October 31, 2014

Keeping things in your pocket

When you are surfing the web and you come across a really cool website, but it's not the right time to explore it, WHAT DO YOU DO?


This post has the objective to share a super simple way of organizing these links you wish to explore SOME DAY ...

POCKET is a Google Chrome extension and an app which can be downloaded to your smartphone. It allows you to save any link you want to view later and automatically syncs to your other devices.

How does it work? You download the extension to your Google Chrome browser and you will be asked if you want it to be synched to your other devices. The icon will appear at the top of your browser, then, every time you want to bookmark something to read later, click on the icon and the following box will appear, asking you to add tags to the saved page.

Later that week, when you find the time to go over your selections, go to the POCKET site http://getpocket.com/ to see what to explore. I've added POCKET to my bookmarks bar to make it easier for me to have access to these links.

If you're surfing the web using your cell phone, once you've got the POCKET APP  installed, every time you find an interesting website to view later, click SHARE and select ADD TO POCKET. As simple as that! So, imagine yourself waiting for a doctor appointment with nothing to do, it would be a perfect time to check out those websites you never find the time to try out. Click the POCKET icon on your cell phone and the websites will appear for you.

Why did I like this extension? Well, it's simple and I like the visual way the websites are organized. I also think having it on my Bookmarks Bar will help me remember I have interesting things saved in "my pocket" to explore.

September 25, 2014

Teens and Tumblr: a writing digital portfolio

The objective of this post is to share a writing project I've been developing with EFL teenage students this semester. At the end of each unit, the course book we've been using suggests a writing task for a portfolio.

I've always been bothered by the way teenagers generally handle their written assignments at the school where I work. It usually goes as following:

  • Students write a text on a piece of paper which is given to the teacher for correction.
  • Teachers correct the mistakes by underlining, crossing out and sometimes providing a better word for a sentence. The pieces of paper are handed back to students with a mark.
  • Upon receiving their text back, students check their marks and quickly check what the teacher has corrected.
I frequently asked myself: What do students do with this piece of paper? Do students understand why they made the mistakes the teacher marked? How much do they learn from the feedback?

Considering the scenario shared above, I decided to propose a change to my students. First, I elicited from them what usually happens when they have to write texts for homework. And then I presented the idea of a Writing Digital Portfolio to be developed by each student throughout the semester.

The idea was to implement the following changes for the writings at the end of each unit. First, students would write a draft on a piece of paper and bring to class. During one of the class activities when students are busy writing, I would check all the drafts, underline mistakes and leave hints about what is wrong with what I underlined. I would focus on underlining mistakes which I believe my students would be able to identify themselves if pointed in the right direction. Second, students would edit the text marked by the teacher, try to identify and correct the mistakes and publish the final version on a public portfolio. As a tool, I suggested TUMBLR as students could easily publish texts and images either from their cell phones or their laptops. Finally, I would evaluate the final version.

My aim was to try a simple version of process writing, invite students to reflect about their writings, to collect each student's writing on a single page and have something tangible of what is produced by students during the semester.

We've been working together for 2 months and a half now and students are about to publish their third writing. The texts are fairly short (about 100 words), but they have been of great help to me as evidence of what my students have learned and what they haven't learned yet.

Screenshot of a Protopage with the Portfolio being developed by students.
In order to see the portfolios, you can click on the image above, and then click on the names of the students. Or you can click on the links of some portfolios I bring below:

August 23, 2014

Helping students develop speaking with Whatsapp

I normally teach teenagers and this semester I wanted to have students record  the mini dialogues they normally create in class. These recordings apart from being an opportunity for students to practise speaking and listening could help me observe their progress.

I've been focussing on CAN DO objectives, so close to the end of each class I ask pairs of students to create a mini dialogue using the topic of the lesson. In pairs, they write down a mini dialogue of about 6 turns. I have a quick look at the dialogues checking for mistakes related to the topic of the lesson and then students rehearse it. When they feel they are ready, they can make the recording using their own cell phones.

As we're using EDMODO to post homework, to do quizzes and share extra material, I imagined they could use their own cell phones to record their dialogues and then send it to our Edmodo group. When I suggested the recording for the first time, students were a bit surprised because they had never recorded themselves using English. One student then asked if they could share the recording via WHATSAPP, considering the fact that all of them have the app on their cell phones and it's possible to record within the app. I accepted the idea and one of the students volunteered to create a group for sharing the recordings.

After students upload the recordings, I usually ask them to listen to other dialogues created by their classmates. At home, I listen to all the recorded dialogues and take notes of mistakes related to the target language which  I share with the whole group in a following class without identifying anyone. I've been truly happy with the opportunity to see my students using their creativity to practise the language and to have "palpable" evidence of what my students seem to have learned or not.

This screenshot shows a conversation between a student and myself. I was happy to see they are enjoying listening to themselves and their classmates.

And this is a sample of a dialogue created by two of my students. Can you identify the target structure they were trying to use?

What about this one?

July 19, 2014

RSCON5: Text genres and some digital possibilities

In case you missed RSCON5, an incredible Online Conference for Educators worldwide, and the many interesting sessions presented, this is my tiny contribution to this great event.

It's amazing how many people got together during 3 days in July to dedicate some of their time to professional development. Apart from congratulating the different presenters who shared their knowledge with us, I'd like to express my admiration to the organizing committee who put everything together.

For my presentation, I decided to talk about Text Genres and its digital possibilities.

Although many of the course books some of us use in class suggest writing activities such as formal and informal letters, descriptions, narratives and e-mails, other text genres should receive our attention too. I believe the internet has redefined the way we communicate with others and the kind of texts we write. When we travel we no longer send postcards home but we share our photos a comments instantly via Instagram. When we need to send urgent messages, we don't even think of telegrams anymore, we use text messages. Technology has introduced us to different types of text writing and with them other challenges too, such as the use of abbreviations and the limit of characters as in Twitter.

This is a screenshot of the session  I presented at RSCON5. If you click on the image, you'll be taken to the recordings. You can watch the whole session at the Collaborate Platform, listen to the audio or watch the video recording. http://goo.gl/iUShpP

All the resources mentioned throughout the talk can be found at the livebinders below:

June 20, 2014

5, 4, 3, 2, 1 relax ...

This afternoon, I got home feeling stressed with my heart beating fast and a restless mind. "I need to unwind", I thought. I remembered a website Ozge Karaoglu mentioned in one of her posts, "Do nothing for 2 minutes" and decided to try it out. After a few minutes relaxing, I didn't want to go back to real life.

This post was my exploration and trial with relaxing sites which can help you unwind.
Ready to feel REAL GOOD?
Now, I invite you to try these 3 sites one by one.


The site invites you to do nothing for two minutes. Observe the still image on the screen and try not to use your mouse or keyboard for ONLY 2 MINUTES. Close your eyes and listen to the waves. It's not impossible, observe the countdown and feel how much you can relax in a mere two minutes. If you cheat and use your keyboard or mouse, you'll see the word FAIL come up and you get another chance to start. http://www.donothingfor2minutes.com/


This one hypnotized me. The background video is very soothing and changes when another background music plays. The icons on the left can only be seen if you hover the mouse next to the left side of the screen, therefore the relaxing image occupies the whole screen. You can do nothing and just listen and observe the scenery or select one of the options from the left icons. The first option is a guided  meditation for 2, 5, 10, 15 or 20 mins. You can listen to a voice which guides you into relaxing your body and mind. The second option is a timer which you select to meditate on your own. This site is MY SECOND FAVOURITE. Even if you still need to work, you can keep the window open and listen to the sounds while you surf the web. There is also an IOS app available. http://www.calm.com/


The simple message on the gray background might not impress you much, but don't be fooled. This is MY FAVOURITE ONE. Once you press the spacebar to start, the site maximizes itself covering all the other tabs you might have open on your screen. While listening to background music, read the sentences slowly and let them embark you on a quiet adventure.

I've tried out 3 of their quiet adventures:

What do these sites have to do with Education?

  • They can help us, educators, relax, calm our hearts and find our harmony to keep on doing what we love: educate.
  • I imagine we could also use the second and third sites with our students in class too. With Calm.com, I believe the guided 2 min meditation could help teenagers calm down a little and also practice their listening skills. 
  • With "the quiet place", if you have an IWB, the first two adventures I suggested would be appropriate to start a class where you can discuss about the stressful lives we've been leading and what people can do to relax. 

June 9, 2014

How to create your app smashed Study guide

I've recently posted about Visual Study Guides which I've been making for my students. Instead of only telling them the pages of the course book they have to study, I organize materials which we have used during our classes, such as video grammar lessons, online exercises, ppts and word files, into a visual poster with links to the resources which should be revised.

A few times, I created such Study Guides embedding the resources to a Glogster poster , more recently I've been using Thinglink for the same purpose.




Try scrolling down the image above to see the rest of the Instruction Poster.

Hope you find these tips useful,