Redesign your classroom

Love this video, and the idea behind it, which comes from the excellent Edutopia (via the equally excellent MindShift).

With or without actually showing the video to students, the idea of redesigning your classroom makes a great language classroom task.

Surveying people on what they'd like (Google Docs forms are wonderful); collaborating on creating the redesign (a shared Google Drive document is again great for that); and an oral presentation to the class (backed up with a shared Google Drive presentation, PowerPoint, Prezi…); followed by discussion of which is the best idea (an Edmodo poll and comments…) are some of the ways your learners could use technology to create their redesign.

All you'd then need would be the funding ;-)!

Things I carry: Nice idea, but is it for class?

This idea came from the weekly email I get of "Top presentations on SlideShare this week"… but I'm not sure it's one I'd use in class.

Are the images ours?
With my learners, I insist that they use only their own images in project work, hand-drawn or taken on phones or cameras, and that they don't steal them from Google Images (etc), or use even images with Creative Commons licences. In designing projects for use in class, I bear that in mind, designing them so that can't happen… and that's the first reason why I'd probably reject this idea for a language classroom: the temptation to steal the images rather than creating them is probably going to be too great for many people.

On the other hand, here there's another example which does use its author's own photographs…

See also Why is it wrong to steal images… and text

Is it collaborative?
One of the other things I insist on is that (sometimes to the annoyance of some of my learners, possibly!) is that all class and project work is collaborative (because, among other things, in collaboration, we get communication and use of language. "Things I carry" by definition isn't going to be collaborative, another reason why I'd reject the idea.

However, "Things we carry" might make a nice little project, possibly especially if the "we" is teenagers and the things are not necessarily material ones…

About Slideshare
If you're not familiar with Slideshare, PowerPoint plus Slideshare would be the way for you or your learners to embed (put) a PowerPoint presentation on a blog. A great alternative would be to use Google presentations, which can be embedded directly on a blog — and which can also be edited collaboratively.

More about Slideshare | Slideshare Help

On the very interesting TeachThought site, the presentation embedded above is to be found entitled 10 things every teacher needs to survive.

See also Ten things I take to class

Prezi or PowerPoint?

How to enjoy 2013: A brilliant Prezi by Peter Kuyt

Prezi or PowerPoint?

It's getting round to that time of the year again: our annual ELT Conference in Barcelona (February 8-9) is ten days away and I'm collecting my thoughts on the backs of envelopes (seriously!) on what I'm going to say in my session.

I ask myself the same question every year: should I use Prezi, or should I play "safe" and use PowerPoint?

Don't get me wrong: I like Prezi (it's fun) and the learners I've tried it with have liked it (they thought it was fun, too!). This Prezi activity in particular always seems to work well.

But lots of the Prezis I see don't actually seem to be that much of an improvement on PowerPoint, and don't really seem to have made any consideration of how Prezi could be used to present things differently.

Peter Kuyt's Prezi (see above) is brilliantly clever because it actually does that. You couldn't do that in PowerPoint!

Hello to those of you in Hyderabad!
A special welcome to those of you taking our online Technology for Language Learning course, which started Monday.

Prezi the end of the world

Here's a topical — and pretty cool — Prezi for today.

I'm a big fan of Prezi and your learners can do some fun things with it. It's a neat way to present project work but I have my doubts as to whether or not it's in fact that much of an improvement over PowerPoint if it's being used as a formal presentation tool before an audience.

Perhaps it's just that there are bad Prezi's in that context, just as there are bad PowerPoints. But look for example, in this case, about how much information there is on some of the "slides" here. That would be bad in PowerPoint, and in Prezi poor design does not suddenly get better.

Things I take to class #9: Photos for speaking activities

From my session at the APABAL Convention in Palma, September 10th…

I like to take good photos to class: ones that will produce  a lot of response and thus a lot of language. They invariably do not come from Google Images and never include boring things like watches (which could be drawn on the board), or mobile phones (which could be pulled out of a pocket) or people like David Beckham (who everyone knows anyway).

For the following activity, you need 6-8 photos; in my APABAL session I used photos of baby animals which I obtained from National Geographic's Photo of the Day, which I check every morning just in case there's something suitable for class, and save any that I might want to use.

I've not reproduced them here as I feel strongly that we shouldn't steal images to use on blogs; I don't have quite the same qualms about merely showing them to learners in class.

The activity, Stage 1

  • Show the pictures one by one quite quickly (5-10 seconds each) on the interactive whiteboard (IWB) or using PowerPoint
  • Turn the projector OFF
  • On a single piece of paper, pairs of learners jot down the names of the animals, in the correct order, with as much detail (colours, numbers…) as possible
  • Check how good their recall was (and, importantly, answer any vocab questions)

Stage 2
Now dictate the following, without making any reference to Stage 1:

  • What's your name?
  • Who's your best friend?
  • What did you have for breakfast?
  • What sports do you do?
  • What else do you like doing?
  • What's on your iPod?
  • Finish the sentence: "I once…"

Stage 3

  • Individually, learners answer the questions dictated as if they were one of the animals in the photos
  • Learners share their answers in groups of 4; their partners should try and guess which "animal" they are
  • In pairs, chose one of the "stories" and expand it as they wish into a finished piece of writing (with each pair thus producing a single piece of collaborative writing)
  • Learners post their work to the rest of the class via Edmodo or a shared class blog and (importantly, to maximize interaction) comment on each others' work

I like this activity as it makes minimum use of technology to get a maximum amount of interaction between the learners.

That's partly archived by having the learners work almost exclusively in pairs and/or groups, including at the collaborative writing stage.

Instead of using the word "Dictation", which causes teens (and others!) to moan, say "Can you just jot this down?". I like "dictation": it's a good exercise, especially if it's informal and interactive: if someone doesn't understand a word, they can ask for clarification. It also saves making a totally unnecessary photocopied "exercise". is another superb place for images for class.

See also

10 things I take to class
One | Two | Three | Four | Five | Six | Seven | Eight | Nine | Ten