Searching without Google

I've been landed a job that looks tough: persuading the teachers and trainers in the school where I work (International House Barcelona) that they should use the 10 eBeam interactive whiteboards (IWBs, or "smartboards") that we've just acquired (image, right, the annotation tool palette).

It looks tough first of all as I don't have a lot of experience actually using an IWB as a teacher; secondly because I've preferred not to, being cynically unable to see the return on investment — by which I mean the amount of learning produced for the time invested.

So — obviously — the first thing I did, this morning, was open my browser… and then I didn't go straight to Google-is-Evil. What I wanted was a few expert opinions on how the technology should be used, how we might increase that return on investment.

Instead, I went to places I already knew and trusted and thought might well have ideas (not something I can say of Google), and used the search options there:

I did go to Google-is-Evil afterwards to search for "interactive board": the Wikipedia interactive whiteboard entry was first, there were some resources, particularly for UK schools [here and here], but not necessarily for language learning and teaching — but what I was really looking for, expert opinion, wasn't there, at least not in the hundreds of results for people trying to sell me an IWB.

But that's Google-is-Evil for you… Fortunately there are some excellent alternatives.

Just landed in my mailbox

Inside Out: useful stuff landing in your own mailbox

I'm not 100% convinced that cricket is a topic that is going to excite your learners but (as I used to play myself) it caught my eye in my mailbox.

It's a free "e-lesson" that comes to me from Macmillan's Inside Out every Monday (along with one for business English), as I subscribe to it.

Personally, I prefer not to download, print and use lessons (are they really any better than your textbook?), but they can be great if you're teaching 1-2-1 and don't have a coursebook.

And I also think it's so much better to have things come to you, rather than waste time searching the digital dungheap (aka The Internet).

>> More stuff in your mailbox

Vista, Word 2007 tutorials

The ribbon: understanding it is vital to using Word 2007… See below for explanation

Some of the people I work with are finding it tough to get used to working with Word 2007. If you are similarly challenged, here are some tutorials you might find useful…

If even finding Word is challenging enough, it might be worth starting here, with the basics of Vista 2007.

Two things to start with

There are two important things you need to do to get started. One is to get the hang of using the ribbon.

You use the ribbon to navigate your different tools — it replaces the drop-down menus you were used to. You need to click the tabs to access the different groups of tools: in the image (above) we're currently in the home tab (red arrow); you need to click the other tabs (black arrows) to access other tools.

The second important thing is to realise that some of the things you want (like "save as") are hidden behind that button, "A" in the image below. Click that, and you do get a drop-down menu ("B"). That's got to be the FAQ I answer most often…

The button: Ah-hah! So that's where it's hidden!

If you'd rather have a text-based tutorial than video, here's one on getting started with Word 2007.

Look on Google and you'll find lots more tutorials

Somewhere else worth going — rather than Google — when you are trying to get your head round technology is YouTube, where you'll find some great tutorials. Here's a very simple one on using the Word 2007 ribbon

And TeacherTube is another place I'd go… Lots of Word 2007 video tutorials there too.

Go get yourself used to it
Word 2007 is not really that complicated, or so very different — once you get used to it.

I'd suggest that getting the hang of Word 2007 is a bit like driving a new car, or using a new digital camera: you've got to make just a little bit of effort yourself to get used to it. Get your head round "the ribbon", and you're away…

Finding technology tutorials
How did I find all of these things? See the first comment (below) for some search tips.

Something else I didn't have to search for

Here's an idea for a lesson — an article on on Fifteen Things We Wish Someone Would Invent.

A lesson plan to use with this came to me in my mailbox, in one of's weekly Teaching Tips [see current tip; full index of past tips; subscribe].

You could also just get your learners to brainstorm ideas for such things, and perhaps write (blog?) about them…

>> More stuff in your mailbox

Can you trust Wikipedia?

Wikipedia entry on Constructivism, 7 June 2007

I was looking for something about constructivism in order to provide further reading for an online course and about #3 on Google was the Wikipedia entry.

It currently carries the proviso "An editor has expressed concern that this article or section is unbalanced" and there is a second doubt about its neutrality (see screenshot, above).

Can you trust Wikipedia?
Well, "trust" is maybe not the word, but I certainly use Wikipedia myself, and recommend it to people. I'd read Wikipedia entries (and anything else I found online) with a touch of skepticism, and compare and contrast the information it provides with another source (possibly one of the sites Wikipedia itself links to for further reading).

Can you trust Wikipedia? Not entirely… Can you trust sites #1 and #2 on Google? Not entirely either!