn the PLN Challenge questions. Here below are the standard 5 questions with an extra two thrown in at the end.

1) If your students were to label you with 3 adjectives, what might they be?

FUNNY seems to be a word I hear a lot lately, and I hope they would say knowledgeable and patient.

2) What would we find in your refrigerator right now?

I’ve absolutely no idea! The shopping and cooking are left in the hands of my boyfriend. Let me just get up off the sofa and check. Okay, lots of salad stuff, fruit, chicken, sausages, feta cheese, camembert, olives, orange juice, eggs, melon, yoghurt and sandwich making stuff too!

3) If you weren’t a teacher, what might your profession be?

That’s such a difficult question. I know what I wouldn’t want to be but it’s much more difficult to say what I’d like to be. Perhaps a foreign aid worker, dog trainer or horse whisperer!

4) What do you find most difficult about the teaching profession, or What has been your most difficult class as a teacher?

Don’t get me started with TEFL (it’s a love-hate relationship). It’s great when you start out, but as you get older it’s much more difficult to put up with nine month contracts and working in the evenings! Luckily, I now work 10 months of the year and have a morning job!

I’ve been lucky with classes, most of the teaching I’ve done has been in private language schools. The most challenging teaching situation I’ve faced has been in the last three years working in the state system, which has meant large classes, mixed abilities, children with no pencils and teens with no motivation.

5) What was the last book/movie you read/saw, and what have you seen/read way too many times?

I’m mad about books and films. I’m currently reading a graded reader as I have a German exam on Thursday but I’ve got a Spanish book on the go too, it’s called La Catedral del Mar by Idelfonso Falcones. I love Isabel Allende. I can’t help re-reading her books. My all time favourite is Stories of Eva Luna.

The last film I saw was Babel with Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett. I love the Aliens films, the Lord of the Rings trilogy, ET, all the Star Wars films, Platoon and so many more. Just remembered, Gladiator, I must have seen it five times at least!

And here are the two extra questions!

As having quite a few furkids is a connection between us, can you share a few stories about 1 or 2 of your pets and how you first met them or got them?

At the moment we have 6 cats and 6 dogs. Three of the dogs are foster dogs. I seem to have been collecting animals over the past 6 years. I got involved in voluntary work for a cat British based cat charity called Twinkle Trust and the rest as they say is history.This is CC or Crissy as she’s called. I met her a couple of weeks before Christmas last year. She was sitting outside a big electrical and household store. It was really strange; she was just sitting on the door mat as people rushed in and out. As I walked in, I bent down to stroke her and was surprised because she was very friendly. I went in and bought my paint. Feeling guilty, I asked the security guard about her. He told me that he’d been feeding her for a few weeks. I reversed out of the parking lot thinking that it was fine. She had a feeder and she’d be okay. By the time I arrived home I’d decided to go back and get her. It has taken her ages to integrate into the household but now she’s a happy little cat..

What's the best part of living in the Canary Islands? (For me it was definitely the fab beaches!)

The weather, the beaches, the completely laid back pace of life here and most importantly wearing flip flops to go to work!

Thank you very much Leahn for answering these questions!

It was lovely getting to know Leahn a bit more and our love of furkids and our considerable combined collection of 27 of them is quite incredible, I think!! I lived on the same beautiful island in the Canaries (see photo above) as Leahn for a year in 1984. I also love Isabel Allende's the Stories of Eva Luna! So, quite a few connections between us both.

Leahn is an active member of ELTChat held on Twitter every Wednesday, and recently she summarised the "Storytelling" session held on May 18th. It's an excellent summary and contains lots of fantastic links and resources on this very interesting subject.

If you like, you can read another PLN interview on Eva's post "My Wonderful PLN -2".
Watch out for more PLN Interviews on Brad's blog here. Thanks Brad for coming up with this challenge!
You can read all about the Challenge Interviews on Dave Dodgson's amazing Scoop.it page as well.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Reform Symposium - Fab CPD for July 2011

If you are after a weekend full of fantastic free webinars and presentations for Continuous Professional Development purposes, then book your computer for the weekend beginning Friday 29th July to Sunday 31st July. The place is the Reform Symposium and you can find out all about it from the link.

Presenters from all over the world will be speaking on diverse subjects such as Technology Integration and Educational Reform and much, much more. The organisers are currently busy preparing for what promises to be a HUGE global event.

I am very pleased to say that I will be presenting on Saturday 30th July at 6pm UK time and my theme is going to be "Fun with Cartoons and Comics"!! I decided to do something new rather than a previous presentation, as that will give me motivation to do a bit of research over the coming weeks....I enjoy creating comics and using them in class, so the preparation should be great fun.

Janet's Daily Archives

I have looked through my archives and below you can read my feedback on RSCON 1 and RSCON 2.

2nd Reform Symposium in January 2011.

1st Reform Symposium in August 2010.

I'll keep you posted on the updates regarding the 3rd Reform Symposium. I do hope you will be able to attend some of the sessions, and that you will enjoy the whole amazing experience. I know you won't regret it!! You have two months to add this action-packed weekend to your diaries!!

Have a look at this post by What Ed Said blog called "10+ reasons to participate in RSCON3". I love the cartoon at the end!!

Here's another inspiring post to read about the forthcoming RSCON3 e-conference by iLearn Technology.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Abruzzo Diary of a Country Lady - Part 1

Chikita has just laid an egg!

I am awakened every single morning by the sound of vociferous crowing, not by a cockerel, but by the 4 chickens who happily reside "chez moi". I love this sound and it means they are so proud to have just laid an egg. I was delighted to be able to take this snapshot of Chikita who had just laid one of her fabulous daily white eggs. Berry is looking on waiting her turn to sit inside my plant tub that has now become the official laying area. The beautiful plant that used to reside here is no more, as it has been squashed mercilessly. This big green tub has also become the place for the cats to have a kip during the day. So all in all this area is now a centre of refuge, peace and calm for a lot of animals.

I saw one fleetingly the other day behind my pots and I let out a blood curdling scream, audible only to one man and many beasts.

"My dearest, what's up?" K asked casually as he ambled, yes, ambled towards the source of the screaming fit.

My face ashen white (slight embellishment here for dramatic effect), I pointed behind the pots next to the chicken pen.

"I've just seen a long black slithering hissing SNAKE!!"

" Yes, there are a lot in this area, you do know that, Jan, don't you??!!

Yes, I suppose I did, but at that particular moment, it didn't really help matters.

So where does one go from here? Does one abandon one's idyllic country lifestyle just due to a close encounter with one of its reptile residents?

The answer, of course, is No!! It's a part of the everyday mix of surprises and unexpected events that keep me fascinated with life in Abruzzo.

Every year in Cocullo, a village in Abruzzo, there is a festival in honour of snakes. Please read all about it in this Life In Abruzzo blog post "Getting Slippy at Cocullo Snake Festival". It's a fascinating read, and you will find out what an ophidiophiliac is!!!

Other Resident ReptilesImage of toad found here: http://i215.photobucket.com/albums/cc68/dalgarvenbooks/toads.jpg

The reptiles do not stop here, however. There are two resident toads who appear only at night time inside more of my pots. Yes, I can confirm they are ugly creatures, hence the term "as ugly as a toad". Now I can say that this comparative phrase is absolutely true.

I stared in utter fascination at a very unusual coloured toad sitting very comfortably and in a very relaxed state, right in the middle of one of my prized pots containing seedling carrots. On closer investigation, I discovered there was another toad buried underneath the soil under the top toad, so to speak.

If you are wondering what I am going to do with these carrot seedlings after being in such close proximity with 2 toads, I can confirm that I have chucked them into the compost bin and will start again from scratch. I don't think I would have the stomach to eat fresh carrots straight from a toad's mouth, would you??

Should I take a photo for posterity? The thought entered my mind. It was after midnight, the moon was shining bright ahead, and I was on my way to bed.

At this point I have to explain that my house is an old "casale" with living quarters downstairs (formerly the stables) and we have to go outside every night in order to get to the sleeping quarters. I find this is very quirky and I love it! It takes me almost an hour to get upstairs sometimes when I inspect each pot for the following creatures of the night:
  1. snails and
  2. slugs
I dutifully dispense of such creatures by genteely as befitting a country lady, flinging them back into the nature where they came from by means of a stick, which I always carry with me for such purposes. It's slightly tedious, but it's my routine now and I don't mind at all. .

Anyway, I digress!! Back to the toads!! I don't like them. They don't blink, they just stare ahead and I can't bring myself to hurl them genteely back into nature. I just can't. Full stop. Anyway, I have since found out that toads apparently eat slugs and snails, so now I'm thinking maybe that's not a bad thing.
In addition, if you would like to read about how toads can sense impending natural disasters such as the earthquake in L'Aquila in 2009, please click on the link from Italy Magazine called "Some croaking seismologists".

Fluffy KittensThe 4 kittens are growing and are in a very playful stage. I love watching them gambol around and they are absolutely adorable. Samantha who is still a kitten herself, is a wonderful mother and I enjoy watching how she teaches her little ones to copy her. They don't mind being picked up and are already very sociable kittens, with very definite characters.

Feeding time

So, as you can see, my life is surrounded by many diverse animals here in the beautiful Abruzzo countryside. I am learning from them on a daily basis.

The "Abruzzo Diary of a Country Lady - Part 2" might be imminent soon. I just feel that EFL is only one part of my life. I would like to write more often about the other totally different side of my life here in Abruzzo. This is the only place for it on my blog.

Poppy field near home, photo taken on May 30th 2011

Chikita the Movie Star

Chikita proudly showing off the fact that she's just laid an egg!

Friday, 3 June 2011


I'd like to say a heartfelt thanks to everyone from all the countries above, who reads or has read my blog in the past 2 years and a half since its birth in November 2008.

The figure 25,000 just seems to have a special touch about it and this is what my Clustrs map has just told me. This amount of viewers is very modest in comparison to a lot of the leading ELT bloggers. To me, it means a huge amount and I can't believe how my very modest blog has evolved since November 2008.

I have readers from over 100 countries from as far afield as Guam, Tanzania, Qatar, Belarus, Swaziland, Dominican Republic and it seems every corner of the world. I am absolutely thrilled and deeply touched. Thank you very much to every single person who has ever stopped by to see what this blog has to say!!

Design 565

Nothing much has changed from the original layout. In fact it has remained exactly the same. My one attempt to jazz it up and bring it to the modern world went totally unnoticed until I actually mentioned it to one of my fellow bloggers (thanks Chris) who actually said he liked the new style. However, I decided to re-instate the status quo without undue fuss and here it still is. Design 565 as seen below:

I have sometimes wondered if the blog layout is too fussy and cluttered, but then I actually like it this way and don't have the heart to make it minimalist, as that isn't my character. The same Voki cat is still here with the same message.

So, here's to the next 25,000 viewers or readers. I'll do my very best to write about EFL matters, Abruzzo news and anything else that randomly comes up in my life. This blog is my

  • personal and very public virtual Learning Diary
  • e-portfolio
  • repository of free lessons and lesson ideas
  • window to the world outside
  • daily source of inspiration
  • cherished labour of love

The Time To Blog Is Now!
If you do not have a blog and you are a teacher who wants to reflect on your teaching practice, listen to my words of wisdom: start a blog now! I can assure you, you will not regret it.
Below is a list of useful sites and information about blogs and blogging, which will help you learn more about this wonderful subject. Hopefully they will inspire you to want to set up your very own first blog:

Russell Stannard's Teacher Training Tutorials on Blogger.
The Edublogger's Introduction to Blogging
Larry Ferlazzo's "The Best Sources of Advice For Teachers (And Others!) On How To Be Better Bloggers"
Ed Blog Collection by Clive, Sir