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.