Saturday, December 31, 2011

No Wish List for 2012

Rusty 2012

How about starting the Year of 2012 with not so much weigh, to-do lists and wish lists?
How about taking a look back and just writing down all the accomplishments of 2011 to come to the conclusion that, YES, we´ve done much, accomplished tons, and still have a lot to do.



No wish list, but light-living, guilt-free 2012 with care and passion
with bonds and intensity
trust in others and self-confidence

To keep moving ahead
Doing our best
With a look back only to realize that
the future can be bright and light
It all depends on us
and our positive vibes


Oferendas a Iemanjá

In the year of  Iemenjá, the mother of all living things and the owner of the waters,
let us live with the flow
re-energized by calmer waters
let us float and leave regret and negativeness behind
keeping 2012 as a year to remember and cherish,
the one that we accomplished with no promises or lists,
but with at least one action that made a difference.

How about setting yourself for a great start in 2012 with all the positive sparkles one can think of?
Not with a big list, but with a lookout for doing more good, acting more upon your life
and living the way you feel it is right, not how people think you should be or do
2012, the year of flow and taking hold of your own self emanating vibrancy and passion

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Books, Summer, Books

Organizing BooksFor many, this is a winter list. Well, for us down South it is summer time, a perfect period of the year just to goof off with a great book or e-book in hand just for the sake of our own delight or of catching up whatever we couldn't read throughout the year.

I, personally, blend pleasure and work when it comes to summertime reading. Nothing better than being carried away by a good story or starting to dream and plan the year ahead.

Here's my list:

- Equator - Miguel Sousa Tavares
- Water for Elephants - Sara Gruen
- The Help - Kathryn Stockett

I'm already enjoying myself with  Jonathan Field's "Uncertainty: Turning Fear and Doubt into Fuel for Brilliance". Great inspiring stories!

Also, in my Kindle I have some books for my professional development in the list:
The Connected Educator: Learning and Leading in a Digital Age
Playing with Media: simple ideas for powerful sharing
Now You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0054KBLBI/ref=kinw_myk_ro_title


Well, I guess I'd need more than my holiday season to catch up with my reading!

And here are some lists that you might enjoy, as well:

http://www.edutopia.org/winter-reading-list-2011
http://www.goodreads.com/award/choice/2011
http://www.npr.org/2011/12/14/143293240/year-end-fiction-wrap-up-the-10-best-novels-of-2011
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/11/books/10-best-books-of-2011.html?_r=1

So, what's in your reading list for summer or winter?

Friday, December 2, 2011

mLearning - from Apes to Apps 2

The mLearning course at the Consultants-e is in full steam.

ssoosay Wishes you a Happy Mindfulness Day 12/09/11One of the highlights of the week is Gavin's video of some exciting iPad apps. I do agree with Gavin that real apps, not the ones specifically created for education, are much more exciting and full of potential in the classroom. It seems that publishers and app developers in the educational field are too far apart from what really makes apps an amazing tool for learning. Most of the educational apps lack flame, the alluring possibilities of the touch technologies. This market should really look into the apps kids love, the highly popular games and apps to give them clues to what really makes a difference when developing an app.

In my opinion, Flipboard is still one of the apps that makes use of the capabilities of the iPad to its fullest. Love it. Now, need to explore some that Gavin mentioned. How about you? Which app is your favorite? Which one would you like to give it a try with your students?




Here are the apps Gavin mentions:


Flipboard
Pressreader
Zinio
storyboards
strip designer
popplet
iThoughtsHD
Moodboard
Slide by slide
iGeopix (Flickr Creative Commons and Google Maps)
FlickStackr
viewfinder
sonicpics
Cork (sticky notes)
art authority
Monet HD
Articles for iPad
Shakespeare Pro
Star Walk for iPad
The World Factbook for iPad
wikihood plus for ipad
underscore notify
Phatpad
writepad
Pages, Numbers and Keynote
Penultimate
Goodreader for ipad

Thursday, November 10, 2011

mLearning - From Apes to Apps

ssoosay Wishes you a Happy Mindfulness Day 12/09/11

Since the beginning of our existence, our main goal is connection, learning, survival, evolution. This is what we still pursue nowadays, meaningful connections, lifelong learning to become better human beings. Well, if it's not everyone's goals, at least these are mine, and I know a bunch of inspiring educators, like the Webheads, who pursue exactly that.

In my constant search for becoming a better professional, I'm now taking the Consultants-e mlearning course, which was made possible by the Binational Center I work for, Casa Thomas Jefferson, through a grant we've applied and won to use tablets to teach English to at-risk students in a program in partnership with the American Embassy, ACCESS.

We're in Week 2 of our online session, and it is always a pleasure to see Gavin Dudeney and Nicky Nockly in full steam, generous in their sharing and eager to connect in their facilitation.

Some of the highlights of the mlearning course so far:
- They've been making full use of MOODLE's flexibility in terms of design possibilities and interaction opportunities
- They've been doing what they preach, giving different options to take quizzes and do the activities. So, what they present about, talk or blog about is what you can see taking place in the course.
- The app to access MOODLE suggested by Gaving mTouch is a treat
- I loved the Sounds of you introductory activity, in which you were guided to share the sounds that talk a bit about you instead of the same old tell me a little bit more about you. This part was done as a task in which we had to fill out our profiles, generally an area in MOODLE that is blank (it makes much more sense as we can just click on the participants' names to remind ourselves who is who).
- My aha moment so far? Just found out about Wiffiti
A neat online application where you add tags and get a dynamic screen. Hum...I can imagine it being used with students tweeting straight to the screen about a certaing topic, or even using the Wiffiti webpage to add their thoughts on the topic.



Of course, these are just tidbits of a wealth of resources, discussions, activities that we've been experiencing. There's way more into it than I could write here, but I just wanted to keep all these precious online moments registered here.

More updates to this page coming soon as the course progresses and I keep on my ongoing opportunity search for professional development and evolution.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

From Post-Its to Movie Segments in the EFL Classroom

 I remember Cláudio as a very tall, charming teacher when I was still a student at the Binational Center we work in Brasília. Now, I feel terribly lucky to have Cláudio as a co-worker, always inspiring us with his fantastic activities with movie segments. He saves us time, helps us have ready-to-use activities promptly available for our English classes. It can be grammar-based activities, topic-based warm-ups and follow-ups, all freely available for use at:

 Just like Cleide, our tecnophobe teacher who became a digital artist, Cláudio didn't know much about technology until the day he started having some training and repurposed his own professional path connecting his passion for films and technology to share what he was doing with others with the community of educators worldwide. In fact, every time we travel to a Conference, Cláudio is a popstar with a group of fans wanting to take photos and talk with him.

Learn more about this educator who has been enchanting and inspiring all of us for years at Casa Thomas Jefferson.

>>Cláudio, just some years ago, you didn't know anything about blogging. What was the turning point for you? What made you realize it was time for a change?

I felt that I was not following the speed of the  changes in the educational field, especially concerning the tools available on the web. I started feeling embarrassed when I realized that novice teachers were much more familiar with the new trends in education than I was. They mastered the technological aspects, but lacked expertise in teaching. On the other hand, I mastered the teaching expertise, but did not know much about technology. I could not be behind the teachers I was supposed to monitor and develop. This feeling was shared by most of the Coordinators at the Casa Thomas Jefferson. These Coordinators eventually decided to take a course with a knowledgeable teacher at the CTJ, Ronaldo Mangueira, who taught us the basics of blogging and wikis. He assigned us one piece of homework, which was a turning point in this process. We had to develop a blog. Because I already had many activities connecting movies and grammar, which were ready to be used, I decided to create my blog to share what I had been doing and show my teacher I would manage to do my homework. Then everything took place rapidly. It was amazing how it motivated me to go on. The results were immediate. The number of visitors, the positive feedback and awards the blog received in such a short time showed me that I was in the right track, so I felt compelled to keep on developing the activities and sharing them with my readers. I think it was a wise decision.


>>You post a video activity with a grammar point handout every single week on your blog for free. Why free? What are your drives for giving so much to the community?
 Many people have been talking me into charging for the worksheets or the site access. I refuse to do so. My main purpose is sharing. Teachers must help each other. How can a teacher in Russia or in Korea possibly compete against me? People with little access to technology or who are taking teaching training courses profit
enormously from my work. I am sure that I have been receiving much more in return by providing this free material than I would be if I had been charging for the use of the material. I gain by giving
presentations, relating with different teachers and institutions worldwide, giving short teacher development courses, and by fulfilling my generous way of being, sharing what I think I can do best. I also profit from other people’s work on the web, so my activities are just my share. I’ve been receiving many activities from my readers who want to share theirs too. I always publish them with the proper credits and I also use them in my classes. Most of them are excellent tasks. We end up helping each other.

>>How have you benefited from the community of educators who follow you? Any funny or touching stories about your followers?
Many experts in the teaching field have contacted me. We share links, ideas and knowledge. Famous professionals of the area have mentioned my work on important websites, such as Universities, Colleges, Governmental Organizations, among others. I have given interviews, made online presentations, and become a well-known reference in the use of videos and movies to teach grammar. This is simply fantastic, considering that Movie Segments to Assess Grammar Goals is turning three-years old in October 2011.

Readers have been sending messages of how their professional lives have changed after knowing my blog. Some of them say that their classes are much more fun now and that they use the segments practically every class. Some say they don’t teach a class without checking the blog out before they actually plan their lessons. I feel so pleased when teachers who have very few resources say that their students have become more motivated and participatory because of the activities. I also receive messages from students who start using my blog to practice the language, because their teachers let them know about the blog. And they do it spontaneously, just because they like the site. Just last week I received a message from a teacher from Malaysia, and she said that she was about to quit teaching for the lack of motivation and interest from her students in a small village where she lives in the cold mountains of the country. They hardly have access to movies or TV programs in English where they live in and their contact with foreigners is rare, which hindered the students’ intrinsic motivation to learn English . She said that her students are so eager to have English classes nowadays that she has started developing video activities herself. One of her activities will be shared in one of my future posts. She sent me pictures of her students using my blog. I almost cried seeing them! Another touching moment was when a teacher in Canada sent me a message with the topic: URGENT. The text said – “Claudio, I love you and your activities. You have saved my life so many times. I’m teaching a class on Dangling Modifiers on Monday. Can you prepare something for me. I am in complete despair without anything interesting for my students. Please HELP!!!”. Well, I did something with the movie “The Devil Wears Prada” for her. Three weeks later, I received  a jar of Maple Syrup  from her via snail mail. I loved it.


>>Why did you feel the need to keep adding to your Movie Segments to Assess Grammar Goals blog and creating another blog - Movie Segments for Warm-Ups and Follow-Ups?
I think I can’t stop feeding my blogs now. My readers expect a new post every week. They send messages if I am one day late with the post, for example, asking what happened. Moreover,  new blockbusters and clever movies come out every week, many of them full of rich material. I simply cannot see a scene that can be used in class and ignore it. How can I leave the Twilight series out, for example? I have a lot of material already prepared for the next couple of years, ready to be published, so I don’t think I will ever stop doing it.

I had the need to create Movie Segments for Warm-ups and Follow-ups because many teachers at Casa Thomas Jefferson and other readers of mine know that I am a movie buff, so they usually ask me if I know a scene to lead some topics in, such as weddings, genetic engineering, cloning, travel hassles, among others. Besides, I also make use of segments to brainstorm new topics, readings, and for my conversation classes, so I decided to create another blog for that purpose. It is funny because both blogs have different audiences. This new blog attracts a lot of ESL and private teachers. In fact, it is a success too. The number of visitors increase every week. It contains activities and tasks that can be used just for 10 minutes or for a whole 120 minute-class. This is one of the reasons why teachers enjoy it, I guess.


>>I know you have a very interesting creative process to have the video segments ready for the educators. Can you tell us a little bit about it? How do you prepare the activities?
I’m not sure how it really happens. I have always prepared grammar activities based on movie segments, but I believe that technology nowadays has provided me with the tools I needed to store and share what I have always done. I usually see lots of films and I try to focus on how I can use scenes to practice grammar. However, I believe that practice makes perfect, so I have developed the skill to see movies with different eyes, which I call “grammar eyes”.
There are two ways of using my “grammar eyes”. One of them is to look for a specific grammar point when I see a  blockbuster movie. So, if I’m looking for something to contrast the use of the simple past x past perfect, for instance, I already know I need a scene with a sequence of actions that take place during one single scene. This way I will manage to have a context that provides me with two actions that happen in the past, one before the other,  and I will have enough input to use the tenses I’m looking for. The second way is when the movie has a scene that is simply perfect for a certain grammar goal. For example, I’m seeing a movie and there is a scene that shows a  period of time, or activities  which a character has performed during an unfinished period of time. This means I can use it for the present perfect tense. Modals for speculations must have a scene with an unexplained mystery. For the passive voice, you must find a scene with a series of actions. To contrast the past continuous and the simple past tenses, you must look for a scene in which several activities take place at the same time. I do not look for the grammar point in the lines the
characters say during the scene – sometimes I am lucky enough to have one or another scene like that – but I look for  a context that allows a movie scene with certain characteristics to be used. This way teachers do not have to depend on my scenes, but they will manage to develop their own activities with the DVDs they have at home. The scene must be contextualized so you don’t have to explain what had happened before the snippet, and it can’t be longer than 7 minutes. Otherwise, students get distracted and don’t focus on the grammar point. I usually go to the movies with post-it notes so I can remember the scenes I need, but this is something I do, nobody will ever do it.


>>Have you changed anything in the process along the way?

No, I have not changed the process, which is easier for me now, though. I can identify useful scenes faster. Now that  I am familiar with more webtools, the process is more practical. Editing the scenes, for example, used to be a hassle for me, but now it is a piece of cake. But the rationale behind the creative process is pretty much the same.


>>Any other plans for the future? Next steps?
These blogs have kept me busy for a while recently. Preparing the activities is time-consuming,  and so is feeding the blogs, responding to comments, formatting other readers activities, online presentations on the subject, and so on. My main goal is to keep on promoting them and give presentations and courses about them.  I’m collecting the material for a future publication or a book as well. I wish I had longer days to do everything I would like to.

>>A sentence of advice to EFL teachers around the globe:
It is never too late to update your technological knowledge. If you have a good concept or idea, it will eventually work out. Besides, sharing is extremely rewarding. We make use of the web to improve our own classes, why not share and help other fellows too? Don’t give up. If I managed it, you may manage it as well.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

From Tecnophobe to TechnoArtist - An Educator Journey

Cleidoca and SuperDuper
I've known Cleide, Cleidita, Cleidoca since I started working at Casa Thomas Jefferson in 1999. What really stroke me about that lovely teacher with a constant smile on her face was her natural artistic talent. At that time, to find educational resources with  the exact pedagogical objective we had in mind was a herculean task, but if you had Cleide as a co-worker, your material problems were solved. With a firm hand and any piece of paper, she could do wonders in seconds, skillfully drawing any scene, character or object you're looking after. I still remember a set she drew for me on scrap paper and I laminated it to keep it forever! Forever is too long, though.

On one side there was Cleide with her innate abilities, on the other a poor mortal like me enjoying myself with the early experiments involving technology in the classroom and willing to share with teachers what I learned.

Fast forward a decade. You can picture Cleide and me still pursuing excellence in the classroom, but through different strategies. I kept bugging Cleide to amplify her artistic talents by exploring the digital possibilities of the 21st century. Well, Cleide thought she was a technophobe at heart, that  technology and her didn't match, that it was not for her...You know how the story goes. However, I never gave up. Being an optimist at heart, I persisted and insisted until Cleide couldn't resist the call. To make the story short, Cleide is now multiplying tech ideas with her colleagues about what she has learned, she's coaching others, she has partnered with another teacher and is a presenter of digital project ideas for the English classroom. I've told her how powerful the connection between technology and tapping into one's passion could be, igniting a renewed motivation to go beyond, with no boundaries to what might be the next big thing in her teaching career. Cleide is still the sweetest smiley teacher I met last century, but with a different spark in her eyes and full of tech ideas and projects for one more century!

Learn more about Cleide, our guest this week, meet her character SuperDuper and check her self-published book, which might be super helpful for your beginner's EFL/ESL classroom.

You are a very experienced teacher, but in the past a technophobe, right, Cleide? What made you change?
The fact that many teachers were using technology in class but me. Also, Dani Lyra, who motivated me and taught me lots of things. We tend not to like what we don't know. What is not familiar to us. This happens with food, cars, people, places. if Idon't know it, I don't like it.

What advice would you give to any educator who is very skillful, but tired of the same old things?
Try different things, experiment, make mistakes, but try. If you don't know about something, ask. If you're in doubt, ask. See other people doing it and do it too. SHARE! I'm absolutely sure there'll be at least one colleague willing to help or teach you something. And in case you think you won't be able to accomplish that, because it's overwhelming, I have news for you! You will.

How has the experience of combining your passion for art and technology been?
It's been crazy (meaning fun) . I never thought I would come this far. I'm amazed with myself. This semester, I have been able to make three digital projects with one group of students only and the semester has not ended yet. I haven't had the opportunity to explore all the tools I have available yet but I'm about to.

You now have a wonderful online space for your students, as well as a resource-rich page for educators - the Superduperctj. What are your main goals there? Who's Super Duper? What do you think your students have gained from this fun red-haired character?

I created this character to illustrate my wiki. Students like him, although many of them think he's a girl (giggles), I think that deep down inside, he's actually my alterego. I try to make him as different from me as possible but there is always something in common. My plans? I haven't thought about it yet, but as soon as something comes up, I'll let you know. I'll be glad if I can count on you!

You've even published your first book! How can educators and learners profit from it? Where can they find it?
I published a book about Super Duper's routine, which is about action verbs, the use of the simple present and sequence words. There are also pages with activities suggested for the book. Teachers and students will like it. It's available at www.lulu.com . There is the traditional paper book and the downloadable version. If you want to get your copy for classroom use, you can access it here.

What are your next steps?
I'm involved with some illustrations for a friend's album. Not EFL related, but I'm planning on publishing some more material.


Check Cleide's wiki at http://superduperctj.pbworks.com 

And if you have any questions or comments to Cleide, leave them in the comment area. I'm sure she'll stop by to answer you.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Learning English with Comic Strips

I've always told my students that comics are a great way to learn about language structures and it's current use, for they:


  • are visually appealing


  • provide the student with comprehensible input


  • are fun and engaging


  • deal with language used in our daily lives


  • give the students a sense of accomplishment as the are able to figure out language from context and images



  • Today, I've just come across this fantastic site with all kinds of phrasal verbs in comic-like format. Learning English with Comics is a great way to practice an introduce new phrasal verbs to your students. It can be done in short bits, it provides context, and it gives tons of examples. Plus, the visuals are clean and clear. I'm sure students will love to practice English with those comic strips!

    Learn English with Comic Strips

    Tuesday, August 30, 2011

    Culture Gone Digital

    To champion the selfless acts of others. This is the motto of  a great site to explore the wonders of different cultures around the globe. http://explore.org is a "multimedia organization that documents leaders around the world who have devoted their lives to extraordinary causes. Both educational and inspirational, explore creates a portal into the soul of humanity."
    Through powerful videos and photos, an educator can bring a whole new, fresh cultural perspective to the classroom. What I love about Explore besides all its culture richness? The fact that you can watch any video in a tablet. m-Learning at its best! Can you imagine a classroom activity in which every student can learn about a specific cultural aspect in different countries and then share their findings with peers?



    Another great place for cultural explorations? Pocketcultures, a place made of the views of expats in foreign lands, as well as the natives' perspectives. It ranges from posts about people, interesting blogs, to cultural curiosities. The world in Pocketcultures is at the tip of your fingers and your students' . Don't miss the chance to connect language with a cultural touch to promote better understanding, awareness and tolerance among people.

    Thursday, August 25, 2011

    Still on the Mantras for Tired Teachers

    In my last post, I talked about the three mantras for tired teachers, and mentioned that my learning goal of the month was to not only learn, but also test the pedagogical possibilites of QRcodes. I'm delighted  to say that I followed the two first mantras (learn and try) and am here to share (as part of the last one!) the results of my classroom results.

    QR Codes

    I studied QRcodes, thought of a lesson plan that fit my students' needs and school curriculum. It all started when I told my adult students how the advertisement industry was using QRcodes and Augmented reality in their campaigns (we were discussing about the world of advertisement). They had a question mark on their faces, for they'd never heard of QRcodes or Augmented reality. I explained it, then, there was a brochure in our school with a QRcode. I showed them how it worked. Most of my adult students own a smartphone. So, I sent my customary email of the day and included links to free app downloads of QRreaders for iphones and android phones. Plus, I added they homework in QRcode to make them curious and willing to take their time to download the apps.

    I used http://qrstuff.com to generate the colorful QRcodes with amazon links to specific products. We were practicing how to say in different ways how something was expensive or cheap, as explained in my last post:
    2. Try, fail, try again in class                                                                                
    Learning is not enough. Practice really makes perfect. Test with a plan.
    I learned about QR-generators and found powerful free QRreader apps to encourage my students to download them.
    I planned a shopping activity with QRCodes to practice talking about things that are too expensive and a bargain.
    I invited my students to download the app to their cellphones (I gave suggestions for either Apple and Android smarthphones)
    I feel ready to try. Here are the colorful QRcodes I prepared for the activity.
    https://docs.google.com/document/pub?id=1_N-ykajXMynurxERnk3E3ZBAkjt-b6JDUBMwn6fkTBg 

    I was ready for the classroom trial. I had my cellphone with a QRreader app and my son's iPod touch. When I got to class, I asked if some of them had downloaded the app. Yes, Yes, Yes! So, we were ready. First, I elicited from students the dialogue we were practicing and the expressions they could use to say something was way too expensive or a good deal. Then, I handed in to the groups different QRcodes in different colors. They scanned them, and had a wonderful practice using real products from Amazon. I was careful to choose products that might really interest them (GPS running watch, Nespresso Coffee Maker, Gold bracelet, Watch, Touchscreen digital camera). The students were really into the activity and practiced extensively ways of talking about a purchase. I asked them to stand up and change partners holding their cellphones and their products. So, they had on the cellphone screen the product they wanted to talk about and they could also use the QRreader history to browse other products they had scanned. Some students had the cellphones, others asked about the products. The hard part was to make them stop!!! After that, we talked about the products and prices and what they would really buy, students were curious about how to buy online, what the shipping costs and taxes were, if it was reliable to buy online. What a wonderful discussion in which all the students had an experience to share! I was ecstatic with the positive results of my own learning.

    Challenges and tips:

    • Such an activity will only work if your students have smartphones with data plan or ipod touch devices with wifi (and wifi at your school). Or if you bring your own devices to class. 
    • there needs to be preparation beforehand and, at least, some students need to download the scanning app
    • The content you choose to be scanned must be exciting, close to students' reality to make the effort worth it.
    • Encourage other teachers to join you. It is REALLY fun and brain-friendly.
    For ideas on how to use QRcodes in the classroom check this PPT:

    Tuesday, August 23, 2011

    Three Powerful Mantras for Tired Teachers

    We can easily picture educators who suffer from an ongoing, cronic burnout. No motivation, no strength, happiness in the eye, passion. Many become the complainers, resistant, tired souls that simply let life pass by, waiting for the day they can retire.

    I'm an optimist at heart and truly believe that if one decided to become an educator, there's always a passionate soul that is dormant somewhere out there. It is just a matter of refocusing, finding a new purpose, meaning to what we're doing. It's about finding opportunities to ignite that passion again.

    Rouge Passion

    These are, then, my three mantras for those who have no escape but to seize the day, become happier, self-fulfilled educators touching students' lives in very meaningful ways:

    1. Learn, learn, learn something new                                      
    In my case, I've decided that this is the QR-Codes month. I want to test pedagogical uses for them with my adult group. I've read about it, asked around, saw videos, and checked wonderful PPT with educational ideas for them.
    So, just set up a XXXXX month. What are you going to focus your learning efforts on this month?

    2. Try, fail, try again in class                                                     
    Learning is not enough. Practice really makes perfect. Test with a plan.
    I learned about QR-generators and found powerful free QRreader apps to encourage my students to download them.
    I planned a shopping activity with QRCodes to practice talking about things that are too expensive and a bargain.
    I invited my students to download the app to their cellphones (I gave suggestions for either Apple and Android smarthphones)
    I feel ready to try. Here are the colorful QRcodes I prepared for the activity.
    https://docs.google.com/document/pub?id=1_N-ykajXMynurxERnk3E3ZBAkjt-b6JDUBMwn6fkTBg 


    3. Share, share, share your successes and failures                  
    I'm already sharing my ideas here with you, but I still want to go beyond and share how the activity went once I get my feet wet with my students. Can't wait!

    What would be your mantras to keep your passion for teaching and learning alive?

    Thursday, August 11, 2011

    Twisting Homework Work - A tool, A thousand Ways to Engage students

    She was meant to be a star. Her photos were all over, Vogue magazine, among all renowned international magazines you can think of. One day, though, ...

    How about a bit of homework revolution for a change?

    Add this sentence to the board, send the photo to your students and tell them to access http://photofunia.com, upload the photo you sent or students can upload their own to continue the story.



    This idea can be used for storytelling, vocabulary practice or any grammar point reinforcement activity.

    Students, then, share in class their stories and the photos they edited and added to the story.

    I can bet here that you'll be surprised by students' creativity!

    Other possibilities:
    Every end of class, you add an edited photo of one of the students and they have to come up with a creative sentence about it as homework assignment.

    email an edited photo to students with a reminder about the homework assignment they have. (the photo is, then, just a motivational sparkler for the assignment)

    Ask students to choose three people in their family, edit the photos in photofunia and talk about family members in class.

    Can you think of other classroom activities to use the editions in Photofunia?


    Tuesday, August 9, 2011

    Abundance x Scarcity - Digital Literacy in the Equation

    In my presentation about how educators have been collaborating in our school, sharing resources, ideas, connecting, interacting, my first slide is about abundant and scarce resources in our workplace.

    First answer from the audience about scarcity in an educational setting? TIME.
    For me? INITIATIVE!



    Some people are willing to follow, but not to start a movement, for action means having to deal with failure/success.

    Also, most resist. Resist bravely. Reasons for not changing?

    I guess the main point has to do with our own limitations, weaknesses. When there's change, we'll be dealing with the unpredictable, the moving sands until we get to solid ground. It's about touching the unknown.

    For some, it means excitement, the feeling of a fresh start, some rain after dry season to start a blooming season.

    For others, a shake in the building blocks of our fixed ideas and values. Change in the status quo, in the rules of the game. Much more so when we are talking about change that brings abundance through social media.

    Not long ago, there was much more institutional control over the handouts, exercises, materials teachers were producing. Even because of physical constraints, there was a limit to what teachers could produce and share. Now, with our online shared space, a wiki, thousands of files have been produced. The scarcity X abundance balance is disrupted. We now capitalize in our scarce resource TIME, for many educators are producing and sharing resources that would be done individually in the past. However, it is argued that quality is sacrificed in the name of abundance. True up to a certain point. Surely the resources have different levels of quality in terms of content and design. But, haven't we always produced content for the classroom? In the past, nobody would see it, now there's a social control of these shared educational resources in an online collaborative space.

    Our challenge now is to keep moving forward in this new digital paradigm shift and understand that the resources that are shared is the group's shared effort. Thus, these resources should be improved, remixed, re-purposed to be made even more useful and appropriate to our learners.

    Now we're talking about another issue in the mix - digital literacy. Digital is totally abundant, literacy is still the scarce part of the equation, for it involves not only the development of the functional/technical expertise in relation to the digital world, but also the critical view on the use of digital educational resources, which certainly takes time. It is a process that will add the equilibrium to the equation of abundance of digital resources x their quality once educators enhance their digital literacy skills.Also, it will give another mindset to the new users/producers of content in the sense of understanding that there's no problem to get somebody's work and remix it for a different group of students with specific needs and unique interests. What's there is not MINE, it's OURS. Let's make this social construct even more exciting.

    Gossip

    ...And we're back again to the scarcity of INITIATIVE...
    No problem! I don't give up and keep trying to inspire my colleagues to move on. Nowadays in a much more one-to-one, minimalist, subtle way than in the past of one-size-fits-all type of teacher training. The way we share has changed into a much more abundant, non-linear way, so has the approach we should take to teacher training and the development of everyone's digital literacy skills.

    Sunday, August 7, 2011

    Talking about Pets

    My class tomorrow is about pets.

    This is a topic that arouses lots of interest and interaction as there are many people attached to their pets. A while ago, I recorded this simple video with a friend. As voicethread is a dynamic tool to create learning objects, now I can use it with my students with an even richer listening practice touch, for other teachers have also talked about their pets.

    The idea is to start the class showing some photos of animals that could be "weird" pets (i.e, iguanas) and to discuss if those animals would make good pets and the reasons for the answers.

    Then, I'll show the Voicethread and ask students to write questions to my friend Luiz Cláudio about his pets. Then, they will talk about their own pets and will bring images of their own pets for a topic wrap up in the following class.



    Some questions for discussion:

    - Are you attached to animals? Do you have pets? How attached are you to your pet?
    - How many pets have you had so far?
    - When isn't it good to have pets?
    - Pets are more work than fun. Agree or disagree?
    - Animals are not meant to become pets. Agree or disagree?

    Thursday, August 4, 2011

    RSCON 3 - Professional Development in Pajamas

    Last week, we had the wonderful Online conference - the "Reform Symposium". I was delighted to have presented there, as there were so many talented educators presenting. Truly an honor.

    http://reformsymposium.com



    As much as I wanted to be there 24/7 for the three inspiring days of the free online professional development opportunity, I couldn't because it was the first weekend I was with my two little ones after three long weeks they were traveling to their grandparents' house. So, it meant that I missed the chance to watch the presentations live, but, as in the year before, I knew there would be recordings of the presentations and I could catch up later on, even if I knew it was a different, more lonely experience than being there live, listening, commenting, asking questions and networking. A choice to be with the family, some sacrifice.

    Now, I'm glad to know that the recordings are already being made available by the wonderful team of the Reform Symposium organizers. You can still watch the sessions in a spirit of "professional development in pajamas", fun, open, with no time or place constraints.

    You just need to access http://bit.ly/recordingsrscon3 

    Many of the resources can also be found online at
    http://www.scoop.it/t/rscon3

    http://bit.ly/reflectionsrscon3 
    RSCON3 Social Media Storify


    No excuses, then, to be inspired and do things even better in your classroom.

    Thursday, July 28, 2011

    Reformsymposium - Your Professional Development Excuses are Over

    There's no way you can keep finding excuses for not learning with other educators around the globe.

    This is your chance, so grab it and enjoy the ride starting tomorrow, July 29th.



    http://reformsymposium.com 



    Info about my presentation available at http://brazilbridges.pbworks.com/RSCON3 

    Sunday, July 24, 2011

    Icebreakers, not Sleeping Pills

    I remember when I had English classes, most of them started the same. The teacher would tell the rules of our class and write on the board the test dates for us to copy. Then, there would be some kind of warmer that sometimes was colder than being in the Antarctic with inappropriate clothes for the weather. Yes, I have a vivid memory about that, and not so much about fun, engaging activities during the first class. Funny thing is that even the simplest activity would please me as the first day was always an exciting part of my school year. We met the new teacher, new friends and old ones. The book was new, new pens, pencils and notebook, ready for action.

    #88 24-09-2007
    First day at school, buh. It was pretty boring so I spent my time decorating my hand :)
    The only interesting thing he said was "if you want to see more photos of this building, you can go to flickr.com" yay!

    Now, as a teacher, I really spend some time to find simple, pleasant activities to make my students remember why they enrolled in an English class in the first place. If the students don't know me, in the past I used to write some numbers on the board for students to figure out what they meant for me. It was a lot of fun, lots of questions and discovery. Personal. Then, they'd do the same with their peers. It has always worked. No need for much preparation. And if teachers want to play safe, this activity is engaging and effective.

    However, with so much out there at the tip of our fingers, I've been trying to go beyond, to make my first day a more memorable first encounter, a more critical-thinking enhanced class.

    This is my plan. First, I'll show some pictures of mine. Students need to guess what it is about, who those people are. Plus, they can ask me some questions. I created this by grabbing my favorite photos set in Flickr and adding them to a Gallery (you can only do that by using other people's photos)
    Here's my presentation. Can you guess things about me from the pictures?
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/carlaarena/galleries/72157627143771675/


    Oh, but wait a minute! This class was mine last semester! I'll need to be more creative than that, for they know a lot about me. So, I'll do the opposite. I'll show images to tell them 7 things they don't know about me and they have to guess what's the story behind it.
    Here's my selection of images:



    Then, I'm going to show students powerful images with colors, emotions, places, people and they will have to relate the images with their lives, themselves or their vacation. By doing that, I'm sure I'll be able to learn more than ever about my students, their passions, and interests. Isn't that a good start for us to make informed decisions when we're planning our next lessons?





    Another way to do the students' part is for them to look for any images in their cell phones or wallets, they show to peers, and peers try to guess from the image a bit more about them. If students don't have images in their cell phones, they can find any object in their purses and wallets to share with their pairs.

    And if you're willing to see more fantastic examples of icebreakers, here are some that educators at the school I work for prepared:
    http://ctjconnected.blogspot.com/2010/07/language-learning-tips.html
    http://ctjconnected.blogspot.com/2010/01/ice-breakers.html

    How about test dates and rules? Not in my first day of class when I want students to turn on and not OFF. I want to open up their brains for an exciting, enticing journey. I want them to want more, to be there with me next class. Test dates and rules can wait another class, or, if not possible, the end of the class.

    How about you? Any other tips?

    Saturday, July 16, 2011

    No Excuses for Educators to Go Beyond - Professional Development

    I truly believe that institutions are not able to provide all the professional development opportunities an educator needs. In the past, workshops, training sessions, lectures with invited speakers were the only way to go for professional development, and we thought that this would suffice. Certainly not true anymore. One-size-fits-all kind of training seems to me so outdated if you consider the limitless online possibilities. Surely, we could look for paid online courses, but my focus is on free (yes, totally free!) educational opportunities for teachers who want to move further, have a breath of fresh air, aim to be more engaging, and look for inspiring ideas for the classroom.



    There are just so many options, but I'll focus on three to keep it simple and avoid our own excuses of things being too overwhelming. No excuses anymore, learning instead:

    • Follow Sue-Lyon Jones's Scoop it with the latest news on professional development opportunities.
      http://www.scoop.it/t/cpd-in-education 
    • Join a Community of Practice. I'd highly recommend the Webheads, a group of inspired educators always on the learning loop
    • Take one of the free online sessions offered by the Electronic Village Online every January. Sessions range from teaching Young Learners to adventuring yourself in Second Life. Every year new educational topics are explored.
    So, what are you waiting for? Why would you wait for the next conference or the next workshop if you have everything at the tip of your fingers?

    There's no excuse of time, money or institutional issues that will resist the incredible chance you have to connect to like-minded educators online, learn a lot, and give another meaning to your teaching career.

    Monday, July 11, 2011

    Posterous - Blogging with Style

    http://narede.posterous.com






    I've been using Posterous for a while, and if you are considering blogging as an option to keep your thoughts, ideas, resources, comments, audio and video files in one place, Posterous might be what you're looking for.

    Its main advantage is its user-friendliness. It is so simple to start using it that the whole process begins with an email. You send an email to Posterous and your blog is ready to go! Then, you can keep blogging by email. If you attach photos, Posterous creates a slideshow. If you attach an audio file, it automatically embeds a neat player.

    However, what I'd really like to highlight is the group feature in Posterous. You can have a group of people blogging into one Posterous blog once the administrator invites the contributors to collaborate. It nicely aggregates all the posts into one place, which makes it very easy for the group to keep track of the updates without understanding much of feed issues (as shown in the image above).

    Posterous makes blogging easy, effective and social. Try it and you'll see what I mean.

    Saturday, July 9, 2011

    Cool Writing Tool of the Week - OhLife

    http://ohlife.com


    Do you want a simple tool to invite your students to write more and keep a journal?

    It can be a journal about their learning experience, or their daily lives.

    OhLife! sends them a reminder everyday and they simply have to reply to the message by mail to have their thoughts neatly posted. If they add a photo as attachment, OhLife does the job of neatly embedding it. This tool makes writing practice simple and exciting. Plus, the students can export their writings as text and share them with the teachers and friends.

    Friday, July 8, 2011

    Professional Development - Do-It-Yourself Approach

    Ann Foreman has shared her wonderful presentation about professional development. What she says is exactly what I've been advocating for some years now. Educators need to be in charge of their own learning. They need to understand that PD is not institutionally-bound. We need to get hold of our own professional development perspective and analyze where we want to get and why.



    Here are some of my presentations related to the topic that might be of interest:

    Share, Connect, Learn

    From Incubation to Change


    Digital Magic of Professional Development

    Wednesday, July 6, 2011

    365 Photos - Telling a Story

    Photos are snapshots of a flash of a moment that will never happen again. They freezes time, space, people. They tell a story. They keep memories alive.

    Since 2009 I've been part of this wonderful group of passion-driven people, educators, amateurs who take their time every day to share a snapshot, that frozen moment of their days with the community. When I started, the group had more than a 100 people. Now, there are more than 600 and growing.


    In 365 photos Flickr group, we connect, we take photos, we share, we talk, we appreciate. It's beauty in essence, that captured moment from different parts of the world, a mosaic of lives.

    This week, I got an email from Kathy, one of the persons in the group who has always shared and talked back. There was always a kind comment, a personal touch she'd give to my own photos. Because of a workshop she was taking on digital storytelling, she produced this very powerful, touching story made of the community's stories and her own:



    I replied to Kathy:

    "Dear Kathy, I feel totally touched to see our story made yours, to listen to your voice for the first time.

    I've been faithful with the community for a while, but this year I thought I couldn't live up to it because I missed some days. I stopped, but now you made me realize it really doesn't matter, for what I long for is the connections I had established in the group. Our stories. Our fragments of stories. So, even if I have a fragmented collection this year, no problem, there's no punishment, except for my own. I'll get back there and start posting my photos as if this were the first day of the year.

    Thanks for such a wonderful story. It is touching. It gets to our hearts, the stops, the music, the transitions, the images. They all matter in the story construction.

    You made my day."

    I started sharing my photos again. Kathy reminded me why I've decided to be part of this community in the first place. I'm back. I want to feel alive. I want to look around with other perspective. I want to give me some time of the day to appreciate what surrounds me. I want to connect. I want to see what others around the globe care about.

    Tuesday, July 5, 2011

    m-Learning for Kids

    If you are considering using tablets with the young ones, this guide from Laura Wright is an excellent start:


    Monday, July 4, 2011

    m-Learning - Screencasting App

    I downloaded showmeapp to my iPad.

    You can write on the whiteboard and record a screencast, or you can use an image to record your impressions, stories, tutorials using it.

    Here's my example for basic students:


    http://www.showmeapp.com/sh/?i=5220

    I uploaded it from my iPad straight to the site. From there, you can embed the video or share it in social networks.

    How can we use showmeapp in the classroom?

    You can give the device to your students and ask them to record a tutorial, an explanation about certain topic, a summary of the class.
    You can think of riddles, brainboosters and challenges. Record them and ask the students to solve them.

    In this video, I talked about my family and friends. I could ask questions related to what I said.

    Now, I have a challenge for you: I made a mistake in the video. Can you tell me what is wrong?

    Images in the Classroom Series - Emotions


    My husband calls me a tourist or gadget girl. I always have a device which can help me capture the moment. First, because of my interest in photography, in getting that moment that in nanoseconds will be simply past. However, my most preement reason for being a gadget girl is that I am an educator. I always feel that I can explore the world with my students through the eyes of a lens. Those captured moments are an invaluable teaching tool. I go beyond, though. It is not only my photos, but all the photos I come across in Flickr Creative Commons. Flickr is just so powerful that words wouldn't be able to reach its strength for pedagogical purposes. Here's just one example of how it can be used by educators interested in developing students' critical thinking, critical literacies and so on.

    Take for example this photo I came across in Alan Levine's slideshare presentation.

    We could have a wonderful "Emotion" class just by exploring it.

    Ideas? Many! Here are some:

    • Start by asking your students to draw how they feel today. Or you can even ask them to fold the paper in four and give them specific times of the day (today at school, yesterday evening, today during lunch time, right now). They draw their four different moods in the paper and share them with friends giving reasons why they felt that way. You could ask them to find people who shared two similar kinds of moods during specific times of the day, or someone who had quite the opposite emotions. That should be fun!

    • Write the word CRYING on the board. Why do people cry? Let the students speak out.
    • If the teacher feels it won't hurt anybody's feelings or cause any embarassment to a student, ask the group when the last time they cried was and see if someone wants to share his story. This can be highly emotional, I know. But it can also build group trust, a sense of community. If you feel it is a too-touchy subject, change it for "the last time you had a really great, loud laugh"
    • Show the photo to the group to explore the context:
      Wretched
      http://www.flickr.com/photos/21204781@N07/2501994750/



      - Why was this boy crying?
      - Who was holding him?
      - Where are they?
      - What time of the day was it?
      - How long do you think he kept crying? Why?
      - What would the person holding him do or say to make him smile again?
      - Do you remember a similar scene in your house?
    • After the group discussion, you can ask students:
      - to write a text as if the boy was reporting what happened and why he was crying.
      - to write a text from the perspective of the person holding him and his feelings towards the boy crying
      - to build up a dialogue based on the scene
      - to include a third person in the room (students choose the person they would include and what this person would do to make the boy stop crying)
      - to make a drawing as if they were the boy at the exact moment he stopped crying
    Any other ideas for this very emotional class?

    Sunday, July 3, 2011

    m-Learning in the EFL Classroom

    More and more, I've been interested in finding and testing possibilities of using mobile devices in the classroom - flip cameras, smartphones, recorders, tablets - everything which is at a student's reach. When I had a group of teens, it was simply natural to explore what was at my students' fingertips, as for them it is just part of who they are and how they use the devices on a daily basis.

    One of the results was this very simple, but extremely rewarding class project I had with them. I brought a Flip Camera to class, we were working with relative pronouns. I told them about my international friends' interest in learning Portuguese. So, they decided for the words they wanted to teach my friends, they wrote sentences with the definitions of those words, they recorded it and we posted on a Voicethread. Then, I invited my friends through my Twitter network to learn Portuguese and work on their pronunciation skills. My students were marveled to see that their work was valued and used by an international community.

    Here's the result:


    http://voicethread.com/share/525514/ 

    What does this mini-project show?

    • m-Learning is not a distant concept. We can start profiting from it with what we have now in class. Just look around and ask your students what devices they have that can be used for learning and connecting to others.
    • Project-based learning doesn't mean year-long project. It can be a one-class hour project.
    • Engagement means choice. Give your students as many choices as possible within the learning framework you've established for the project.
    • Projects can be truly simple and productive.
    • Give up control, guide, and let the students be the producers of content.
    • Stop underestimating your students' abilities to produce content.
    • Let them be the owners of the language they are studying through hands-on activities.
    • Remember that learning is not a passive act, that our attention capabilities are triggered by movement and not stillness.
    • Start small and get more ambitious as you get used to using the mobile devices.
    • Start exploring the online references about m-Learning, tablets, smartphones...

    Here's my list to help you get excited for the next term at your school with new projects that might bring great learning outcomes, powerful teaching moments and the enjoyment of you with your learner being learning partners:

    Sunday, June 26, 2011

    ISTE - An Ed Tech Conference worth Following

    For many educators in the world, it is vacation, summer time. For others, like in Brazil, it is winter break. In any case, a very opportune time of the year to keep our learning path running.

    ISTE is one of those unmissable opportunities. Of course, the best way to attend it is by being there. However, if you don't have the chance to do it, you can still follow the conversations, learn a new concept, check the slideshows, and some unconferences taking place in Philadelphia until next Wednesday, June 29th.

    Here are some of the tips shared by Chris Atkinson

    Search and follow the Twitter hashtag #iste11
    Link into the ISTE Conference Ning
    Connect with ISTE news and EdReach updates via Facebook.
    Follow EdReach for great ISTE coverage


    I just followed ISTE Keynote with Dr. Medina, using http://twitterfall.com/ . Add the search (left) of the keyword you want and check the streaming. From there, you can retweet, follow the people who are tweeting, DM them, reply. Nice tool to keep track of a live event  or simply a Twitter conversation.

    Here's a wonderful resources page created by Diana Dell

    Saturday, June 25, 2011

    Powerful Tool for the Classroom - Qwiki

    Imagine a more dynamic, visually-appealing Wikipedia with audio and video.

    Mind-blowing Qwiki is exactly this!
    Great visuals, narration, subtitles. An impressive tool with great potential for any classroom.

    Take a look, for example, this video I got after searching about Pelé:


    View Pelé and over 3,000,000 other topics on Qwiki.

    Friday, June 24, 2011

    Control X Emergence

    I was just listening to this wonderful online presentation by Nancy White


    Nancy, as always brilliant and inspiring, talked about the connective possibilities that the Net has enabled us, but the point that really caught my attention was when she talked about emergence x control. This is an issue we are always struggling with, trying to find the balance, trying to find the best way to motivate the groups we work with to tap into their creativity, but facing the challenges of the institutional boundaries.

    Barbara Dieu mentioned that,
    "Control happens in the curriculum, in the rules, in the teachers'room - emergence happens in the classroom and we must be aware of it when it happens and ride the wave."
    Emergence will only arise if we are sensible and can perceive what's around us. Having the control part doesn't mean we can just follow rules and plans and not let inspiration, innovation, perspiration, creativity emerge from our personal bonds and experiences. We need to stop with the excuses of control to let our students' creative minds blossom.

    By the end of the presentation Nancy poked the audience with a question:

    "We are influencers, the tight rope walkers. What should we start doing? What should we stop doing?"

    What´s next for you as an educator, professional, human being? What should you start and stop doing?

    Here's one resource shared by Nancy worth checking. It all about openness and emergence.
     http://cogdogblog.com/stuff/etug11/

    Thursday, June 9, 2011

    The Power of Digital Storytelling

    We are all a collection of stories. Stories that come from our ancestors, the ones that we built throughout our lives, those who surround us.

    Storytelling is ancient, yet totally contemporary. Our lives make sense because of our own stories and the weaving of our stories with the ones who are part of them.

    It is undeniable the power of storytelling, which can be taken to another level with digital tools. Not only are we able to tell and re-tell our stories, but we can also archive, remix, multiply them in different multimedia layers.

    Educators are, by nature, wonderful storytellers, and we need to keep exploring stories in the classroom to build our own stories with our learners. Going further. We need to help our learners find their own voice through storytelling. We need to help them have this feeling of belonging, of being part of a community, of being an important part of it. With digital storytelling, there are simply limitless ways of doing that. How have you been exploring it in your classroom?
    Digital Storytelling Presentation at 2011 WLA
    View more presentations from Matt Gullett

    Thursday, June 2, 2011

    CALICO Conference - A Wealth of Information for Language Educators



    CALICO, The Computer Assisted Language Instruction Consortium, has had its Conference in Victoria, Canada. Though I'd love to have attended it, there's no way we can be omnipresent when we have our professional commitments, time and budget constraints. However, all of this doesn't seem to be plausible excuses anymore when the Conferences can be at the tip of your fingers.

    I'm truly delighted to see the recording efforts of the CALICO organizers to keep the audio/video archive of presentations, special thanks to Marc Siskin, who has done an incredible job of putting all together for us who, at first sight, could be seen as a far-reaching audience.

    All the resources are available at https://calico.org/page.php?id=567

    I've just spent some time now exploring some of the sessions. Don't miss this opportunity to keep yourself updated in the latest trends and discussions on language learning, SLA, research, elearning, and beyond.

    Tuesday, May 31, 2011

    Featured Blog - If the Ship Sinks, We Have the Survival Kit!

    I've known these creative minds for some time now, and they are just pure inspiration. Vinicius, Marina and Vânia are very talented teachers whom I'm lucky enough to have been working with for a number of years. They are tireless, fearless educators who inspire others and keep their students engaged through activities that enhance students' creativity, critical skills and willingness to speak English in a light-hearted, warm learning environment.

    After having presented their brilliant ideas in International Conference, they've become bloggers with simple, but very effective activities for the classroom.

    Take a snapshot of this balloon activity, for example:
    http://iftheshipsinks.blogspot.com/2011/04/baloons-sentences.html

    or the Name Six activity.

    Simple and brilliant, isn't it?

    Every week, a new activity for you to test in your classroom.
    Thanks, Marina, Vini and Vânia, for being so generous with our educational community.

    http://iftheshipsinks.blogspot.com