15 December 2015

Because There is Light in Collaboration


And so another semester heads towards its end, just as another year which was filled with emerging educational trends taking root in many parts of the world. Emerging trends which are now more regular practices in a diversity of classrooms.  Change takes time, especially in educational practices. And though I keep mentioning different digital tools and apps here in this space, that does not necessarily mean that educators should be using them all - not at all. As in any other context, educators know best what works well in their classrooms, they are able to choose, tweak and adapt as they best see fit. Most urgently is the need to keep learning, to keep experimenting and opening doors to learning for learners, meeting them where they best learn in their digital worlds of today. 

There is light and lightness in collaboration. In this short post, I would like to thank the many educators with whom I learn with everyday. Whether on Twitter, Facebook or other social media where I participate, I thank you all for teaching and sharing with me. Learning does not happen in a vacuum. In today's world of fast paced change, it is with bloggers , those who volunteer to oragnise webinars and so much more, and others who share  their learning explorations, that I most learn with. Caught up in my own daily routines, if it were not for them, for you, I would be stuck in my own circles of trials and errors, fidgeting with apps and tools, frustrated with closed, locked up journals (and fortunately, this too has changed so much).

Participate Learning is one example of how educators can collaborate and share. 



Creativity in the English Language Classroom Nick Peachey) is another great source of inspiration to all language teachers.
(edited by  Alan Maley and Nik Peachey)

Personally, I offer no particular predications for 2016. Educational technology will continue to develop, will continue offering debates and many changes. Some may agree, while, many will question, still preferring to stick to rigid, outdated approaches of classroom practices. Downes, as always, was right. Change will not linger. Change will not wait. Collaborating, exploring, learning, are the only ways forward. Leadership without belief and vision, without the humility that comes with so much change, does not stand for leadership either. 

There is light and lightness. 

In openness, in transparent collaboration. 


SOAR: An Animated Short from Alyce Tzue on Vimeo.

There are stories to look forward to, successes and failures.

There are changes too. Many which educators should be fearless in trying out.

To all, I wish the best of endings for 2015 and more fruitful, happy changes in 2016!

To all who visit this space, many thanks for your time.

May 2016 bring light and lightness to all.





What educational changes do you look forward to in 2016?

Further Suggestions:

What Achieving Digital Equity Using Online Courses Could Look Like

Mapping digital practices

Top Ed-Tech Trends of 2015: Credits and Credentialing

For more trends in Digital Education - Digital Delights, Connecting Online Education

11 December 2015

Video Resources for Lessons


One of my most immediate challenges when using videos in class, is to decide whether they are culturally appropriate and how can they be best adapted for a language lesson.  Often, it is a stream of hours before I am able to find one which may be of suitable use and interest to my students. However, there are video resources which are easier to find and created specifically for education.

On the left hand side of this blog, you can see a list of video resources which teachers can dip into and today I'd like to mention Crash Course






With a range of topics, from religion to history, health and economics, there is plenty of choice - provided the setting allows.

How do you find appropriate videos for your students?


Wonders Never Cease from Crowns & Owls on Vimeo.


Further Suggestions:

Video Resources for Teaching Online and at a Distance

Teachers’ Guide to Using Videos - by Catlin Tucker

Video for All - by Russell Stannard

Video & Storytelling - by Jamie Keddie

Video Resources - curated on Digital Delights for Learners

Video Writing Prompts

Teach with Movies


9 December 2015

Playing with Images


Do you ever travel through images?

Do you ever wonder about what the images represent, how the photographer felt as he/she shifted their gaze and froze a moment? What they really saw and what you see?

There may be shifts of meanings, shades of perception, spaces in between what one sees and another wishes to express. 

Regardless of subject, there are always uses for images in classroom. Below are some suggestions for teachers and students alike. 

Loupe Collage is as the name suggests, a creator of collages,
offering different themes and shapes. One may use only one image or more. And yes, free to use.  You can download the image, share on social media, as well as embed it.

You can also create cards and even look for Waldo if inspiration is low. 



Meme Generator creates memes - a fun activity for learners, especially at the end of term or semester (or any time!). MakeaMeme is another choice for memes. 

Fotojet is another free online collage maker which also creates cards and posters.



Last suggestion for the day, is why not transform your class into unicorns with Unicornify? You only need to pop in an email and the generator will create a unicorn, which then can be added to a Padlet to showcase a whole group of learning unicorns! 

If you teach a language class, each learner can add a speech bubble to their unicorn and include it in the Padlet - for example, what they remember from classes, what have they learnt, what do they feel they need to improve. Possibilities are as endless as unicorns themselves!





Chiaroscuro from Daniel Drummond on Vimeo.

Further Suggestions:

Learning Visually with Themes

Visualising Data

Clipping the Art

Blow Me Away with Images

Posters, Images and Metaphors

23 November 2015

The Learning Management System

keys via photopin (license)

As many may perhaps know, I am an active user of Edmodo,  as well as a support
Ambassador for Edmodo. I find it so practical for students, that I also use quite often when training teachers as well. Here below are some reasons why:




However, there are other learning systems to use with students and when teaching online. Love them or hate them, often a LMS does offer some sense of tidiness in a course, in particular when other digital spaces are also being used for learning purposes. Despite not being a complete fan of a LMS which keeps student's work locked up and then later, not freely available to them, there are times when using a LMS comes in handy.


Here are some suggestions:

Haiku Learning

Modo Labs

Matrix LMS

Eliademy






Learnopia

Totara

Schoology

Adrenna






Otus

Open Class

Canvas






What other systems do you recommend?


For educators and students who wish to take more control over their learning, then Reclaim Hosting
is definitely worth exploring.

Further Suggestions:

10 alternatives to Moodle for e-Learning software, LMS Platform using open source/GPL

WizIQ

Olat

Moodle - a collection of references and videos

Edmodo - videos, slideshows and suggestions of how to use Edmodo

Teaching Check List

101 E-Learning Tips from the Experts

21 November 2015

Reading Resource for Young Learners


via GIPHY

November is a month dedicated to writing, but I have always questioned writing skills if students don't have reading habits as well. With all the digital temptations, how does one encourage reading?


BiblioNasium  is a reading space for young learners, a space where both parents and educators may find resources for fostering reading among a younger audience. 

Once you sign up, you will be presented with options, as you can see below:




A rich resource for both educators and students, making
reading in class different,  more contemporary and more engaging. 


Another approach to making reading more meaningful, is for learners to use Skitch (also available for Android). 

After reading a short story or chapter, learners take a photo, write something related to the image and what they read, then share their Skitch to their class blog or LMS (or even to a Padlet). 







Reading. 

Take a break. 

Read a book. 

Create digital art reading reminders. 






Further Suggestions:

60 THINGS STUDENTS CAN CREATE TO DEMONSTRATE WHAT THEY KNOW


NOTE:

I'd like to thank Enzo Pesce for the image above which I mashed up. Enzo Pesce shares beautiful, thought-provoking images on a daily basis.  An artistic mind to connect with and follow! 

19 November 2015

Diffuse with a Quote


Mid November pushes the semester onwards. Halloween has gone by, and other celebrations take shape with  plans and events to come.

Mid November and students become restless, wishing for the end which still seems so far away. 

Whether as a way to let off steam, or possibly even to summarise the essence of an essay or project, why not have learners create a simple poster with a quotation?

ReciteThis is simple and free to use - write your quote/words, choose the background, create and share!

When everyone has created their quote, have students share them in a wall (Padlet) , so creating a further sense of community among them. 

Teachers can use it as reminders to share with students or even to boost daily morale (when those waves of endless marking come along as they tend to do).


How do you diffuse bottled up energy from hours of sitting at desks? 


DIFFUSION from Kouhei Nakama on Vimeo.



Further Suggestions:

Soundbites for the Classroom

Posters, Images and Metaphors




14 November 2015

A Tile Board for MAC Users

Every journey of discovery needs a place where one can  register, reflect and save moments. Learning is no different. 

A great app for students and educators alike is PopBoardz, which can be used as student portfolio, a collection of references for teachers or even as a presentation tool for students. 

Whether organising ideas, presenting, sharing ideas, PopBoardz keeps images, links, videos, notes together and can be integrated in the iCloudDrive. Presented in tile form, one accesses what one needs to easily. 




What other boards have you found useful?


Further Suggestion:

Time, Priorities and Boards for Collaboration


13 November 2015

The Leap to Change


From connecting the classroom to life outside the school grounds, from giving voice to learners,  (and getting them published) to making mistakes, but learning from them, from seeking new approaches in lessons that engage learners, to web tools and apps - often it has seemed to me, that as educators we dance through a myriad of options for the sake of more engagement in learning. Yes, there may be elements of doubt, of fear even, when one goes ahead and introduces the new. Will the app work without glitches? Will the internet connection stall or will students actually be able to get on with their task? 

Change. Often a leap of faith. 

Selecting the right tool - moments when certainty is there, moments when one wishes an achievement but not always achieves the initial goal. Moments too, when learners adapt the task to how they want it to be. 

How does one choose what really works well in classrooms? Teachers Know Best offers these suggestions:



George Siemens has touched upon the feature of how being digitally literate also includes the element of playfulness, of how one should not be afraid of making a mistake while learning.

Sometimes too, choosing the right app or digital tool becomes close to speed dating - with so many options, how does one know which one is the best for one's student? By test and trial. That is part of learning for both educators and students. 

Change is a dance between faith and fearlessness of risking mistakes. 

Change is learning too. 


Speed Dating from Meghann Artes on Vimeo.


Further Suggestion:

Reaching out for Innnovation


Moments when one feels so close to innovation and change.

Moments when one is on the threshold and yet.

Moments when it is time to pull down locked grids, open windows of thought, let the light of change shine in.




Innovation, creativity, moving forwards. 


A question of doing. 

A question of will,  determination and

Belief. 


Le mouvement de l'air / The movement of air from Adrien M / Claire B on Vimeo.

Further Suggestions:

5 Things You Need to Know About 21st Century Learning

Many Colleges Now See Centers for Teaching With Technology as Part of ‘Innovation Infrastructure’

11 November 2015

Pathways of Learning


In between words and courses I teach, courses I learn and participate on, Downes' words echo in my mind:

"Learning is not a possession of a collection of facts; it's the expression of a capacity." 

Further on in his presentation, Downes points out how,

"Learning is not an acquisition, it is growth. "

This growth includes not only the personal development of a person, but also their "sense of value and place in society."

How exactly are educators achieving this?

How are educators given the space and time in classrooms to achieve this?

And does educational leadership really care in practice?

So I continue wondering about personalized learning and personal learning in my own context and how much it is worth - against the need to formulas for exams. I question too a lot what is considered educational leadership for there are lacks of vision and action, despite the discourse which is socially accepted. 

There is a lot individual teachers can do.

Learn, practice, share, collaborate, develop. Question.

Most of all, believe in change, in fostering creativity, in breaking walls and stepping outside the pre-established lines of "not possible".

Because change is happening all around us.

Time for change in classrooms.

Time for change in education.

Time for initiative and multi-disciplinary thinking. Time for empathy and belief.



References and Suggestions:






Makerbook - A hand-picked directory of the best free resources for creatives.


21st Century Schools or 21st Century Learning?

5 Ways to Lay the Foundation for Innovation #InnovatorsMindset

9 November 2015

Learning Visually with Themes


Learning comes differently to each of us.  So does expressing one's learning and paths of knowing. 

Among the various literacies which we consume and participate in today, visual literacy is the ability to communicate with images, creating images, reading the message, transmitting meaning. 

Thematic  is free, allows sharing and embedding. Thematic offers the possibility to tell stories visually, with few words or none at all. Below is a beautiful example on Myanmar by Prinapatel


Despite there already being great tools to use for presentations, students still tend to use too many words in their slides, often hindering the power and impact their images could have. By using Thematic as a presentation tool, and even more importantly, as a storytelling tool, learners focus on the image, the meaning and flow of story telling. Additionally, many learners, equipped with their mobiles and other digital devices, do take plenty of their own photos. Why not use their interests to tell contemporary stories, their own personal stories?


Learning comes easiest when immediately connected to oneself.

Learning makes immediate sense visually.



What stories will your students be telling this coming Winter?






Further Suggestions:

Studies Confirm the Power of Visuals in eLearning

Visual Literacy

The Visual Literacy Toolbox

Visual Literacy - Metalanguage & Learning

What is the shape of text to come?

Visual Literacy








7 November 2015

Collaborating, Participating Digitally


Learning is not a socially isolated act and there is no reason why students today should be prevented from participating and collaborating digitally. One of my favourite platforms is, as I have mentioned before, is
Edmodo, which I use daily. Efficient and perfect for the needs of my students, Edmodo kicks off the flow of lessons, as I  project images, instructions, student contributions and much more.

There may be Facebook communities,  G+ communities and more educational hubs for collaboration, however, there are other tools as well, in particular for more mature learners and for those who we collaborate across borders.

Table, a recent platform is still in Beta but promises to be a very useful tool, once a personal network is developed.

Although still a bit buggy, Table does provide quick and friendly support to users.



From Sexting to Cyberbullying, issues of digital collaboration and participation among students are regularly highlighted across the web. When reflecting on the digital literacies which are embedded in our contemporary lives,  participating in networks is no exception, as Dudeney so clearly points out:

"A focus on connections: personal, participatory, network and intercultural literacies
These literacies come to the forefront in social networking spaces and other online media. They may include blogs (personal literacy) and wikis (participatory), as well as social networks such as Facebook (network). In such spaces users not only write about themselves and their lives, but also participate in wide social groupings that transcend geographical, religious and ethnic boundaries (intercultural literacy)."

Isn't it time that they are guided through collaborative practices for a world that increasingly depends on transparent, productive collaboration? 

(How Teens Are Really Using Social Media)

Suspicion, whether of collaborating across networks, or digital participation  has no place in education today.

No place at all.





Further references:

Teaming (or Taming?) Teens

Sailing the Shift in 2012

Another Dimension of Digital Literacies

Digital Literacy Primer - by Gavin Dudeney

21 tools that will help your remote team work better together

The right tool for the job: Five collaborative writing tools for academics.

Spiral - A Social Network for Classrooms

Online Collaboration Tools - a fantastic curation by Robin Good

Insta-Fame, Sell-Outs, and Selfies: New Digital Bytes Topics for Teens

With warm thanks to Ann Foreman  ( Teaching English - British Council ) for sharing this reminder on FB.


6 November 2015

Writing - The Space Between


Autumn may be regarded as a space between. A space where learners and teachers often find themselves, unknowingly at times, in the quest to make meaning. We play with words, we play with phrases, we play with writing. For writing is always a journey into meaning making. 

And in a twist of perception, we may regard writing today as a space between. 

As a foreign language teacher, I teach writing skills according to one pre-set of academic writing formulations. What I often read, is a space in between cultures and languages, a space between learning, adapting, finding a voice within foreign concepts of what constitutes academic writing. 

Hence my question (again and again and again), why not reach out and offer writing students options which are at once contemporary and relevant to their digital generation? This is not to say that there is no longer value in hand written work; nor do I claim that only the digital will aid learners. What I am saying, is that there are alternatives.  Digital writing, writing digitally,  becomes a space between, between worlds and generational practices and rituals, a space between where writing support, engagement and discovery may be sparked. Here are some suggestions to explore that digital space of writing. 

ilys  helps those who may be going through that phase when writing does not come easy; one can keep one's writing private or public. The most important, is that one keeps on writing. 

Not entirely free, it is worth having an institution consider this tool for students or their institutional writing centres where students could log on and write. 



November, and a writing month has already begun (one that I have already mentioned here).

Even if you are not specifically teaching writing skills, why not focus more closely on writing skills, so having students in varying degrees also participate actively in a month reflecting on digital writing ?

This may be done through story-telling, focusing on vocabulary and even on editing skills (a skill that is often left disregarded and which students need to practice).


Quill  was developed for writing and grammar practice among middle and high school learners and is easy adaptable to the ELT classroom as well.




Hemingway App helps with editing,  while for younger learners, Word Creativity Kit  is a user friendly app to encourage writing.



Although I usually refer to apps and digital tools which are free, today's suggestions are not all free. Nevertheless, there may often be support within an institution and it is always worth asking for this support for the benefit of students.
Create Outstanding Writers is another tool, which not free, is currently offering a free trial until August 2016.

There is no lack of digital spaces for learners, no lack of tools and apps.

It is a question of deciding which is most appropriate and engaging for learners within specific contexts.





The space between.

Writing.

The quest to make meaning, to make sense of the spaces between the world which surrounds one, the worlds one inhabits. The languages and cultures one flows through.

My worlds are open, fluid, transparent and borderless.

My world is the space between.

How will you be participating in a month of digital writing and discoveries?




Beau Lotto – Understanding Perception: How We Experience the Meaning We Create from Lazy Chief on Vimeo.


Further Suggestions:

Digital Inclusion: It’s Not All or Nothing

15 Best New Writing Apps You've Never Heard of

78 Tools for Writing and Previewing Markdown


4 November 2015

Engaging with History


As the semester progresses, I find myself constantly questioning - what defines success in the classroom? What defines success in learning?

Classroom success is more than test scores or the ability to use a specific digital tool or app. It is a whole learning process, where the learning is connected to the world beyond the classroom walls. I also ask myself how my own role as an educator may or not affect that process, for I constantly change roles whenever required in my teaching context. 

There are some certainties in my inquiry, namely the weight that digital literacies have.
These literacies go beyond classroom walls and are an integral part of my students' generation. How and whether they are being implemented across the board, is another matter altogether. Denying them the use of mobile learning, denying them the opportunity to create digitally, to participate digitally in learning, is very much going against the tide of successful learning today. 

Nevertheless, despite encouraging and giving students plenty of opportunities to develop their digital literacies, I find myself still wondering about what exactly contributes to success in classrooms. Often I realise it is the role of the teacher, the way one is able (or not) to connect with learners, the way one is able to transmit enthusiasm, kindness, ignite laughter, while also stimulating responsibility and learner autonomy. 

Grainne Conole's recent blog posting focuses on the importance of slow learning and highlights the following:



The need of qualitative engagement with learners is pointed out, as well as the need to give students the opportunity of being autonomous learners. 

Opening up inquiry and extending this inquiry with different kinds of projects, is surely one approach to fostering learner autonomy.   

Zoom In focuses on American history, but is still a great site for teachers and students elsewhere to dip into. Teachers can browse and assign lessons, focus on vocabulary in the documents and follow the teacher guides included, if they wish to.

Despite focusing on American history, Zoom In is inspirational for English language classes, taking the focus away from grammar routines and instead, giving students something more real to think about, stimulating critical analysis and thought. For educators, Zoom In provides a model of how History may be taught in a more active and contemporary way.  

History is not a subject only for the classroom but one that goes beyond walls, opening up learning possibilities with projects and fostering critical thinking. Take for instance, HSTRY
which gives learners the opportunity to create historic timelines, by adding images, text, media and commentaries on each others' creations. 



Successful learning comes in different shades and themes.

Successful learning opens windows to the past, linking one's learning with the contemporary.

Successful classrooms are spaces where learners engage in their own learning processes.

Successful learning needs to go beyond the school gates and test results.

How do you perceive successful learning?






Further Suggestions and References:

VIDEO - Complete History Teachers