Mark Pegrum’s E-language wiki

See on Scoop.itInspiration for tired EFL Teachers

Using virtual worlds in language learning and teaching.

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Using Video, Screencasts, Blogs and Wikis

Hi everyone, I’m afraid the magic carpet took off and then had technical trouble in October over West Yorkshire, where I was grounded for some time due to family problems. However… The MA is going on and I’m getting back into it now so I thought I’d share my thoughts on videos, screencasts, blogs and wikis:

Using video, screencasts, blogs and videos

Number One: Using Jing

First of all, here is an example of a Jing screencast I made a few years ago to help students navigate a photocopied worksheet on phrasal verbs which we were using in class. The link will take you to the relevant wiki page. Scroll down until you come to Week Six: Can you use phrasal verbs? and you will see how the screencast comes in between other worksheets that B2 students were using (and still are). The value here, of the video is that those who missed the class, can see it later, as can those who would like to review their work or go at a different pace from the one set in class.

I don’t actually like Jing very much though, as it is quite intrusive on my desktop and limits what you can do to short screencasts, so I tend to use other software such as Camtasia . Follow this link to see a series of screencasts I did with this software to familiarize learners with dictionary skills. This is a different page of the same wiki. Scroll down until you come to Using Dictionaries.

I also use screencasts a lot for my own professional development when I have to give a presentation. I record the presentation so that I can watch it and improve “my performance”. Follow this linkg to see a presentation I was giving at Iatefl Harrogate 2010. (It is actually iin various parts as you could only upload short videos to Youtube at the time. This is Part One of “Breathing Life into E-Learning” . I also teach my university students how to do this so that they can practise for their C2 Oral exam which involves giving a Powerpoint or a Prezi presentation of the main points from a mini research project that they do. So far, the results have been very favourable and the students are generally enthusiastic.

Number Two: Dvolver

This is another site that I played with a few years ago when I was also trying out work with Comic strips and other animations such as Goanimate or Writecomics among others. In the end I decided that this type of activity was more approapriate for High School Students so I abandoned it but follow this link to a page on the wiki with a Dvolver video that was developed for my middle aged adult conversation course :-). The video was used to introduce the idea of the “Awards” ceremony, in which students gave each other awards for things such as “always being a leader” “Knowing how to say the right thing” etc. If you follow this link you can see the photos from the actual ceremony when the “Rabbit Awards” (Lindt rabbits at Easter time rather than Oscars” were presented. This type of activity, as well as working on language and fluency, goes a long way towards the social community forming type of motivation activity that works well with this group. (I mentioned this in one of the posts on learner strategies.)

Blogs and Wikis

1. Student Blog

I’ve always been a fan of blogs and wikis although the way I use them is probably quite personal. My student blog, for instance,  is not really a personal “diary” type blog but more of a “diary ” of my courses. If you look at the bar at the top of the page you can select the area you are interested in,

so the Universtiy of Verona students wil do the Verona University, and then they can find their page (and I generally leave the page from the previous year too, for those who want to access it). On their page they find an overview of the weeks lessons, plus work they can do to prepare for the next week and useful documents, worksheets etc. that they can download. On the hoepage of the blog there are notices and in the menu on the right there are useful links in categories such as Exam Practice or Study Skills. If you hover over these links with your mouse, you will see my comments on the resources, such as what is good about a particular dictionary etc.

Student Blog

2. Teacher Blog and Wiki

This is a more traditional idea of a blog in that I post my thoughts, insights, resources etc. and I have not been using it much recently becuase, as they say, “Life is getting in the way” with family problems etc. However, I use it a lot to post things that catch my attention or thoughts I have. It has links to other blogs that I like and often use.

Teacher Blog

I also set up a wiki on Wikispaces years ago for my colleagues, and it has taken us about 8 years for everyone to learn how to use it and to use it regularly, but now they do and we use it for exam admin etc. I can’t show it to you because it is private but I can show you how I used screencasts on this one: here is an introduction to Teacher Autonomy when it comes to standardization for oral exams:

3. Student Wiki

I have several of these and I used them before I started the blog. This one has a range of activities that I use for different groups and nowadays I generally provide links from the blog to the relevant activity on the wiki. I use Wikispaces, because I have always found it to be very user friendly, and I had been using the university e-learning site, but it didn’t let me do a lot of the activities I wanted to. (It is very similar to Moodle, just to give you an idea).

One of the nice things about Wikispaces is that each page also has a discussion space so students can join in on discussion threads. In the past we used forums, but this is one way of integrating them better. I have also used the Edublogs wikis which are part and parcel of my student blog, to set up simple wikis for students, and we have experimented with students setting up their own English blogs on Blogger too.

Student Wiki

Here is a Screencast video I made to show some ways in which the wiki space can become a mutual space which starts with me as the teacher but gradually begins to bring in the learners and their contect too: encouraging peer learning:

4. Social Media Space
Despite all my efforts though I have always found it quite difficult to get students to actually work on Wikispaces. I think there are issues of encroachment because they actually do see this space as “mine” as I created it and I use it a lot in class too. That is why a couple of years ago I decided to overcome my reluctance to use Facebook in class and created a “sister page” for our student blog, which has the same name: EnglishLab Discussions. This has been a great success when used as an integral part of the blended learning approach. Learners can upload, presentations, photos or just interesting things that they read etc. and I send them things such as “the word of the week” or “good things from the written exams” or “irritating errors” or simply fun activities. This is definitely not simply my space and the students are using it more and more, Incidentally, they tend to use it to contact me as well, much more so than the university email, which is much more formal.

All this may look as though it takes a lot of work, and it does take constant monitoring, the Facebook Page in particular, but I find that if I go there once or twce a day for five minutes, I can comment on posts and things, and this constant feedback from me, even if it is something quite small encourages students to take the plunge and not to simply lurk in the background.

Facebook Page

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John Cleese on the 5 Factors to Make Your Life More Creative

See on Scoop.itScoop for thought

‘Creativity is not a talent.It is a way of operating.’ Much has been said about how creativity works, its secrets, its origins, and what…

Sharon Hartle‘s insight:

I particularly like the idea about getting lost to help you find yourself.

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Where do you want your Materials to take you?


Hi there everyone, I’m glad you boarded the flying carpet and are ready for take off with me.

As I said in the last jounal post, I hope this is going to be an adventure and since the first module we are doing is “Materials Development”, the adventure is to find out how to make your materials transform youe learners experience on the classroom. The question i was mulling over this evening is one we are discussing on the course and it is simply this: what do you want materials to do? What do you want them to provide?

Well, continuing with the flying carpet metaphor, I actually consider the materials are the vehicle for learning, so they don’t actually “do” or “provide” anything. It is the teacher and the learners who do things with them and who unlock the potential that is in them. You can fly your carpet to different destinations for different passengers, in fact. What I mean is that the same text or image can be used in a million different ways at different levels, in different context and with different learning aims in mind.

Teaching Philosophies

How we use materials depends largely on a combination of our teaching philosophy, our learners’ expectations and needs and the constraints of the environment we are working in. I sometimes have a course book assigned to a course I’m teaching and other times I’m lucky enough to be able to pick and choose. In any case I, like many of my colleagues am an asvocate of learner centred teaching, seeing learning as a process that individuals have to engage in and work through, and the teacher’s job is to provide a framework or scaffolding, in the Vygotskian sense, to help them along their own paths of discovery. To illustrate the role of the materials and what I want to do with them on this journey I’m going to focus today, on my own materials rather than commercially produced ones, although the same principles of use apply.

Making materials relevant, engaging and fun:
Personal Low and High points

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If our adventure is going to be meaningful we need to be involved, otherwise we'll be getting off at the first stop the carpet makes and heading back for home! Motivation is key in the learning process so three elements to foster this are fun, relevance and challenge, so that learners are engaged, and I agree with Jeremy Harmer's system: engage, study and activate, outlined in How to Teach English (longman 1998). To explain what I'm thinking here is an example. (See the image above) I quite often start off the new academic year with an activity called "high and low points from the summer", so I suppose the first point here is that the materials being used need to be relevant both to the learners and to the stage of the course. Getting to know you comes at the beginning of courses, on the whole, and if we are at the end of summer it is relevant to look back on what people have been doing. The fun element comes in the 'guessing element' of matching experiences to images that are personalised, and the challenge is in the task which needs to make the learners think, to be not too easy, but not too difficult, with a dollop of krashen's roughly tuned input thrown in for good measure in the lexical analysis. At this level lexis is something they generally need to work on quite a lot, so to start sensitizing them to it right at the start of the course in a fun getting to know you activity makes sense. In this way, you can see that another of my beliefs is that materials, tools and tasks all have to fit into the process of learning as systematically as possible. Of course i might decide at times to do a one off lesson on a song or a debate that has come up in the news, ut on the whole I am firmly convinced that our journey should have a clear destination point, even though we may stop off at different places on the way.

Speaking the languages your Learners do

In a course I did this summer, my learners, young university students said that when they were at school, what made the best teachers was the ability to listen to them and "actually talk to them", and these days this means using the same materials our learners use to communicate with habitually. I have learners ranging in age from teens to their seventies and I may choose to use blended learning with some but not with others. This is where Dogme, i feel, really comes into its own. It doesn't mean rejecting everything that has gone before so. Much as respecting the learners and their needs, putting them truly at the centre, so in a conversation class with a group of pensioners who would prefer to be out in the woods mushroom picking than surfing the net, of course it makes more sense to work in a more traditinal way with kinesthetic activities in the classroom (after all ltheynlove roaming throughthe woods, so they're used to moving around a lot!). With my university students, on the other hand, it makes more sense to work in digital environments such as blogs, wikis and social media networks, or with tools that will help them for their futures such as doing presentations on powerpoint, yes, but also on Prezi. You get the picture, and I know this is largely common sense but it leads in to the next point.

Extending learning , materials, tasks and tools beyond the Classroom.

Many of my classes are large. This tends to happen in italian universities, and i have discovered that blended learning actually brings me closer to some (I know it isn't true for everyone) of my learners. That is why I put the materials we are working with on my wiki with instructions for the next stage of the activity for them to do outside the classroom on a Linoit noticeboard. If you go to this page and look at activity 6) you will see how this works.

The work done outside the classroom can then be brought back into the next lesson so that the materials, tools and tasks being used can really break down the barriers of the classroom walls. So in the first image at the top of this article you can see the digital world in the background, on the screen ready to be accessed at any moment. This, in my opinion, is the magic of the experience which comes out of the collaboration of teacher and learners using inspiring materials and tools.

So, to answer the initial question, I want to be able to take my learners to new places and the matrrials are part of the journey, and i want to provide then with a reassuring framework for experimentation and growth both inside the classroom and online. The materials, tasks and tools we use are all part of the gorgeous pattern woven into our flying carpet.

Hope you are enjoying the ride :-)

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Timetable Change


20131002-083332.jpg This is a quick message to tell you all that there has been a timetable change for Tuesdays in the first term:
Tuesday 8.30-10.45 C2LM
Tuesday 11.30-13.00. C1
This is to try and help with the timetable clashes. :-)

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Bloom’s Digital – Web 2.0

See on Scoop.itInspiration for tired EFL Teachers

TOUCH this image to discover its story. Image tagging powered by ThingLink

Sharon Hartle‘s insight:

Lovely tool. Try it Out.

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A Flying Start to a New Year

file0001227161609Happy New Year! I know it’s September, but for most teachers this is the start of a brand new academic year, and here in Northern Italy the heat has abated and we can all breathe and even think again so we’re ready for it all to start up again.

This is a particularly exciting year for me as I’m starting an MA in ELT at Leeds Met with a focus on materials development and technology, so it could have been made for me. So, forgive me if I invite you along with me on this new adventure. I’ve decided to use my blog as a space for a reflective journal along the way, so it’s time to set off, all aboard the magic flying carpet…Let’s go.

Springboard or Flying carpet

“So what’s all this with the flying carpet?” I hear people muttering, and well you might, but there is a logic behind it I promise you. Our first task on the MA this week was to look at the ELTJournal debate between Scott Thornbury and Catherine Walter, which was held at the Liverpool Iatefl Conference this year. (You may remember the amazing story of how I broke both my ankles on the way to Bologna Airport and went to the conference anyway… Well my movements were rather restricted and I missed the debate at the time, but thanks to technology I can watch it on video, and it is well worth watching.

Quick Summary of the Debate: the motion was “Do commercially published course materials relect our learners’ lives and needs?”

I’m not going to tell you everything that was said but the gist was that Scott Thornbury argued convincingly against published materials reflecting learners lives, in that they are, of necessity, far too neutral to represent anyone. He did make the point, however, that it would be impossible for globally distributed materials to reflect specific groups of learners. In his own blog later, however, he went much further into the question of representation in coursebooks to say that the actual images of  a misleading world where everyone can do, afford and be anything, is actually dangerous promising things it can’t deliver, and misleading its users into seeing the world as being an anodyne, friendly place, where everyone is more or less the same. These are all criticisms that are often levelled at coursebooks, however, and Catherine Walter looked at the question from a different viewpoint. She did not argue with the fact that course materials don’t reflect learners lives but rather said that why should they, that she had wanted materials to “take herself out of herself” when she studied Spanish, and that their job is not to reflect learners but to be a starting point in teaching for teachers, who can then adapt them to reflect the learners’ interests and lives. She did argue, though that published materials reflect learner needs, which Scott Thornbury relying on corpus data said they did not. Catherine Walter disagreed saying that they provide learners with the language they need in a safe, supportive classroom environment before they go out and use it in the real world. She used an image of a motorway, and said that you wouldn’t start learning to drive by sending someone into the middle of a motorway, would you?

And the flying carpet?

DivingAh, you’re still wondering about the flying carpet. Well, I,like many others, generally like the image of a springboard, personally, when I think about materials. Good teaching materials, whether they are globally published or not, should be a springboard for the learner to leap off from into a discussion, analysis of language, discourse, pronunciation, or experimentation with language. This is, I think the role of materials in the classroom. After all, you use materials to create clothes. The materials themselves do not necessarily reflect the wearer’s live but the dress must do. In the same way teaching materials can always be adapted so that, for instance, a group of pensioners, that I was teaching, and who read about speed dating, said they would never do it themselves, but it sparked off a fascinating discussion on why people might do this, what attraction actually is and how dating has changed over the years. That was extremely relevant to them, and the language use definitely met their needs.

Oh yes, the flying carpet… well, I’ve now begun to think that I want my lessons to be even more than a sprinboatd, I want, like Catherine Walters to go into a magical, meaningful place in my classroom. We’re living in difficult times and many of my students will be hard pressed to find work when they leave university so at least in my classroom I want to leave them with something memorable that may even transform a little bit of our reality for a while. That is the way I want my materials to work and if they do then they truly are a flying carpet taking me and my learners on a voyage of discovery as we all learn from each other and create our own language as we go. (It just happens to be English)

I hope you’ll enjoy the ride with us :-)

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How important is it to “Achieve your Aims”?

I was just wondering how much we as teachers notice when we are in the classroom, whether we can achieve our aims at all, and whether this actually matters.

There has been a lot of discussion recently about dogme or getting back to focusing on our learners and their needs rather than bring tied by materials and lesson plans etc. This is a direct development, it would seem from learner centred thinking, which is fairly generally accepted as a good thing. At the same time the idea that teaching should be “demand high” has also been talked about a lot for the past two years and the idea that we should make our materials really work for us, not just skipping mechanically through feedback procedures, for instance, but taking the time to really go into things in a memorable way for our learners.

Both these schools of thought are complimentary to some extent in that they reflect a respect for the learner and the learner’s needs rather than the “planned lesson” with its aims, materials and procedures, where the learners themselves are almost like actors reading their lines.

So I was wondering, in the light of all this, what is actually happening in classrooms. Whilst I am sure that sensitive, experienced teachers all over the world listen to their learners’ needs and plan for them, there is also, largely as a result of official training courses such which need to “measure” teaching competence in various criteria linked ways, the obsession of “achieving our aims” but our aims may not always be the aims or even needs of our learners.

Yesterday, for example, I was watching a trainee teacher doing what she thought was a reading lesson in an elementary class. She was doing this because she, as a teacher needed to practise teaching this skill. In the lesson she set a gist question which very few of the learners actually heard or understood. They read the text, because she had told them too, but when she came to check the answer to the question it was clear that nobody even remembered her having asked it. It was a question, in fact that they could answer without even reading the text: what type of food is good and what is bad? An experienced teacher, of curse, would have made sure the learners had understood the task and knew that they were supposed to ask it based on their reading of the text. This teacher is a trainee and is not experienced enough yet to know how to do this, but what was interesting was that after the lesson she said, “They all seemed to want to talk so I let them!” Tis is true, in fact, they re Italian learners on a Monday afternoon, who were very interested in talking about food, and what was good or not. Ketchup came in for a lot of criticism, in fact. So the learners got a lot of space to increase their oral production in a freer context and enjoyed this. What they did nit do, however, was really develop their reading subskills, and since this was the trainee’s aim in her lesson planning, it did not really bode too well for her. She was given credit for being communicative, listening to her learners and thinking on her feet, but not for her lesson planning.

As far as the learners were concerned it was a nice, enjoyable lesson, and an experienced teacher would have been able to plan for the discussion and to draw in the emergent language that arose, but being able to adjust your aims during a lesson is, in any case, a valuable skill in learner centred teaching so how important is it to be able to achieve your planned aims?

The most important lesson that arose from this teaching practice session, in my view was that teachers need to know what a certain task will give rise to. If you think or know your learners need to develop their reading skills, because they need to study, or for professional purposes, for instance, you need to be able to set tasks that will help them to work on these areas, so you, as a teacher, need a fundamental understanding of what’s happening when students are working in the classroom. In the same lesson another trainee who was working on developing listening skills asked the students a gist question that could be answered in the first few seconds of the text, which meant that a) the lewrners had forgotten e answer by the end if the text, (I certainly had) or b) had not understood the instruction at the beginning so were just listening or c) since they had been given the exercise for the next part of the lesson as well, they went straight into the “listening for specific information” stage of the task.

What this seems to suggest is that learners, on the whole, do what teachers tell them to, when, and if they hear and understand the instructions. If they are given a worksheet, many people automatically start to read it and to do the exercises they see there, so this means that the onus really does fall on the teacher to be skilled enough to give clear instructions in class and to set tasks that will help the learners do what they really need to if we are going to respect learner needs. If university students, for instance, need to develop e subskills of reading to help them with their studies then the teacher should be able to select materials and set appropriate tasks that will lead to these outcomes. This is why, in my opinion, it is essential for teachers to learn how to define and achieve their own aims. In this world we are surrounded by an ever – increasing wealth of materials, which as those who propose a dogme view of teaching quite rightly balk at. For those beginning their teaching careers today, the world of resources is a rich but confusing tapestry, and it needs patience, skill, time and understanding to be able to see the interwoven patterns between materials and tasks, but it is precisely this skill which helps a teacher to go beyond the surface and to provide e type of demand high teaching that will help make learning and language both fun and also relevant and memorable.

So, did you achieve your aims today?

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Blogging with Students – LiveBinder

See on Scoop.itInspiration for tired EFL Teachers

Resources & Useful Information on Blogging with Students

Sharon Hartle‘s insight:

Really good Liveb

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Call My Bluff 3 Quiz – Definitions

See on Scoop.itTesting Times

I again revisit the BBC quiz show Call My Bluff.Two teams take it in turns to describe an obscure word, which their opponents would have to correctly identify. Only one description was the true one.Here we go again.

Sharon Hartle‘s insight:

To help students prepare for part 4 of the CAE exam introduce them to this Call My Bluff quiz and then get them to do their own versions. Another example of a traditional activity revisited :-)

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