Art& Technology in ELT: An incompatible marriage or not?

Are you an art lover? Would you like to familiarize your students with the artwork of famous painters while learning English? This was the logic behind the development of the two lesson outlines you can find and download for free in the box.net widget on the right sidebar of this blog.

The first lesson plan was based upon Vincent Van Gogh’s ‘Bedroom in Arles’ and it’s aimed at advanced students. The technology-oriented suggested activities include the use of http://www.blabberize.comhttp://www.pimpampum.net/bubblr/ and You Tube. The second outline called ‘Just Dance’ was designed with the valuable help of a dear friend and colleague, Rania Chiotini, who is a state primary school teacher in Greece. As you’ll see, we have combined art, music and technology in our attempt to exploit the educational value of three lovely paintings by Toulouse Lautrec, Edgar Degas and Pierre- Auguste Renoir. The incorporation of technology gives them a ‘fresh’ feel, engages young learners and empowers their creativity!

The lesson outlines provide clear, step-by-step instructions. We look forward to your comments! Would you be tempted to try something like this in your language classroom? Do you think your students would enjoy this ‘marriage’ of art to technology :-)?

All the best,

Christina

Little Bird Tales: ‘A Magic Tunnel in the Louvre Museum’.

**Click on the image below to view Liana’s tale :-)!

littlebirdtales.com cover image

Last week a student of mine wrote a short story that I really enjoyed reading. Liana is in the second grade of high school and this writing task was part of her preparation for the FCE exam she is about to take in December. I thought that creating its digital version using Little Bird Tales would make the ‘chore’ of writing and proofreading much more meaningful and pleasant! Luckily, I was right since Liana seemed to enjoy every minute of it :-)!

Little Bird Tales is a free storytelling tool you can use to create multimodal stories with your students. Teachers can sign up, add students and manage their classes on a safe web environment. Students type their tales, upload or draw images with the embedded drawing tool and then record their voice to narrate their stories. Very young learners may also create illustrations on paper and you can later scan and add them to their stories.

Little Bird Tales is very simple to use as the website itself is straightforward and walks you through this creative process. Although at first glance, one assumes that Little Bird Tales is intended solely for younger learners because of its playful interface, I can assure you that older students find it equally fun and engaging. It helps them get a clearer understanding of how to organize their thoughts into paragraphs& book pages, build up tension, deliver a resolution, write a catchy title and so on. Besides, students practise their pronunciation and skills of reading out loud gracefully (pausing, breathing, colouring their voice) until they are pleased with themselves and the result of the recording.

The overall experience is usually very rewarding! Students feel proud of their digital story books and can e-mail or share them on a blog or website. Apart from digital stories, you could also ask them to create class presentations as an interesting alternative to PowerPoint.

If you decide to try Little Bird Tales and intend to use online images, you could also seize the opportunity to familiarize learners with copyright issues and Creative Commons. Students should be clear about the fact that they can’t use an image just because they’ve Googled it! In Liana’s story, we used images from http://www.morguefile.com which has a big collection of copyright free images. Below I’m sharing two posts I’ve found really useful myself so as to learn about fair use and copyright. The second link provides you with a great list of the best sources for free images on the Web.

http://theedublogger.com/2012/02/09/the-educators-guide-to-copyright-fair-use-and-creative-commons/

http://larryferlazzo.edublogs.org/2008/10/11/the-best-online-sources-for-images/

Hope you’ll get inspired by Liana’s story about a secret, magic tunnel in the Louvre museum and encourage your students to create their own digital narrated stories too :-)!

All the best,

Christina

A Spooky Halloween with Voki!!!

Celebrating Halloween is always fun and gives teachers the chance to deviate from the ordinary course book stuff and come up with enjoyable activities which familiarize students with this old tradition when ‘the veil between the living world and the spirit world becomes thinner’ :-).

Witches, pumpkins, ghosts, black cats, masks, candy and scary stories excite students’ imagination and set the scene for creative technology- based or not language learning tasks. This year I decided to use Voki with my younger learners and asked them to create scary speaking avatars.

Voki is a free, fun, easy- to-use tool.  There is a wide range of animated characters (including politicians, animals, smilies, monsters etc.) for students to choose from and customize by adjusting sizes, colours, clothing and accessories as they wish. They can also pick a background and then bring their characters to life by giving them a voice! Most interestingly, students can add their own voice via microphone or phone as well as use the text- to speech software, type their message and pick a voice for their character.

Avatars can then be e-mailed or embedded in any social media site, blog or website. For me, the only limitation of this tool is the fact that the recordings must be up to 60 seconds.

Students can create their avatars without making an account but if they do, they’ll be able to save their work and edit it whenever they want! There is also a Voki classroom option for educators at low rates so that you can set up accounts and manage your students’ work without having them register. 

Below you’ll find four of the spooky Halloween avatars my students created:-)!

Some more ideas about how to use Voki in your class throughout the school year are:

  • To assign homework, give oral instructions or feedback.
  • Create a classroom mascot to make important announcements.
  • Ask students to work in pairs and create short dialogues between their vokis on a certain topic.
  • For speaking exercises: students can introduce themselves, share their thoughts, dreams, wishes or future plans.
  • To ask riddles.
  • ‘Celebrity Guess Who’ game: Divide your class into pairs. Give each pair the photo of a celebrity and some facts about his/her life/ career. If students are more advanced, they could also look 5 important facts up on the Web by themselves (country of origin, age, biggest hit/most successful movie, etc.). Students have to create celebrity look- alike avatars sharing personal info while the rest of the class has to make the right guess :-)!

 If you haven’t used it before, Voki is certainly worthwhile trying!

All the best, 

Christina

Glogster! Try it out :-)

In this post, I’ll suggest a Web 2.0 tool that my students really love using! GlogsterEdu allows you to create your online, interactive posters called Glogs!

Students can browse through the rich, built-in collection of graphics, experiment by dragging and dropping items on their Glog, import their own photos or favourite songs, add videos from the Web or even record a video on the spot! They can also create dynamic images- ‘hotspots’ (by embedding hyperlinks), draw as well as write their text while playing with different fonts and colours! Once students have completed their Glogs, they can share them in multiple ways:

  • email Glogs to the teacher.
  • embed them in their classroom’s blog, in a wiki or webpage.
  • post them to Facebook, Edmodo or Twitter.

Teachers can set up an account here: http://edu.glogster.com/. There are free (or not) licences for individual teachers and multilicences for schools at affordable prices. In general, GlogsterEdu provides a safe online learning environment since teachers can generate student accounts with safe logins and passwords and monitor all students’ activities through the teacher’s dashboard.

Below you’ll find the Glog I created in order to introduce myself to you and show you the wonderful things one can do with this tool in practice! Just roll your mouse over it to discover all the dynamic icons and click on them to see what they are ‘hiding’ :-)!

Alternatively, you could ask students to use GlogsterEdu :

  • to create presentations on any topic (e.g present their country’s customs and traditions- nice idea for multicultural classrooms).
  • to make an online poster of a memorable trip or their Christmas/ summer holidays.
  • to make an online poster of their favourite film, including a written review, a trailer, images, short interviews of the protagonists e.t.c.
  • to create the digital cover of a magazine for teenagers or a newspaper front page.

Good luck!!! Hope you’ll enjoy this creative learning experience as much as my students and I have ;-)!

All the best,

Christina

ICT – SOCIAL MEDIA IN EDUCATION, PILGRIMS English Language Courses.

Last summer I decided to do a more focused teacher training course at Pilgrims in Canterbury, Kent. This time I picked a weekly seminar on ICT& the Use of Social Media in Education which is a field I’m particularly interested in. Kristina Smith, Işil Boy and Beyza Yilmaz earnestly shared their knowledge on how language teachers can make good use of major social media like Facebook and Twitter as well as a set of amazing Web 2.0 tools like Goggle docs, Jing, Diigo, Animoto, Scoop.it and Pinterest, while making sure that students are safe online and familiar with copyright issues. What’s more, they encouraged us to develop and extend our PLN (Personal Learning Network) and this is one of the main reasons I decided to start this blog :-)!

What made a very positive impression on me is the fact that the majority of my classmates were people in their 40s- 50s.  My fellow trainees were proof of very committed teachers, determined  to become tech- savvy despite the age factor so as to meet their students’ contemporary expectations and needs. Respect :-)!

This experience differed from the one in Oxford but it was surely beautiful in itself. The campus at the University of Kent was wonderful and we were lucky to enjoy the sunny weather during our stay!

Hopefully, I’ll get to meet some of my fellow trainees and our three lovely trainers in December at the 1st International Symposium on educational technology at the Yildiz Technical University in Istanbul.

I really look forward to it! In case you are interested in attending this conference too, visit the relevant website here: http://www.ybd.yildiz.edu.tr/eltwebsite/conference.html

Christina

English Language Teachers’ Summer Seminar- Oxford University.

When I enrolled on the annual summer seminar for English teachers at Exeter College in Oxford, I really didn’t know what to expect. This would be my first visit to Oxford and the first professional development course I would attend… Luckily, the overall experience turned out to be more satisfying than I could ever imagine!

The seminar lasted for two weeks that literally flew by! We were a diverse group of 54 teachers from Greece, Spain, Italy, Turkey, Germany, Portugal, Norway, Slovakia, Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Argentina, Chile, China, Japan and the USA! Our daily schedule was very demanding yet highly motivating! Each morning started with some very informative lectures given by inspiring teacher trainers among whom Ken Wilson and Shaun Wilden.

The workshops to follow covered a wide range of ELT areas for ‘every taste’ like language testing, developing materials, how to become a teacher trainer, successful pronunciation, teaching grammar, working with texts, promoting speaking skills and teaching teenagers. Our tutors, Charles Boyle, Hanna Kryszewska, Jon Hird, Edmund Dudley and Adrian Underhill were great- I’d say the elite of the ELT field!

Aside from all the learning, we had our share of entertainment too! Indeed, we had lots of fun doing some Scottish country dancing, going on a pub tour, walking in the countryside ‘the English not the Latin way’ 😉 as well as talking about our countries while trying local delicacies and drinks on a special cultural exchange night!

Experiencing the Oxford student life at the beautiful premises of Exeter College, going around this lovely city with all its historical buildings, the old colleges, the Botanic Garden, the Bodleian Library was dreamy to say the least.

Most importantly, in Oxford I made some lifelong friends :-)! It’s so nice to feel part of a worldwide ELT community and even better to have special people to visit wherever you choose to travel in the world!

I consider myself very lucky and privileged to have attended the seminar at Exeter and if you ever get the opportunity to do this course, just don’t miss it!

A big thanks to everyone who made this course so memorable!

Christina

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