Monday, November 25, 2013

Sunday, November 3, 2013

The Image Conference - Kieran Donaghy's Short and Sweet Presentation on Videos in the ELT Classroom

I had the pleasure to watch him in action twice this year.

Kieran Donaghy, one of the Keynote Speakers in our BRAZTESOL Brasilia Image Conference, shared wonderful video ideas for the EFL classroom. Short and sweet were the videos he presented and inspired the Brazilian educators. Everybody left the room with a refreshed perspective on what to do and where to search for the next video lesson they teach.

My friend Graham Stanley was again in full action, taking notes to share what Kieran's presentation was all about. All the resources, ideas, links are organized in Graham's post.

Monday, October 28, 2013

The Image Conference Presentation - Transforming Sins into Virtues in Design for Learning

We had a great Friday event - The Image Conference, organized by the BRAZTESOL Brasilia team, with the support of the IATEFL Learning Technologies SIG and Kieran Donaghy, the one who started the Image Conference in Barcelona.

After such an intense day and weekend, I haven´t had time to put my thoughts together in a blog post with the ideas and resources I presented, but Graham Stanley, one of our keynote speakers and amazingly fast and efficient blogger did it all and saved me some precious hours!

You can read about the whole idea of the presentation at

Graham is really amazing! And nobody can beat him when it gets to blogging! Thanks, my friend.

The Image Conference_Brasilia_October 2013 (86)

Saturday, October 12, 2013

How Much we Reach and Inspire Educators

I could be here mentioning the educators who have been inspiring me for the past decade, but it wouldn't be fair, as I might forget a name or an episode that transformed me...What I want to say is that since my first trip to a TESOL International Conference in San Antonio, Texas, in 2005, my professional life turned upside down through the many connections I made and the learning I had, picking up the brains from so many inspiring people around the globe. The kickstart, a group of International educators who are constantly connected through a Yahoogroups, called the Webheads. Of course, it goes way beyond the Yahoogroups. We are connected emotionally, we meet each other in conferences, we do collaborative projects together, we share our accomplishments and epic failures. In fact, we rely on the network to grow, to learn, to make sense...

The same way I feel about the Webheads, others experience this feeling of having discovered a whole new world, and what I do for the network is totally worth it when I hear someone say how I helped him/her move to the next level. We never know what are reach are with the ones surrounding us, our kids, our friends, students, teachers. We just know that through connections we are transformed.

So, it was with surprise and enjoyment that I read those words from Márcia, a dear friend, whom I saw grow and flourish in the digital arena,

"Carla is, as I call her, my PLN first love. It was a Sunday, 14 November, 2010, when my life started to change. And it was all Carla's "fault"! I came across Carla’s blog post on elearning speedgeeking and that led me to her twitter account (or was it the other way around?) The truth is, it was then that I fell in love with Carla, who was the first member of my adorable PLN and to whom I owe having become a more engaged and techy teacher. Like me, hundreds or, most problably, thousands of teachers worldwide have been inspired by this passionate dedicated professional, who found the power of technology as a connective and transformative tool in the classroom from her first days as a teacher. Nowadays, more than tech in class, she’s excited about the new possibilities of its way beyond the four walls. That's why for the past years she has, among other things, been an enthusiast Webhead and dedicated herself to the eLearning program at a Binational Center in Brazil, where she is the Educational Technology Supervisor, and to the TESOL EVO Coordinating Team."

I was touched by Márcia's word. I'd never have known that if it weren't for her written words and the EdInspire nomination she made. He words made me realize that, yes, we can make a difference in so many ways. So, let's do what we are meant to do to others. Let's be generous with our communities. Let's do our share. Let's change, let's make a revolution.

And, most of all, let's show appreciation to the ones who inspire us. I'm sure it will mean a lot to them, as it meant a lot to me what Márcia said.

Thanks, Márcia, for your kindness and generosity with me and with our network.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

On the Ed Tech Radar - Free Online Professional Development Opportunities in October

Stay at the comfort of your home or keep yourself comfortable in your office, but don´t miss two great professional development opportunities that you can access from wherever you are in the world for free.


It starts at 2pm GMT / 3pm London time / 7am Pacific/ 11 am Brasilia time with fabulous guest speakers like Prof Carol Chapelle, Shaun Wilden, Gavin Dudeney, Nicky Hockly, Deborah Healey, Phil Hubbard, Sophie Ioannou-Georgiou, Paige Ware, Elizabeth Hanson-Smith, Christel Broady and a closing joint session at 8pm GMT / 9pm London / Pacific 1pm/ 5pm Brasilia Time.

From October 11 to October 13th - The Reform Symposium Online Conference

The 4th annual Reform Symposium Conference (RSCON), a free online three day event bringing together educators, students and innovators from around the world, will be held October 11th to 13th in conjunction with Connected Educator Month. 
The Reform Symposium Conference is a global community initiative to transform teaching and learning. The Reform Symposium Conference will be a highly inclusive and engaging event that will encourage students and educators around the world to share and learn about transformative approaches to learning and teaching. To attend this year's conference and to be kept informed of the latest conference news and updates, check There will be

There are no excuses for you to invest in your professional growth, learn from educators around the globe and connect with a great audience!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Technology Giving Wide Wings to Creativity

As long as I keep seeing transformative and exciting examples of how technology can help the next generation of professionals acquire new skills in different areas, I'll advocate its use.

That's exactly what happened with me some days ago. I was at the Apple Store with my kids, looking for the present my husband had asked for his 40th birthday, his first Mac. In fact, his first computer! Up to that point he'd just use all the gadgets I would put aside or my kids' computers or mine. Anyway, I was there talking to the salesman while my kids had fun with an iPad Mini. They were giggling, whispering, having real fun. So much fun indeed that I thought that they were certainly playing a cool game.

To my surprise, when I closed the deal and invited them to eat something. They asked me to come closer, for they had something to show me. I had a blast! In just some minutes, all by themselves, they figured out how to use the app iMovie and were, in fact, enjoying themselves as movie producers. The result? Check for yourself how far kids' creativity can travel if they have the means and freedom to go beyond the regular, the ordinary:

I guess that this video is what I've been always trying to show teachers. Technology empowers, decentralizes learning in ways that we should really reconsider our roles as educators not because everyone else is telling us so, but because our kids, our students need guidance, expertise and wisdom to move forward and succeed now and beyond when they become professionals.

One thing they were having trouble doing? Transferring the video to youtube. I also showed them how important it was to delete the video from the public iPad Mini and from the app due to digital safety issues.

Learners' creativity harnessed by technology and guided by an educator's wisdom is certainly an explosive combination. That's why I'll make sure that I help more and more educators get there in their digital literacies. I'll make sure that I give them support to let their learners express themselves and fly even higher.

What have you been doing to encourage your students' creative juices to emerge?

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Curation Talk at Universidade Católica de Brasília

I had a great time with the languages students at Universidade Católica de Brasilia.
Once again I had the pleasure to explore a topic that every educator, every learner should learn about in order to take the best of their networks and give it back, as well, curation.

Digital Curation for Educators from Carla Arena

For some other references that I blogged about, check

Joyce Valenza, a teacher librarian, has wonderful content curation resources available at

And here´s a comparison page of curatorial platforms with tons of sites to explore

Monday, September 9, 2013

On the mLearning Radar - Creating on iPads

I´ve just come across this box of mlearning treasures that an art teacher/teacher trainer has put together. Though the focus is on digital art, many ideas can be adapted for the language classroom.
Mrs. Fuglestad has also created a Smore page with ideas for ipad creation. What I think could be the main focus for language teachers is to consider the mobile devices students have to work on language production and creation, just like in an art class.

Can you think of any idea to remix an idea Mrs. Fuglestad presented to fit a lesson plan you will be teaching in the near future?

Friday, September 6, 2013

On the Ed Tech Radar - A Collection of Digital Posters Platforms for Educators

I have been part of an exciting teacher training program in the state of Rio and this week I´m exploring with teachers the possibilities of Digital Posters in the classroom. I´ve created this Padlet with some digital posters platforms that let teachers and students create wonderful digital artifacts. I thought educators might profit from it:

How do you envision using those posters in your classroom?

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Teaching a Dramatically Outstanding Class - Tension and Release

Yesterday I was talking to a very experienced teacher who I know suffers from the same syndrome I do and most of the teachers out there do. The how-can-I-reach-teens syndrome.

We all develop strategies, sometimes war strategies, we think and re-think ways that we could better engage our teens. The roller coaster is always on and the list of our trials and errors abounds:

- using tech in class
- making them move
- using topics that are close to their hearts
- songs
- giving some free time if they "behave"
- using games

And the list goes on. Some activities seem to work better than others. And my guess is that generally what ticks our teens are not exactly those sophisticated types of lessons that we spent hours preparing. Sometimes they surprise us by enjoying a very simple task you propose. Have you every considered the main elements of these moments of engagement are made of?

2010 Teen Arts Fusion | Graphic Novels

My insight tells me that no matter what we do, what makes an activity engaging is not the degree of sophistication or the main topics that will reach our learners or even the many hours you took to prepare it. Just today I read an interesting article that gave me a hint of what might make a class dramatically outstanding in which you feel that sense of flow and you know the students are there with you in the same wavelength. As stated in Wikipedia, you and your students turn into
"mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does."

By unconsciously using the idea of "Tension and Release", by creating a moment in which you reach a climax of your class with an activity that the students feel compelled to participate, to "solve the puzzle", to be part of it. That's why storytelling is so powerful. It is just one of the many shapes you can build upon the idea of "tension and release" to create engagement.

Let's consider, for example, TV shows, series, Brazilian soap operas, films...What do they do to keep us there on the edge of our seats?! Tension and release! That moment before the disclosure where our heads spin, then the relief of seeing everything unfolding.

When was the last time you had this "tension and release" moment in your class? What made it special? What was your trick?

If we teachers can spot these aha "tension and release" moments in our classes, our how-can-I-reach-teens syndrome might be overcome.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Making Homework Assignments Smarter for your Students and their Brains

One of my favorite bloggers, Annie Murphie Paul, has written a post about homework that every educator should consider as a guideline for better learning opportunities. Her claim, based on Neuroscience and Psychology research, entails making better use of strategies that are effectively proven to have an impact on learning.

Annie mentions three strategies that could be used by educators when they are considering the kind of extra-class activities they will assign:

- Spaced Repetition - instead of assigning units of content and then "getting over" them and moving to the next topic, make sure you come back to the content students have explored last week or in the past month over and over in different ways.

As the blogger puts it,
"Exposing ourselves to information repeatedly over time fixes it more permanently in our minds, by strengthening the representation of the information that is embedded in our neural networks."

- Retrieval Practice - In the beginning of the year, I explored the topic in a post about "learning by retrieval", which evokes the power of using testing/assessment tools more often to constantly retrieve information in a more active processing of the brain, instead of just studying content or taking notes. By working on the output of the language, learners are able to strengthen the brain connections for the content they are learning. This requires more of a study-test-study-test-study-test perspective rather than just study-study-study-test approach that we generally have. And by testing, we're not talking just about standardized tests, but self-assessments, quizzes, every kind of assessment that challenges the mind and retrieves information over and over again.

- Interleaving - Consider our homework assignments. Make an auditing of what you've asked your students to do in the past month. I bet that we have generally asked them to focus on the content they're studying right now in class and with types of problems and situations that are similar to each other to "make sense" for the students. In fact, what Annie Paul suggests based on recent studies and even sports training is that we mix up the types of problems and situations students will have to deal with for homework in a way that the sequence is not really predictable. By doing that, we force the brain to "work harder" to try to figure out the solution.

I think that the best chance we have to reconsider our homework practices is to audit what we've been doing and strategically plan ahead. Here's an initial list that might help:

- Have I used any of those three strategies - spaces repetition, retrieval practice, interleaving - in any of my past month assignments? If so, how?
- Have I varied the types of homework I assign to students or do they all follow a regular pattern?
- How challenging and motivating those homework assignments seem to be to my students? Have I ever asked them which types do they prefer, which are more challenging and which they feel are more effective for them in retrieving what they've learned?

Thinking strategically:

- How can I make homework assignments a more meaningful part of my teaching?
- How can I intertwine those 3 strategies to compare learning results?
- How can I check the effectiveness of the new strategies I try to use?
- How can I make homework a more challenging and engaging part of my classes?

I'd love to hear your views and findings about homework in the classroom and how they can be transformed to make it a relevant learning tool for our students.

Monday, September 2, 2013

On the Ed Tech Radar - A Learnist Web2.0 Resource for Educators

I´ve already mentioned Learnist as an interesting learning playlist tool that can be used by educators and learners.

This Learnist is one educators will love, with all kinds of digital resources in one single place.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Magic of Professional Development Claims for a Growth Mindset

For years I've been training teachers and coaching them to integrate technology into the classroom.
The changes I've seen around throughout those years vary from none to new, reinvigorated professionals. How does the move happen?

Change will take many different shapes, from reframing an activity the teacher has already tried out to taking the leap into the unknown and thinking of the transformative power of new technologies in the classroom.

The pace is also varied. Some just jump in, others need a "marinading" period to let things sink in and  make sense of what's going on.

However, transformation has its commonalities from what I've noticed. Educators who embrace change:

- are optimists by heart (even when they seem wary of new situations, deep down there they believe change can be good)
- believe in their own power to change direction, even if they feel insecure at first
- are not considering if the professional development opportunities are paid hours or not (though we shouldn't be working for free, educators with an innovator mindset know that these hours will be paid back in other forms in the future)
- do not count their efforts in time spent, but how their effort transformed their practices
- do not give the same old excuse of lack of time; even in some minutes they can learn something new and apply to their classes
- like the adrenaline rush that comes with new findings
- still believe in the transformative power of education
- enjoy being in class with their students
- have, above all, a growth mindset.

And here's a passage from HBR Blog Network that gives a quick overview of a growth mindset as opposed to a fixed one:

"In her 2006 book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Stanford Professor Carol Dweck distinguishes two extremes of the mindsets people tend to have about their basic qualities:
  • In a fixed mindset, "your qualities are carved in stone." Whatever skills, talents, and capabilities you have are predetermined and finite. Whatever you lack, you will continue to lack. This fixed mindset applies not just to your own qualities, but to the qualities of others.
  • In a growth mindset, "your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts...everyone can change and grow through application and experience." Qualities like intelligence are a starting point, but success comes as a result of effort, learning, and persistence."

There's certainly no formula to change and I might be a little too simplistic about what I see happening to the educators who take a leap of faith and move on, but in all these years the main traits I see in the ones who transform their classes and themselves are those of optimism, passion, eagerness to learn and attunement to their learners' worlds.

Do you fit in this category of educator who embrace professional development and change as part of your job? Or is it time to rethink what you are doing and how you face things?

If you are interested in the topic of change, you might enjoy reading Becky Bair's post "Changing Our ‘Stuff’ Is Not Enough"

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Plano de Aula - A Sala de Aula e a Vaca Roxa

Poucas vezes faço concessões ao meu estilo de blogar e até mesmo a língua em que blogo. Por causa da minha linha professora-de-inglês-que-faz-parte-de-uma-comunidade, acabei sempre deixando de lado a minha tão querida língua materna pela a minha escolhida profissionalmente.

Hoje concedo e retribuo toda a generosidade da minha rede de professores brasileiros em escolas regulares, privadas ou públicas, para deixar aqui o apelo da "Vaca Roxa"!

Adoraria saber qual foi o seu momento "Vaca Roxa" nesse seu último mês em sala de aula.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Introductions Practice in the EFL Classroom with Authentic Content

Besides using Haiku Deck app to create visually-appealing presentations, what if you used it with students to help them use language with content produced by real people. So, it is the old "this is..; she does this and that" with a twist in authenticity.

Take, for example, this presentation:

Created with Haiku Deck, the free presentation app for iPad

  • The teacher could ask students to present her in the form of a paragraph with the most important information. 
  • Students can prepare questions based on the information presented, and then another students would act out as if she were the lady. 
  • Students could work on expanding the information on a slide as if they were the woman, i.e., they could talk about her 3 sons and husband (slide 2)

I'm sure you'll find wonderful "about me" presentations to work with language authentically in Haiku Deck's Pinterest Board:

Of course, it would be great if students could use one of the sample presentations to prepare their own "about me" page. 

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Digital Curation for Business English Teachers - IATEFL BESIG

Last Sunday, Aug 4th, I had a great time interacting with Business English teachers all over the world in BESIG-IATEFL very well-organized online events.

Here are the slides:

We mainly explored for engaging personal stories related to the workplace, business world.

We talked about ways of using Pinterest for Business English classes by encouraging teachers to create topic board for students and inviting them on a Web Safari. Also, it would be wonderful if students created their own boards and shared with other students. The comment area in Pinterest has great potential for emergent conversations among a group. The teacher can also decide for one group collaborative board by inviting students to the topic board. It is just a fantastic collaborative approach to learning where you give choice, control and agency in the hands of students.

I was surprised to realize that not many teachers knew about , a place where you can add all the posts, articles, resources that you find online and want to keep  "in your pocket" for later use. It is just very helpful to curate great content. From there, you can share resources with students and even encourage them to keep their "pockets"and share resources with the group. What I love about it is that it is totally crossplatform, with easy access on the web and any mobile device. Plus, to add resources to Pocket, you can install firefox and Chrome plugins to save them on the go.

Talking about cross platform, one tool that I feel has great potential for Business English teachers is . There you can create magazines with different topic feeds. It might help with authentic resources for students. Again, it is web-based as well as mobile device accessible.

Then, we moved on to learning playlists. Again, great potential for the classroom with platforms such as, and . All worth the exploration with this great concept of giving more control for the students in their learning process.

Any other curatorial tools you'd add for the Business English Teacher?

Friday, July 26, 2013

TEFL Conference Series Part 1 - App Swap

The app swap we had in IATEFL 2013 in Liverpool with Joe Dale, Shaun Wilden, Ana Maria Menezes, among other educators make me consider repeating the model in our CTJ, Alumni and IBEU TEFL Conference in Brasilia.

The session in which participants were the lead presenters in break out groups were the stars of the session, sharing with others their favorite apps for the classroom or for personal use. Vinicius Lemos and I started by giving an example of tools and, from there, teachers never stopped sharing.

As they shared their favorite apps with the others, we kept walking around adding the names of the apps to our collaborative page on Todaysmeet.

Enjoy it. Try some them.

You might be interested in the shared list of apps in IATEFL at

Thursday, July 4, 2013

About Me - Creating a Digital Profile to Stand Out

I tirelessly mention in teacher training sessions the importance of establishing a reliable digital footprint. Of course, this involves many fronts, such as the kinds of photos you publish online, how you interact with online users, the resources you share, how generous you are in the network, among others.

However, one area that sometimes is overseen, though totally relevant, is our online profiles. We establish trust if we show ourselves through a nice image, what we say and show about ourselves. This means taking good care of social media profiles. Also, it is important to have an about you page that makes justice to who you are.

There are some very effective and cool platforms that you can use for this purpose, and here are some examples of my own digital profiles: 

One, though, that I've just tried out and it has a really neat, visual presentation is Visify. I came across after seeing a tweet by Jesse Stommel.   Check the final result of my profile, which took less than 10 minutes to have this outcome: 

What's your favorite profile page on the Web?

Can you imagine how exciting it would be to use those profiles, real ones, for authentic language practice in the classroom? 

One idea would be to ask someone you know to create one of those, use it in class, and ask students to come up with followup questions. Then, the person could answer them in a video post, for example. How exciting would that be?!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Images in the Classroom - Now and Then

I've always had this natural inclination to add images to whatever lesson I was teaching, and now even more so when I see the neuroscientific reason for doing it. James Zull, in his book "the Art of Changing the Brain", mentions that
"Our concrete experience contains much of the information we need for understanding, because it produces images for our brains to analyze, rearrange, manipulate, and turn into action. We have maps of our experience in our brains, and we can run through these maps like the frames of a moving picture."

He goes on to say that the images in our brains come from the experience itself and that's why
"teachers could make extensive use of images to help people learn. If we can convert an idea into an image, we should do so. And whenever possible, we should require our students to show us their images. It should go both ways"
Having the power of images in mind, our classroom should be visual-rich and empowering. It should help our learners enhance their language skills through their sensory brains. In this sense, today I just came across a Facebook post by Ben Goldstein where he mentioned a blog called Dear Photograph  in which the audience shares images of a past original setting and taking a photo holding a film photo of people in the same place. 

Now, imagine having the same kind of project with your group of students after they've explored some of the images in the Dear Photograph blog. You can ask them to talk to their parents and relatives, to find nice photos of places that they could go and take the same kind of picture, holding the film-developed photo. Plus, you can explore the use of the past in the images contrasted with the present. The teacher would have the perfect timing to talk about "USED TO", for example, and then use students' own images to explore language in a totally contextualized way.

Then, in the same Facebook thread, Paul Driver suggested the use of the Zefrank's blog project Young Me/Now Me for the same kind of activity in which students take their own photos, explore the blog's photos and use language to compare and talk about the differences between now and then.

Thanks to Ben Goldstein and Paul Driver in my FB network for the visual inspiration!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Picturetelling in the Park with Jamie Keddie

I met Jamie Keddie, from the very resourceful site, lessonstream, in Brighton, on my very first day at IATEFL 2011. He was part of my Twitter network and, at the pub we were at, he just said, "I'm that guy with the dog as a thumbnail". Yes. Everything about Jamie has a visual cue!

However, his very recent video goes much beyond imagery. It helps us picture a scene through words in the very best Jamie style of storytelling with a strong visual reference. This video is a very powerful resource for the classroom as there are just so many things that can come out it:
 - A discussion about the wall he talks about and the kinds of imaginary walls and real ones we have around us.
 - Students drawing the scene and trying to identify where, who, what he is looking at if they haven't heard of or seen the photo.
 - A discussion about cultural issues that have caused or might cause a rebellion.
- Or how about the students recording their own picturetelling videos, inviting others to draw what they narrate?

Well, I'll leave you with Jamie, his video and a great lesson plan to go with it! 


Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Thinking Design - Looking Professional

Some might consider it superfluous, or just for professionals. Others could say it is essential, but not for them. In fact, design is for all. The way we present, the choice of images, the displaying of graphic elements, the word we use. Everything counts and matters. Design tells much of who we are. Consider your presentations and digital resources, what are they saying about you? What stories are you telling? How professional do you look?

Sunday, June 2, 2013

mLearning - Assessment for a Recording Activity

I've been taking an assessment online course from the University of Oregon. So, I decided to try to assess my students' speaking skills through the use of technology and the creation of a simple rubric for the assessment part as a way to have a clear picture of my students' production. To assess my students, I've used the activity as a way to wrap up a unit about mysteries. I asked them to record a mystery story. They had two ways to do it. Send me through message (SMS or through the What's app app) or record themselves in . My teens chose their way of sending me their recordings after I told them what my criteria was for the assignment. Here's the rubric I've created and used:

Have you ever tried any kind of alternative assessment to have an individualized picture of your students oral production?

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Do Something for Teens

Do Something is a non-profit organization in the intersection of teens and social change, activism.

There are tons of ideas on their site to help young people take action. I especially liked one about what makes you mad and the call for changing things around. 

As I have a tight schedule, I was considering adapting the idea to something simpler:

>> Groups decide what make them really mad
>> They make a fact sheet with 8 facts about their issue, starting with, "Did you know that...?"
>> They create a motto about the situation
>> Students then write a manifesto about their topic to raise awareness and finishes the manifesto with the life motto they've created.
>> Taking a step further, we could vote for the best group motto and then create posters and even print T-shirts with the motto on it.

Simple and sweet. I guess this would be a great opportunity to talk about community issues, have students as agents of awareness & change, all that being done in English. What do teachers think?

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

A Teen Educator Failing Miserably

For some, I might seem confident and a bit tech-savvy.
However, with teens it seems that I'm bond to failure. That's how I feel so often. Teaching them is like a roller coaster. Yes, don't get me wrong! Sometimes I fear I won't reach them. Every time I prepare my classes I have the feeling that I'm about to fail miserably. It is like that first part of the ride in the roller coaster when you really don't know what's next and your stomach swirls.

Roller Coaster My classes are always a box of surprise. Teens never stop to amaze me when I get to that adrenaline part of the ride - being in the classroom. They are always surprising me with their wittiness, creativity, eagerness to do something different. What I've come to realize in my ride is that every time I take for granted what they like, what moves them, what ticks them, that's when I fail. There's no way out. I use the book, but I can't just follow as it is. Why? The topics are totally apart from my teens' dreams, reality, daily lives. So, just like they have to adapt to me, to my own teaching style, I must be open to adapt to them, right?

Last class, for example, I wanted to give an example on the board and invited them to give a name of a famous person. Oh my! I could see the sparkle in their eyes talking about Megan Fox and Ian-I-Don't-know-who! They wanted to show me photos, they wanted to know if I thought they were cute. And when I said they were not my style. They wanted to know who I liked. Well, "besides my husband??? Andy Garcia!" . "Andy, who, teacher?!" "Oh never mind..." This is exactly the bridge we need to cross to enjoy the ride until our next failure or until our next adrenaline rush.

So, how do you feel about teaching teens?

Monday, May 13, 2013

Being an Educator of the 21st Century

Much have been told about the competencies and skills educators should develop to "survive" and thrive in a classroom nowadays. High on my list are some that should have always been there:

>> developing listening skills
>> practicing our empathy at all times, even when we feel like giving up
>> preparing lessons that are brain-friendly, helping our students emerge as engaged learners

To complement my list, I've come across this wonderful chart from an edudemic post:

Is there any other skill you think educators should work on to become full-fledged professionals in our times?

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Learning is About Understanding Relationships

The power of Rita Pierson's words still echo in my mind. What a wonderful, powerful, inspiring talk in which she pours her heart in a call for educators to make a difference, to connect and to be part of their learners' worlds. I can't think of anything more brain-friendly than that.

Are you doing your share to make a difference? How?

Saturday, May 4, 2013

A Remix of the Web2.0

Serendipity is always the best resource.

I was looking for some resources to the online course I'm teaching right now, Web Tools for Educators, when I came across this MOOC - Teach the Web. Just as I was browsing through their resources (Mozilla guys know how to make it simple, exciting and connected),  I came across Popcorn Maker. a remix video tool that I had heard about, but just very recently it has been released.

Glued, hooked immediately. That's how I felt when I started playing around with the tool. Very intuitive, user-friendly and with tons of possibilities for collaboration through remix.

So, here's my call: I want to show my students the power of the Web, and I need your help.
Could you access the video and remix it, adding your view of what the Web is all about?
I can't wait to see what the results will be and what this remix tool will lead us...
Just click on the link and start playing around.

Feel free to take risks, to change, to edit, to add your voice to this collaborative experiment. Invite others to join the remix movement.

Monday, April 22, 2013

IATEFL Conference 2013 Ed Tech Highlights

IATEFL was just some days ago, but things get so hectic when we get back that it seems that it was so long ago... The highlights of an international conference like IATEFL is always related to the people you meet and talk to and the networking that takes place everywhere, on the streets, on Twitter, in the Convention Center corridors, during break time. It's always time to connect, talk, discover, experience.

If you ask me about specific things I've paid attention to and took notes, here are they in my Notes:

Learning Technologies Pre-Conference Notes

Notes Day 1

Notes Day 2

Notes Day 3 and 4

Also, there were some amazing bloggers who would post the summaries of the presentations almost real time.

Graham Stanley's summaries mainly related to Learning Technologies.

Chia Suan Chong's summaries

And the grand finale with our wonderful App Swap. In the corridors of the Convention Center, we exchanged fun and serious apps for personal use and for the classroom. Ana Maria Menezes did a wonderful job compiling all of them!

Amazing days of learning and connections.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

A Brain-Friendly Activity - Instructions for a Bad Day

I've been teaching teens this semester. And I can feel their different states of mind, the introvert struggling, the extroverted always trying to shine, the quiet with so much to say, the lost with so many words to shout...There is so much going on with every single one of them that we, educators, have different reactions to it. Some do their best in trying to reach the learners in very unique ways, others just keep going with content, and there are those who just ignore the collective state of mind, telling themselves that students' personal lives are none of their business. They are there to teach, not to learn about students' lives, anxieties, or personal imbalances. Such a twisted approach to teaching... In fact, we all know that the brain learns and retains through positive emotional connections. If we, teachers, establish a pleasurable learning environment for our learners in which we talk about things that really matter to them, that touch them, that is related to what they are going through, chances are that we'll be nudging students toward their learning, helping them engage with English, you, and their own learning processes.

Today, I just came across this very interesting video, which was part of a project that involved students in a school in which teenagers were struggling with friends' losses, a poet and volunteers who worked for free to put this video together: Instructions for a Bad Day

It really touched me. So, I thought that what if we used this video to talk about something that happens more often than not in our teenage years, a bad day. There are so many ways we could work with it:

  • Asking students about their bad days
  • Encouraging them to give advice for their friends in relation to bad days
  • Asking them to watch the video and choosing the best pieces of advice
  • Creating a cartoon based on the video
  • Making a digital poster based on the main parts of the video

And here's the text:

More about this project, check Shayne Koyczan's page:

I thought this was just such an inspiring video to reach out to our students and to connect with them in a very meaningful way. Any other ideas to work with this video?

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Manifesto for Conference Presenters

Dear presenters,

We are your audience.

We came from every corner of the globe to watch YOU. Not anyone else. From a comprehensive range of options, YOU were the elected.
Show confidence, even when you are shaking inside.
Say that you care by carefully preparing for your presentation. Be respectful to your audience.
Slides are powerful. Overloaded slides are distractors.
Think design. Instructional design and the pure beauty of good design.
One piece of information on a slide is great. With an image, even better.
Forget clipart! Most of it look unprofessional.
Bullets points? Dump them! A visual cue with just some words are powerful. Remember, we came to hear you talk with passion and encouragement. Reading slides? No way!
Background matters. In doubt, chose plain colors. White will do. Dark colors are fine. If you are on the audacious side, play with colorful ones, but watch out. What needs to stand out is your message, not the wrong colors.
We all have friends that are design-conscious. Asking for advice is OK for a long-lasting good impression.
Your content should faithfully reflect your professionalism. Rush not when time seems to speed.
"Running out of time?" Never mention it! Act naturally. Prepare for emergency exit, without letting your audience notice it. The secret? Have exit points that won't harm your carefully prepared presentation. 10 slides in a minute won't get you there. Playing videos, showing examples are fine. Trying to load 10-minute movie segments on spot is not. Time is a precious commodity for presenters. Don't waste it.
Content is king. A smooth transition between concepts and real-life application is essential. Surprise, engage, have a conversation with your audience. Connect.
Bring up something that WE, your audience, will take with us and carry it around the world in ripple effects within our educational circles. Inspire. Let us dream of a new classroom, a fresh approach to our pedagogical practices.
Simple is more. Why animations and transitions if you are the one to cheer up your audience and move from one concept to the next? Your plain well-designed slides will impress more than the slide show fireworks of sounds and movement.
We chose you to spend time with. Show us that you care. Make your presentation a unique experience to be remembered, to be retold, blogged and twitted.
Make your presentation last by being part of our memories.
Let it travel the world by being retold over and over again.
We chose to watch you for a reason. And the reason is you and all that you have to teach us.
Next time you present, bear this in mind and how your audience value your every word and move.

p.s.: This post was inspired by a great in-depth discussion during the IATEFL Conference 2013, in Liverpool, with great educators Mabel Castro, Vini Nobre and Paulo Machado.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Filtering Relevant Information for the EFL Classroom through Digital Curation

This is the time of the year that I get totally thrilled. Convention time. IATEFL, Liverpool. Promising. My second time in one of the best EFL teaching conferences in the world with wonderful professionals willing to share best practices, research, classroom ideas that can really make a difference in our classrooms.

I'm pleased to be presenting about a topic that has been dear to my heart for the past years, and now I've been exploring its many facets more in depth, Content Curation. Though I've presented it twice, I've revamped it a bit, not its essence but some interesting tools I've been using lately. So, if you are around Liverpool, why not joining us for a chat about how to make sense of this world where information more than abounds?

   Any curatorial tools that you've been using lately that you think have made a difference in your efficiency and productivity as an educator? I'd love to hear about it.

My latest experiments have been with . Still finding my way around, but enjoying playing around with it.

Here is some background on digital curation that you might find useful:

Here's Graham Stanley's summary of the presentation: Graham's summary

Friday, March 29, 2013

mLearning - Evernote as a Trigger for Writing

In the Binational Center I work for writing is taken seriously. There is a program for all levels. For the Teens and Intermediate courses, students work on paragraphs, but when they get to the Advanced level, the requirement is more demanding. Learners are exposed to different kinds of genres and are supposed to hand in a fully-developed composition. A dreading activity for many.

This semester, I have a group of very young teens who are Advanced students, so this was an extra challenge, as they are still very raw in terms of writing skills and styles, but I am an optimist by heart and always believe that depending on the way you develop the activity results are unexpected, but impressive.

I decided to try Evernote as a writing portfolio and it has proven to be an effective move towards engagement. The writing task was for students to choose a story in their lives and write about it. As a pre-writing activity, we told each other some funny, sad, embarrassing stories to each other. Then, instead of projecting the PPT slides to go through the idea of how to structure the stories, this time still paragraphs, I had previously downloaded in each iPad the PPT to Keynote so that students had more control over their activity. They worked in pairs, exploring the concepts of topic sentence, adding details and concluding ideas. We went over some stories in the Keynote app together and discussed how effective the introducing sentence was, how we could make it better, if the reader would be interested in keeping reading with that introduction, etc.

In the second stage of the activity, I asked them to open Evernote, add their names in the title of the note and they had a chance to write their stories in class. They used the Longman dictionary app in the iPad and were totally into their writing. As we work with process writing, I, then, could open everybody's work on a single notebook (the ipads are all synchronized with the same Evernote account) and printed the paragraphs to correct them using the proofreading symbols. In the following class, a question surprised me, "teacher, do you have our paragraphs?" Never have I had my teens students so interested in their pieces of writing. Again, I handed out the iPads and before I realized it, they were reading each other's texts! I gave them the printed version of the first draft with my comments and the symbols for them to figure out what was wrong or missing, so a focus on the structure, but with my comments focused on the content. They grabbed the iPads and worked on the second version of their paragraphs. I could give individual assistance to all and also encouraged peer correction for the faster ones. They helped the ones who had more difficulty to develop their ideas.

The results? On one single Evernote note, I had students' first and final drafts. I could easily visualize their progress with not much fuss. They were totally engaged in the activity and could easily play around to edit their texts. It didn't even seem to be the dreaded writing assignment that had been for so many years haunting English learners. And in the next writing activity, they can easily refer back to their notes, which I can share via email or link with them. I really feel that just the fact that you are using their means has made a difference in their reaction and attitude towards writing. Besides that, their reading audience was amplified. Classmates read their pieces, and even other Advanced groups who were also writing their stories in another Evernote notebook.

Here are same samples of students' writing (published with their permission):

1st Draft
I'll never forget the day my brother got stuck inside a suitcase. Me and my family were still living in the United States when this happened, it was a very cold day so me and my brothers were stuck at home  bored out of our minds with nothing to do but watch tv. After a while my mom called us all, including my dad , and said that her boss and his wife were coming by for a visit. When they arrived they were caring a giant suitcase ( don't ask me why because I don't remember) anyway they sat down in the living room and my parents began talking to them. My brother,who was seven at the time, had the briliant idea of going inside the suitcase and shutting himself in there, okay i'll admit it I helped him. We laughed for a while and then he said he wanted to get out , I began pulling on the zipper to open the bag but something was wrong, the zipper was stuck. Well that was all it took as soon as I told him I couldn't open it he began crying and screaming and that caught my parents and our guests attention. In the end my dad had to break the zipper to get him out of there, it seems funny now but back then it was pretty scary, at least for my brother.

2nd draft
I'll never forget the day my brother got stuck inside a suitcase. My family and I were still living in the United States when this incident happened. It was a very cold day so my brothers and I were stuck at home  bored out of our minds with nothing to do but watch TV. After a while,my mom called us all, including my dad, and said that her boss and his wife were coming by for a visit. When they arrived, they were carrying a giant suitcase ( don't ask me why because I don't remember). Anyway, they sat down in the living room and my parents began talking to them. My brother,who was seven at the time, had the brilliant idea of going inside the suitcase and shutting himself in there.Okay i'll admit it, I helped him. We laughed for a while and then he said he wanted to get out.I began pulling on the zipper to open the bag,but something was wrong, the zipper was stuck.Well, as soon as I told him I couldn't open the suitcase he began crying and screaming, which caught my parents and our guests' attention.From that point on I couldn't tell who was panicking the most, my mom or my brother.My father tried opening the bag too, but it was no use that zipper was not going to budge.In the end my dad had to break the zipper to get him out of there.It seems funny now, but back then it was pretty scary, at least for my brother.

1st Draft
I will never forget the day that a hook entered my cuticle. Last vacation, I was having a trip with my brother, my parents and my grandparents. We have gone to Araxá, a small city in Minas Gerais. It is a very cool place. When I arrived there, the first thing I did was wait for my mother to do the check in. There was nothing to do in the city, so I stayed at the hotel, doing some wonderful activities, like riding used bikes every day, swimming, sleeping, watching TV, running, fishing...
The routine was the same every day, but it was relaxing. Until the accident happened: In one of these days I was fishing like how I fished every day, but when I was putting the bait in the hook and a little kid pulled the fishing rod. The hook entered my cuticle, got stuck in there and my finger started bleeding. I went to the hospital in the city and the doctor cut the hook. After some hours, my finger was ok and I came back to the hotel. It was a great adventure, and I enjoyed it (except the part that the hook hurt me).

2nd Draft
I will never forget the day that a hook perforated my cuticle. Last vacation, I was preparing a trip with my brother, my parents and my grandparents. We went to Araxá, a small city in Minas Gerais. It is a very cool place, since there is a very low chance of violence and there are many special places to meet in the hotel, like the Burle Marx garden, or the presidential room. When I arrived there, the first thing I did was wait for my mother to do the check in. There was nothing to do in the city, so I stayed at the hotel, doing some wonderful activities, like riding used bikes every day, swimming, sleeping, watching TV, running, fishing...                                                                                                                             The routine was the same every day, but it was relaxing until the accident happened. In one of those days, I was fishing like I fished every day, and a little kid pulled the fishing rod while I was putting the bait in the hook. The hook perforated my cuticle, got stuck in there and my finger started bleeding. I went to the hospital in the city and the doctor took out the hook. After some hours, my finger was ok and I came back to the hotel. It was a great adventure, and I enjoyed it, except the part that the hook hurt me.

Have you used Evernote as a writing Portfolio? How?

Thursday, March 28, 2013

mLearning - Turn your Ipad into an Interactive Board

Educreations, Showme, Screenchomp are  simple and multifaceted for the language classroom. These free screencasting apps have multiple possibilities, ranging from recording students' dialogues or letting them freely talk about a subject as they show on the screen what they are exploring. There's drawing, typing a text or inserting an image while recording. The students can change colors, sizes, forms in a totally intuitive way.

Besides all these advantages of language production, once it is ready, you can publish them on a website and share your students' work with parents, the students themselves and the world.
Here's an example of what my students produced. They had to create their own stores:

Which one would be interested in visiting?

Which one would you be interested in visiting?
This is just one of the possibilities for these screencasting apps. I like to consider them a platform to enhance students' creativity and free production, but it certainly goes beyond. Here, for example, I used Educreations to create a challenge for my students. We were studying the difference between "Used to" and "would". They had to listen to both stories and check the differences and try to guess which version was the correct one:


How about teachers and students creating tutorials? Easy with these tools, just some touch and clicks away!

By now I think you can really picture how nice these apps can be for the language classroom, but there is one way you can use one iPad to turn it into an interactive board. What you need to do it? Only the iPad and a projector in the classroom! You can just open the app type, draw, show images, move things around  and record what you are saying as you go, and all this can be projected for students. You can add things to the white board, as well as delete them. However, more exciting than that is inviting students to come to the front and teach a lesson, touching things in the app, making them gain life as others interact with the learner. If you wish, you can even share the lesson afterwards with your students by just sending the link to it. Ready to give this idea a try? I'm sure you'll be amazed by its potential, and would love to know the results if you try using these screencasting apps as an interactive board!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

mLearning Activity - Trending Topics and Classroom Bonding

Trending topics, those hot topics of the day or sometimes the hour, are everywhere on social media. They represent what is ruling the world for different tribes.

So here's a very simple activity I've done with my students that has long-lasting, impacting effects in our classroom because of the emotional connections it enhances.

Trending Topics Activity
Students can use their cellphones or tablets note taking app.
Before you start, ask if they know what trending topics are, where you can find them. They will probably mention Twitter.
Then, tell the that they should write about the trending topics in their lives. They can even use the hashtag (#) and key words for their hot topics.
When they are finished, they partner up with another student and find things in common in their trending topics and ask each other more questions to expand on them.

Some Follow-up Suggestions
You can ask your students what they found out about their partners or their trending topics that they didn't know about.
You can write on the board students' trending topics making two columns: one with the ones you know; other with things you've never heard of. Students can, then, teach you about ythe key word you have no idea of.

In my case, I asked the students to email me their trending topics. In the following class, I made a list of common trending topics of the class and we talked about them as a group. I also posted some hashtags that were mentioned only by one student to give me a chance to personalize the activity and learn more about my students' interests.

My Teen Students' #trendingtopics

The fact that I've kept those trending topics mean that I can use them to give meaningful examples to students, look for resources that are suitable to their interests (music, movie clips, sitcoms segments) and, most importantly, connect to them in very personal and meaningful ways. I am closer to their world, they are teaching me things from their world. By doing that, I am making my teen classroom a much more emotionally-friendly environment where we ware not simply learning a language. We are using English to talk about our lives and what rules our world.

Variations of the Trending Topics Activity
Ask students to guess what the trending topics are in Twitter at that moment in different places of the world. Then they check if they got any similar to Twitter and discuss why those hashtags are trending topics.

Another possibility: use the topic that you are studying to build a trending topics wall and transform the into a word cloud, using Wordle, for example.

So, do you know the trending topics in your students' lives? What are your trending topics?

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Taking Learning Into a Visual Experience Through Infographics

Evolving, progressing, developing. Not always an easy task, mainly for very busy English teachers who have heavy schedules, different groups with varied age range and levels of proficiency. But still, they are up to the challenge of after a long day of work to come to a Teacher Development Course to keep improving to become for full-fledged professionals.

That's the context I have with my also challenging job of working with these teachers to raise their level of understanding of Ed Tech issues and help them learn about practical Ed Tech ideas for their classrooms. Challenging not because of the educators I have in class. They are a fantastic, enthusiastic bunch. Daring because of the responsibility of having a full month for Educational Technology in the Methodology part of the TDC program. Until last semester we'd have only a 2-hour encounter with TDC students. So, two hours turned into a fascinating monthly opportunity to inspire, go above and beyond with those teachers.

Of course, it is no easy task for them. Besides the heavy duty of going through many different concepts, ideas and practicalities of integrating Ed Tech in the classroom, they still have to deal with the hybrid format of this part of the course (1 face-to-face class + 1 online class per week) and my pushing them to do more than just average. A bit of pressure, I know, but I'm totally in awe of what I've seen so far, particularly what I had the chance to contemplate, discuss and learn about last class.

I had assigned Mark Warschauer's text "Technological Change and the Future of CALL", part of an ESL & Applied Linguistics Professional Series, "New Perspectives on CALL for Second Language Classrooms", edited by Sandra Fotos and Charles Browne. Besides classroom discussion, I wanted to profit from the elearning environment and the new trends in Ed Tech to explore the possibilities of the use of infographics in the classroom. There was a bit of whining and moaning because of the complexity of the infographics platforms and technical issues that students faced, but the outcomes were simply way more than one could ever expect...
The student-teachers found their own ways to overcome the technical challenges, and the result was a class full of sharing, discussions and considerations about CALL history, its present state and what the future holds. The infographics were the springboard that inspired us all to learn and share. One of the students, a designer by heart and profession, was even applauded by the class when he entered the room with his infographics created in Illustrator that not only visually represented the text but also enticed the readers to consider our pedagogy in the 21st century in his humorous bottom part of the infographic:

by Gustavo Dias

And here's the collective effort of the group that makes me certain that, yes, even with some pain, there was an amazing learning gain that I am super proud of. I hope that these teachers understand the power of such an activity to take their own students to another learning level. Not that they will ask students to create an infographic, but what are some of the creative practices we can adopt to enhance learning in an EFL/ESL classroom and really give choice, purpose and audience to our students' production?

If you are just curious about the infographics platforms that I suggested, here they go:


Just remember that if you want to try them out, do like my students: persist!

For some cool infographics >>>