Tuesday, May 31, 2011

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

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

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

Take a snapshot of this balloon activity, for example:

or the Name Six activity.

Simple and brilliant, isn't it?

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


Sunday, May 29, 2011

Exploring Videos Series - EnglishCentral

I've used EnglishCentral with my online group, English4Travel.
The feedback was very positive, for students can watch videos in English related to topics of interest, they can decide for the level - easy, medium, hard - and they can record themselves to evaluate their oral production. They can watch the videos with transcripts and without them for a more challenging activity. Fantastic tool for the classroom and beyond.

On the teacher's side, you have the option to create a student group and check your students' progress, which videos they've watched and their scores, plus I just love the feature in which you aggregate the videos by topic and suggest them to the group.

EnglishCentral has also been interested in updating the system with new features for the users. Really worth giving it a try with your students.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

DailyLit - The Excitement of Literature in your Inbox

With DailyLit, you decide how (via email, RSS), when and where you want to receive your daily literature snippet. It can be every single day, or you can set it up for every other day, any time of the day. It´s up to you!

Now, imagine asking your students to subscribe to a certain short story to be delivered at an agreed day and time. It means that literature comes to everyone in the group very democratically, according to each one´s preferences.

DailyLit is not only a pleasant finding for reading, but a potential platform for wonderful pedagogical explorations. What would you choose to read with your students?

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Audio Delivery Made Super Simple

Want an easy way for your students to record their voices and send it to you? Do you need one single place to receive all their audio files?

Audio drop box is what you are looking for. I just tested and it is worth giving it a try. you have to create an account at CLEAR, from Michigan State University, create your audio drop box. Voilà! You are ready to go! You can even create different audio drop boxes for different groups.

"an Audio Dropbox is a virtual dropbox for audio recordings. Using this new tool, you can put a dropbox for speaking assignments on any web page.From within that web page, students record themselves, and their audio files are automatically put into your dropbox.You can access your dropbox from anywhere and listen to the recordings. Put a dropbox on your home page, mashup, wiki, or blog. Using this tool is as easy as copying and pasting. You don't have to upload or download anything, and it works on any computer from anywhere."

I recommend it!

Friday, May 20, 2011

IATEFL Recording - Collaboration: Going Beyond the Teacher's Room

Knowledge management. This is an essential topic when we consider an educational system. I work for a language school with around 200 educators.

Here's the recording of my presentation in IATEFL 2011, in Brighton, which is my account of failures and successes in helping our teachers make the move to a collaborative endeavor beyond the teacher's room through a wiki. The road has been bumpy, but full of nice surprises and mind-blowing results.

I'd like to publicly thank International House for making this presentation possible through the IH Training and Development Scholarship

You can check some of our teachers' testimonials at http://brazilbridges.pbworks.com/w/page/38894742/iatefl2011

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Superlame for the Classroom

Students as creators. We still duel over the institutional, syllabus demands and our willingness to test new approaches to our classrooms. Nothing better than starting really small, baby steps, micro-projects. So, here's a very, very simple one. It can be used on a computer lab or even in class with a single computer. It works with any topic, any subject-area.

Grab a photo from the computer, download a Creative Commons one, or take the photo with your group.

Upload it to http://www.superlame.com/ . Add speech bubbles to practice grammar, to explore vocabulary, to practice a dialogue. No logins required!

Then, just send it to an email or save it to a computer. Easy, practical, simple, doable. That's what it takes to start giving control to students, to let become producers of content and to make them owners of the language they are learning.

I'd love to see some examples of classroom production using superlame!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Life is Organic, Not a Production Line

I'm a huge fan of Sir Ken Robinson. I've watched his presentations in TED Talks - Bring on the Learning Revolution & Schools Kill Creativity - and RSA Animate about education, creativity, our educational systems and transformation.

In this video, Ken Robinson talks about pursuing our passions and the unpredictability and non-linearity of our lives.

via GenConnect

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Random Thoughts on Ed Tech Mass Debate

In reply to what Gavin Dudeney posted and the feedback he got, I'll register here what I've written as a reminder of my own thoughts on the topic:

Gavin, you mentioned in one of your replies "You’d like to think – wouldn’t you – that teachers ask themselves these questions on a daily basis – not just about technology, but also about anything else they bring to the classroom, or do in the classroom?" I think that's exactly the point we should make. It is not about ed tech, but simply about the kind of our pedagogical approaches to what we do nowadays. Good teaching hasn't changed at all, the tools we have at our disposal now just make it easier to let students' output be more personal, reflective, engaging. And this will certainly depend directly on how the lesson was conducted. It is not about ed tech, the debate is really about teaching/learning. For me unplugged doesn't mean being disconnected from the tech we have to promote critical thinking, engagement, willingness to go beyond the few classroom hours we have. I'm a teacher in Brazil, a developing country. However, my students are totally wired, though they don't know how to use what they have at the tip of their fingers for learning. Our main challenge as educators, then, is to help them find their way to optimize the learning opportunities they have.

Just yesterday, a friend of mine was reporting how interactive, reflective class she had with the lesson plan I posted on my blog about "beauty". The tech there was just a springboard for students' own production. I've been trying out the different uses of technology not for the bells and whistles it provides, but for the meaningfulness it can bring with it depending on what and how we do with our students. I've been intensely grateful for what technology is doing to my students and they've reported how they've been learning for the past months because of it. The results? Productions like this: http://primelearner.pbworks.com/w/page/37678475/Ivan And I have to point out that these adult students are not graded for the written production. But the interactions, the input I've been able to provide have been explored in such a way that the students feel the urge to express themselves, to share, to keep learning...

In my view, there shouldn't be such a debate on ed tech or not, but how teachers could make the best use of what's out there. Pencil, notebooks, the black board were once technology, and we simply take them for granted now and we don't question if we should use them or not. I agree with Sue Lyon-Jones that one of the main issues is how teacher training is being done by institutions and if, at least, some of the teachers are looking for their own professional development beyond the institutionalized versions of it, for it makes a difference in the final result in terms of tech use (going beyond the obvious, using it for critical thinking, student production, etc, or not).

Another thing that has got me thinking after IATEFL and while I get prepared to attend other conferences is that fact that there's a tendency for us to stick to the same old views of presenters as there's a whole deal with publishers. I see the same old list of presenters in all the mainstream TEFL conferences. Hardly ever do we see new names with fresh perspective. I wonder if this model shouldn't be rethought. Well, for me it is not a big problem, in fact, for because of technology I can make my own informed decisions on who I want to listen to in online conferences, debates, network, right?

Great debate, Gavin. Thanks! 

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Excellence Lesson Plan

The topic is one that can inspire anyone and re-enligthen our understanding of what makes us unique, special, excellent human beings. It is a reminder of not just doing average, but really excelling and being thankful for the ones who helped us succeed. It is an opportunity to inspire our students and ourselves to go beyond, to step forward and show the world the best of us.

Warm-up Ideas

  • What are the main characteristics of good leaders?
  • What do you do well? Explore "I am good at/ I have a special talent for/ I excel in"
  • Students make a digital poster of people who excelled/excel in their fields (sports, arts, education, science...) and have a show and tell explaining why they chose those people
  • Discuss quotes related to excellence and leadership
  • Ask students to complete the sentence: "Excellence is.../Being excellent means..."
Then, explore some famous sportsmen/sportswomen in students' country and what they all have in common.

Video Activity
Show an image of the NBA player Derrick Rose and ask them if they know something about the basketball player and why he is famous.
Remember to use Creative Commons photos!

More Creative Commons photos here.

Show the students the video of Derrick receiving KIA Award of most Valuable Player 2010-2011

Explore with students
What the presenter/coach mentioned about Derrick
Who Derrick was thankful for and why
Why they think he got the prize

Then, compare their initial list/sentences/images from the warm-up part (whatever you decide to do with the group) with what people thought made Derrick an excellent/most valuable player in the NBA season.

Tell students that they got an Excellence Award
They imagine why they were receiving it (The Most... in...of (year)...)
They create their certificates (paper or digital) and share with the class
The students can make their speech to receive the award

Any other ideas to make this classroom activity even more meaningful?

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

IATEFL Bits - Beauty Lesson

Two weeks in modern life is almost a past life. I've read wonderful accounts of the IATEFL conference in Brighton, some which I experienced myself, mainly related to the interconnectedness during the days and nights there, and to the inspiring sessions I've attended. Because of a whirlwind of events and things to do just after I came back to Brazil, I've decided that instead of trying to excel in what others from my educators' network have done with such care (see here the reports), I'll go bit by bit, trying to blog about what I saw and experienced, but with a more practical approach to it. I have no idea how long I will take, but with my digital notes, which are an extension of my memory, I'm sure there will be a lot of ideas to share starting now.

Here's the first one. Inspired by Ceri Jones' presentation "Unleashing the Power of Images", I've created this Animoto about Beauty with my own Flickr photos to use it with my students, but also in the hope to inspire other educators.

In my classroom, we've already explored the concept of beauty using the quote "beauty is in the eye of the beholder". Students have decided for their own concept of beauty and have chosen an object, place or person to express its beauty. In a very relaxed, informal way, they showed pictures and talked about beautiful aspects of our lives after we had explored some vocabulary beyond the usual beautiful/pretty words. With their cell phones in hand, they looked for more powerful adjectives to express beauty and came up with this list:

Amazing student written and oral production and they were consciously trying to use the new vocabulary.

During her presentation, Ceri gave many ideas to use still images, which I love. However, I decided to use Animoto to add a bit of movement and personal touch to my own idea of beauty, but having Ceri's own words in mind of using images to "trigger our students' minds", to make English as part of "the students' identity, not external learning", to help them develop a sense of "being a user of English, not a learner". So, as a second part of the lesson, I intend to send the video to my students and ask them to make their own definitions of beauty.

One approach that could be used to develop students' Critical Literacies - a topic Lindsay Clanfield explored during his presentation -  is to ask students to watch the presentation and start a discussion:

  • Where do you think this person comes from? Why?
  • Is the producer of this video a man or woman? How old?
  • What are the key concepts of beauty for this person? What truly matters for him/her? How do you know?
  • Check the photos the person used for the video production, choose one to represent your own concept of beauty. Write your beauty definition on the photo comment area. 

For further exploration: The producer didn't use some of the images in the set in the slideshow presentation. Why? 
    From there, students can make their own digital creations to express beauty.

    Any other suggestions?