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Sunday, March 25, 2012


Well, another IATEFL conference has come and gone. Unfortunately I was unable to attend the conference in person but have been trying to catch interviews here and there.

There were a lot of interesting talks and interviews happening this past week but I'd like to share with you the interview with Nik Peachy as I thoroughly agree with everything he mentioned and it certainly rings true to what I feel has happened in many of the schools in Catalonia. Nik mentions that a lot of money has been invested in technology over the past couple of years and yet there’s not much evidence or no real impact can be seen from an educator’s point of few. I’ve seen this first hand, both as a mother and a teacher. In my eldest daughter’s high school, the 1x1 computer pilot program started 2 years ago. Both the parents and the government joined together in buying laptops for the 120 students involved in our local high school. I dutifully set up parent-safety control on my daughter’s computer and got ready for some long-awaited changes to come about with regards to the way students in the school had been learning. I waited and waited and week after week when I asked her if they’d used the computers that week, her answer was always the same: No! The reasons ranged from teachers not wanting to use the computers when they already had a perfectly good book to work with to the more technical problems such as the internet/broadband connectivity being down or not strong enough to support an entire classroom of computers. Two years later, she reports that half the students’ computers are either lost or broken and from what I can see, it’s mainly being used for facebook and social networking from home. The program has been cancelled and many students, my son being one of them, have not even got to the stage of receiving their laptops this year. As my daughter’s computer is rarely used at school, it’s become a permanent fixture in her bedroom and I now have a very disappointed son who feels it’s unfair that his sister has one. From a teacher’s point of view, I’m also very disappointed as my class at the school where I work was supposed to get on board with the 1x1 computer program and since it’s been cancelled there are no computers or intentions to get computers anywhere in sight! It’s all very depressing. Upon entering this school three years ago, I had just finished my Masters in Technology and Tesol and I was so excited to help bring both students and teachers into the 21st Century but it’s been quite a big let-down and I privately end up doing as much as I can with the little technology I have available.

Nik also mentions that IWBs have been thought of as the solution to integrating technology into schools. Boards are bought, set up in the classrooms and then teachers are supposed to just get on with it, with no proper training or professional development with regards to teaching their subject using the boards. Again, the same thing has happened at the high school where I teach. The boards are on the wall, the markers have been taken away and hidden and the laptops removed from the room until someone finds the time to train the teachers how to properly use it. Pick me, pick me I want to say; only it seems that fellow colleagues are reluctant to learn from a ‘newbie’ and quite frankly most of them seem relieved that they haven’t been made to learn how it works yet. I’m not joking. One of them said to me, “Why do I need to learn how to give my class on an interactive board if I already have my lessons planned and I use a book?” Again; very depressing. Nik’s advice for our teachers is that we give them more training. OBVIOUSLY! These laptops and IWBs have been thrown into the educational system without even contemplating teacher training. Few teachers are truly ready to use 1x1 laptops in a confident way and in the way in which they were intended. It’s the same with the boards. Many teachers who do in fact have their boards up and running are simply using them as they would a regular computer, projector and screen. There’s nothing interactive in the way that they are using the boards. It’s not entirely their fault. They haven’t been trained. He states that teachers need to be trained so that they can support the students outside of the classroom.

Nik’s advice and vision for future students is that they will be allowed to bring in their own devices; cellphones, ipads, kindles, etc… and that teachers will ‘teach’ them how to become autonomous learners, able to learn the educational value of the tools that they are already familiar with. It’s a great dream Nik. Have you ever taught in a Catalan/Spanish school?! I’d love to share your vision but I see it as an ‘almost’ impossible feat in my current teaching situation. He also mentions that there needs to be more thought put into the way homework is given to the students and that it has to be used in a more integrated and practical way so that students develop digital literacy at home and are able to bring their experience into the classroom.

I enjoyed the interview a lot but it’s made me see that things are not happening in a very quick and progressive way from where I’m standing. Unless I one day open a private school as Nik has done, these changes may not come about until at least the 22nd Century!

Interview with Nik Peachey | Glasgow Online

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

IATEFL - Extensive Reading Foundation Reception and Awards Ceremony

My readers will have to excuse the lack of 'techy tools' in my next couple of posts. I will be commenting on videos and interviews from IATEFL Glasgow this week and will therefore not be posting about 'tool' examples as usual.

I Am listening to Jeremy Harmer's session "Extensive Reading Foundation Reception and Awards Ceremony". Jeremy is talking about how important it is to use reading as a tool for language learning and language improvement. I couldn't agree more. It's taking me back to the memory of my 6th grade teacher who first got me interested in reading. For the last 30 minutes of each school day, she used to turn off the lights and tell us to rest our heads on our desks as she proceeded to read the entire book of 'The Lord of the Rings' by J.R. Tolkien. It was wonderful and magical and I'm convinced that my love of reading stems from this experience. Getting our students interested in reading anything in a language which is not their mother-tongue is definitely a challenging task. Sure we have the obligatory readers which they must read as part of their course work; however reading for FUN is not generally something that language students do on their own. One of the award-winners mentioned that when writing for non-native speakers, stories must be both SATISFYING and ENGAGING. I also totally agree with this point, however, I know that it's also very difficult nowadays to engage our learners in words printed out in paper-form, non-three-dimensional with no words or images jumping out and spinning around in circles just to entertain them! I feel that it’s my duty as a language teacher to really make them ENJOY the books that they HAVE to read. In fact, just today I was reading out the first two chapters of ‘The Mummy’ to my 3rd Eso students (14-year olds). I knew that if I simply put the cd on for them to listen to or asked them to silently read the chapters on their own, their interest would quickly dwindle. I read it to them as my 6th-grade teacher had read to me, along with a few personalized ‘extras’ such as keywords written on the board and a theatrical me starring as Anck Su Namun stabbing herself in order to save her lover Imhotep! (They’ll never forget what the word stab means again!) I’m getting off track but my point is that reading really does have to be engaging and even more so in the case of non-native language learners. I congratulate all writers of books and readers for EFL learners as I know that it really is no easy task.

To my surprise, one of the award-winners was Tim Vicary. I’m not surprised that he won an award. I’m surprised at the coincidence that I had just recently finished an online interactive activity site for his book ‘The Elephant Man’. It was nice putting a ‘live’ face to the book!

And last but certainly not least, I had the privilege of watching the dear Robert O’Neill as he so truthfully spoke about… I’m not quite sure what! He impressed us all so much with the couple of loud F-words that left his mouth that even Jeremy Harmer was left speechless! Very amusing to see, and hear!

The message I leave you all with; READ!!!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Talking Photos? Try FOTOBABBLE

This is a very simple tool, especially good for getting younger students to share information in English.  All they have to do is bring in a photo and then it can be uploaded in Fotobabble and a voice recording tool records their sentence.  They can pick colourful backgrounds to suit their photo too. This is a very simple tool, especially good for getting younger students to share information in English.  All they have to do is bring in a photo and then it can be uploaded in Fotobabble and a voice recording tool records their sentence.  They can pick colourful backgrounds to suit their photo too.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


Some interesting facts and misconceptions about video games and education. Video Games and Education
Via: Online Colleges Guide

Thursday, March 1, 2012


A couple of weeks ago, after trying out short stories with 5-card flickr, I decided to try out the story starter idea on the page.  Although it says it's for primary students, I thought I'd give it a try with my 15-year olds. They had seemed to enjoy writing quick stories using flickr images and they were asking me for more!  The activity worked well and they are getting used to creating quick stories in a short period of time.  I am not focussing on form, only FUN.    Here is an example of how I did this activity:

1.  Open the story starter page on scholastic and get four students to pull the lever in order to choose the topic that they will be writing about.
2. Put the students in pairs.
3.  Give them about 10 minutes to write a quick story using all of the elements as shown in the picture.
4.  Read the stories out in class.
5.  Don't be too hard on their grammar.  Let them use their imaginations and have a bit of fun with writing!