23 March 2016

A Perspective on Geography


Home. 

A place where one returns to when the day is done, a place which evokes childhoods and familiar environments. 

Home is also broader than the individual experience. It is our planet, in all its fragilities and strengths, its beauty, mysteries, cultures  and eco-systems. 

Geography is a wonderful way of discussing environmental issues, of learning about cultures, and thinking about solutions for problems which affect our planet. 

GeoGuessr and Smarty Pins are both free online games which learners can play either on their own or in pairs.

One can also link history with geography with games such as Which Hisotrical Civilization Do You Belong In, by the National Geographic Kids the world  ,
which offers a variety of games on animals, and other topics related to geography and our planet.

World Geography Games is another resource for games but better still, why not ask students to work in small groups and create their own geography games? Apester is free and simple to create polls and quizzes. Below is a simple example:



For the ESL/EFL classroom, learners need to think about the structure of questions, vocabulary and overall challenge they can pose to other groups.

Increasingly I cannot understand the purpose of classrooms if students are not actively creating and being engaged in their learning process. 

Increasingly I cannot understand why students are not using digital tools for learning, for sharing, for focusing on what they want to learn. 

The purpose is not the tool itself - learning with digital tools, is much more complex. It's about how the use of digital tools opens up new approaches to learning, to sense making and in the process, develops the skills and digital literacies which are so necessary for our contemporary world. 

More than merely preparing students to be obedient citizens who follow orders, learners need to be given the opportunity to really learn skills of decision making (even if it deciding on which image to use in a task), how to work in teams (being able to listen to different opinions,  for example), to find solutions. 

A learning home is one where creativity happens and participants engage in learning conversations. 

And perhaps, just perhaps, by learning more about different countries and cultures, by discovering how homes are different and the same, we may foster a more tolerant and respectful generation. 

Home from Future Of StoryTelling on Vimeo.



Further Suggestions:

Activities for Raising Cross-Cultural Awareness

Writing, Travelling, Quizzing

A Quiz to Delight Students

Digital Delights - Geography Resources

What Employers Want

Images

Home by gnato

thalassa by optiknerve-gr

20 March 2016

A Writing Resource For Everyday of the Year


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If classrooms are to be special places of learning and inspiration, then activities which foster creativity and student engagement are a must. This, however, also puts a lot of pressure on teachers who are already struggling with admin work, testing, testing, testing and all the other variations of duties linked with education. 

Among other resources which are freely available for educators, there is a lovely writing resources to dip into for writing teachers. Pobble is a writing tool
for young learners which educators must sign up for and then verify that they are indeed educators.

Pobble also has offers another resource, which is the one that I am highlighting in this post - it's resource for writing teachers.


Pobble 365 is a great resource for teachers who are teaching young learners writing.  

There are daily inspirations for each day of the year, each coming a Story Starter which can be downloaded as a PDF file, Sentence challenges and other support items for busy teachers. 

Teachers don't necessarily need to follow everything, but it certainly is a great source to look into for writing ideas to introduce in classrooms.

What sources of inspiration do you usually turn to?


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Further Suggestions:

Writing - The Space Between

Writing Prompts, A Story Dice and Book Creator

Release Your Inhibitions - Writing Resources

Writing Skills and Patterns


18 March 2016

Digital Literacies with Surveys and Quizzes


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I tend to spend quite a lot of time looking at educational trends and the latest digital tools emerging on the market. Many promise quick fixes for education, as if education was something like a packet of soap which can be "fixed"  or "improved" like a display in a supermarket. 

Education is a process. It will never be a product with quick fixes, no matter how many times one flips a classroom or not.  Education is not only something that is supposed to happen in a classroom, but a whole social process, where every member of society adds and subtracts value to it. Education is something that begins at home, with values and attitudes. If a learner is lead to believe that a teacher is only a cheap child minder, there is no wonder how that learner will behave in class. If a society only pays lip service to its educators, it is no wonder so many teachers leave the profession in despair and disillusion.

As I struggle with the soullessness of having to teach towards exams, I can't help but question - what if students were actually given the opportunity to create and learn about something they really are interested in? What if, instead of the teacher presenting every lesson as an edutainment session,  students were given tasks which would demand different forms of thinking, instead of mindless repetition?

Asking students to carry out a survey for a mini project is neither new nor one of those dreaded, ubiquitous "21st Century" skills. However, with digital tools, surveys can be created differently today, engaging both the creator in the development of a survey and the participants. Most of all, the skills which play into the creation of these interactive surveys are contemporary and yes, do involve the learning and practice of Digital Literacies.

Opinion Stage is free and creates interactive polls, quizzes and lists - with images.

Below are two examples:











For ESL/EFL classrooms, for example, creating polls/surveys is an opportunity to bring real life skills into lessons as well as language. Students could create a visual survey/poll regarding solutions to their local environmental issues and then write a short report on their findings. This brings together a number of literacy skills
which are indeed relevant for their lives outside the school gate. Rather than merely giving students a chart or graph to discuss, they would be actually making decisions as to which questions to ask, which images to use and how to really create something more meaningful and which they would be proud to share with others. Most of all, students would be doing, would be active in their learning process.

The truth is, learner autonomy is not going to happen if students are not given the opportunities to create and learn. Students will not become active participants in their learning if the same style of worksheets and gap fills are served up regularly.




As Stephen Downes points out: It's not what the teacher does that is important. It's what the student does.  

(posted by Stephen Downes, Monday, March 14, 2016)

It's not what the teacher does that is important. It's what the student does.
Posted by Stephen Downes on Monday, March 14, 2016


It really is a question of choice.



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10 March 2016

Appreciation - With a Badge

48/366 - Thumb Appreciation Day via photopin (license)

In a  previous post I reflected about how creativity does not happen in a vacuum. Appreciation too, does not exist with learning and a context. Badges in education may be a motivating element in classrooms and a form of qualitative appreciation which so is often left out of assessment  and student evaluations. 

Kapp draws our attention to how : 

"1) Badging is good for indicating non-linear knowledge acquisition. Leveling tends to build upon the previous skills.

2) Badging can serve two purposes. One is to micro-credential a person. This means that the badge certifies that someone can do what they need to do. It is a validation and verification of actual knowledge. The other is simply a recognition that the person took part in a certain activity or attended a certain event (more as a simple recognition)."


In addition to the above, one can also consider the role of badges for qualitative learning - for the learning opportunities that so often emerge unplanned and unsuspected in classrooms,  and how learners can be rewarded for taking the initiative. Learning is not only achieving high scores and being able to perform well in exams. Learning in classrooms includes so much more, from learning how to keep a learning space clean and tidy for the next group of students, to learning how to work within teams and cooperate actively. It is meeting agreed deadlines to following instructions. It is showing empathy and peer support. All these and more, are so often forgotten when a teacher has only testing and summative evaluation as approaches to assessment.

For All Rubrics is a free tool which educators can use to design and award their own badges and rubrics. There is also a help centre where educators can browse on questions they may have when setting up and sharing their rubrics and creating their own personalised badges for their students.

For those who prefer creating on a mobile device, there are also the mobile apps. Other features include a library and an analysis section.

Although I myself tend to use the badge feature already offered in Edmodo,  For All Rubrics makes it really simple to create specific badges for one's context.

For those who already use Edmodo, For All Rubrics  students can access their badges and feedback on their work (based on the rubric given) between the two tools.


A digital badge is an item which reflects students participation, development and achievements. It also reflects appreciation for positive and constructive behaviour in classrooms. It is something that makes students proud and encourages them to continue doing better.


Whether it is merely sprinkles of stardust to brighten up a dull day, or a badge for reading accomplishments, awarding learners a badge is a token of acknowledgement of their efforts and participation within a learning group. 


Badges, as appreciation and acknowledgement,   have their place within corridors of learning.



Further Suggestions:

Open Badge Academy 

Thinking about Badges and Learning

Clipping the Art

Awarding Achievements

Running through Rubrics

Digital Me

How Open Badges Could Change Teaching and Assessment

Digital Delights for Learners - Badges

Digital Delights - Open Badges







9 March 2016

Anyone for Bingo?


As a the promise of Spring lingers, my mind wanders through the daily challenge of how to capture my students' attention to learning vocabulary.  If you browse through this blog, you may find different kinds of digital games to use in classrooms. Today, I want to include Bingo!

Bingo may not be as popular and well known as in the UK, for example, but it has been adapted for foreign language classrooms quite often in the past (i.e., past as in before the internet).

Two helpful Bingo online sites to create
games for students are
Bingo Baker and Bingo Card App 
Both are free and you have the choice of creating or not, an account.

Both give you the choice of printing your bingo game in PDF format as well, if your class does not have access to devices nor wifi. 

Bingo Baker can actually be played on iPads as well, and here is an example of a Weather Bingo 


While Spring may still delay in coming,
let's keep introducing playful learning into classrooms!

Do you know of other sites which help create Bingo games for learning?



Further Suggestions:






Images:





8 March 2016

Will You Wizer with Me?


Moments come when learners need to do revisions and further practice in their field of study.

Moments come too, when teachers are fed up with re-inventing the wheel every time they begin teaching a new subject, be that a new level within a subject or even starting off at a new institution. 

Wizer is a free tool to create interactive worksheets which may be done in class or set aside for autonomous revisions.  

Once you create an account and begin your worksheet, you can add different kind of media
, and select what kind of worksheet you wish to design. 


You can also personalise your worksheet by choosing a theme,
and within that theme, selecting the image you wish.

I would have liked these worksheets to be embeddable, but to share with students, you only need to give them the sharing link:





For educators, there is the choice to share with others. This is where Wizer becomes also very useful for teachers. For teachers working within an institution, for example,  this becomes a resource bank which may be shared among all, without the need for individual teachers always having to create their own materials.  Materials are  focused and tailored to their students' context and learning environment while individual teachers can always dip into this resource bank and if not satisfied, create their own interactive worksheet.  

Open, transparent, confident cooperation among educators provides a constructive gain for all. 

How do you share revision tasks for your students?



Images:




International Women's Day 2016


Today I am hitting the pause button.

Today I am taking time to consider how best to show my female students that they do matter, that their dreams, opinions and ambitions for the future do count. 

Today I am thanking all the women in the EdTech community for their sharing and teachings. But I am equally thanking all those who teach and share - not only female educators. 

Today I am hoping that education may build stronger bridges between the genders, for boys should not be forgotten nor put aside. 

Together, both girls and boys need to be given an education which will prepare them for all the unknowns.

Fearlessly.

With confidence, respect  and equality.






Image:


7 March 2016

Creativity and Writing

Imagination. 

Innovation. 

Creativity. 

Concepts and values educators try to foster in their classrooms, implementing activities which students may develop creatively. Creativity may be regarded as perceiving the world in a different way, connecting ideas, solving problems,  generating solutions. All positive, constructive values. Or so one is led to believe. 

Autoritratto via photopin (license)

However, in many places around the world, these values are not instilled in classrooms from an early age onwards.  

And despite the lip service paid to the relevance of creativity, not many societies encourage creative thinking, lest it affects their established social order. 

Which leads me to ask,  how can one ask students to write creatively, if they have never really been given the intellectual space and responsibility for being problem solvers, for generating solutions, for being autonomous thinkers?

Asking students to write creatively is often letting them alone in the deep end of performance. Just as students who are accustomed to teacher led instruction struggle with independent group work and are at a loss without clear guidance, learners who are asked to write creatively require scaffolding for their creative writing. 

That is where Plot Generator  
may be used to help learners organise their ideas before writing their essay or writing task.

Plot Generator may be used individually or in pairs, as a theme is chosen (e.g. a movie script, a horror or mystery story, a teen vampire story and so forth). After selecting the theme, there are questions
as to the gender of the characters, where they live (as in the fantasy option) and a variety of other simple steps which help construct a narrative.


After these items are completed, the learner clicks on "write" and a short story is generated (as shown below).



So, what is the value of this if the student is not actually writing the whole story?

Before writing stories, learners need scaffolding. Plot Generator is a fun approach to what the learner needs to consider while crafting a story. In other words, it's almost like writing an outline but in a much more contemporary approach. After generating their story, it can be shared in a LMS or class blog, with peers reading and commenting, on the story. For an ELT/ESL class, there is plenty of scope for vocabulary to be learnt, while, when a story ends with a question (as in the example above), different pairs of students can write different endings to the generated story. 

Creativity isn't something that be bought in a bottle nor found in rows of boxes in the supermarket. 

Sweep into my soul via photopin (license)

For some, creativity may come as softly as a summer breeze. For others, it remains elusive and a mysterious, alien concept.  Creativity is often lightened up by curiosity - another factor which is not always  encouraged in certain societies. One cannot expect a passive youth to become creative learners the moment they enter a classroom.

In order for all learners to have more chances of learning creatively, they need to be given scaffolding and tools. In order to produce creative writing, they need to be given space and structures for being creative and in a manner which meets the world they live in  - one which is digitalised and in motion of change.



Innovative creativity and problem solving do not happen in a vacuum. Learners need to be given opportunities to develop their appetite for curiosity before they are interested in learning pro-actively. In the process they also need to be given options and responsibilities for their choices. Processes which take longer than a class period to accomplish, but nonetheless, an essential part of providing today's students the skills they will need for their futures. 

How relevant is creativity to you?

How do you foster creativity in the classroom with your learners?






Further Suggestions:

The Ingredients Of A Creative Teacher

10 ways to teach creativity in the classroom

Creativity in the English Language Classroom

Digital Delights - Digital Tribes - Creativity



Acknowledgement:

I'd like to thank Tony Gurr from whom I first learnt about the video above.


Images:

Creativity by Chris Vector

Curiosity by Shutter-Shooter

6 March 2016

Teacher Development and Resources

photo credit: 蒲公英 via photopin (license)


My last post was on professional development and somehow, the need for continuous professional development lingers on my mind. Personally, there have always been three factors which make professional development relevant to me and which I always ask before taking a training course -

Will it be enabling? Will it be inspiring? Will it be empowering?

If the answer is yes to all those questions, then there is another question which follow:  Will that training open up new models of learner driven pedagogy which I can implement in my practices? 

Learning may be cooperative and at times, collaborative. However, it is an individual process and all learning is an individual choice. Learning is also an active choice
- the individual is engaged in his/her own learning process by doing.

If this is what educators ask from their students, what is stopping educators to learn themselves?

Professional development is not a luxury for educators. It is a constant practice of learning and of being an updated educator. Whether it is updating oneself on current trends in education to how best to use a particular digital tool in the classroom, it is through consulting open resources and carrying out professional development that one is able to remain relevant in the field of education.

Besides the choices of open education and training provided by institutions, there are also
resources which teachers can turn to.  Annenberg Learner  offers a video series , interactive lesson plans, and among other resources, a step-by-step how to create a rubric .


Educators need to realise that they need to be pro-active in their professional development. With the choices available today, educators need to develop their capacity and capability in innovative teaching and learning. It is no longer acceptable that one does not engage in life-long learning in any professional field, including education. More than ever, it is up to educators to take hold of their ownership of professional development.



via GIPHY