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Sometimes the coursebooks we use do not seem to contain what our learners need, or the information is outdated and we, teachers, start adapting or upgrading the content.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