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Google Calendar March 21, 2008

Posted by Valentina in ICT.
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Getting ready for IATEFL

Coordinating speech “Are you Goggling or Googling?” with Todd Cooper in Japan using Google Calendar


Glueing the pieces together January 26, 2008

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Well I’ve enrolled for another great EVO session and it’s been one of those fortnights were I’ve need glue to piece parts of my personal life together so I’m way behind on “tasks” and “cooperation” but it’s good to get back into action with a fantastic slide show by Alexander Hayes

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99 ways to use a Podcast February 17, 2007

Posted by Valentina in EVO, ICT.

Last week on our EVO week 4 we were asked to contribute to Pod-EFL Wikispace and add our ideas to the “99 ways to use a Podcast” http://pod-efl.wikispaces.com/99waystouseapodcast

My first idea is based on QUOTATIONS

I think this kind of easy short and flexible project would help get learners familair with Podcasting and recording their voices. I would ask learners to choose a quotation they like (or find one e.g http://www.wisdomquotes.com/ ) I would start gradually with a whole class choosing their favourite quotation to start with and then one student per week could be asked to start a new discussion off. I would get others to listen and record comments. This would be a sort of voice version of the great idea I saw on http://www.quotationspage.com/weblog/ . It could also be extend to have an inter-cultural feel by translating quotes or exchanging national “sayings” and “proverbs”.

My second idea is called HowTo ….Rock,Paper and Scissors

Inspired by some of the great videojug tutorials and having to play Rock Paper and Scissors for most the afternoon today ;-) I thought this type of speech, giving instructions and describing games lends itself to prepared, scripted talking which is also a good way to get students more familiar with the sound of their public voice.

VideoJug: How To Play The Tic Tac Toe Clapping Game

So I think a “How To….Play” podcast project would work well- It seems all learners know a lot of other skills and to share this information and practice giving instructions in a foreign langauge. I would set up a podcast project where learners explain how to play a sport they like (e.g basketball), how to do something unusual (e.g make candles or juggle) This would be a good way to justify preparing text, having a script to read from and practising very clear speech.
For first time podcasters that would be reassuring!!! This could also develop into an international exchange, with learners comparing pastimes internationally. It could also have fun elements “How To…for Aliens” with learners explaining basic everyday tasks (e.g how to brush your teeth) in minute detail to a extra-terrestrial ;-) A variant, to address the point of why listen to another student’s podcast could be to get the
learners to include one mistake in their order or instuctions for others to
spot, once they’ve got the hang of things?

I’ll add the other 97 when I have time ;-)

Chinswing – evolving discussions February 17, 2007

Posted by Valentina in EVO, ICT.

I tried out Chinswing and it is very simple to set up and start using.

There is a nice interface with a search feature so I immediately searched for EFL and
left a message on a discussion about using Chinswing in EFL/ESL teaching. It was nice to listen to some of the webheads there.

Main elements are learners need a reason to post, topic should be compelling, this could be a good area for practice.

It made me think that it would be excellent for EXAM practice too (aaagh!) . Some of my learners are preparing for IELTS and we could try to get some international learners
involved to share ideas on the “Speaking Topics”. They do the oral alone and
one part requires a one minute monologue following a prompt the examiner gives.

For example:

  • What makes some people sound boring?
  • Can you give examples of effective speakers, perhaps a salesperson or one of your friends?
  • How do effective speakers keep the attention of their listeners?
  • How important is non-verbal communication, such as facial expressions and gestures, when speaking?

This I think would lead to interesting points and hopefully provide them with some
useful ideas for sounding more interesting too ;-)

Chinswing is useful because you can listen on the website, by simply returning to (or bookmarking) the discussion that you wish to follow, and seeing what’s new. You
can also add any discussion to your “watch list”. This watch list is easily placed on your user page (to access user page just click on your or someone else’s icon). This
means all the discussions your interested in can be easily accessed from one
place. Useful because I can see that sending some students off to sites like
this could easily lead to disaster with them getting lost and energy might be

You can also Subscribe using the RSS/Podcast feed link. By using RSS reader/aggregator or podcast receiver software, you can be automatically
alerted when someone adds a message to that particular discussion. It says this method is for more advanced users!!!

I like the fact that using podcast receiver software, you can have any new messages automatically transferred to your mp3 player for listening on-the-go! iTunes/iPod users should use the one-click “Add to iTunes” link. So that makes it highly compatible.

I think it looks interesting and worth exploring in a little more depth but I’m wondering how necessary something like this is for the majority of our “audio” projects.

I think we often find ourselves setting things up with a limited group of learners who are possibly exchange audio comments with another class and this could be better served by some of te other software we have seen.

Chinswing does allow them to listen to other discussions and you will get a wider range of topics and accents but I think in many learning contexts we would need to be careful – they might listen to something they should be and it’s difficult to know exactly how “censored” recording are. Just a thought to bear in mind.

I also noticed that some of the channels haven’t got any discussions. So when I clicked on World Travel there was nothing to listen to.

My search for two random words “Vesuvius! (I live 30kms away from this active volcano ! and “cooking” returned no audio recordings either – a teacher would need to check then which topics were appropriate and available. Maybe empty themes would motivate learners even more! And one could work on creating an audio wikipedia…

PodOmatic Tutorial February 12, 2007

Posted by Valentina in ICT.
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For the eTwinning exchanges the British Council offers some eTwinning project assistance and I have developed material for them on behalf of TheConsutlants-E

A few months ago I setup this podOmatic tutorial for teachers using podomatic itself as an alternative to the print copy

Here’s the link http://tutorial.podomatic.com/

There are some videocasts from teachers using podcasts in their exchange projects http://www.britishcouncil.org/etwinning-podcasts.htm

Good stuff!

Podcasting – the warmth of human voice February 11, 2007

Posted by Valentina in ICT.

What opportunities do you see podcasting being able to offer you in your educational setting?

Generally speaking they offer language learners the chance to practice two essential skills: speaking and listening. The content is flexible as they can create it or they can choose from a wider choice of ready available podcasts.

I feel there a multi-strand here and we need to remember the context and learning level, outcomes, styles and resources we have available.

Podcasting can offer:

a) Authentic Listening: learners listen to real-life audio content (created by others) Great new opportunities for listening – very much like a more flexible and menu-selected range of audio files tailored to our learners’ needs

b) Real Audience: learners record their own voices and content. The listeners soon become speakers and can post audio comments in reply to what they hear. New ways of recording voices ( a great improvement on the tape recorder) which allows learners added speaking practice and the possibility of sharing their voice new audience and new levels of interaction with that audience new horizons to suit some learning styles better than text communication

c) Audio-on-the-go: lecturer podcasts to catch up on seminar or lesson you missed, tutorial for so many subjects, homework assignments, more listening practice, mp3 files on lessons or relevant topics to integrate or review material covered in class.

Learners can use their PC to listen to it or download and store this audio content to their portable music players in their own time, as many times as they want. Repetition easy and integral.

As I said in the round table discussion tonight on Podcasting & Language Learning hosted by Scott Lockman and in the YG discussion I have used podcasting with learners mainly as a listening resource. The main reason for this is they are academic university students and we do not have recording facilities. Podcasting also requires a lot of time – practising and repeating “parts”, uploading, editing etc which many short exam courses.

These new resources are much more than just more listening. They are excellent for exposing to a huge range of accents, speaking styles in a click. They are fun like http://thedailyenglishshow.blogspot.com/ and quick to follow. For young learners there are issues with level and appropriacy (see Graha Stanley and Joe Dale for more info!)

With one class I even found they were interested in listening to the same podcast in several languages. A lot of government information is now accessible as a podcast. For academic students, who have a command of many languages and are training to be interpreters, translators or whatever this is fantastic. Take the one I did on the environment for example from the EU Climate change site http://ec.europa.eu/environment/climat/campaign/ My students found it great to be able to listen to the other languages they are studying after listening to the English one (at the Oriental University of Naples the students I teach will have English is their second language, an Asian language will be their third and maybe fourth and fifth will be Latvian and Portuguese or some other European mix )

I have also trained teachers to set up podcasts. On a recent face to face project training we developed an idea for a project that will be carried out in the UK with mobile podcasting. The idea is called “Talk a Walk” and it is to record their learners’ trip to London in a new perspective, through sound.

These are some of the ideas we brainstormed: London with difficulty/ London in different shoes/ London through other senses. I think it was pretty neat to allow these students to choose the theme, to work in separate groups and then to help them develop it. This is not always possible, we were lucky that this EU funded projects covers the cost of going to the UK. Lucky for some J I just do the training ;-( So the “through senses podcasts” will be on describing art: wall graffiti to Tate Gallery, or describing the food they see and try. The oral record will be done as a substitute to our travel log scrap books! If the school could get the money for videocasting tools that would be ideal but sometimes just voice with no images makes the dialogues or spoken comments richer and for teachers new to ICT it can be easier – although vlogging is getting very simple.


· How effectively do you think you can engage students with something like a podcast?

· What (if any) problems can you foresee that may result in your podcast project not becoming a success? What can you do to avoid them?

Listen here for my answers (podcasting from Odeo to familiarise myself with it after a long time ;-)



LearnScope February 4, 2007

Posted by Valentina in ICT.

Alex Hayes

On 02/02/07 (midnight my time) we were privileged to be able to hear Alex Hayes  involved in LearnScope projects across NSW talk and showcase social software usage in these projects. “Webpublishing is a clear and defined objective.”

Bee, Berta, Patricia, Gerogina, Anne, Laine and a few other OWP names were there.

It was very interesting first to use this new real-time software that I have seen demos of and analysezd features of but never actually used synchronously in order to compare it with live chat rooms I’m familair with (LearningTimes, Blackboard, Vyew). Until the 01 Feb 2007 it was known as Breeze but since 01/02/07 (i.e 24hours before our session!) it became known as Adobe Acrobat Connect

It’s a rich platform for synchronous sessions.

  • Good professional layout with nice easy push buttons to ask for microphone and split windows.
  • Alex referred to is as very “democratic” because participants could also resize presenter’s windows. I think I would disagree with this definition. It’s not that democratic because it’s a paid for service!! It’s very professional.
  • We were participating as presenters and had been given access to the chat room via a shared link (no password) but one can set this up so that participants need a password and cannot share the applications (PPT slides or browser unless granted permission by moderator)
  • We were all “presenters” as it were and that yes, was very democratic of Alex. Thanks! With a larger, less experienced, group it could have lead to collapsing windows.

It’s nice to have shared browsing and although I thoroughly enjoyed the talk and this learning opportunity I found that the shared browsing didn’t work so well on this occasion and caused problems:

  1. some degree of detachment
  2. text too small,
  3. passage from web page to web page too fast to actually appreciate more than the basic layout and a few pics or headings. (Maybe I’m used to active web browsing, meandering round a wikispace to observe all the hard work and collaborative efforts that have gone on behind the scenes in my own way, in my own time, in an hour it is not possible to cover all that. )

Alex did a great job but I’m wondering about this quantity and exposing remote participants in this way.

I feel that a presenter, in this situation, is best

  • outlining projects in a different way (not only verbally) and
  • providing URL for later individual enjoyment and greater engagement.
  • talking thorugh key points on a whiteboard or slide or
  • ensuring that the webpage opens full screen (which then loses the sidebar chat – a disadvantage)

I think Laine, may agree with me here as she said in the text chat she felt confuse. The audio on Alex’s microphone was not of constant high quality adding to the distancing of the experiencing and the need for better visuals.

However, don’t get me wrong the session was extremely successful and enjoyable in extending networks and really interesting from the point of view of seeing how funding and technology can assist some brilliant projects and connect people. A real example of knowledge sharing.

It was also a special moment to actually hear a moblogger (mobile blogger) speak “live”!

Alex said he started out with photo blogging and then moved to expressing himself in text. A lot of his work is done on the go. This is a form of technology and use of technology that is very avant-guard here in Italy. He showed us how the use of Flikr captured their learning journey http://www.flickr.com/photos/tags/nswlearnscope06

Some important issues were also mentioned about protecting and preserving indigenous languages through mp3 recordings and podcasting. The public photo or storage of voice recordings has met with many problems in mobile blogging projects. It is crucial that people’s traditions are respected and if the capturing of an image of oneself or the archiving of a voice of someone who has passed away is considered by that community as unacceptable then that must obviously be respected. There is, of course also, a generation aspect to this – younger learners being more interested in becoming involved and exploring new traditions, more open to change? But the older members of the community need to be part of the decision making process for any project like this to work and Alex explained how they worked in a “watermark” system for granting permission for photos to be used. This protection is in the hands of the community and it great to analyse all this from the point of view of open and participatory (of our past few weeks) I need to find out more about what Alex said on Creative Common’s.

We also got the chance (very helpful) to see how Alex has set up and uses Bloglines for aggregating the thousands of feeds all his projects are using . He shared his bloglines public space http://www.bloglines.com/public/alexanderhayes

Superb example of folder management and an excellent way to consolidate and see in action more examples of what we have been examining over the past two weeks.

Problems with Bloglines, mentioned by Alex :

  • That the interface does not allow you to view all the updates on one window.
  • You can see changes marked by individual feeds – to view you need to click that feed.

He mentioned that Planet TALO does this so I’m off to investigate. Another feed scraper (I liked this term!) was a community based portal called www.zimbio.com. Another one for the comparative analysis tasks that I have set myself!

Another interesting thing was the way they had used a Google calendar in their wiki to make even scheduling visits more collaborative – less of a top down approach

Also nice to see great “HowTo links and their idea of sending a Web Office Tool Kit to everyone involved in projects seemed great.

Well the key words : teams, collaborating, networks and also unpredictability. One mobile bloggers choice for their “personal identity” activities showed that 😉

Connections and conversations http://www.nswlearnscope.com/

Loads of scope for learning… Thanks ALex, Bee, Patricia and Georgian for arranging this session 😉

One Climate Island February 3, 2007

Posted by Valentina in EVO, ICT, Second Life.
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I thought I’d experiment with inserting a YouTube video into my blog and I’ve chosen this one on Second Life called One Climate Island a virtual world in Second Life dedicated to practical solutions to climate change. It’s linked to the wiki and blog space at

Darfur is Dying February 3, 2007

Posted by Valentina in blogging, EVO, ICT, Pedagogy.

On the Digital Gaming EVO session I am also enrolled on we are talking about online gaming and how this can increase learner interest and motivation?

One participant, Joel, metioned that his daughter plays a game that ends in “dead babies” and this reminded me of something I heard on the BBC Digital Planet Technology podcast in Dec 2006 (they seem to have removed it now so am I allowed to share the mp3 here -see podcast below ) It was about Persuasive Gaming and I was wondering if anyone has experience of these for language learning. The ones they described where about Darfur is Dying available free and how the game is based on trying to get water for your family and Peace Maker simulating the role of Palestinian and Israeli Presidents to find new solutions. (BBC article http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/5153694.stm )

Although the argument is these games don’t change the world and they can also trivialize a serious problem, can’t they? But the question is are they maybe a little more ethical and help get away from promoting dead babies, what do you think? I thought Joel’s comment on getting learners to write about how they feel is really good system for opening debate – The debate can be serious and maybe the way to visualize even serious problems sometimes for young learners is to make them accessible to teens in “their” language, to tap into their way of thinking and then encourage discussion on world famine, or Israeli-Palestinian issues and even on how the game has simplified the problem.

Let’s take the Darfur one as an example:

Darfur is Dying

Is it better for learners to be involved simply in creating conflictual environments (World of Warcrafts does have these elements, doesn’t it? ) or trying to resolve conflicts in an oversimplified environment? A difficult question to ask but often the key to making people wake up to the reality is to find a channel that they can tune into, surely?

If playing a game also allows room for discussion on how learners feel and exposes to some of the questions say for example:

  • How did the conflict start?
  • What is the government doing?
  • What has happened to the civilians?
  • How many have died?
  • What happened to the peace deal?
  • Is anyone trying to stop the fighting?
  • What can be done?

and room to explore the answers then I would argue that an oversimplification is helpful.

Given that not all young people know what is happening in Darfur then I would argue it’s better to help them find out. We can start with a game, if that is appropriate, and then follow on with a more serious debate on the issues of “getting water for your family”. Comparing contexts, raising awareness, discussing issues and opinions can help open doors. Not all learners will immediately respond to a New York Times article or an abridged UN report or section on Famine in our coursebooks so if technology can lead us to understand that Darfur is Genocide we can stop and help us take action to stop it then yes, let’s remember Darfur is Dying – find out more and maybe also read and create blog spaces where we can express views and explore new ones? 

Creativity and Literacy February 2, 2007

Posted by Valentina in EVO.
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Sir Ken Robinson’s talk is not only hilarious but touches on many crucial points about education!

Quote of the day “If you are not prepared to be wrong, then you’ll never come up with anything original!”

3 D intelligence:

  • diverse
  • dynamic
  • distinct

You can listen to the podcast here http://ted.streamguys.net/ted_robinson_k_2006.mp3
to hear more on the need to completely rethink education so that we can nurture and develop the creative capacities of those we are educating rather than educate them “out of creativity”.

How does this all tie in with this week’s blogging discussion?

Well in more twasy than one. Blogging can lead to new forms of creativity, a quick glance at some of our own learner’s blogs or the some of the projects on the Dekita exchange are enough to see great levels of creativity. Sir Robinson’s talk focuses on the unpredictability of the world in 2065 , or even in 5 years time and the extra capacities that our kids have. One really important part of writing in public spaces is also related to de-stigmatizing mistakes, with blogging we need to ensure learners aren’t frightened to be wrong so they can create and express themselves freely. Blogging can spark off something unpredictable and can trigger new original ideas. Education is about making learners comfortable and addressing a range of styles – we need to remember that while blogging might work for some it won’t for all. The sound, visual and (mouse/keypboard movement) that technology allows address some styles better than others….