7 October 2015

Responding with Responster

In every lesson, there may be a moment for quiet, a moment for individual/pair/group work and those moments when learners use their digital devices or paper and pen. Despite the wide choice of digital platforms, tools and apps, it is in the blending of each of the selected tools that takes most often place in my classrooms. 

Nevertheless, it is when I ask students to pull out their mobiles and do an activity that more sparks and smiles come alive. Mobile is here to stay - so why not explore ways to use it more often?

Responster may look as if it is only for business, but also provides educators with yet another format of presenting revisions, quizzes and polls. 

Navigating the layout of add and drop is simple; there is a building area, as well as sharing and feedback on number of responses. 

Best of all, (other than free version), is the ease of accessing and sharing the quiz on all devices. 

Other than revisions, quizzes provide a different kind of connection between teacher-learner, whether that connection is F2F or on an online course. Blending teaching approaches, digital technology (including mobile friendly activities), while stressing human interest and contact, may just be the response we need with digital technology and classrooms. 

Further Suggestions:

HARD TO TELL from Carine Khalife on Vimeo.

Headless for Halloween?

Spices and delights, crispness in the air, sparkling colours. 

All part of northern autumns, all part of childhood memories. 

In the midst of autumn memories, there is Halloween - a celebration which seems to have crossed many borders and is often found  in  ELT (English Language Teaching) lessons. 

For classroom tricks and treats, why not create an avatar for Halloween with students adding a speech bubble or using their scary avatar in another mini project - ghost talk anyone?

Creepy Victorian Photo is a free app, which you can easily use to create an avatar for Halloween. 

With different filters and options, just imagine the ghostly stories possible this Halloween!

Where will your head be this Halloween?

Further Suggestions:

Games and Avatars for Halloween

Halloween Games

4 October 2015

Do You Imagine?

Land of fire, land of winds, land of pixies, trolls and fairies. Land where unicorns run freely, steam mingles with greens and browns, water takes a life of its own in a myriad of forms. 

As a child growing up in the southern tips  of Africa, Iceland was my imaginary refuge. A land brimming with the wonders of nature, with caves and mountains, waves and mists. Above all, a land where I settled into imaginary worlds of bygone ages. 

Today, I look at my students and wonder where their imagination takes them to. Sometimes, too often, regrettably, not too far. 

And it is not for lack of trying - a teacher can encourage as much reading as possible but when it comes to writing, the task of imagination becomes more complex. There is language to start off with; then,  writing forms and formulas dictated by exams. Nevertheless, there are spaces in between where a teacher may find possible time for more creative, imaginative writing.

Images are fun to use as prompts; other times, and especially for lower levels of language learners, having them associate adjectives with nouns, is a helpful approach to writing. 

Creative writing is relevant, for without imagination, how will we sow the seeds of future creativity?

Here are some other ideas that may help spark a more imaginative, creative approach in writing:

Journal Buddies  is meant to help educators foster a taste for writing among young learners and among the different writing themes shared, offers a list of 56 Creative Writing Story Starters - many of these which are perfect for short writing tasks in the foreign language classroom. 

If students are keeping a writing portfolio, you will also find topics of inspiration. 

WritingPrompts  , brimming with provocative imagination,
it continues to be one of my favourite sites to dip into for inspiration.

Write About This is an app with both a free version and full version; simple to use and with stories then easily shared and exported to Dropbox or Google Drive. 

Or, why not use a short video to spark off a reflective piece of writing? From the Teach Hub, you can find videos and guidance such as these below:

Finding Nemo Video Writing Prompts

Video Writing Prompts: Toy Story 3

Where will your students find their unicorns this autumn?

What do you imagine?

"Imagination" by PermaGrinFilms from PermaGrinFilms on Vimeo.

Further Suggestions:

Future Of Storytelling - Vimeo

Gingerbread, Stars and Writing Prompts

Writing Prompts, A Story Dice and Book Creator

3 October 2015

Being a Digital Citizen

While promises of autumn still need to come to my world, my mind turns towards my students' concerns about digital safety and how they will navigate the many paths of being a digital citizen. Just as contemporary culture is intricately linked to web life, so too are many students' lives similar around the world - cyberbullying, abuse, discrediting one's self online, among one's peers, risks taken, and mistaken,  are all shared by young people growing up today. 

It is not enough to talk about it while teens roll their eyes.  However, I do believe that it is a topic which needs to be regularly introduced in lessons, regardless whether the lesson is a foreign language or ICT. Learning transpires boundaries set by curriculum at times. 


Digizen is a great interactive game to introduce to learners, with the stress being on how responsible the individual is. 

Without wishing to give too much away, the learner can select their gender and responses as they go along. At the end of the lesson, there can be feedback and further discussion. What is realistically close to their realities? How did they feel as they made their decisions in the game? What solutions can they find for their own pressing realities. 

Touching on a topic such Digital Citizenship requires student involvement and participation - not only a to-do or not-to-do list. 

How will you be approaching the topic of digital citizenship this autumn?

Further suggestions:

23 September 2015

Are You Known?

Despite the possible frustrations of getting students to maintain a blog, blogging is a great activity for learners. Depending on the context, educators can either ask students to set up their own blog, or simply create a class blog, which in turn, may be kept public or private. Both have their advantages and disadvantages, namely that if a blog is open to the public, a wider sense of audience is achieved and there are more possibilities for reflective exchanges, collaboration or simply, acknowledgement of one's work. 

And though I began this post referring to possible frustrations (forgotten passwords.... providing regular feedback, which is demanding on teachers' time and demanding schedules,  and so forth), keeping a blog is still, in my eyes, a wonderful way for students to develop their own digital portfolio. Not only is there are a register of their work and creativity, but by blogging, students participate more actively in their own learning, especially in terms of digital citizenship and responsibility. 

In a world where every trace of our lives are shared online, where mainstream culture is instantly referred to by happens online (e.g. Twitter trends, Instagram trends, Facebook trends), involving learners in blogging is an important learning activity.  Blogging teaches open sharing, building students'  digital identity  by extending their digital footprint in a responsible way, collaborative learning, and through the use of different digital tools, the development of digital literacies. 

Just as not all writing students will become professional or gifted writers, not all learners may continue developing their blogs once a course has ended and perhaps that is not the main purpose. Nevertheless, giving students the space and opportunity to showcase their learning, to share their creative voice , learning and being engaged in their own learning process while doing so, is what matters. 

Known is a social platform for blogging and sharing by creating a site where content is shared, commented on and where projects may be discussed.

Open source and easy to work with on different devices, Known is yet another platform which educators may wish to consider when choosing a blogging platform. Features include:

What will you be doing - dreaming or planning with your students? 

Further Suggestions:

Blogging cartoon - Cartoons about Blogging

22 September 2015

Joining Charlie Brown's Gang of Friends

Earlier today, I was once again speaking with a colleague about students' digital abilities and the fact remains the same - despite students using their devices and gadgets intensively, how digitally literate are they?

There are numerous tools and platforms which may be introduced in educational settings, each one adding (hopefully) to building and developing digital literacies. For those who use a LMS (e.g. Edmodo or any other), having students create an avatar, is for me, a ritual on every new course I teach. 

Creating an avatar is not only a "bit of fun" - it can be a visual aid that students can then use to describe themselves, for example, in a language lesson, hence mixing a digital visual creation with text. 

In regard to EdTech, in a recent article, Siemens, refers to

"My framework for technologies in the edtech space now, those that I find empowering for learners and reflective of a human and creative-oriented future, includes five elements:

Does the technology foster creativity and personal expression?

Does the technology develop the learner and contribute to her formation as a person?

Is the technology fun and engaging?

Does the technology have the human teacher and/or peer learners at the centre?

Does the technology consider the whole learner?"

Asking a learner to create an avatar, does include the above - particularly an element of fun. And by reading the screen, following instructions, learners are also practising other skills related to digital literacies.

Get Peanutized creates customised characters based on the Charlie Brown comic strip and characters. 

Simple and free to use, easy to create on a laptop or mobile device, Get Peanutized is yet another option for students to create their own personalised avatar. 

Which character will you decide to be this autumn?

Further Suggestions:

Is Education Technology Losing Its Humanity?

Who are You? Where is your Avatar?


Emoji Mosaic

18 September 2015

A Quiz to Delight Students

Unlike Tao Tzu's words of "A good traveller has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving", teaching does make me want to have a fixed plan, a goal. Or rather, different aims at different levels - one of them being that my students do take an interest in their own learning. 

Over the past week, there has been a flurry of  discussions and comments on Educational Technology in our classrooms and institutions; as a teacher who encourages the use of digital technology in classrooms, I too need to reflect on the purpose of whatever tool/platform I am using with students. Not every tool may be necessary. Not every tool may be appropriate for every contexts. That is something only the classroom teacher will be able to decide. As I curate and look into different tools, I wonder about their purposes and how they are able to foster inquiry and creativity among my students, for that, in my current F2F teaching context, is what more immediately relevant to me. 

Audrey Watters points out how "Most ed-tech has done very little to support students’ agency as creators – not just as creators with digital technology but creators of digital technology." Despite agreeing, I must be practical, focus on my teaching context and the need to call my students' awareness to be more responsible in their learning process. 

Hence, today I'd like to share another tool which is great for polls and quizzes - something to perk up students' visual interest as they reflect. Below is an example:

As you can though, when we create a quiz, we need to pay close attention to how we would like the results to appear for our students.
The one above is a mere example.

Apester is free,  offers different images for slides, may include videos,  and is fun for students to use. Simple, it is yet another way to perk up interest and awareness; and of course, may be adapted for revisions. 

As for some of the recent discussions mentioned above, references are given below. 

Digital literacies, need for creativity, the gift of giving voice and confidence to learners are constant in our practices. EdTech should be enabled to allow this without tech companies dictating to educators what to use in their teaching contexts.


Above: As seen in a shop window in Reykjavik
Below: Created with Word Dream

Further Suggestions:

QuizSocket - Real time Quizzes

Ed-Tech Might Make Things Worse... So Now What? - Audrey Watters

Adios Ed Tech. Hola something else. - George Siemens

George Siemens says 'Adios Ed Tech. Hola something else' - Jon Dron