Monday, November 15, 2010

Creative Commons - Use it, Reuse it and Remix it!

Interesting to notice that there is still this common belief among people that if it is online and it shows in Google, you can use it! No problem with copyright, whatsoever.

I'm glad, though, that more and more, as part of a movement towards digital literacy, Creative Commons is becoming more of a common word. At least, that's what we try to do, make students and educators conscious of the importance of giving credit to the author of an artifact. Not an easy task, but each one of us who learn about it, should tell it at least to another person initiating a movement pro-Creative Commons. Is there an easy and more professional-look than Flickr Creative Commons? Flickr is, by far, my favorite place to search for Creative Commons licensed photos.

Funny that I've been writing about it in the eTutors course at Casa Thomas Jefferson, and I just came across two wonderful resources to take presentations to another level:
Sheryll Terrel's post
and this very informative presentation by Esther Wojicicki:

By the way, this is a presentation in the Global Education Conference, worth taking a peak!!/search/globaled10

So, the next time you present, go for Creative Commons and spread the word about it.

Friday, November 12, 2010

eLearning Speedgeeking

This Sunday, November 14th, 13:00 GMT, join us for an open talk about elearning.

In a speedgeeking fashion and Webhead-way, we´ll have quick overviews on essential issues related to elearning. It should be was a lot of fun!

Materials and recording available at

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Share, Learn, Connect

Last Friday, Erika and I had been totally taken out of our comfort zone. For the first time, we presented a Pecha Kucha. A presentation format in which we have 20 slides sliding through automatically in 20 seconds! In 6 minutes and 40 seconds, we were challenged to deliver our message. Even more demanding was the fact that once again we decided to present a Pecha Kucha together and with no slide sequence. I mean, I didn't present 10 slides, then Erika 10. We decided we would switch from one another according to the flow of ideas. Well, we did it after a lot of thought and preparation beforehand. It was fun and the adrenaline rush keeps pushing us forward!

Pluse, we learned a lot from the other Pecha Kuchas presented during the BrazTESOL Brasilia afternoon seminar. Very enriching afternoon, indeed! We are glad to be part of the revamping of our BrazTESOL regional chapter.

Here's the slideshow and our talk:

We are Carla and Erika from Casa Thomas Jefferson. Passionate learners. Today we want to show you that we and our learners do not to be learning inside a box. We can all reach the world, share and connect. Connect and learn, learn and share in a feeding cycle of learning.

What do we want from our students? Engagement, collaboration, independence, critical thinking, active participation, production, knowledge of their surroundings to be more respectful, tolerant.  We have our own dreams and ideas of what an ideal classroom is, and we are very demanding.

Are you the kind of educator who looks for ways to connect to other educators? Are you an active participant of teaching communities? Or the only interaction you have is in the teachers’ room, during coffee break? Do you know the ELT surroundings?

Some of us still look for institutional  backup for professional development. Is it the only way to go nowadays with all the connectivity we have and digital possibilities? NO. Now, we have the chance to develop our own PLEs and PLNs - Personal Learning Environments and Personal Learning Networks through digital media that has given us inifinite possibilities of connections. You can extend your own education through a self-structured and self-organized learning environment.

What are those possibilities? Inumerous. But we are going to focus on some simple ideas that can make a difference for you to start with and for your students as a consequence of your own development.

How many of you are in FB? How many of you are in FB groups to enhance your professional development? How many of you are in twitter? In twitter and FB do you follow just friends or do you follow like-minded professionals who tweet and post tips for the classroom, interesting resources and educational links? In one way or the other, you are already there, but are you using them to connect and power up your classroom practice?

Time to start our micro-revolution. Did you know that you have educators groups that you can follow in twitter? Did you know that you can ask a question in twitter and get many answers? I asked one simple question. Look how many answers I got from my network in just a few minutes.

8. Did you know that you could start you own network with a group of teachers or students using a safe social media tool called EDMODO, which is just like twitter but it is great for a group of like-minded people?

Did you know that Facebook has just launched a new space for groups? You can have a group of students, educators, administrators. You can even take and deliver online courses using FB groups? When you create a group in FB, there is a unique email for the group, the group can add docs, photos and videos. Group members can chat and they can discuss issues there. People are there. You just invite them to be with you in a group. For example, we’re just testing a space for online interaction for our next FREE online professional development, an online session on Digital storytelling. And now we have one for the BrazTESOL Brasilia. Join our group!

If you are still not sure how to start your PD microrevolution, if you need more guidance, if you need tutors, mentors to go beyond your comfort zone, there is one place you can get started. There, you’re going to find like-minded professionals and lots of practical ideas for your classroom.


Every January/feb, there are totally free online professional development opportunities for educators all over the globe. This project is called Electronic Village Online, EVO. There are sessions ranging from drama in the classroom to learning how to navigate and teach in SL. They are for English teachers. We’ve been volunteer online facilitators since 2007. Next year, we’re going  to facilitate a session on digital storytelling. Join us!

We talked about twitter, facebook, EVO – electronic village online. These are just some ways you can connect. A fantastic  and well-established community of practice you might consider joining is the webheads. They are a group of educators who share personal accomplishments but are also together to test new tools, collaborate on international exchange projects and discuss pedagogical issues.

Take advantage of it. To do that. Take action. Don’t wait for someone or your institution to tell you what to do. You are in charge of your own life, your own professional life. Share, gather and connect to construct, to build knowledge.  Amplify your educational possibilities.  Dive into self-directed professional development.

Why should I share, connect with others online if I have so much to do in my daily life? Why should I bother and spend my time connecting to people I don’t even know? Besides being globally networked, an engaged educators, a better person, a lifelong learner and a multiplier of good classroom practices, there’s much more to it.

One great example of why we should invest in pd and bother is the following. I got a retweet from somebody in my network whom I’ve never met asking for help for another teacher. I connected to this teacher who was developing  a project with her class about latin america.

16. Because of our connection, we created a voicethread, an excellent tool for the classroom, and now we simply have a mosaic of teens’ life in Brazil. Just because of my personal learning network in brazil. Just because of my online personal learning network plus my local one, the coffee break group.
Voicethread about Brazil: 

Teachers get really discouraged. They say the have little time, lots to do , a family to take care of. We sympathize with that because we have kids and husbands, tests, compositions, homework to check and correct. Plus, lessons to prepare. Still,  we started sharing a bit, connecting to others.

We went from isolated teachers who did things just with a feeling we were doing it right to networked global educators who can rely on the network to be informed decision-makers in the classroom. We are now connected and we connect our students. We have friends and wonderful connections all over the world. We’ve tremendously improved our cultural IQ with lots of cultural awareness, tolerance and communication using English.

How much time do we need to be considered a networked, 21st century educator? It depends on you. Start really small. Focus on one community you want to learn and explore to share and connect. From there, you’ll have lots of new possibilities. Soon, you'll become more and more ambitious!

We have started our own wiki to share and connect to other educators, Brazilbridges. You can find this presentation and the ones we’ve given since 2006 there. We’ve found our way to do what we’ve been asking our students to do, being active participants of a community of learning.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

What does it take to be an Educator nowadays?

This is a question that has been widely discussed. And I'm sure that better than I could be writing or saying, this blog post resonates with my own thoughts on the issue.

However, as I browsed through this wonderful hyperlinked world this morning, I found this:

In the past, I've come across with classtools many resources. Isn't it neat the fact that anybody can just get there and edit it? Lots of possibilities! Ready to share your own idea for a cool use of the classtools site?

Friday, October 29, 2010

Comics in the Classroom

Creating comic strips in the classroom is one of the easiest ways to engage students immediately. They are glued to the comics creators because they are in charge of their creation, they have choice, and they can fully navigate through their imaginative realms.

Every teacher should try to use comics in the classroom. There are a million ways to do it. Let your students be the remixer, creators, characters, voices of their own stories.

Some of our favorite comic strips creators?
Check them out:

And just came across this morning:

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

eLearning - Introducing Yourself

I´ve taken many online courses, and it strikes me that it is always the same old tell-me-something-about-you kind of forum. There are so many interesting ways to get started with a group online that I couldn´t possibly list it here. There is video, voicethread, slideshare,a blog post, intriguing questions, among others.

However, I want to share one with you that I thought worked nicely and it also gives a sense of online presence. You seem to be there, a real presence to your e-learners. When we are in an online setting, that´s what matters, connecting, being there to begin with.

What do you think? Is it an effective introduction? How would you make it different? How would you introduce yourself in an online course?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Changing Education Paradigms

Every educator, administrator, parent, professional should watch this. Great summary of our historical perspective, but, at the same time, giving perspective to what we do and should be doing. Now, it is up to us make the small shifts to change education.

With you, Sir Ken Robinson:

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Planning Instruction - Don't Forget the Basic Principles

Still on the topic on how to stomp our classes, this video from Dr. David Merrill is a reminder of what we really need to have effective instruction. With three basic principles, we can stomp it, but sometimes it seems we just forget it...

I'm taking a very nice course on Instructional Design with professor Régis Tractenberg and revisiting instructional design is always a good reminder of basic aspects of teaching and learning that we sometimes take it for granted.
How well have we been applying the principles Dr. Merrill presents in our classroom instruction?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Stomp your Classes Up! 4 Simple Lessons from Stomp

This weekend I finally had some very pleasant hours with my kids, mom, sister and aunts watching Stomp. I was totally in awe with their vibrant beats made of very trivial materials, from brooms to match boxes. My oldest kid was totally glued to the amazing show, and my little one was focused at first, but then restless as always, as he doesn’t stop for a second. However, Stomp guys had such an ability that when I thought Caio wouldn’t be into the show anymore, the artists came up with something that would grab the 7-year-old’s attention.

Of course, the whole situation couldn’t let me stop thinking of the lessons of a presentation like that can teach us teachers:

  • There was no such a thing as predictability. When you thought you knew what was coming next, they would surprise us. So, surprise is certainly an element you want to use in your classroom to keep your students there with you, on task, interested, in awe. It is that feeling that keep us attentive for more than we could imagine it was possible to be focused. So many times we, teachers, forget this very simple rule…We become predictable in every class routine. The same old questions in the beginning of the class, the same steps…Boredom, then, is inevitable. Surprise, surprise, surprise is the antidote to boredom.
  • Even though we were the audience, the show was interactive. The guys involved us in their choreography by adding the beats we produced to what they were doing. In the classroom: don’t keep your students as mere spectators, they can do more than that and can even surprise you! Make it interactive, make it a conversational moment.Give space for connections in the classroom, not simply information pouring.
  • Rhythm and powerful beats are contagious. Add them to your classroom, find your teaching tone, and let your students create their own, as well. Fun and play is part of the learning process. Don’t forget that!
  • One very simple rule Stomp reminded me of. Learn when to leave the center stage, give room to your audience. Learn to add that element of “I want something more of that”. Find ways to make your students count the days, hours to be in class again. Not an easy task, but not impossible at all!
So, this is a simple call for all of us to surprise, play, share, and learn. Stomp your classes up! My question to you is: What are the small changes you could make right now to stomp it up?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Get Inspired - Exploring Writing in the Classroom

Today, fewer words, more action.

As my head starts spinning around our next Electronic Village Online Session 2011, free online sessions for educators all over the globe, I thought it would be a great idea to start sharing great resources available in what we want to explore in January - Digital Storytelling.

So, here's my first:

Twenty Interesting Ways to Support Writing in the Classroom, by

I'm sure you'll love and get inspired to try at least one!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

No Helplessness in the Trenches - Take Action!

Funny thing happened this morning.

My oldest son is a night owl, not morning person at all. He studies in the afternoon. Yes, in Brazil, there are two school shifts, and kids can study either in the morning or afternoon. Even so, my kids have morning extra activities, like sports and English classes. Well, every morning I feel I'm in the trenches trying to get those soldiers to stand, get up for the activities. Many words, sometimes even threats, to see if there will be something convincing in my action to make them stand and go. It's almost like losing a battle every single time my day begins. I tried all the strategies, really, from kindness to tickles, some drops of water, fun stuff, even madness. Again, a lost battle just not totally lost because at the end, the little ones wake up. Not in a good mood. Sometimes that cranky look, others tearful moaning an groaning.

With an impotent feeling of helplessness, sometimes I even considered giving up, meaning just to cancel all the extra activities. Many times, in fact, I've thought about it. But, reconsidered it. No. I can't just give up on the kids' present and future. I, from my own background, know the difference it makes when you try out different sports, when you are outdoors, when you learn another language, when you meet new people, a world even bigger than the school environment, where kids learn tons.

Well, we say in Brazil that if you can't change it, just go with the flow. So, today, and I don't know why I haven't thought of that before (!), I simply had a slightly different approach to the whole situation. Not even bright, but sometimes you're so into things you don't notice that very simple changes can have a high impact of surprise. Well, I got my kids' cellphone, set up the alarm, and bang. When I got home after my tennis classes to pick up the kids for their sports activities, they were sitting in the living room, totally ready to leave. I couldn't help myself, but laugh. Such an unpretentious act had such an impact in the whole family environment...Yeah, not brilliant, creative, but just plain, simple shift of perspective. Life was more resplendent today.

All that kept me thinking of our own classrooms. I remember a teen group I had it was almost unbearable. It was the same kind of situation I felt helpless and burnt out after two hours with them. It seems I was trying to manage the unmanageable just to realize that the problem might not have been with those wonderful kids, but the way I was approaching things. With small changes to help us connect, at the end of the semester I was in love with all of them, sad to let them go, and I know they felt at ease in class, as well. We had established a wonderful camaraderie-type of relationship due to the shifts I made to my own lesson plan that really tapped into their interests and my own attitude towards them.

How about you? When was the last time you had an issue in which from just a few adjustments and some action things changed to the positive uplifting side? What are the kinds of situation that are bothering you that YOU could make a change with ever-lasting impact on the outcomes?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

DNA Rescue - Part 2: Skills are Cheap. Passion is Priceless

Still on Gary Vaynerchuk's book, "Crush it", I can't help it, but keep exploring the world of passion and our double-helice (DNA) historical perspective and bring it all together into our professional realm. Because of my last post's comments, I was taken into the recordings of the Reform Symposium(Thanks, Mrs Tenkely!). If it were in the past, I'd be able to have listened to it live, but due to some time constraints and options, I couldn't be there, but had the chance to download it via iTunes. Amazing, thrilling stuff, though, simple again. It is crushing true and there's no way out that the simplest, most caring ideas are the ones who are truly powerful.

George Couros hit it hard! His presentation about Identity Day at his school in Canada is just a brilliant way to shape and channel the undoubtful hard-hitting effectiveness of giving voice to our passions. How many of us know what are co-workers' passions really are? Yesterday, I asked this plain question, "What's your true passion?" Some could spit it out in nanoseconds, others had to think a bit hard, but just the fact that we were talking about it gave a boost of optimism and happiness to our spirits. Imagine what we could do to our lives, our classrooms, our work places? We could really crush it as a group if we let those passionate and vigorous voices bloom. A spark in the eye, words that are generally not mentioned, getting to know the other...All our passions, all possible connections to one another.

So, let's keep our movement toward our DNA rescue spiced up with passion. It can be amazingly transformative.
Get to know what your true passions are
Never forget your historical background as it could give you big clues of dormant passions
Share your passsions with others
Encourage others to find their own
With all that in mind, let us remix ourselves to become better people

If you asked about my passions, I could tell you about some. However, the one that moves me, makes me a believer, an optimist, an explorer? My passion for PEOPLE.

What are your ingrained passions?

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Value your DNA - Keep Passion Alive

I've just started reading a very pleasant book. Nothing new, but simply painfully true. Gary Vaynerchuck's "Crush it" talks about being true to our DNA in the beginning of his book.

For me, being true to our DNA is rescuing our roots and reminding ourselves what really makes it all worth it. I've been talking more and more, or even preaching, about the power of passion in everything we do. I've seen many educators with their passionate instincts dormant, just burnout, stressed out, lifeless...They even forget why they've started. They forget how fiery they once were about teaching, learning, the classroom....

I'd say that we need to start a Rescue your DNA program, in which inspiring people, professionals, educators find inspiration in what they believe in and who they are. What ticks them? How can they match their passions they once had and are latent into vibrant forces that are conducive to self-fulfillment, effective teaching and on-going learning?  What is the balance of keeping up with our routine, but not keep our drives simply inactive. We all need action, movement, transpiration, passion in our lives. We need to be true to our DNA. We need to find understanding and truth in what we do to be multipliers of powerful inspirational sourced to the ones around us. We need to transform or reform ourselves to be agents of change in society.

How should we start regaining passion in what we do and who we are?

Monday, August 2, 2010

Blended Learning

For some, blended learning means having a mix of face-to-face classes, plus online encounters. However, I'd go a bit beyond. Blended learning can take different shapes if you consider a regular face-to-face classroom with the use of online tools to supplement the learning process that takes place within brick and mortar spaces. Also, if you consider the many different forms of professional development, it can be considered a blend of formal + informal, the kind of sharing in the school hallways plus your connections within your online networked context. I consider them all to be types of blended open learning opportunities. To blend is to find different paths to keep evolving as people, lifelong learners and professionals.

In this screencast, I talk about three examples of blended learning experiences:

  •  Using to connect our students and their ideas beyond classroom walls. Here, I show an example of a very simple, but highly effective, activity some friends of mine worked on with their very young learners. These co-workers would panic when they got started in this blended-informal-formal educators' world, but they are now totally into it:
  • Using Flickr groups to keep promoting vocabulary/language development. Educators can model how to use images to convey an abstract concept. Then, learners can start preparing their own photo sets. Here, the example was the Flickr group, Idioms in English
  • I also make a point that PD can be part of the blended learning realm and give the example of using a wiki, a collaborate webpage, to make sharing and learning an on-going cycle in the workplace.
The biggest challenge we all face when we make blended learning part of our routine is to find the right balance between the so many choices we have nowadays. I'd say that the most important aspect to optimize our choices is to keep in mind that the tools are there only to be enablers of brain connections and networked encounters.

How would you define blended learning and how would you make/have you made it a reality in your classroom?

Internet_In_2010.jpg 725×2468 pixels

Sent from my iPhone

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Language Teaching - Tools Worth Checking

Our presentation at the Braz-TESOL Conference and CTJ TEFL (Casa Thomas Jefferson - Brasília) went well with many teachers showing interest in the topic and wanting to make the change necessary to make the learning experience even more exciting.

Here's the slideshow for the presentation. Just click on the images and you'll be taken to the tools and their examples:

We also had the chance to present in the CTJ Electronic Village, a reduced, but highly effective version of TESOL's Electronic Village. The Ed Tech Team shared some resources and hands-on ideas for the language classroom.

Still on the topic of effective tools for the classroom,I just came across this list compiled by the Nerdy Teacher, whom I highly recommend the following.

Related Resources:

Friday, July 9, 2010

My Top 10 + some Tools in 2010 and the Lamest of the Year

Jane Hart is building her annual Top 100 Tools for Learning list based on the contributions of learning professionals worldwide. 

As I'm preparing myself for the Braz-TESOL presentation exactly about learning tools that might be useful for language educators, this is the perfect time for reflection and sharing. 

There's nothing brand new about my list, but really the tools that make a difference in my routine and in the daily tasks of my co-workers and network connections. 

So, my choices are based on the power to connect to others or to ideas, user-friendliness, learning effectiveness, and frequency of use.

I'd also add some other tools that are essential for me as an educator, teacher trainer and presenter:

To connect to others, to meet online with your classroom 
To make word clouds

To edit your photos

To present and connect to others online
To present and connect to others online - free tool

To share photos, videos and make cool presentation

To make bulletin boards, to discuss a subject, to add a mosaic of perspectives
Google Apps

Use them all for different purposes!

To make an online scrapbook
To organize thoughts into maps 

I thought it would be really interesting to point out to the ones out:

My choice of the Year for for the lamest tool of 2010 would go for Ning because of their disrespect to educators and how they approached their commercial ideals. This was a tool that I used to love, but has caused many inconveniences for me in terms of time and content retrieval.

What would be your list? How different would it be from this one?
What is the lamest techtool of the year?
It would be great to make it even bigger and more useful for others.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Say NO to Change

Why bother?
Why leave the comfort zone for the unknown?
Why seek emotion and a bit more of fun into our dull lives?
Why should one work harder just for the sake of changing?
Why even consider the transformation if all things seem to fall into place?
Why innovate if someone else will get the credit?
Why do something different if everything seems to work the way it is now?
Why alter the state of our classrooms if the students are learning for centuries this way, but just seem "a bit bored"?
Why transition to a more proactive view of professional development if I won't get a raise?
Why spend my precious time studying, searching, planning for better teaching if I won't get more recognition from my superiors?
Why the shift?
Why the move?

That's why most of us keep saying NO to the inevitable passages in life, when we have to transition from our well-known, safe routine to a new "unpredictable" mode of thought and act. Though we might question ourselves the WHY, and this is healthy when it doesn't block the possibilities ahead, innovating, moving towards a new direction, finding a more appropriate perspective to learning and teaching is simply part of our own evolution as human beings, as educators.


The word CHANGE is part of my daily job. Every day, there's something new that makes me change the way I see things, a new tool to do things more efficiently. Though resistant at times, I've learned to listen to opposite views, to ponder, and to come to the conclusion when change might be beneficial to the collective.

Say YES.
Give a new sense to your own life.
Bring life to your classroom.
Make it lively.
Laugh, dance with your students, sing a song, create one.
Let breadth and new light enligthen your educational practices.
Learn with your students.
Don't expect recognition, except your own perception of how engaged, motivated your students are.
Consider your own small rewards when you see a sparkling eye, a curious soul.
Laugh again.
Teach with passion. Teach with soul and intuition. Find magic in the small details.
Add bits of tech before you can call yourself a true innovator.
Keep daring.

Are you still considering saying NO to change? Well, you might use 100 lame excuses to avoid becoming a more adventurous, happier educator. Or you might start considering making small innovative changes that will make a difference in your and your learners' lives pretty soon.

Say YES to your very simple changing acts.
Try it.
It can be really powerful!
Let's start right now a Say YES movement.

I'd love to hear what you've done to substitute inertia for hard-hitting transformation.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Lesson Plan - World Cup Finals Video

Everybody seems to be talking about soccer at this time of the year, and,  we, educators, are always trying to find the most effective way to incorporate current news in our lesson plans. The World Cup will keep current for some more weeks, so let's not miss the chance to use precious resources out there in cyberspace to do something fun, effective with our students. Tasks that keep them on task, eager to contribute and produce.

Today, I'll show you a video a friend of mine, Cleide, a very talented teacher at Casa Thomas Jefferson, recorded and the pedagogical suggestions to go with it:

  • First, brainstorm with your students words related to the World Cup, favorite teams, best players, gaffes that have happened. Take this time to work on vocabulary development.
  • Ask your students to watch the video, and focus on the following:
Which World Cup is she talking about?
Was he a huge soccer fan?
What made her change her mind?
How did she feel at the end?

Suggestions for Wrap up:
  • Students imagine the Finals of the 2010 World Cup series, deciding which teams would be playing and what the score would be. They draw their World Cup Finals scene. Post the drawings in the classroom. As the teams play, just keep hanging the ones that still have the right prediction. At the end of the World Cup, the class will be able to see who was right.
  • Students record a video in this Plain-English style (drawings with voice) narrating the Finals (Great for creatively using the vocabulary they had been exploring)
  • Groups make a big poster to keep track of the games and the scores. Every week, a student is in charge of scorekeeping.
  • Students predict who will be voted as the best soccer player and the best Goalkeeper in the Cup.
  • For more advanced students, your might really enjoy exploring photos, videos and World-Cup related stories that Lonely Planet is featuring at . You can assign different posts to different groups, and after they read them, they can report how people are celebrating around the globe.
  • Students can go to and explore the World Cup photos taken by users. Or even better, they can search for specific photos using tags, such as "south africa worldcup". Great chance here to enhance your students' digital literacy.
Just some ideas for now. Please, add any other suggestions as a comment. We'd love to have a nice pool of cool classroom activities related to the World Cup.

Some links of interest: 

Monday, May 24, 2010

Edublogging with Passion

Though this post was made in November 2008, it still holds so true that I decided to repost here mainly for my Webtools4Educators group who is exploring the power of blogging. Some might think that blogging is outdated, but I still believe in its power of connecting, reconnecting, learning about yourself and the world out there.


A friend of mine in Italy, Seth Dickens, has kindly asked me to talk a bit about edublogging. We had planned for an interview, but due to technical issues, we went for a recording.

Edublogging... How many times have I written about it, gave tips, presented, and tried to inspire others? Fact is the ones who endure the first stages of discoveries and experiments are the passionate educators, those who teach with heart and soul, who truly believe in their transformative potential as an educator. These are the ones who, later on, become passionate edubloggers.

The point of my talk was what I've been saying from the beginning and what I wrote about in the article "Blogging in the Classroom: It Doesn't 'Simply Happen' ". Persistence, fearlessness, being passionate and knowing that you have something that will add value to someone are key to make it a successful endeavor.

We make lists of how to be a successful blogger, but formulas are not in the core of Edublogging, conversations are. Conversations don't mean that you need to get tons of comments. They mean a talk to yourself, commenting on other people's blogs, and yes, getting comments when your readers feel the urge to interact with you. I sin as a blogger, for I am not consistent as I should be or as would be willing to. However, I've decided to let it go, for I have little ones and a husband to care for. I have professional projects and other ways to connect. Nowadays, Twitter is my means of quickly connecting to others, though it's not a substitute to blogging. Twitter is connection, blogging is reflection + connection. One complementing each other in my circle of learning.

WashingtonDC_Day5 (5)

Through blogging, edublogging my mind pours out, I learn, share, re-shape who I am and how I see things. But, my ultimate question is how could I show that to other educators? Maybe I can't. Just through their own blogging journey they will learn what passionate blogging is all about, some will just find the excuse for not even giving a try. Blogging is a transformational act one should be willing to undergo. It won't work if it's just mechanic, technical. No. It's humanistic, contextualized, personalized, collective, cultural, intense.

I'll never forget some memorable posts that show the power of blogging:

Marina's post - A psychologist talking about her experience about being a clown.

Having Dennis Newson as our class mystery guest

Motivating my adult students to predict a short story by Edgar Allan Poe we read in parts in class.

The rich cultural exchanges my group had with Dennis Oliver's group in the US due to our International Exchange blog.

Emerson, a quiet adult student in class, surfacing as a wonderful blogger and commenter.

Discussion with Russian students and readers about the Brazilian movie "The City of God".

Sharing Love Stories

Wow! Just so nice to travel back in the past through blogging. It's a record of a moment, a state of mind, it shows us and our learners in ways we'd never share in the old brick and mortar classroom in such intense exchange and connection. These are just some of the examples mainly with students in it, but there is the other side of edublogging as a professional and personal development. This is another story and certainly deserves another blog post!


Originally posted on (november 2008)

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Assessment 2.0

I've just come across this paper on assesment and the need to change the way we assess, or rather, the way our learners assess their own learning. When will we go from a passive system in which students just show how much they've memorized to one they show how much they've learned? Couldn't we start by substitute one test by a project which could be multimedia in which students show how they've been achieving their learning goals?

Assessment 2.0

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Woices - Giving Choice and Voice

I´ve just found this fantastic web resource which has great potential in the classroom to let your students search for different voices around the globe and adding their own voices to the "ecosphere".

In Woices, learners can practice their listening skills and in a very simple way record their own voices to talk about a place they like, the city they live in, or a tourist place they´ve visited. They can not only learn about cultures, but also add their own cultural views in a very user-friendly platform.

Listen to the idea behing the ecosphere in Woices and why not giving it a try with your learners? I´m sure they would really enjoy it!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Drive - Self-directedness, Mastery and Purpose

I've just reached Daniel's Pink book Drive toolkit, more like a catalyst to fuel our own drives.

To wrap up the idea of the book, I can't imagine a better way than relating it with my own context. I was thinking of my drive to exercise, for example. For many years, I've been exercising, on and off. Sometimes I feel more motivated, eager to get to they gym, sometimes less. Though I've always considered it important for my well-being, controlling weight, etc, these purposes haven't really been my true drive. First, I' say that I always liked the choice to decide which activity to do first, which I'd keep out of my training that day. This directly relates to autonomy. Even with some guidelines and a paper to let me know which equipments I should be using, I could decide the order, and even the variation. I think the trainers at the gym wouldn't agree with me, for I should follow a routine, but I confess it, I never did it that way! Another drive for me to exercise has always been for me to test my limits, to keep improving my performance, to understand how I can do things better and more efficiently, to be challenged by the next level. Mastery in its essence here. Then,  we get back to purpose. As I mentioned, the factors that might be the ones that could motivate to keep exercising were not the ones that apparently are the ones people talk about. Through this reading journey, I realized the my purposes were different at different moments of my life. For example, some years ago, the core purpose of going to the gym was the socialization part. I belonged to a group who was dear to me, who cared for one another, who had true fun together. Happiness and great laughs at their best.That was my drive,  being there with that group kept me alive, happy, and motivated to keep exercising.

And now? Not a group at all. I changed gyms, and don't interact much there. What keeps me going? Again, not the commonplace reasons. I've realized that my main drive, the purpose of all that is that I have some time for myself, to read whatever I want, to think through my life, to enjoy just being a bit by myself without paying attention to the tensions of our daily lives, it is an enjoyable moment of introspection.

So, we get back to what really drives us and our students. Are the apparent purposes that we insist on pointing out to our students, the ones that are the true drives for them? When we tell them that they should study because it is good for their future or their future work (that might mean a decade from now!), are we encouraging them to study or totally discouraging them? How can we tap into their inner drives and change our learning environment?

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Bazaar Type of Learning - A Directory to Get Started

Creative Commons License by langwitches

We're always in the search for effectiveness matched to an increase of learners' motivation. Without losing the pedagogical purpose perspective, we can find wonderful online tools that will make our classes more enticing to learning, fun, and highly motivational. These tools can be adapted to fit our educational settings and our students' interests and needs. They give to learners the chance to be manipulators, players within their learning process. They give choice and voice. If you try at least one of those giving, for example, one topic, but letting the students free to decide how they will go about it to present their final product, chances are you might be truly surprised by  their creativity, engagement, and learning outcomes.

One of the teachers I work with is working on a Glogster project with her students. She was simply shocked by how much language students produced by just changing the means to deliver the topic. So, why not giving choice and creativity a try in favor of a much more powerful classroom learning environment?

Here are some places you might want to get started: (great tools to get started)  (Ning is now paid and Flowgram is out of the market, but the other tools are just fantastic ones)  (focus on teaching phrasal verbs with wonderful digital tools) (I highly recommend Nik Peachey's Web2.0 free e-book) / (My cool tools Diigo Bookmarks. Tons of fantastic resources that would take us a lifetime to explore)

I could go on and share a thousand different resources, but just by accessing these links, you'll have at the tip of your fingers many ideas for engaging your students and making a difference in a more bazaar type of learning (just love this borrowed concept!).

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Drive - From Pawns to Players

Funny thing is never have I been so motivated to exercise! As I press the next page button on Kindle (thanks, my dear friend Dennis) and keep moving my feet on the ellyptical, my eyes are glued to the many concepts and theories in Daniel Pink's Drive.

I'm in the part he explore in more details the concept behind the self-determination theory that considers human beings as having self-directedness, autonomy that lead to an inner motivation to create, innovate, to go beyond. Though lots of research have been carried out about the subject, most companies still have their management system in the belief that people have to be controlled and push forward. Otherwise, inertia is the rule. Daniel might be an optimist just like me. He states that he believes quite the contrary. People can move on, be creative and do things even when they are not required to. He exemplifies with companies that have been giving part of the working hours back to employees, generally 20%, for them to work on whatever they want, be it a personal project or an improvement to anything they're working on. 3-M has done that in the 40's and now we have that little square, timesaver called post-it. Google does that and many of their mainstream products came from the 20% autonomous period employees had, like Gmail, Google Translator, among others.

This is to say that when we give autonomy to people to work in a task as they wish at the time of the day they prefer with the team they want, unexpected, innovative outcomes are highly possible. I wouldn't say always at all, and it all depends on the drives of the people. First of all, these people must be ethical professionals with an inner willingness to move on and not those competitive ones who would sell their soul for recognition, status or money. No. Here's about that genuine good worker with respectful and ethical mind that Howard Gardner talks about in the five minds for the future.

Again, I can't stop connecting all that to our classrooms, our learners. In which ways giving more autonomy to learners and the possibility of choice enhance their educational performance and their willingness to do their best? How can we change our views of students as pawns - manipulating all their moves according to what we believen they should learn - into learners as players, as informed decision-makers on how they can best achieve their learning goals? Aren't the digital tools available nowadays one of the ways we can achieve that by guiding learners, but giving them the possibility of autonomously deciding how to get there? Aren't there so many ways, so many strategies - and not just one - to successfully reaching the finish line just to get back to a starting point again and continue the never ending cycle of learning?

I certainly have no fixed answers for that, but in the role of a teacher trainer, I like to think that one way to start sprinkling this idea of self-determination and autonomy might be to help educators achieve that first. Then, they might inspire the ones around them. I'm sure that many have done that throughout their teaching years. However, more than ever this digital, connected world can help our students even more in the direction of self-search, purpose seeking, lifelong learning, drive to create, to be a true citizen-player.

Am I too idealistic, utopic? Or does it make sense?

Related posts:

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Still on Drive

Daniel Pink states "Greatness and nearsightedeness are incompatible". He was making a point that in many cases, a carrots and sticks system leads to a short-sighted view of the world. People start focusing more on the rewards than in a broader sense of reality. You are into that addictive cycle of getting something back than seeing things in a longer-term perspective. He even argues that depending on the kind of reward, unethical behavior might happen just for the short-term benefits of getting whatever was promised. Coincidentally, I just read Stephen Krashen's argument against the Accelerated Readers in the US. My son was part of the program, and I can tell you that the rewards the kids get from reading certain books are not what tick them to read more and better. Stephen mentions McLoyd's study in 1979 that proved exactly that. The scientist had three groups of kids. One group would get a reward for reading and they knew what that would be, the other would get a smaller compensation for reading, and the third group was the no-reward one. Guess which group read more?

I see my kids reading more and more for sheer pleasure, they move forward because of their inner pleasure of reading, not because they will be paid, will get more candies or toys if they read three books a month. They do things at home not because of any allowance, but because they understand that this is to do good to the collective.

Daniel Pink's book is still in accordance to my own beliefs and it makes me understand better my own drives. I'm moved by this third drive, one of passion, of the feeling I'm doing the right thing, expanding my own horizons, seeking a life of meaning in a conceptual age. That's why the volunteer work I do is so pleasing, that's why I crave for every new learning opportunity. When I think of the job I do, that's why I've changed from a high-paying job to one that fulfills my need of moving forward, working on exciting projects, dealing with interesting people, different tribes who add to who I am.

What does it take for a business to enhance its professionals' motivation to perform better, to be more efficient, to be happy? What does all this motivation concepts tell us about our classes and learners?


Related post:

Friday, April 2, 2010

Education Futures Open Course

How many times have  I failed for lack of time, work overload, my eyes being bigger than what I could accomplish? How many times have I promised myself to go until the end when I join some online endeavour? How many times have I failed to keep my promises and my wishes of professional development taken to another level?

Many. Tons.

Once again, I'll try. If I fail, I'll keep moving and doing what I can. However, I won't regret not having tried.

I always read George Siemens newsletter, I've lurked in other of his Future of Education courses and seminars. On a Friday morning, holy one, by the way, I'll once again try it, but with a stronger will to move forward, to think about what the future holds for me and my profession, to search for new opportunities and possibilities in language teaching, to connect to like-minded educators, to network, share and learn.

I'm ready.

Anybody willing to join me?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Our Drives

I´ve just started reading Daniel Pink´s latest book, now better than ever with the wonderful little gadget my dear friend Dennis Oliver gave me. During my 45-minute workout I can easily flip pages in my Kindle. Never has it been so pleasant to exercise in two such good companies, the book and my new digital toy! Gratitude apart, I have to say that Daniel Pink´s concepts resonates with what I think and what I see happening with people around me.

He mentions three of our main drives, the biological one - our first drive that made us survive as species, the externa rewards and punishments, our carrots and sticks, and our Third Drive, that intrinsic, transcendent motivation that makes us move beyond and do things out of the common sense.

One example of that is certainly the Ed Tech Team I work with at my school. These guys are just an incredible bunch. They don´t get any external reward, no extra money to do what they do, not the hours they deserve to work on the many projects we have. In fact, they have only 2 administrative hours to perform their roles, but they go way beyond. They spend sleepless nights, have brilliant ideas to tackle our educational issues, they are constan problem solvers, they are teachers supporters, help desk, imaginative, creative souls that have this drive, this intrinsic motivation to think and act, to support and share. Only by understanding the nature of this inner drive we have, we´re able to reach this group´s motivation to be there, only by getting the sense of flow, generosity, commitment, creativity, we get the feeling of what motivates us to step forward is certainly this heuristic tasks we perform that gives us personal self-fullfillment, self-directedness and the recognition of our work by our colleagues.

What would be other examples of drive that are not explained by external rewards and the fear of punishment:

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Presentation Skills

Our brains are networks of information.

We like to get information from multiple modes. We like to see materials in different ways. Presentations are related to activating senses.

In good presentations, the audience has a sense where we are going, a sense of structure.

Four Signposts of Presentation Skills Mastery (Jeary, 2004)
  • Unconscious Incompetence - You don´t know what a presentation is or why you should care about improving your skills in this area.
  • Conscious Incompetence - You are aware of presentations skills enough to know that other people have them, but you don´t.
  • Conscious Competence - Most of us are in this skills stage. You have learned some basics and are now putting them into practice. However, you must still pay lots of attention to mechanics & delivery.
  • Unconscious Competence - You have assimilated the skills necessary for maximum effectiveness.
Jeary´s Two-Part Presentation Framework

Degrees of Readiness
  • Technical skills
  • Content knowledge
  • Audience Research
  • Materials, handouts
  • Logistical preparation
Expertise in Delivery

  • Pacing of delivery
  • Dynamism & passion
  • Voice quality
  • Body placement & movement
  • Interaction of above with content
How do you know you are ready
Main points, genre, rhetorical purpose, logistics, time limits

Be careful with humor because of crosscultural issues.
The more you practice, the better.
The power point is not the presentation.

Workshop with Thom Upton

Friday, March 26, 2010

The Reading Brain

Thinking outside the box from our own disciplines.

Children need to read their own thoughts while they read. They have to reach their potential.

There's no such thing as an ideal reading brain.

How does the brain learn something new?
  • Ability to form new connections - neuroplasticity; taking older structures and making new arrangement; each child needs to make these connections to make the reading brain.
  • capacity for "working groups" of neurons to specialize (e.g., pattern recognition). The brain can rearrange itself in multiple ways to read (Bulger, Perfetti & Scneider)
  • capacity for automatization
We teachers need to stop thinking in binary approaches. You don't see things in one way or the other. We need to teach our students to connect the circuits.

The brain takes time. We're pushing our children too fast. There's no reading center in our brains. Concepts in first language are essential platform for concepts and vocabulary in second language.

Reading never just happens.

Everything matters:
  • Visual and auditory development
  • cognitive development
  • Language development
  • Social development
  • Emotional development
Ortographic Parts: Letters/Letter Patterns
Semantic System
Vocabulary development
Semantic breadth and depth
polysemy (multiple meanings) and Semantic flexibility

50% of the early words children learn have multiple meanings. You need to learn from the start the different meanings.

The more activition, the more easily and more quickly, the words are read. How well are the words known?

Word Poverty - economically and educationally disadvantaged children may have one-half the oral language vocabulary that is typical of children from middle-class.

Importance of morphology: orthographic, semantic, and syntactic information (jam, jams, jamming, unjammed). Knowing about morphemes helps with understanding and syntax and ortography.

Morpheme awareness - giving semantic and meaning information.

Syntax Matters - Children need to be prepared for the roles the words play. The more you know about a word, the faster you will read and comprehend that word.

When you're reading, you're putting your circuit together and then something magical happens: there's a moment of pause and all the other info comes together. We need to read fast enough so that we can think their own thoughts (Proust).

The dyslexic brain thinks differently. Many successful entrepreneurs are dyslexic. We, as educators, have to learn how to teach them right.

  • Intervention must address:
  • development of each recruited structure (phonemes, syntax)
  • system connections
  • automaticity
  • time to comprehend and think new thoughts
RAVE-O program
The development of representations in all and each process that contributes to reading:
The connections among these processes: (MIM - Many Interesting Meanings - think flexibly about the meanings) bat-batter-hit-batman

The reading brain in a digital age: the children are in this sense of suspended reading action and going in a deeper reading process. They are always going, going, going...We're in a constant battle of getting more information. We're surfers of knowledge.

Socrates: print would give the illusion of truth and create no ambtion in the young beyond the superfluity of knowledge.

We need to be concerned by the development of our deeper reading skills.

We're after deep reading processes. Think through deeply, analyzing, . Developmental process of thinking. A brain with two languages is always better than a brain with one.

      Plenary Session with Dr. Maryanne Wolfe at the TESOL Conference, Boston 2010

    Wednesday, March 24, 2010

    TESOL 2010 - Howard Gardner's Five Minds For the Future

    Tesol 2010 - howard gardner

    Intelligence - multiple, rather than singular
    The mind is better thought of  as eight or nine different computers in your brain.

    The fourth or fifth country of the world is the country of immigrants.

    What kinds of minds do we need to cultivate in the 21st century?
    Globalization - global brands, electronic money transfer
    The biological revolution - About brains and genes. Everyday we are learning more about the creature we are. If you are going to think about learning in the future, you need to know what is learning in the biological field.
    The digital revolution
    Lifelong learning - If we want to continue working, we need to keep education ourselves.

    The five minds of the future:

    The disciplined mind - Working steadily and improving. Becoming an expert in a profession, craft, art, or end up unemployed or working for someone who is an expert (the task of work). Keeping up.Learning major way of thinking. People think discipline is just learning a lot of stuff. It is a waste of time to memorize things in a subject matter. Learning to think beyond subject matter is never substituted by an electronic device.

    The Synthesizing Mind - scads of information, especially on the web; we need to develop "synthesis 101" for teachers and students;Aristotle was probably the first great synthesizer. With information overload, we have to decide what to pay attention to, what to ignore, put it together in a way that makes sense to you. You have to communicate your synthesis to other people. We need to synthesize ourselves and we need to teach our students how to do that.

    The creating Mind - The mind that breaks new ground, comes up with new solutions, goes beyond the known, thinks outside the box. Creativity involves thinking outside the box, but you cannot be creative unless you have the box (the discipline and the capacity to synthesize)!The secret is to begin to mastering when you are young and the most innovation occurs when people are very young. Creators are willing to take up new things and they don't mind failing. "I regard every defeat as a new opportunity".

    Discipline is going deeply into things and creativity is stretching.
    The Human Sphere (beyond cognitive in usual sense)

    The Respectful Mind - treating other human beings with respect. Diversity is a fact of life with mixed population. Trying to put yourself in other people's place. Not being parochial. Thinking beyond your own skin. (No Cigar category - kiss up, kick down;no bad jokes; not just mere tolerance; respect with too many conditions). Example of Nelson Mandela (watch Invictous).

    The Ethical Mind - One which goes beyond a person as himself/herself. Acting appropriately in different roles.  Responsibilities as a professional and citizen. How does this plya out in a community like school?

    Book: Good Work
    Excellent, expert, disciplined, high quality
    Ethical, socially responsible, moral
    Engaging - meaningful, intrinsically, motivated
    Excellence>>>>Ethics>>>Engagement (ENA instead of DNA)

    Good Work with young people (Book: Making good - study of American Youth) - disturbing results:
    young people know the right thing to do: they want to be good workers, but we can't affort to be ethical now because now it is very competitive with students who are not being fair, cheat...Some day they want to be good workers, not now. We want to be good workers, but don't push us now. Howard and researchers are tyring to promote good work using digital (The good play project -

    Five minds in a Digital Age
    discipline - depth loses out out to breadth
    synthesis - can one organize the deluge of information?
    Creativity - web 2.0 is promising, but many young people are risk averse and carrerist
    Respectful/Ethical - perhaps to inner circle but not necessrily to the wider community, how to become a cyber citizen (questions of digital footprint, identity).

    What are our roles as educators in nurturing the five minds?

    - Awareness of these five minds
    - examples from history or current events
    - Modeling and showing positive examples and bad examples (no cigar - calling attention to the consequences)
    - the five minds don't fit together as a jigsaw. There might be conflict.

    Thoughts for Language Teachers

    - Keep in mind the global, connected world. Learning how to learn.
    - explore the assumptions in the countries of origin of your students and have them share their views of creativity, respect, ethics...
    - Use the web to provide examples from different societies
    - Model the kinds of minds that you admire and that you hope your students to exhibit.

    The first three minds are cognitive (disciplined, synthesize - the box - creating ming . The last two kinds of mind (respectful, ethical) - thinking about our responsibilities.