Labels

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Zooburst - a storytelling tool

 Zooburst is a digital storytelling tool which allows users to create interactive 3D pop-up books. The tool is so easy to use, that teachers can ask their learners to create their own books as well. It has MyClasses section where teachers can create protected spaces for their learners' books, but this feature is not free.

 Having registered, click on MyBooks tab to start creating a new book. This is also the space where all your created books will show. At first you need to title your book and write a description. The latter is optional. What I like about this tool is that you can make the book visible to everyone, anyone with a link or only to yourself. So if you are going to use the book in the classroom, you can set it to "Only me".

The work area is self-explanatory - you don't really need to be an expert to create a book. To add a picture, you can either do a search inside Zooburst or upload your own photos. When creating the book, remember to save each page you have not to lose any. You can make a maximum of 10 pages but that's enough for a short classroom activity.

The first book I created was for my students to revise past tenses. I showed them a page at a time and they needed to write a sentence or two describing the picture and connect the description of the first picture with the following one to end up with a story. The students were working in pairs and spent a great deal of time discussing each picture and negotiating the meaning. They all enjoyed the activity.

Another interesting feature of this tool is that it can be presented online. All you need to do is to print the ZB logo, click the Camera tab above the book you want to present, show the printed logo to the camera and your book will pop out from the logo on the camera.

Here is what the book is like.


Sunday, February 23, 2014

E-Book Publishing Options

Sometimes the coursebooks we use do not seem to contain what our learners need, or the information is outdated and we, teachers, start adapting or upgrading the content.

E-book publishing sites actually allow teachers and their learners to create textbooks that meet their requirements. Here are 3 of those sites.


The good thing about this one is that it has an in-built cover builder so that you don't have to create one yourself. There are quite a lot of images to choose from for the cover and it also has a table of content option. These two options make it really easy to create a book. In terms of the book itself, there are two options: either to type the book inside the site or upload a written up book from your computer. Video or any other interactive source cannot be added but you can add images.

On the negative side, the book is not embeddable which for me is not such a good option. I need to create a book which I can embed into my learners wiki and/or Moodle, because, otherwise, they will not complete the tasks not to make their posts public.



This site works more or less the same as BookRix but it doesn't have an in-built cover or content options - you will need to create these yourself. It also doesn't have an option of typing the book in-site - you have to upload a ready made book to it but, I think, the book looks a lot better and you can also get an embed code to add the book itself to a site you run for your learners. Th flipping pages also look good.

Issuu also doesn't support any interactive options, but still it is worth having a look at it.

This is the same book but published on Issuu this time.
3. Glossi

Glossi is a fairly simple tool. You use page templates offered on the site. You create your own cover and can search Google for images for your cover or pages you want to create. Video can be embedded easily which makes it a great tool for a flipped classroom. But make sure to save every page you create not to lose the work if something goes wrong.

The book can be embedded onto a site and is very interactive.

Here's what I have created on Glossi.


Thursday, January 9, 2014

DELTA Module 1 Tips

Having completed the first module and taken the exam, I decided to share some tips with those planning to take the course.

I chose to do the course with TheDistanceDelta because the online mode is more convenient for me as I don't have to give up work and travel somewhere to do it and I can also take care of my family while doing the course.

Initially (the first week only) the course seemed easy enough and we were all quite optimistic about it but then we started doing the assignments (tasks from the exam papers), panic set in and the forums started filling up with pessimistic and desperate  messages. Sometimes I didn't even want to check the threads not to lose faith completely. Working full-time didn't help either. So, if you can work part-time while taking the course, it will be a very good idea to do so.

Although the course is very demanding, there are some things which could be done before and during the course to ease the tension.

1. Before the course starts

Make sure you read (and even re-read)

  • Beyond the Sentence by Scott Thornbury,
  • About Language by Scott Thornbury,
  • An A-Z of ELT by Scott Thornbury (this one is a must-have book for the whole course and you'd be better off almost memorizing the terms in it as good use of terminology will earn you extra points),
  • How to teach pronunciation by Gerald Kelly (this one is also very important because knowledge of phonology and phonetics is tested very often).
This is essential to do because it will help you a lot during your training.

2. During the course

You will need to refer to An A-Z of ELT during the course, so I would advise buying the book. Throughout both exam papers terminology is tested and you are expected to use the correct terms not the ones you use with your students (for the latter you don't gain any points) and the terminology needs to be spelt correctly for you to get a point - any mistakes and goodbye a valuable point. This British Council page may also come handy.

There is a Quizlet set to memorize the terminology and practise spelling and the app is free for Android and iOS so you can install it on your phone or tablet and work with the cards on the way to work and back home. Alternatively, you can create your own set on Quizlet but before the course because during it you won't have much time.

It is also useful to have Grammar for English Language Teachers by Martin Parrot which has grammar tasks for teachers to do and they help a lot in the exam preparation.

During this time it is very important to read about the development of ELT, the approaches and methods from Grammar Translation to Principled Eclecticism - names of people and approaches taken in each method are very important for the exam. 

Revise testing terminology and what each kind of test tests. This also comes up very often in the exam papers. There is even a task which asks you to analyse a test in relation to a certain learner with certain needs in a certain context. 

Also read this Examination Report to see what the guideline answers are and how you should approach each task. 

And revise terminology of phonology again and again. Analyse anything your students say in English for features of connected speech, assimilation, elision, etc.

3. Before the exam

Make sure you do a full mock exam under exam conditions to see which sections you need to spend more time on and, in general, to get a feel for the exam itself. Timing is tough for the tasks and you may find that you do not have enough time to complete a task or two. I managed to complete the tasks but didn't have time to check anything at all. This, I think, is one of the toughest challenges in the exam. 

The day before the exam, I revised terminology for phonology and I was right in doing so - most part of the exam tested phonology related terminology and various features of pronunciation.

And finally, get enough sleep! 

Good luck with the exam!


Saturday, December 28, 2013

The '11 Challenge' Post

I wonder why the '11 Challenge' started around Christmas time - maybe we have more free time to take the challenge. 

Here are the 5 rules for tagging or perhaps tag blogging or blog tagging.


1. Acknowledge the nominating blogger.

2. Share 11 random facts about yourself.
3. Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has asked you.
4. List 11 bloggers. You cannot nominate those bloggers who have nominated you.
5. Post 11 questions for the bloggers you have nominated to answer. 

Task 1. Acknowledge the nominating blogger.

I have been tagged by my dear friends Debora Tebovich and Sanja Bozinovic.

Task 2. 11 Random facts about me.

1. I only like shopping for books, DVDs and computers.
2. I really dislike cold weather.
3. Because I dislike the smell of beer, I mix it with Sprite to drink it and many people laugh at me when I do that.
4. I love my first cup of coffee in the morning.
5. I love Doctor Who and Torchwood series and can watch the same episodes over and over again.
6. When I was 4 years old I fell into a lake and nearly drowned. Since then I am afraid of water and never learned to swim.
7. I can play the piano.
8. I love reading detective stories and at the moment my favourite writer is James Patterson.
9. I love Chinese food and can cook it too.
10. I don't watch TV at all. To watch the programs in point 5 I buy the DVDs.
11. I dislike crowds and during public holidays I don't go out. Being in a crowd makes feel dizzy.

Task 3. Answer the questions put forward to you by the nominating blogger.

Answers to Debora's questions
1.   How often do you feel exposed to dilemmas as an Educator? How do you work them out?
Every so often. My response to a dilemma largely depends on what the problem is. If, for example, some of my students are lagging behind, I try to understand the reason and address it.
2.   What plants and flowers do you have at home?
I have quite a few plants at home but, to be honest, I don't know what they are called. One of my colleagues keeps on giving them to me and I look after them, but haven't even tried to find out what they are.
3.   Have you ever got stuck in an elevator?
Yes, I have. This was a very long time ago. This was 20 or 22 years ago. I got stuck in the lift with two of my friends and before the 'rescue team' arrived, we had spent the time doing homework. I thought it was fun. :)
4.   What is that lovely childhood memory that comes to you every once in a while?
My mum decorating a cake with oranges and tangerines and me secretly eating them off the cake.
5.   If English is not your mother tongue, do you ever need to read subtitles when you watch a movie in English?
I did before, like about 10 years ago. Now I don't need subtitles mainly because the main language of communication for me is English.
6.   What makes you laugh?
Many things and situations. I actually like laughing and can find something funny in everything.
7.   If you could spend a year focusing on research, what would you research? Why?
What effect online/blended learning might have on children diagnosed with so called ADHD. I still doubt the existence of such a thing and I would like to know if these children could cope with learning better in an online mode.
8.   How do you keep track of your digital files?
I save them in Google docs, Dropbox and Diigo.
9.   When was the last time you danced?
On 25 December we were celebrating Christmas in the office. I put some music on and we danced a bit before our lessons started.
10.    Who do you admire and why?
There isn't just one person I admire. I admire those who don't give up if they encounter problems and try to make a difference. Perhaps because I myself don't give up, I dislike it when people break without even trying to do something. 
11.    Are you good at setting goals? Do you follow a certain process to set your goals?
I think I am usually good at setting goal, although I can be too ambitious sometimes, especially when it comes to doing various courses. I might sometimes choose to take more courses than I can actually handle and then try to complete them. There is n certain process, I think I mainly just prioritize the important ones.

Answer's to Sanja's questions (I might be cheating here by answering two bloggers' questions, but  I am trying to save time :) )
1. What are you going to do differently in the new year (at least during the first month)?
I am not sure how successful I am going to be but I am planning to get enough sleep. 
2. If you could get a free ticket to any destination in the world, where would you like to go?
To South America - if I get a free ticket to one of the South American countries, I can make my own way to the others. I would really love to go to Argentina, Brazil, Peru, Uruguay, etc.
3. If you could choose to live all year in one season, would yo choose winter or summer?
I would definitely choose summer, I really dislike winter and the cold weather that goes with it. 
4. What do you find hardest to teach your students?
Assimilated sounds. They find it hard to understand why sounds change, etc.
5. What do you like about the space you teach (your classroom)?
I think my classroom is welcoming and I really like everything about it. I also like the fact that I don't share it with anyone and can design it the way I like.
6. Which is the most important quality you look for in a community of practice you belong to?
The most important quality for me would be the openness of the community members and the readiness to share and cooperate. This is how we develop as teachers, I think.
7. If you weren't a teacher, what would you do?
Not really sure, but perhaps a lawyer as this was my childhood dream.
8. What is the best way to share what you learn about teaching?
Through blogging and Facebook group. 
9. What do you never go to work without?
I don't have to take anything to work, to be honest, as I have everything I need in my classroom. 
10. Can you think about and share one thing that people usually don't know about the part of the world where you live?
The capital city, Yerevan, although very small, has three micro-climates: it might be snowing in the north of the city, raining in the central part and sunny and warm in the south.
11. If Santa was to bring you only one gadget you can use for teaching or in your free time, what would you wish for?
Lenovo Yoga 11 IdeaPad - I have fallen in love with it, although I don't really need one.

Task 4. Nominate 11 bloggers

1. Dora Bozanic
2. Rose Youssef
3. Hakan Senturk
4. Merve Oflaz
5. Elvina Castillo
6. Adam Simpson
7. Silvia Heshiki
8. Sara Rodriguez Arias
9. Kristina Smith
10. Ana Rivas
11. Claudia Carrill

Task 5. Ask 11 Questions.

1. What is your favourite book genre?
2. Which film have you seen many times and can still watch again? Why?
3. If you could choose any country to move to, which country would you choose and why?
4. What's your favourite drink? How often do you drink it?
5. Which English language course book do you like most and why?
6. Which web-based tool do you like most and why?
7. What's the most difficult for you in your job?
8. What's your favourite place in your town/city? Is there any place you dislike?
9. If you could change one thing in your house/flat, what would you change and why?
10. What's your favourite dish? Can you cook it yourself?
11. What don't you have enough time for?

I look forward to your replies!!! :)






Saturday, October 12, 2013

Web-Based Podcasting Tools

There are different options for creating podcasts, with Audacity being perhaps one of the most popular ones. But because the software looks a bit too complicated, I usually opt for web-based tools available for free.

There are many things an educator can use podcasts for. I mainly use podcasts for various speaking activities as the main aim and listening as the subsidiary aim. This allows my students to practise their speaking skills even more. They can tell stories, or continue each other's stories, etc.

In this blog post, I would like to share some of my favourite podcast tools with you.

AudioPal is the only tool that is interactive, i.e. if an AudioPal recording is embedded into a site, it starts playing automatically as soon as the site loads. So a greeting message or a site introduction message could be perfect. It also allows you to record your message by phone which is a nice option if your mic isn't working very well.

No registration is required and the tool is easy to use. It has record-by-phone, text-to-message, record or upload an MP3 options.

I think the screenshot is pretty self-explanatory.


















Chirbit - this site has some nice options: apart from the usual click-to-record to create a podcast option or upload option, it also allows users to convert a Youtube video into a podcast (Chirbit, as it is called on the site) and you can also convert text to audio just like with AudioPal.







It actually takes a very short time to turn a yotube video into a podcast which then can be embedded into a blog or any other site. There is a commenting option, which can be used with students to discuss a Youtube-to-Chirbit talk. Chribits can also be transcribed something that my students enjoy doing. They say that this improves their listening skills and concentration.

Here is an example of a Youtube video turned into a Chirbit.



PodOmatic works more or less the same as the previous ones. With the free account you get 500MB of storage and 15GB of bandwidth a month. So not too bad.

There are many options for sharing the recordings: you can embed the podcast into a blog or a wiki, you can send it to someone's email address, you can share it on many social networking sites. The episodes can aslo be downloaded. So if you are worried about storage, you can just download the episode and then delete it from your podomatic page.

You can also follow other educators and use their recordings, with their permission of course.

Vocaroo - this one is probably the easiest to use. All you need is to go to the website and you are ready to record or upload an audio message.

As you can see, the tool is pretty easy to use. just Click to Record and start speaking.













After you have finished recording, you can listen to it and save or if you dislike it, you can re-record. Then all you need to do is to click save and then you get the options seen on the screenshot below.


















You can share the recording, email it to the person it is intended for or simply download it.

The best thing about Vocaroo is that the recordings on the site are not searchable so we don't have to worry too much about privacy.

Voxopop - This tool is the same as the other ones but it is also different in that it is really good for group discussions. A teacher creates a talkgroup and invites students to take part. This could be a discussion of a burning issue or a piece of breaking news. Learners listen to what their teacher has to say, then in the same group they record their own opinions and listen to each other's ideas. Here again we have integrated skills practice: listening and speaking. If the students are required to read the news before they can take part, then they also improve their reading skills.

This is what a talkgroup looks like.













I myself use this tool a lot with my IELTS students. They record their replies and then I record my feedback in the same talkgroup. This makes it easier for each student to track their progress and not get lost in lots of different links.

There are only two drawbacks: 1. the talkgroups are not embeddable, and 2. you do not receive notifications about new posts; you have to log in every day to see if there is anything new or not. Even so, I really like Voxopop. 

Friday, May 10, 2013

Web-Based Collaborative Whiteboards

Some of my Pre-Intermediate adult students told me the other day that there are some grammar points that they would like to revise with me because they couldn't understand them on their own. Not to spend class time on this (we have been given only 62 hours to cover a level), I started looking for web-based whiteboards. I tested some that I found and invited my students to join the online lesson. This was in the evening and everyone was at home, so it was easy for them not to think about work and concentrate on the lesson. I used 3 of the tools to compare and share with you plus 2 extra ones to look at.

1. DrawVille - this is a very simple tool and doesn't require registration. All you need to do is to type in your name and click on Start Drawing. Once you are in, you can send the link to people you want to join the lesson and wait for their names to appear in the 'users' list. There is also a chat room which I used to answer my student's questions. (For this lesson I invited 1 student because he was the only one who had questions about adjectives and adverbs.)
At the end of the session the whiteboard looked like this:


While I was typing in the explanation, my student used a black marker to draw my attention to points that he wanted clarification for or examples of. We also used the chat room to discuss what was being explained. Here's a screenshot of some parts of the chat.



My student really enjoyed the lesson and the whiteboard and to experiment with it he wrote 'Thank you' in a circle, which you can see at the bottom of the whiteboard. To save the lesson we both clicked on "Export drawing surface", which allows saving the surface in JPEG. Now if need be, I can upload or share the lesson with other students in the future.

2. The next tool is Scriblink which again doesn't require registration. You only need to run Java on your computer and the whiteboard loads immediately. This tool has a chat room too. It also has maths formulas so it might be of interest to maths teachers too. There are options for grids and image upload, which is quite useful. I think I can simply make a screenshot of a piece of writing sent by a student, upload it to the whiteboard as image, invite a student to the session and go over mistakes in the writing task. Because this tool has 5 whiteboards in 1, I can also use the other ones to explain grammar in which that particular student made the most mistakes.

I used this tool to explain Present Continuous.


The save option here only sends a link to your mailbox from which you can later access the lesson. So I just took a screenshot of the lesson, to be able to upload or share it.

3. The third one is CoSketch a multi-user online whiteboard. It doesn't require registration and all you need to do is click 'Create new sketch' and you are ready to start. There is a chat room, and it can be hidden if need be. This site is also connected to Google Maps which makes it possible to teach Geography as well. It is easy to write/type or draw on the map. Thus it can also be used for giving directions from one place to another in one city. For a sample map, I created this one:

 
Exporting is disabled for maps, but a screenshot solves this problem.

However, what I used this tool for was just an English language lesson. But here I asked my students to match normal and strong adjectives by drawing lines.


The board then can be saved as an embeddable image. However, I just made a screenshot of the board again to save it as a JPEG file. This one is also a very nice and useful tool.

4. One of the extras is Twiddla. The reason why I put it into extras is that it doesn't have many options for the free account. However, on the website it says that after registering, if you send an email to them from an .edu account (or similar), they will provide you with the Pro account for free, which is really nice. The tool is the only one among the ones I have had a look at that has a webconferencing (voice communication) option. It also has mathematical formulas and 2 different grid options. The board can be saved as an image and then re-used. Twiddla is really worth looking at.

5. The last one is Scribblar but I didn't test it, because it seems that the free version doesn't allow a lot of freedom. However, you might find it useful.



Sunday, April 21, 2013

Free Captioning Tools

Captioning tools allow uploading images and adding speech bubbles to them. I think using this tool can add a lot of fun to lessons, especially when we want our learners to create and/or tell a story.

One option would be to find images on the internet that could somehow fit into one story and then ask learners in groups to add speech bubbles to each image. Then they could compare their stories and vote for the best one.

Another option could be to ask learners to bring their own digital photos (these could be holiday photos, family photos, etc). Learners could work with their peers' photos and add speech bubbles to them.

I am sure each teacher will come up with more lesson ideas and I would love to hear/read your ideas.

Anyway, down to the tools. To test the tools I decided to use my own photo with a simple "Hello!" message.

The first tool I would like to talk about is Speechable.
The tool is free but requires registration. However, it takes only seconds to register and you can either upload an image from your computer or type in the URL to the image you want to be uploaded. When the image is uploaded you can doodle (draw/write) on it, add a speech bubble or just add a text. For doodling there is a great selection of colours, The text box can be moved around the image and placed anywhere you like and the writing can be in any colour. For speech bubbles you can choose among four types of bubbles, size and colour of text. After saving the image, you can go back to it to edit it. There doesn't seem to be an embed code, but by right-clicking the image you can save it onto your computer. Options for sharing in social networking sites are all in place.

The second one is SuperLame and it is a lot of fun to use.
This tool doesn't require registration and is free. The best thing about it is that it has an onboarding (guidance) system. A little arrow at  the top of the screen guides you through the process of creating the captions. It also has an option for adding what it calls 'Sound FX' and I just added all the possible sounds on offer to my image to let you see what you can have. The options for sharing here are either to email the image or to save it. But I don't think this a big problem. As long as you can save it as an image, you can upload it wherever you like.

The third one is DIYDespair
This one also doesn't require registration and is free. All the options are on the right-hand side of the image screen. However, this one doesn't have the fancy options of the previous one. The title and the captions can only go under the image and not onto it. But still, I think, some older learners may find the tool enjoyable. All the available options can be seen on the image below. 

The fourth site is Motivator
The name is the opposite of the third (Motivator vs Demotivator) one but it functions in the same way. No registration is required and it is free to use. But there are too many adverts on the website, so I don't think it is very good for children in case they click on the links advertised. The options are again next to the image screen and the captions can only be placed under the image not on it. In terms of sharing, it is again either email to a friend or download. 

And the last tool is PimPamPum. It doesn't require registration and is free to use as all the other ones. However, I didn't create an image with this one because to create a caption you need to add images from Flickr and as I don't have any uploaded images on Flickr and didn't want to use other people's images, I decided to give it a miss. But as many of you may have accounts on Flickr, I thought I will share this one with you too. I found a sample caption for you to see what can be created with this tool. I like the fact that it allows creating slideshows which makes the storytelling even easier. I hope you like it too.