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Afterthoughts

Posted: October 6, 2012 in Thoughts

I know I haven’t written on my beloved blog for a while now and I am a bit ashamed, however, I do believe that certain things have to happen when they are meant to happen. The time has come again for me to share something with you🙂

I have to warn you though that this is not an explanation of another Web 2.0 tool or any other technological tool for teaching purposes. These are just some of my thoughts on how it was for me to hold my first presentation at an international conference🙂

This is an annual conference called IATEFL and I’ve been attending it for the past 4 years every year and it was great seeing all the different teachers talking about different ways of making the classroom more comfortable for the teacher as for the learner. It’s been inspirational every time I’ve been there although I felt I was missing something lately. Since I’ve returned from Belgium, where I’ve participated in a great conference/workshop and had the wonderful opportunity to meet some great people, I’ve felt that I needed to do a bit more than just teaching. I got a taste of how it was working with adults but this time not the ones who wanted to learn a language but with those who wanted to learn how to teach others who want to learn. So I’ve had a small taste of what it meant and how it felt being a teacher trainer. It was short…I know…I think it lasted about 30 or 45 minutes but it was new and challenging but in the same time it almost felt like second nature. There are so many great teachers who are also researchers who have all these great ideas bottled up inside themselves and if they have the possibility they even share it with some or with the entire world.

At first I was a bit skeptical about writing even a blog because I thought no one would read it considering the amount of blogs out there online….full of great ideas and methods for teaching. Then I had a very inspirational talk with Jenny and Graham (my two great trainers from the TACCLE conference) and they managed to convince me that every opinion counts no matter how unimportant I had thought mine were. So, I started this blog with lots of enthusiasm but little feeling of appreciation. This is however how a blog works….it needs to be maintained in order to keep it alive for others to be able to read it and share it. But the moment I saw the number of people reading the blog and the comments some have left, I knew that what I wrote was appreciated by some and that felt good and was a good incentive for me to continue writing. I know I stopped doing this for a while though…and can’t say it was only the lack of time…sometimes I was just lazy or too busy with other stuff. Anyways, I think I’m slowly regaining my enthusiasm for writing on this wonderful blog of mine🙂 and hope not to have these long breaks anymore.

The main reason though for writing this entry is because 6 months ago I told myself that it was high time I did something about my wish to teach other teachers and as no one starts giving directly talks on TED (without some exceptions of geniuses maybe :p) I had decided to give a presentation on using Web 2.0 tools. And that’s what I did today (on the 6th October 2012)…I held my first presentation to teachers at an international conference🙂 ….I have to say..it was an exhilarating feeling🙂 These are the moments when I feel and know that I was meant to teach.

I’ve seen some presentations on ICT and Web 2.0 tools in the last 4 years and I thought long and hard about what I should talk about and how I should deliver it. I’ve seen teachers present loads of Web 2.0 tools in one single presentation, which might seem efficient and productive…having all those tools at your fingertip although I got to learn that the more online tools you share in a presentation, the less time you have showing how they actually work which can lead to frustrated teachers who have the resource but can’t figure out how to use it. I’ve seen teachers presenting with century old technologies and it wasn’t because the organizers wouldn’t offer them something more modern..no, it was because they were used to projecting long-winding presentations with sentences so long no one would ever read them; teachers who would just read out the things they’ve prepared on their PPT presentations and well….it was dull and not as efficient as it might have seemed in the beginning…and I’m referring here only to the first example…the rest was never something appealing for me.

In any case, I’ve decided to showcase just one particular tool and I though Skype would be a great choice. It even was. However, technology is unpredictable and evolves very quickly🙂 So after I’ve sent my description for the presentation and everything was set…I started using more and more Google’s Hangout and couldn’t possibly hold an entire 45 min presentation on how to use Skype for teaching without feeling just a bit guilty for not talking about Google’s Hangout at all. So I integrated Hangout as an alternative for Skype and actually as a much better but still different tool than Skype…meaning that Skype does still have some advantages. Of course, I couldn’t present the same thing I have on my blog so I created one from scratch, thought of different ways of how one can use Skype and also Hangouts and prepared a Prezi presentation….1 day before the conference🙂

Teachers actually enjoyed the presentation a lot and it seems like it was a success🙂 Good. If I’ve learned one thing about presentation, it’s that I will never make one with and overwhelming amount of bullet points filled with sentences and information nobody wants to read, so I’ve barely used a few words in it…I’m pointing this out because I’m embedding the link of the presentation to this post but if you don’t understand much out of it…don’t worry…it’s normal. However, if you’re interested in using it for any educational purposes just contact me on this blog and I’ll help you make sense out of it and explain the points and my train of thought when going through all the points of it.

I’m just really happy everything went well and that I was able to share (also thanks to one of my good friends: Szilard, who was my Skype and Hangout assistant during the presentation. It was great that he had some time because I wanted to show teachers how to use the tools and didn’t want them to leave only with theoretical bla blas and no show of practical use) at least two online tools but many – hopefully useful and interesting- ways of using them when teaching. Well…they seemed quite curious and interested in what I shared with them….let’s hope they’ll be able to integrate them in their teaching.

P.S my next post will be on Google Hangouts… coming soon🙂

What better way to end the year with lots and lots of new ideas for teaching in the classroom. Here is a collage of what the NY Times has put together. There are some quizzes, puzzles, pictures and lots more that you can use in your classroom.

Here is the link to some great ideas:) Enjoy

http://learning.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/12/20/looking-back-at-2010-teaching-ideas/

Facebook in the limelight

Posted: December 15, 2010 in Privacy on Facebook

I’ve been hearing all kinds of things about using Facebook for educational purposes and so far nothing useful and nothing worth mentioning. Therefore, I decided to do something about this and try it out myself. You hear so many things about Facebook not being private enough and that you cannot delete your Facebook account, however, all these rumors remain just that. People should pay a little bit more attention to what Privacy Settings on a social network can offer. In the case of Facebook, privacy can be quite well controlled.

I already have an account on Facebook for personal use but I also post stuff about teaching in general, however this wasn’t enough to see how this social network functions when teaching comes to play.So I created another account but this time one as private as possible only for one of my classes (with teenagers) and I quote from one of my students”Well I must say this idea of group on facebook is a really a good one :))”.

It works and I keep in touch with my students on a daily basis. I receive their posts, messages, notifications, comments directly on my phone(yes, you need a phone with Ineternet access) so I can reply instantly, thus saving time.

You can also create a group in your Facebook account (as one of my students suggested to me) and this way all the members in the group will receive every message so they don’t have to check the wall posts all the time.

As you can see, you can make your group either Open, Closed or Secret. Mine is Secret which means that the members and the content is private, only for the eyes of the group members I invite. You cannot add yourself to a group…the only way to get in is through an invitation from the person who created the group.

You could also create an email address for your group, such as: nameofgroup@groups.facebook.com. This way you don’t have to check your yahoo, gmail or any other providers for any email from your students but simply enter your Facebook account and check your emails.

You can post links for your students where they can do their homework (or you can use it for blended learning). Of course, it depends on how strict you want to be on Facebook with your students…you know what they say: All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. I personally avoid being too serious and post some fun stuff also, however, in a way that they still do learn something out of it:)

You can post videos and pictures too but never forget to comment and like your students’ posts otherwise they will get bored if they see that there is no reaction from your part to what they have to say.

You also have a document section in your group where you can post documents or ask your students to upload their homework there.

My students tell me they stay on Facebook all the time so what better way to interact with them if not Facebook itself.

Drawbacks

  • Of course there is the disadvantage that the advertisements still appear but if they’re already spending so much time on Facebook and the ads don’t bother them then why should they be an obstacle for you and your class? Nobody ever clicks on those ads anyways…:) Also, you get ads only about things you like…you just have to personalize it.
  • Another disadvantage is that on the Facebook homepage they will be able to see all their posts and these could be stuff that have nothing to do with education (these are the posts that they post on their own profile)…but they see these things anyway and when they go to the group that you’ve created they will see only what you want them to see on your own account.

Privacy Settings

Here are some videos from Facebook.com where they talk about how to set your privacy settings so you can be sure not to leak anything you don’t want to:

http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/video/video.php?v=681506488373 – how to control who can see the information you post on Facebook. There are 5 points here in this video that are good to remember for any user:

1. You have control over how your information is shared.

2. Facebook does not share your personal information with people or services you don’t want to.

3. They do not give advertisers access to your personal information.

4. They do not and never will sell any of your information to anyone.

5. They will always keep Facebook a free service for everyone.

http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=681507022303 – control how to share on Facebook. How to control tags of your pictures and the privacy of your posts.

Tags:

Posts:

Album privacy (as you can see both parts are for friends only):

http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=684554250633 – control over the access of Apps and Websites on your profile. How to change how you appear in search engine listings (Google, Bing, Yahoo) and how to block people.

I hope these videos will clarify any doubt whether privacy is possible on Facebook or not. I like using it and my students like it too, thus I think, if managed carefully and correctly, Facebook can be used for educational purposes.

Skype is a free web tool where you can make and receive free calls and video calls only with an internet connection. I’ve already shown a short presentation on Skype in my previous post about Prezi so what I’m just going to give some tips on how to use it in your classroom as well as outside🙂

Sorry for writing so much but I did this while on the train and I didn’t have my microphone with me and it would’ve been kind of awkward recoding this post with 8 people sitting around you😛

Inside the classroom:

  • Let’s say you want to invite a guest to talk to the class but this person is in another country and can’t make it to your class (transport, expenses, time, etc.  – for all these reasons and maybe others). What you could do is to organize a live video stream through Skype.

You could ask your students then to interview the person, take notes on his/her answers and write an article about him/her

  • You could start a call with a person (important for your lesson) on Skype without video feature. Ask him/her to hold a short speech on a certain topic and ask you students to speculate on the persons characteristics and appearance just by listening to his/her voice – for using adjectives; speculating language; language for prediction. In the end show the person by activating the video feature and ask your students to compare their predictions with the true identity.
  • I don’t know how many of you do this but I have some classes where I teach my students how to make phone calls, how to start a phone conversation, how to end it when calling for different reasons (personal or professional). In these lessons I like to use real examples. This means that I actually give them a phone or ask them if we can use theirs. Some might not want to pay extra costs for phone conversations on their phone in the English lesson and maybe you don’t want to do this either (mainly if you have a large class). Do you see where I’m heading with this?🙂 Yes, Skype is an alternative – in case you have at least 2 laptops at hand. You can use one laptop in the classroom for the incoming call and place the other one outside the classroom for the outgoing call. In this way they can not only practice phone conversations (such as reporting a crime or calling for help and describing what happened) but also video conferencing. Of course, keep in mind that you cannot have more than 2 videos running at the same time on one laptop. You can have a phone conversation with more people at once but not with video on.
  • Students record their conversations on Skype, send you the saved recording on email and you can give them feedback on it. I always strive to give a feedback as good as possible to my students and this might be sometimes difficult when in the classroom. I’m not saying it’s impossible….I’m just saying that processed information is easier to assess.

Outside the classroom:

I might want to practice the Speaking part for the IELTS, TOEFL or Cambridge (FCE, CAE, CPE) exams in the class and I see that my students still need practice. If I don’t have enough time in the class for further practice then I can tell them to practise their speaking skills at home. How do they do this?

Well there are more options:

o    You can ask them to record themselves using their phone while talking about a topic. However, not everyone has a phone with a recorder on it.

o    You can tell them to use a microphone and install a specific software on their computer to record what they’re saying. However, they have to buy a microphone in case they don’t have one and they have to install the proper software on their computer…something that not everyone is willing to do.

o    IF they have a laptop with an incorporated microphone, they could use that. However, not every Windows OS supports a recorder although Windows 7 has one and is free for use in the Accessories section. You just have to open it and push the big red button to start recording.

o    Using a proper recorder is of course a good way also but once again they need to buy one if they don’t have one yet. For most this might be a pain in the neck and might demotivate them to practice the speaking part.

And if you think about it, talking to oneself is not really what happens at exam…or in real life…🙂 Practising speaking on your own might be good if you’re practising for a speech and still you don’t have an audience…something that you do have in reality.

So without further a do….In my opinion, the best way of practising speaking at home on a phone with a partner is using Skype.

Skype not only offers you free calls but also free live video chat feature thus making it able for anyone who has a laptop with a webcam and a microphone (built in or external) to have a real conversation while practising some speaking skills. Yes, you do have to have a microphone…luckily most of the laptops nowadays on the market offer you a built in webcam as well a microphone thus making the purchase of an external microphone unnecessary.

So how do we give feedback on a conversation  that our students have had at home with another person? The answer is simple…we ask them to record the conversation and send it email it to us:)

How do we do this? On Skype of course😛 Skype has many plug-ins which give us the possibility to record not only the voice but also the video calls.

You might not want to ask your students to record their video calls…I think asking them to record their voice calls is enough for you and for them. They might be shy enough to listen to their own voices and sending it to you could be something they might not be keen on.

Pamela is a plug-in that is easy to install, it’s free and it can record your calls on Skype. The downsides are that you can record only up to 15 min although there are rarely conversations that take that long. Also it doesn’t function always as well as it’s supposed to be….I think it’s just made this way so you buy it in the end. Consequently, I have to say that I was a bit disappointed lately by Pamela because it didn’t want to start although I could open it and set the setting but it didn’t record anything….I couldn’t even push the big red button…it was unavailable.

This led to frustration and curiosity in the same time. I searched for new plug-ins for Skype to record conversations and I found some.

PrettyMay is a free plug-in and much more useful than Pamela because it can also record video besides the voice call record option. It is easy to install and to use and it stores your recordings which you can then save and send to anyone you like.

  • You can create a chain story using recordings made on Skype. You can start a conversation with one of your friends/colleagues or with higher level students by telling the beginning of a story, for example you could start talking about one of your best experiences you’ve had in life and stop at a certain point to ask your friend to continue spontaneously the story for another 2 minutes. Save the conversation and send it to another pair of students. Ask them to listen the beginning of the story and come up with the second part of it without ending it. Do this until all your students get to tell a part of the story.

For advanced users: you could then use a free web tool such as Audacity and put the pieces of the story together and save it as an mp3 or any other format.  You can then give feedback on the structure of the story, language, creativity, fluency, coherency and so on🙂 The new chain story🙂 It’s fun and captivating. Students will be anxious to see what the others have thought about and will try to top whatever the other have written…this kind of competitive spirit is always a good incentive.

  • Whenever you want to tell your students to make up dialogues in order to practise certain speaking skills and vocabulary…don’t! Ask them to have actual conversations. Tell them about Skype and its free features and how easy it is to use. Ask them create live conversations using the newly acquired vocabulary. Practise dialogues for: ordering food and drinks in a restaurant; reporting a crime or an accident; invitations and any other phone or live conversations you can think of.

Here is a short tutorial on how to install Skype and PrettyMay call recorder and on other tips on how to use them for educational purposes (from slideshare.net):

And here is a video to see what Skype is about:

So that you just know…Skype can be used also on your mobile phones. You can make phone to computer conversations also (and it doesn’t work only on Verizon!):

I’ve found Prezi while searching for an alternative for PPT (Power Point Presentations) and I have to say I am stunned and will probably never want to use another PPT again🙂

Yes, it’s that good, visually attractive and also addictive…something that we all love…of course if it’s for educational purposes…and this time it is.

Here is an example from TED where Prezi is used as a tool for a presentation:

I could write an entire description for its use, however, I prefer showing you instead how to use it. Therefore, I prepared a presentation on how to use Skype for teaching purposes and did this using Prezi.

I also added some tutorial videos for using Prezi….you should check them out in the prezi presentation.

Prezi for teachers

If your a teacher working for a public or private school and you have an email account for the school you’re working for then you should definitely use that when signing in to Prezi.

If you sign in to Prezi using your yahoo, gmail, hotmail or any other accounts, you will get only 100 MB storage space on your account. However, if you sign in using your school’s email address (for example name@babelcenter.ro – this is the name of the private school I teach in) then you will get 500 MB storage space which is a lot more.

In case you don’t have such an email address and you want to sign in using your other email accounts, you can do so and not worry so much about the space you have until 100 MB. If you get to the limit you can always download the presentation you’ve created, delete the one you have on the net and start a new one. This way you can save your presentations and create new ones all the time.

On the other hand it’s always good to have your presentation online, in case you don’t have your laptop with you and you still want to use one of your presentations somewhere with an internet connection.

So, without further a do, here is my first presentation on Prezi (I’m still testing it and finding out new things but until now I had great fun using it and find it a very useful tool – my students were also very happy to see that there is a more interesting way of making presentations than PPTs):

http://prezi.com/bin/preziloader.swf 

Let me know what you think of this🙂