November 20, 2011

Our One Day on Earth on PhotoPeach






To participate with my young students in One Day on Earth project, I asked my students to take photos of some school activities on November 11 and write short comments of their photos.
My 11 year old students, Nela, Lovro, Anka and Lana brought their cameras and took some photos. I took some photos, too.
Today I have chosen the best photos and the comments and created a photopeach slideshow. I'm going to show it to the students tomorrow and give them the opportunity to make some changes if they want.
Then we can share it on One Day on Earth and IEARN official pages.

21st November

I've finally managed to find time and upload the photos to One Day on Earth page. I could not upload the photopeach slideshow, so I uploaded all the photos, wrote comments and created an album.
I like the idea of documenting an ordinary day.
This is the slideshow:


Find more photos like this on One Day on Earth

September 24, 2011

Creating an embeddable discussion forum

After trying several times, without any success, to create a discussion forum with Tal.ki, I tried Nabble (http://www.nabble.com/) just once and succeeded.

Now I have a forum to embed into the wiki I'm going to use with my students this school year (http://weplayandlearnenglish.pbworks.com/)

Creating a forum with Nabble takes a minute, it is very easy and free. I have created two threads: one for students' introductions and one for asking and giving help with posting in the forum.

Now I can't wait to read my students' first posts

June 3, 2011

Trying Voxopop with Students

I first tried voxopop while attending “Becoming a Webhead“ course, one of the courses TESOL offers every winter. It's a tool that allows people to create a profile, form a talkgroup and invite other people to discuss a topic. The tool is free and the registration easy. The process of recording a message is very simple and intuitive..
When guests or members visit the talkgroup, they can listen to all or some messages and add their own, if they want to add to the discussion.
This is an example of a Webheads talkgroup
I immediately liked the idea of using it with students: students can practice speaking and listening, the learning situation is authentic and it seems to make learners become more responsible for their language production.

Last year I tried to use it with my students for making introductory messages:
Hello from Croatia:
It wasn't a great success. The group had only 5 members. Even if it wasn't a very successful use of a tool, I noticed a lot of advantages:

• Ss tried hard and were motivated to listen carefully and pay attention to their own pronunciation.
• They were immediately aware of every mistake they made and wanted to correct it. It was quite OK for me to correct, they were very cooperative.
• They were interested in correcting other students' mistakes and didn't see it as a threat or a sign their friends were not loyal to them for talking about mistakes when I could hear.

There were also a lot of disadvantages:

• Ss complained that although it looked easy to record a message, it happened a few times that something went wrong and they felt discouraged after a few tries and stopped trying, logged out without saving a message
• Shy students did not even try; they listened and promised to record their own messages but never did.
• It was difficult to organize the recording in class because everyone wanted all the others to be quiet and it became time-consuming to record more messages at school.

This month I am trying to use the tool again and possibly better.


My new task, Village Life in Croatia, is a part of our presentation of Croatian culture on our Talking Cultures Wiki.

I prepared everything to help my students. Now they are all members of our talkgroup. I thought of their usernames and passwords so I am sure they can't forget them.
We are going to record the messages in class, but this time everyone with a limited time to record his or her message.
We have already prepared the messages. We talked about the topic and after the discussion I let them write their thoughts on a piece of paper. I checked the sentences. All the messages now wait for our next lesson.

I am going to give my students some time to practice saying their prepared sentences before it's their time to record. I'm going to encourage them to combine reading and speaking. I know that some of the students will need their paper only to remind them what they originally wanted to say, while some will stick to reading. I'll say it's OK to read. It's their first recording for most of them and they have plenty of time to improve.

May 16, 2011

Talking Cultures

"Talking Cultures" is a very interesting project by British Council in which four pairs of classes from different countries collaborate on four identical wikis. Students describe different aspects of their cultures and learn about their partners and their country and culture.

A group of my students has been collaborating with a partner class from Armenia. We started our work in January and have so far covered, or started writing about, most of the topics.

Time has come to help my students with the last task for this school year - describing village life. School ends in June.

I hope we'll finish all the tasks. Then, I'll add the feedback survey answers to my thoughts and impressions during the six months of work with students.

Even before I do it and reflect on how and what to improve, I can tell that the work on a wiki with students, even if they are as young as my 14-year- old boys and girls, is great fun and a lot of learning at the same time.

April 15, 2011

Time to think about holidays

My creation


I have used this card as an example how to do the writing task I set to my students: create a trading card as a postcard-style report.

This is what the task says:

• Think about how and where you are going to spend the week around Easter

• Take or choose a photo representing a holiday activity or place you are visiting

• Go to BigHugeLabs and click on Trading Card to create one

• Upload a photo; write a title, a subtitle and a sentence or two describing the idea behind the photo

• Create your card and share it on our Talking Cultures Wiki Holidays page.

I hope my students will enjoy the activity. I did.

March 23, 2011

The Butterfly Project

“In an effort to remember 1.5 million children killed in the holocaust, Holocaust Museum Houston is collecting 1.5 million handmade butterflies. The butterflies will eventually comprise a breath-taking exhibition, currently scheduled for spring 2013, for all to remember Butterflies may be of any medium the artist chooses, but two-dimensional submissions are preferred. Glitter and all glitter-related products should not be used. Food products (cereal, macaroni, candy, marshmallows or other perishables) also should not be used. “

I heard about this great project through Ms Debora Ryther, a teacher from Texarkana, Tx, who did a great job informing teachers- members of E-Pals, about the possibility to join with their classes, and collecting the butterflies from all over the world, which she is going to pack and ship to the museum before the end of the school year.

I immediately joined forces with an Art teacher in my school, Mr. Ivan Lasic. He did a great job giving instructions to the children about the artistic side of the project – the creation of butterflies.

This slideshow contains the most beautiful butterflies, already sent to Texarkana, to be part of the great exhibition next spring. Looking at them makes me really proud of my students – both for supporting the idea and for creating such beautiful works of art.


March 18, 2011

I've started exploring different fun ways of telling stories I can use with my students.
What I want to do is:
- visualise phrases or sentences,and make them a better start for a discussion, or more easy to remember,
- turn sentences, dialogues or lessons from the course book I use with students into cartoons or similar fun stories, to motivate my students to spend more time learning.

I'm looking for different tools that I can use to prepare the materials for lessons as well as some that I can recommend to my students so that they could create their stories - during lessons in pairs or groups, or individually for homework.

Toondoo

I've chosen a topic I discussed with my students today - endangered species in Croatia: the brown bear, and created a very short comic, just to check how it is done.
The Bear Stays

March 16, 2011

WeeBehave

WeeBehave makes it possible for a parent or a teacher to add children to the account and create a list of “to do“ tasks for every child.




The motto of WeeBehave says: “Manage. Motivate. Measure“, and WeeBehave does exactly that:

• you can put all the tasks you assign to your own children or students on the lists with their names,
• you can let children suggest some tasks or chores they volunteer to do or they think they should do, and so you motivate them even more to do a better job completing them
• children feel motivated to complete all the tasks, knowing they are on the list and to be checked at the end of a lesson or a day
• you can ask children to help you decide if the tasks have been done well enough to gain a green point (completely), a yellow point (only a part) or are still in red (not done)
• you can easily compare the amount of work every child does, and the progress over time of every child by comparing a child's work on different days of the week, or even see the previous week and plan next with the same or different tasks.


I showed the site to my children and they were motivated both to help me create the lists for them and to give me arguments for a more precise assessment.

This is what my younger son's list looked like when we first tried the site:



I think the tool can be very well used in small groups of students, for children's behaviour at school as well as for tracking progress with the foreign language they learn.
I plan to give it a try with a group of fifteen students to see if I can motivate them better this way and make them more aware of all they do and more responsible for their own success.

February 27, 2011

Max My Dream

Social neworks are beatiful places where teachers can learn on Sunday evening: Arjana Blazic and Eva Büyüksimkeşyan shared a very interesting post from "Life Feast", a very interesting blog by Ana Maria Menezes, about a writing tool - Max My Dream

In Max My Dream you write your dream in 140 characters and wait for a few seconds. Then you can watch your dream animated, you can send it to a friend with a short note inviting your friend to send you a dream, too, or you can share it on facebook or twitter.

I couldn't resist. This is my dream:



In her blog post Ana Maria suggests some ideas for the use of the tool with students.
I'm going to share this dream with my students on our class blog, because this dream incudes them and my dreams about their future work. I'll have them guess my original words. I'll also invite them to choose a topic we discussed in class to express their opinion, their dream, about it.
I can't wait to see what they are going to post.

February 23, 2011

February 20, 2011

Only a Game – Lessons in Safer Internet for Children

I started a series of lessons with my sixth graders with the aim of teaching them to feel more comfortable using the Internet and preparing a short drama piece to present as our class contribution to the annual celebrations of our School Day in May.

I found this new activity for teachers on Childnet page and wrote to the authors to get the complete script because it looked just the right kind of material for my 12 – year – old girls and boys. I got it and started immediately working on it with my students.




The scene is very simple: two desks with computers and one big screen in the background. The main characters are two students who live in very different families and go to the same school.
Alex envies Jay because Jay has his new computer in his bedroom and can play whatever games he wants whenever he wants. Alex's parents are strict, his computer is in the front room and the parents decide when and how long he plays on it.
Jay's older friend Taylor persuades him to start playing a new “cool“ game pretending to be fourteen years old and he is soon in trouble when he realizes he has to disclose his personal information to claim the prize and various pop-up messages keep appearing on his screen. He is also in trouble at school because he didn't do some homework that he forgot about because of the game.

The drama comes with three lesson plans and I have already had two lessons with my students.
• In the first lesson we talked about their experience of using the Internet at school and at home, named their favorite games. It was very exciting to see how all students, even the weaker ones, wanted to share their thoughts and experience. Then we read the script and discussed what we learned from Jay's experience.
• The script is in English, it's a foreign language for my students and they'll need some time to learn their lines, but they are so excited they all applied for different roles of real or virtual characters.
Now we are at scene three when Jay starts playing the new “cool“game pretending to be older. Here we have to create our own setting, our own virtual characters that will appear on the stage, their appearance, costumes, background sounds of the game, too. The students are so excited I had to allow some more time for all group ideas to be presented and we'll decide next week on our scene, and, I hope, proceed to the following scenes.
• I hope everything will go smoothly, with only the learning of the language and proper pronunciation until the last scene. There isn't much text and the students understood and discussed it already.
Then in the last scene we have to create our own advice for Jay. I plan to use Childnet SMART rules again. My students are already familiar with the rules: S – safe, M – meet, A – accept, R – reliable, T – tell. I plan to use the Kidsmart presentation and remind them of the rules, have them work in pairs on every detail of Jay's problem and then present their advice to the group. Then we'll agree on all the individual sentences of our advice that go into our script. I also hope to have time to get students to write all the pieces of advice on big posters to keep on the walls.


• The final scene of the play is to be a rap song, possibly with dance. I'll leave it to the imagination of my students and correct only the language.

I'm very excited and can't wait to put our drama on stage. I've been even happier since a few parents reported having talked about the topic with their children because the child was very excited about our work at school and wanted to share the details with parents. It looks like it's going to be a success.

February 7, 2011

Creating avatar icons

I've started preparing for a collaborative project on a wiki my students are sharing with a class from Armenia. Parent permission forms are ready and I hope I'll have them back and all signed before the end of the week.

In the meantime I'll invite the students to join the wiki. When they join, they'll need pictures to represent them when they post. My students are only 14, so I thought of an activity 0 for them: creating avatar icons instead of personal photos.
I've just written a post on their blog sharing one idea on how to do it and inviting them to share if they know of a better, easier of more interesting way of doing it.

I've invited them to visit http://avatars.yahoo.com/ and choose a shape they like or think reflects their interests, or maybe even looks like them in a way.
When they create an avatar picture, they can right click it and save it.
For example:



To get a small picture of the avatar face, to use as an icon, for example when they are writing comments,I suggested resizing it: http://www.sherv.net/icon-maker/ It is easy, you just upload the picture, choose the part you like and save it again.

I've given them an example of what they can do with the picture:


I hope this will help my students create their avatar photos in no time and have fun.

January 30, 2011

Creating a 3D Pop-up Book

ZooBurst ( http://www.zooburst.com/ ) is a digital storytelling tool which lets you create a 3Dpop-up book.

The creation of the story is very simple and there is an option of a free account. Here is my first attempt:

To get started, you just click "New Book" and then "Build" button, choose the title for your story, find the right images by typing some key words and getting the images from the ZooBurst gallery, or you can upload your own images. Then you add text bubbles to your characters, which appear as exclamation marks until you click on them to read them. You can change the background colours. You can create more pages. When you have told your story, you save it.

Pro account gives you some more attractive options, like adding sound to your stories, but you can create great stories with a free account, too.

There are two things I liked about ZooBurst:

  • you can easily embed your story
  • Instead of just enjoying the book by reading it and looking at the illustrations, your readers can choose Webcam mode to experience your book in Augmented Reality: the button turns on your webcam and you see yourself as if in a mirror, with a part of the story you were reading when you turned it on. You can print the mixed reality scene, too.

ZooBurst seems like a tool my students would love. I'll definitely use it in the classroom.

January 9, 2011

TESOL EVO 2011 - Digital Storytelling

It's EVO time again, my favourite time when it comes to professional development. The first task of the session on digital storytelling is introductions.

So far I've seen great introductions, and all made with the use of different tools: Prezi, Mixbook, Storybird, Animoto, Flickr photostream, Message Hop, capzles, Bloombla...

I've decided to create an animoto video about my life. I've uploaded my own photos from my computer and chosen music from the audio files offered by animoto.

Animoto is really easy to use and a video can be created in a very short time. I specially like
the possibility Animoto team gives to teachers to apply for Animoto Edu account, which makes it possible for teachers to create full length videos for free.