Friday, 30 September 2011

SEETA: Humanism and Modern Technology

Comic created with Comic Builder.

I have recently attended another excellent free online course thanks to Seeta (South Eastern Europe Teacher Association), called Humanism and Modern Technology. Our very knowledgeable and highly experienced tutor was Hanna Kryszewska , a teacher trainer, the editor of Humanising Language Teaching Magazine, and also a renowned author and co-author of many books including Learner Based Teaching by OUP.

I have "The Standby Book" in my library from Cambridge University Press. It contains a lot of practical ideas from my tutor :-)

Below is a wordsearch puzzle I have created for fun from The Ultimate Word Search Maker. See how long it takes you to find all the words hidden in the puzzle! How do you think the words are connected to the course?

Make Your Own Word Search

What is Humanism?
Humanism is an approach in study, philosophy or practice that focuses on human values and concerns. You can read further information about the meaning of this word from Wikipedia.

The course brought humanism and modern technology together and required us to reflect on our current teaching practice.

Humanism values creativity and we explored how to use web 2.0 tools selectively and creatively. I hope the 6 tools I have chosen for this blog post reflect this creativity.
Self-directed learning is also one of the key traits of humanism. I have often written about the classroom without walls that is now available to all of us. For our own Continuous professional Development, it really is up to us to become our own Director of Studies in this modern era.

The Course

The course did not have many attendees for some reason, but no matter, the few who did attend made the most of the discussions and debate that was generated and it was very enjoyable to participate actively. In particular, I shared many interesting discussions with Lesley Cioccarelli, whom I had met on a previous SEETA M-Learning course.

Lesley has just written a fantastic feedback post entitled Humanism and Modern Technology - another fabulous SEETA course.

One of the tasks was to use a new tool of our choice. I chose and wrote about Storybird. I have embedded a rather large Fotobabble below, which explains my choice of tool.

Our tutor Hanna divided the course into 5 main topic areas, each section with a 2-day gap inbetween. I liked this, as it enabled me to keep up with the course content, which was very interesting and challenging. Each section consisted of a question, links to excellent resources and then a task in a forum discussion. I got a lot out of this course as it made me think of the way I teach and use technology with teachers who maybe are resistant to change. We delved into the reasons for this resistance and I will definitely bear this in mind in future teacher refresher courses.

A Change of Attitude in the 50s
I too was resistant to change in the past and it took me until I was in my 50s to actually begin to embrace the Brave New World of Technology. I must never, ever forget the scary feelings I had at the beginning towards the road to accepting that I had to change, otherwise I would get left behind!! This push came from myself. Nobody forced me or put pressure on me to change my attitude.

A Self-Fulfilling Prophecy
Just remember one thing: You are never too old to learn new things!!! It might sound like a cliche, but honestly if you tell yourself you are "too old, too comfortable in my present situation, too this, too that", you are actually doing your own future a great disservice! You are actually stopping yourself from personal growth and development, by the words that you choose to use. So the answer lies below in the comic:

Comic created with ArtisanCam.

Audioboo Thanks
Finally, a special word of thanks via Audioboo!
I am still very new to this podcasting tool, so for some reason the sound cuts out in some places. I have got lots to learn still!

SEETA:Humanism and Modern Technology Feedback (mp3)

Useful References
Teaching Online
Blended Learning
How to Teach English with Technology
8 Keys to Integrating Technology into the Classroom
A Teacher's Guide To Web 2.0 at School
View more presentations from Sacha Chua

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Photo Blog Challenge: Compare and Contrast

Blog challenge everyone! Contrast and compare! Two photos, similar but different!

How could any blogger resist such a challenge?? Here are my 2 photos, similar but different! They were both taken on the same day in the "garden" (now formally known as "The Jungle".

Challenge Questions:
What fruit am I holding in Picture 1?
What's the name of my dog?
How come there are so many Janets in Picture 2?

Picture 1

Picture 2

I was challenged by Anne Hodgson this evening and Brad Patterson via Twitter to join in the fun with the Photo Blog Compare and Contrast Challenge. This challenge has been instigated as a result of Anne's blog post entitled Compare and Contrast.

Brad posted up 2 lovely photos here and opened up the challenge to the rest of his PLN. Within hours, quite a few keen bloggers had submitted their posts, amongst whom are the following with their fantastic photos:

Larry Ferlazzo's challenge is here.
Jeremy Harmer's challenge is here.
Tara Benwell's challenge is here.
Mike Harrison's challenge is here.
Ceri Jones' challenge is here.
Chiew Pang's challenge is here.
Chris from Bits & Bobs challenge is here.
Jason Renshaw's challenge is here.
Baiba Svenca's challenge is here.
Karenne Sylvester's challenge is here.
Cecilia lemos' challenge is here.

Anybody else fancy joining in the fun? These pictures would be great for exam style "compare and contrast" activities and also for getting your students to discuss different topics.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Playing with Bubblr!

Bubblr by PimPamPum is a fun tool to create comic strips using Creative Commons' photos from flickr. I was able to create this short "Abruzzo Magic" photo strip by simply typing in "Abruzzo" in the Tag box. 16 photos immediately came up from the flickr database of images. I just clicked and dragged each photo into the strip, and added a caption. Hey presto! As easy as pie!!
You can even use your own images on flickr, if you like.

Please press this link here- Abruzzo Magic - to see the Bubblr on the original PimPamPum site, as the image strip you see below is quite small.

You can view this short and excellent You Tube video tutorial on how to use Bubblr as part of Using Web 2.0 in Key Stage 3 History, by Kerry Wensley, an ICT and History teacher from Nottingham, England. I am really impressed with the results of the history projects that Kerry's pupils created using a selection of fun web 2.0 tools.

I first came across this very informative video via Jose Picardo's lovely A Box of Tricks blog.

More links about Bubblr!
Nik Peachey has created an excellent video tutorial on how to create a Bubblr on his Nik's Daily English Activities blog.

Teacher Training Videos as usual offers very clear instructions on making a Bubblr.

Ozge's wonderful blog is doing a series on A - Z Web Tools. You can read all the tools beginining with "B" in this post here. It also includes Bubblr, of course :-)

Ana Maria from Life Feast blog has written up a great post on Exploring PIMPAMPUM.

ChristinaSkyBox has a fab post on Ice Breaking with Bubblr and Fotobabble.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Storybird: Fluffy The Mouse-Catcher

I am proud to display my very first Storybird on my blog.

I had been meaning to create a Storybird for ages, but had never got round to doing one. Now as a result of being a participant on the fantastic free SEETA e-course called Humanism and Modern Technology, I have had the opportunity to try it out as part of a challenging task. The task was to choose a tool we would like to explore, learn how to use it, and then create something with it.

I will write up a feedback post on this really enjoyable and worthwhile Humanism and Modern Technology course once I have finished. Our tutor Hanna Kryszewska is wonderful, and I am learning lots and enjoying the great debates!

Choose a Tool
Here are some of the free tools I contemplated exploring further for the task:

Audioboo -allows you to record and upload audio
Prezi - allows you to create zoomable and exciting presentations
Knovio - allows you to add voice and video to your Powerpoint presentations
Storybird - allows you to create beautiful story books

I chose Storybird because I fancied creating a visually appealing story to send to my young nieces and nephew for them to enjoy. That was a big motivation for me. I had viewed some beautiful stories via Storybird like this one for example, and I really wanted to know how to create one as well. Doing it as part of a task was an excellent opportunity for me to learn how to create one.

Gems on The Web
I remembered reading a guest post on OUP ELT GLobal blog written by Russell Stannard called "Gems on the Web - Storybird." I went back to it, read it carefully, then followed the links to his easy to follow tutorial on Teacher Training Videos. I played it, paused it, and copied each step and hey presto, my first Storybird about a pretty naughty Fluffy had taken on life!!

Image above captured by Jing in seconds. No more fiddling around like I used to!!!

Use Your Imagination
With Storybird, you are provided with an array of stunning, and beautiful images drawn by different artists. You choose the images you want for your story and then you let your imagination run free! You write the words and Storybird does the arranging for you in a brilliant and professional-looking manner. You can also choose amongst many tags such as "Teacup", for example, and then use artwork which includes the theme of teacups.

The end result is an e-booklet, with flippable pages, and one that you can email to your friends or embed on your blog. I couldn't find the embed code at first, but once you have published your story, the embed code or link to Twitter and Facebook are clearly visible.

You have the option of keeping your Storybird completely private, viewable only by you and whoever you choose to view it. You can also create a collaborative story, and that is an excellent feature, great for youngsters of any age. There is also the option of being able to buy your published Storybird in various formats to give away as gifts for example, or simply to keep as a lovely souvenir.

There is Storybird for Schools and you can read all about it here.

More Links and Resources on Storybird
I have discovered a fabulous wiki collated by Fiona Joyce called MFL - Storybirds, which houses a colection of Storybirds written in French, German, Spanish and Italian. Here is a collection written in Italian. What a fantastic way to learn a foreign language by reading these fab examples!! There are clear instructions for how to add your Storybird to this wiki collection, if you wish.

Below is an excellent and comprehensive presentation called Storybird for Linguists also by Fiona Joyce.

View more presentations from Fiona Joyce

Here is a link to a fab blog post about "Using Storybird" compiled by Lisa Dabbs.

I do hope you find this information will inspire you to create your very own Storybird and also encourage your students to create their own masterpieces!

The Adventures of Fluffy, The Mischievous Kitten
To finish off this post you can view a photo of the real Fluffy, who is the most expert mouse and lizard-catcher in the whole of Abruzzo!! She is also a real minx and a complete tearaway!!

Fluffy has been driving me up the wall recently because:

  • she has taken to wanting to nibble and then bite my ankles for some unfathomable reason
  • she play fights with her 4 youngest siblings, who are only 3 weeks old, so I have to keep a watchful eye over her
  • she keeps on jumping and pouncing on her mum, Samantha, who really needs a bit of a rest after having given birth to 8 kittens within 4 months!!
  • Today my computer was offline for several hours, because she had been playing around with the cables!! This put me out a fair bit, as you can imagine!
  • Below, an exhausted Fluffy after having played around my desk!
Do you recognise the blog that I am viewing in the image above? A clue: the blog owner is an adventurer, a polyglot, and he loves pandas!! Please write who you think it could be in the comments!!

Here Fluffy is again thankfully fast asleep having a catnap with one of the earlier set of siblings. Does the expression "Butter wouldn't melt" spring to mind?

Below you can see Fluffy looking after her new set of tiny siblings!

Will there be more Storybird adventures featuring this irrepressible kitten? You'll have to wait and see what happens!!

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Sparkling Civitaquana!!

Civitaquana sparkled with the most awesome display of dazzling fireworks last weekend. I was there to enjoy the pyrotechnics and to soak up the lovely atmosphere with the locals.

Civitaquana Fireworks Cartoon

You can find more information about where I created this cartoon on my Comics and Cartoons site. Thanks to @BookChook for the suggestion! Can you guess the missing part of the dialogue in the final box?

The beautiful church of Santa Maria delle Grazie was the backdrop for the fireworks in honour of Saint Egidio and Saint Emidio. If you like, you can read more about Saint Emidio. The church dates from the middle 12th century according to this history (written in Italian) here.

Below you can view an image of Saint Emidio's Annunciation. Image source from here.

Mirko CasaDei Beach Band
We also enjoyed watching the world-famous Mirko Casadei Beach Band playing in front of an enthusiastic audience. Of course, I was right at the front tapping my feet animatedly to the beat of the samba music. Find out more about the biography of this exciting and dynamic band by viewing this pdf information sheet here. Below is a short video clip of the band, taken with my camera. (Coming soon!)

Why Civitaquana?
Have you ever wondered why I chose the URL for my blog address? Well, now you know. It's the name of this pretty little village in Abruzzo! I bought this postcard some time ago, but I haven't sent it to anyone yet. Now I'm sending you virtual greetings from Civitaquana in Abruzzo :-)

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Janet's First Jing!

I have been wanting to create Jing screen capture screencasts ever since I viewed Russell Stannard's video tutorials on this versatile web 2.0 tool. It is his favourite tool, and he demonstrates how to use it here. I have to confess I have had to watch this excellent video tutorial a few times today, and I am still learning by trial and error!! That is the only way to do things, I guess. Practice, practice and even more practice!!
I am determined to teach myself how to use this very interesting tool!!

I also viewed this great blog post on Simple K12 site, called How to use Jing in your classroom. There are a lot of useful comments and practical tips in the Comments section of this Simple K12 post.

Nik Peachey has just published "10 Tech Tools for Teacher Training Courses" on his fab Nik's Learning Technology blog. Jing is included in his top 10 tools!!

My First Jing Video
So, this is my first ever Jing screen capture video!! I captured the image that you can see at the top, and then created the video and saved it onto my computer and screencast. I then got the embed code to add to my blog post. Russell Stannard shows you exactly how to do this step by step on:

My aim is to learn a bit more about what to do with Jing and how to use it with students, so I will be viewing this set of Teacher Training Video Tutorials soon:

Using Jing in Language Classes.

You are welcome to join me in my learning journey. I hope to post up how I get on with it as I go along.

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My Classroom Without Walls
My virtual classroom and excellent teachers surround me on my blog sidebar! This means that I can enter my very own, custom-designed classroom whenever I want.

This is really cool, don't you think??

Thursday, 8 September 2011

How to be a Viral Educator with Shelly Terrell

Comic created with makebeliefscomix. Please click on the image to enlarge it.

Join the incredible and indefatigable Shelly Terrell in a free Webinar this evening Thursday September 8th, entitled "How to be a Viral Educator". It is part of a series hosted by SimpleK12. You can read all about it and register for the event if you read Shelly's blog post here.

I have already registered. For me it will be 9.30pm Rome time! I am very keen to learn more about this interesting topic, especially on how to leave a positive digital footprint.

Many thanks to Shelly for giving educators this incredible opportunity to expand our horizons! Remember - all the details are here on Shelly's blog. Hope to see you at the webinar :-)

Audioboo Update and Feedback
Watch this space for my feedback on the fantastic webinar presented by Shelly. I will be using Audioboo for the first time!! Coming as soon as I learn how to use Audioboo properly......

Audioboo Feedback is Here!
I have now recorded an Audioboo feedback on Shelly's webinar and you can listen to it below:

Feedback on Shelly"s SimpleK12 Webinar (mp3)

Life is for Learning!

For more news on CPD, conferences, webinars and courses that are available, you can view this fab topic curated by Sue Lyons-Jones called CPD in Education. There are lots of interesting links here to help us all to expand our horizons and develop as 21st century teachers!

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Santo Stefano di Sessanio - A Veritable Feast

The poster I saw of "Degusta e Artigianato Artistico" in Santo Stefano di Sessanio appealed to me immediately. I knew I had to go there. The village was hosting a veritable gastronomic delight for foodies over 3 days. Below is a photo showing some of the 70 stands offering delicious samples of local produce.

This was the perfect opportunity to go back to one of my favourite places in the whole of Abruzzo and spend a relaxing time there with K and 2 friends, Sue and Adrian.

The name of Santo Stefano di Sessanio comes from the Latin word "Sextantia" meaning that the village was 6 miles away from a strategic crossroads en route to Rome.

Image above of sunset in Santo Stefano courtesy of KRB

Revisiting Little Tibet
Santo Stefano di Sessanio is located high up in the mountains, set in the spectacular, unforgettable scenery of Campo Imperatore.
We passed through Little Tibet on the way. You might like to read a blog post I wrote last year called "In Little Tibet".

Photo below of me enjoying the views reproduced with kind permission by Sue Laing.

The views are absolutely breathtakingly beautiful. Talented photographer and dedicated motorcyclist Karl Bianchini took the photo below, which has recently been published in the Abruzzo Weekly magazine.

Below is one of my favourite photos, I took from high up in the village centre.

Another view below. Thank you K xx

Sextantio, Albergo Diffuso
I once had the pleasure of staying a few nights at the Sextantio, Albergo Diffuso. Each time I go back, I have to look at where we stayed. You can read more about "Sextantio -unique world class hotel" from Inside Abruzzo blog.

A lovely blog post from Life in Abruzzo highlighting a romantic trip to this fabulous village is called "Reliving Romance 100 Years Later in Santo Stefano di Sessanio".

A Special Risotto with Pecorino Wine
My friends and I also sampled the delicious local Pecorino wine. There is a review of it from Life in Abruzzo blog. This Pecorino wine went down very well with the fabulous Risotto that was cooked right in front of us and filmed by Italian TV. It was worth all the wait, and the portion dished out was very generous indeed. It was fantastic to see this dish created in front of a crowd of enthusiastic onlookers. I managed to get to the front and got a great view of the demonstration!! If you would like to cook a special dish such as this one, Maria Liberati has a fab recipe for risotto.

Medieval Delights
We visited the array of lovely, unique shops scattered throughout the medieval lanes in the centre of the village. These delightful shops sell local produce such as handcarved wooden items, and handmade linen, fit for a signorina's bottom drawer!

Above is a photo taken by Sue of one of the delightful and quirky signs outside a shop, and below a tranquil corner, also shot by Sue. Many thanks for allowing me to show them here :-)

Below you can see me in the amazing interior of a "Tisanerie", where we stopped for a refreshing cuppa!!

The Medici Tower

Viewing the once beautiful medieval Medici Tower surrounded by steel scaffolding as seen above and below, invoked feelings of sadness and nostalgia, but at the same time, a feeling of hope for the future.

Below you can see an image of the Medici Tower before the devastating L'Aquila earthquake in April 2009.

Image source here.

Noel from About Abruzzo blog has recently written a great post about Santo Stefano called "Medici Memories in Abruzzo". Definitely well worth reading and viewing the fab photos.

Quiet Reflection

This lovely corner of the village for quiet reflection is only one of the numerous places, which are picture perfect.

The image would be suitable to exploit in the same way as Chiew Pang has described in his excellent A Clil To Climb blog post Photos + Mind Map = Ideas on a Silver Platter

Below another view of the village.

I do hope this blog post on Santo Stefano di Sessanio has inspired you to visit Abruzzo one day so that you can view the absolutely stunnning scenery for yourself :-)