Month: January 2011

All in a Quandary

Amazing
Image taken from Wikimedia commons
It’s always good to start a new year with something new, or, in this case, something I haven’t looked at for some time: Quandary. This is a great site and software, which you can use to make mazes. In my last post there is a link to the New Year’s quiz I made last week, and, as a result, a few people were asking me what Quandary is.

Well, first of all, it was developed by the same people who developed “Hot Potatoes“: some of the first software I ever used for online teaching in 1998, no less, and which I still use frequently along with Markin‘. In fact, I have to admit that this software revolutionised the way I taught.

So this is about Quandary, which is teaching software that you can use to make mazes. The site itself provides very effective tutorials made as Mazes, where you basically move from one point to the next by making decisions. For instance the first point might be a situation such as: “You have to do an exam in English, and you don’t have a lot of time to prepare for it because you are working too.”This is then followed by various choices and, depending on the one you take you go to another situation. So, it works just like the Mazes we use in the classroom with cards and choices, except that it is online.

The Quandary site also provides some fun example mazes, for you to try out. “The Evil Landlady” is fun! Check it out 🙂 Another example maze that I made was for my B1 level university students to help them prepare for their exams. You can see it at this link. It’s a lighthearted way of giving my students information.

The last plus point, but by no means the least is that Quandary is now shareware so you can get all this for free. So, what are you waiting for? Try it out.

New Year Lesson

A lot of us are starting lessons again around about now, after the Christmas holiday, so we often feel the need to special “New Year” lessons, both to reconnect with or warm up our learners and to be topical. I decided not to “do” New Year’s resolutions this year as my students tend to groan at the idea of resolving to do things, and anyway we’ve done it before so I decided to do some work with the BBC learning English series: The Flatmates and made a light-hearted Quandary maze for my learners. If you want to see this work follow this link scroll down to the bottom of the page, and please feel free to use it too if you want 🙂

Happy New Year

As we all celebrate in different ways many of us stop at this time of year to take stock of the year that has just gone by and to think about what we want to do in the year ahead. As I watched people caught up in the Midnight Firework display in Verona on the 31st this year, there was the same sense of wonder and magic, just for a moment, that there is at the beginning of every new year. Despite the various crises in Italy, economic, political etc. despite the sensation that we are surrounded by a network of half truths if not lies, and so much lack of integrity, that it is often difficult to avoid negativity or cynicism, we still want to believe in new beginnings. One thing, in fact, that I notice when working with young people, at the university, is that despite all the problems in our society today, there is still a lot of enthusiasm around and creativity, and students still look towards the future with great ideas, hopes and aspirations.

In a world where there is no longer any guarantee when it comes to work, or finding a house to live in, for that matter, and where it seems that many of the systems that we took for granted not too long ago, health
systems, banks etc. are, at the very least, not what they were, how can we look forward to a new year? And yet we do, we celebrate at midnight with a glass of Prosecco and look forward to the new year as if we have erased all the problems from the last one, and can start anew. And why not? The great thing is that we can start again, in fact, at any moment, we can change direction, reinvent ourselves, and insodoing reinvent the very world we are living in. The revolution, if we can talk about revolution nowadays, has to come from the grass roots, and should be more of an evolution than a revolution. One of the most important vehicles for this type of evolution of communication is the Internet and social networking.

The recent student movements and demonstrations, to give one example, were often organised by means of social networking. The blogosphere is not merely the province, as someone recently said on the radio, of the mad or the fanatical. It is a space where we can learn to communicate and create in new ways, and the English government, for one, is considering opening a space for people to be able to express their views directly online, with the idea that if more than 100,000 people sign a petition, the matter will then be debated in Parliament. The Internet is becoming daily one of the most democratic dimensions we have.

It seems odd, now, to think that just a few years ago we didn’t use Facebook, or that we couldn’t make wikis for ourselves and our students. One of the success stories last year, as far as I’m concerned was Prezi. I used it with my students and they were so enthusiastic that they were motivated to produce exciting, beautifully crafted prezis of their own, which they included on our wiki. If you want to see some of them follow this link and look at the discussion page. Enthusiasm, creativity and growth. That is what the Internet is providing me and my students with, and the potential to do so many things that we couldn’t in the past. Of course, like everything, what counts is what we do with a space, not, so much the space itself.

What is certain is that our world is never black and white, bad or good, positive or negative, and what I want to do this year is invest my energy in working as well as I can to make a difference, however, small it may be, in my students’ lives and in their experience of learning English. So, I’m working on my next Teahing posi.. And in the meantime: Happy New Year to everyone 🙂