April 26, 2015

Chinese Whisper with Whatsapp

The more I use Whatsapp in class, the more I realize how rich this tool is.

Last week, I tried a very simple activity with my Basic Students who had just learned how to express themselves in the Past.

Have you ever played Chinese Whisper with your students? It is an activity where Student A whispers a message to Student B who then tries to whisper the same message to Student C, so on and so forth. Or another one where the first student says "Last weekend, I went to the shopping centre", then the next student repeats the first sentence and adds one more sentence? We adapted these activities using the recording feature of Whatsapp.

These are the steps we followed:

1. I recorded the first sentence saying "Last weekend, I went to the cinema."
2. Then, I asked students to make their recordings for homework. Before they made their recordings, they would have to listen to the last recording, repeat all the sentences and add one more.

It was amazing how fast they started making their recordings as they knew the later they did it, the longer their sentence would be.

3. In the following class, I asked all the students to get their cell phones ( the ones who didn't have a device, sat with someone who had one) and listen to the last recording, which was the longest one, in order to write it down. It was great to see how involved they were listening to the sentences, repeating them, until they were able to write everything down. Similarly to Chinese Whisper, the last student to record the sentences ended up getting a few words wrong as he misunderstood what the previous student had said. As a result, students had to go back and listen to previous recordings to see where the mistake started. We heard quite a few laughs.

4. After most students had written all the sentences down, I asked them to dictate the sentences to me as I wrote them on the board. I used the opportunity to correct mistakes and practice the right pronunciation of words and verbs in the past.


In the initial phase of the activity, students had to create their own sentences with verbs in the past. As more sentences were used, they had to think of different verbs and their collocations to make new sentences. They needed to take special care pronouncing the sentences clearly so that their classmates would understand their sentence and continue the game. The longer the sentence became, it was necessary for them to write the words down in order to make the recording. Step 3 was a great way to practice listening and writing again. In a way, it was a dictation created by students themselves. During the feedback moment, I tried to focus on the right forms of the verbs they had chosen and their collocations.

April 10, 2015

Reading Collaboratively with Point

This post has the objective to share a tool I've learned about today: POINT.

Point is a Google Chrome Plugin which allows you to quickly share links to websites and videos with other people. And how does it work? You install the plugin to your Google browser, then every time you want to share a link with someone, press the key @ on your keyboard and a small box pops up prompting you to choose the person or email to share it with.

Check the video below with a demonstration.

What I liked about it is the possibility to work collaboratively. By sending the link to someone, whether they are online or not, we can use the chat box which pops up to develop a conversation and reflect together. You can highlight the parts of the text you find relevant and discuss about it as I did with a colleague, Juliana Gense, tonight (we are reading in English but discussing in Portuguese).

You can share and discuss about articles and blog posts:

You can share and discuss about Youtube videos:

And even share and discuss about pdf files which have been embedded to https://www.scribd.com/

Another amazing feature is the possibility to share the whole chat with someone else via email. And how to do that? After finishing a chat, you click the key @ again and type the email. This would be perfect for sharing a chat with the teacher. The screenshot below is an example of what the chat thread would look like after being sent by email.

How can we use Point with students?

Brainstorming uses with Juliana, we imagined some possibilities:

  • Have a whole group of students discuss about an article synchronously or asynchronously.
  • Divide EFL students in trios and have them get together synchronously to discuss about texts or explore new vocabulary in a text. Then, when they finish the task, the can send the whole chat to the teacher.
  • Invite students to discuss about a video they watch together.
  • Invite undergraduates or post graduates to analyze academic papers and discuss about the parts they find relevant, then email the chat to their professor or tutor .

January 27, 2015

Guest Post: Calling an old friend to our classes

I have the great pleasure to have Aysegul Kaban write a guest post about some activities she has tried with her own students. I love reading about real life examples of classroom activities, what about you?

There are many online tools for generating QR codes which you can then use in the classroom. All of these different types of information can be stored in a code: A short piece of text, Website address, Email address, URL… 

Why not try some of these examples? 

Most Smartphones will have a barcode scanner as an app which will read QR codes. I love integrating technology to my classes and I teach English as a foreign language to young adults in İstanbul, Turkey.

This lesson plan was created to revise Past Simple, Present Perfect Simple, and Present Perfect Continuous.

I asked questions about QR codes: E.g. Have you ever seen this? Have you ever used QR code? If yes, where and when did you use it? How do we use QR codes? After getting the answers, I talked about the activity and showed some QR codes and asked the students to solve the mystery of the QR codes on the board.

Although most students had seen QR codes, none of the students were sure about QR codes. Only one of them had a QR code reader on his smartphone. I asked the students to download the free QR code reader. They enjoyed when they first scanned the QR code and asked some other codes to scan.

After doing the first trial, I asked the students to scan the code on the board and do the exercise with their partners. They did the first activity. After 4 minutes, I gave the correct information to the students. Some pairs answered all questions correctly and they felt happy because they realized they knew some information about their teacher’s personal life.

Now that the Students had seen an example, I divided the class into groups of 3 (or 4) and gave each group a self-prepared handout about basic rules of simple past, present perfect and present perfect continuous. I told the students that this was supposed to be a group contest. The winning group of the contest received a surprise at the end. I said I would record the score on the board.

I gave students a handout lacking of example sentences and told students to fill in the gaps. Students started a treasure hunt in the class and when they found they wrote it on the handout. While Students were doing the activity, I observed the groups. I checked answers by asking each group and recorded the score.

You can use QR Codes for many other purposes. Here are some tips for you!

1. You are the best forget the rest badges!

Everybody loves awards. Why don’t we give QR code awards to our students when they achieve something great? Award prizes by having students scan a code leading to an animation or badge. When they accomplish a test on Present Perfect continuous, they can get a special code that takes them to a badge for Present Perfect Continuous Guru!

2. Discovery Stations

You are going to cover a new reading but you want to try something different. Breaking the routine is always good for us and our students. You can put codes in different areas of the class that will take students to different online activities, videos or content. You can use it as a warmup activity or reading activity.

3. Answer Fortuneteller

Have students check their answers by scanning the QR code after completing a test or assignment. As a teacher, you can visually confirm when students are checking their work and can also check in to see how they are doing. Creating QR codes for difficult topics and attaching them to students’ homework. If they get stuck, they can scan the code and watch a video of you working through the problem step-by-step.

4. Provide Extension Assignments

A great way to provide optional activities for students who want to improve is to simply put the code on the class assignment and let them follow it to the extension activity or question. It won't take up much space, and might facilitate a little excitement about the extension assignment. You can give URL of a beautiful song with present perfect continuous tense as a warming activity as a homework.

5. Compile Research

Discovering new things is always exciting and by QR codes we give a chance to discover. You can ask students to make a research about their favorite star and have students create codes linking to start discovered during research. These could be posted in class wikis on a specific topic, or on a wall in the classroom. It helps give them ownership of the research process and literally creates "walls that talk."

Aysegul Liman Kaban works as an English Instructor at Bahçeşehir University. She has finished her BA in TEFL and MA in Interpersonal Communication at Marmara University with distinction. She has been recognized by various entities, such as the ELT BLOGATHON Awards, The German National Agency Teacher Trainer Scholarship, and IELTS Morgan Terry Memorial Scholarship 2013 as an innovative, technology integrated project creator. She has been giving talks and workshops at international and national conferences, especially focusing on Mobile Learning, Google Apps, E-portpholio, digital learning apps. She is also Newsletter Editor of IATEFL TEASIG. She shares regularly on eslaction.wordpress.com and on Twitter (@Aysegul_Kaban).

January 23, 2015

The importance of Social Presence in Online Courses

People frequently criticize the online environment of being cold. They say that during online courses they feel lonely and demotivated to learn.

And why is that?

Studies about Social Presence might help us understand about an important aspect in online courses.

What is Social Presence?

According to Menezes (2014), Social Presence is how people perceive their own presence and the presence of others in a virtual interaction and the willingness to build an interpersonal relationship in order to learn collaboratively.

To me, Social Presence depends a lot on how participants choose to take part in an online course. Of course, it also depends on the opportunities of interaction provided during the course.

Let's compare two students:

Student A studies alone. He uses books and the internet to build knowledge.

Student B is taking a course with other students. Besides learning via the material suggested by his teacher, he likes exchanging ideas and discussing about what he's been learning with his classmates.

In the virtual world we can have a similar situation. We can choose to act like Student A, focussing on developing tasks on our own or we can behave like Student B making use of the opportunity to work with the group exchanging ideas and making connections.

We should bear in mind three kinds of course content we can learn from:
- The content proposed by the teacher.
- The content suggested by participants.
- The content built by participants during the course.

When we study alone during an online course, we might be missing the opportunity to learn more with one another.

Here are few tips on how to develop your presence during online courses:


MENEZES, A. M. C. A vivência da presença social: histórias de um curso online para professores de Inglês. (2014) M.A. Thesis. 186 p. Universidade Federal de Uberlândia. http://goo.gl/kNyAck


ISSN 0102-5503 - Ano LI - 200
Janeiro / Março - 2013
Revista da Associação Brasileira de Tecnologia Educacional v. 31 


GARRISON, D. (2006)Online Collaboration Principles. Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks. Vol. 10, No. 1, p. 25-34. Disponível em <http://tinyurl.com/6r9bjwz >, acesso em 16/04/12.

GUNAWARDENA, C. N. (1995)Social presence theory and implications for interaction and collaborative learning in computer conferences. International Journal of Educational Telecommunications, p. 147-166.

January 19, 2015

Connect Me to Education

I'm starting 2015 with the project of my dreams!

If you read Life Feast and know a bit about my work, you might also know I've been involved with teacher development in the virtual environment since 2009. I started moderating my own online course "Cultura Edtech" to share a bit of what I had been exploring on the web with fellow teachers and to feel less lonely during a difficult time in my life when I had to stay home (You can read about this story in my M.A. thesis - text in Portuguese). The virtual world was my bridge to being in contact with other people.

Since then, I've never left the online world and the online world has never left me. At that time, in 2009, little research had been developed about digital technologies in education and online learning. Most of us, teachers who ventured teaching online, were following our instincts and trying out different ways of teaching and learning. After many years moderating courses, I felt the need to go back to university and develop a research in this area which fascinates me so much. A question that puzzled me was: Why do so many people see the online environment as a cold place and I feel the complete opposite?

For me, learning is a fascinating experience which can be more pleasurable when we are in contact with other people. 

Connectme Education is the result of these years of experience and a wish to reach teachers I haven't reached yet. 

Our aim is to organize online courses, in Portuguese or in English, for the continuous development of professionals involved with education. We want it to be a space where teachers can feel at home and comfortable to learn with each other. Each month, one-month or two-month courses will be proposed to small groups of teachers. I can't wait to start!

I have great joy to invite you to come and visit us at our brand new website created with great care. I'd also like to thank my dear friends and colleagues who have joined me on this project: Roseli Serra, Márcia Lima, Jennifer Verschoor , Cecília Morais and Camila Borges for her professional help with the website and social media.

We hope you enjoy it!

Our first online course is going to be about FLIPPED LEARNING. How about joining us?


December 27, 2014

What's your desktop like?

This is my last post in 2014, therefore, I wanted it to be special.

I've always enjoyed having a look at people's desktops, their wallpaper and their most used apps and programs. And why is that? Have you noticed how much our desktop can say about ourselves, what we value and what we are into? I thought of fulfilling this curiosity by inviting several educators I follow to share their desktop with us.

I also asked them to answer some questions:
1. Why did you choose that wallpaper for your computer? Does it have any special meaning to you?
2. How do you organize your desktop?

The screenshots shared below are in the order they were sent to me.

CARLA ARENA http://carlaarena.com

Why did you choose that wallpaper for your computer? Does it have any special meaning to you?
I am not the kind who changes computer wallpapers all the time. I tend to stick with them  for a long time. One thing that is essential for me is that the image has some flat, basic colors so that the folders stand out on the screen. This image has a very special meaning to me as it was one of my greatest gifts and achievements of the year, becoming a Google Certified Teacher in the first Google Teacher Academy ever done in South America. I love the colors and it always brings back cheerful moments with a wonderful group of educators. 

How do you organize your desktop?
I try to keep my desktop totally clean. Sometimes, there are some screenshots around, but I always transfer them to a screenshots folder. 

Why did you choose that wallpaper for your computer? Does it have any special meaning to you?
The photo is from Aegina, an island off the coastline of Athens. It is the place I’ve spent all my Greek summers since I was born. I always associate it with beautiful memories and it is a heaven of inspiration and positive energy.

How do you organize your desktop?
At first glance, my desktop seems chaotic. I‘ve got all sorts of files and folders that I’m currently working on. You can find interactive books, documents, photos, drafts of blogposts- the list is endless. Surprisingly, I can find them easily and I can add ideas in texts or presentations when I have a short break. I’m sure that an IT expert would slit his wrists but to me it makes perfect sense.

As you can see, instead of sharing her laptop screen, Shelly chose to send us her iphone screenshot. You will understand the reason by reading her answers below. 

Why did you choose that wallpaper for your computer? Does it have any special meaning to you?
That's a picture of Rosco when we lived in Germany and I'd get to walk him 2 hours a day in this beautiful forest by my house. He's my little buddy and we've been through so much. He's gotten me through living in 2 different countries, deaths of family and 2 really great friends, being married then divorced and now publishing a book. That's what my wallpaper means.

Everyday, I work on my desktop with presentations and blog posts and I research and do social media with my iPhone by my side or listen to podcasts, so I often work with both simultaneously to be able to do all the things I do.

Why did you choose that wallpaper for your computer? Does it have any special meaning to you?
This photo is in Cabo de Santo Agostinho, in Pernambuco. It was taken by my husband. It has a special meaning to me because it's a place we go every summer. It's very high and has a wonderful view from there. The sunset is amazing. In this area there's a very small catholic church and we love listening to the bells from there when sitting and looking at the sea. There's also a lighthouse that reminds me of my childhood when my dad first took me to visit this place.

How do you organize your desktop?
The organization of my desktop has mostly to do with icons I access most as well as some folders we are working with. I have backups of these folders, of course and when the whole job is done , I remove these folders form the desktop not to have it too crowded with images. Also I love the tool bar at the bottom which is very hands on.

KIERAN DONAGHY   http://film-english.com/

Why did you choose that wallpaper for your computer? Does it have any special meaning to you?
I chose this photo as it's of my daughter, Rosa and Aina who are the most important people in my life. The photo was taken last Christmas and every time I look at the photo it reminds me how lucky I am to have two such beautiful and kind children.

How do you organize your desktop?
I have direct access links to the most common tools I use such as a video editor and downloader tool, and also to the projects I'm working on at the moment so I've links to the folder where I keep my lesson plans for my website Film English, a direct link to the manuscript for the book I'm currently finishing Film in Action which will be published next April, and a direct access link to the manuscript of another book I'm writing which is called How to Write Activities for Video and Film. I also have a direct access to Spotify as I always listen to music when I'm working.

VINÍCIUS LEMOS @viniciuslemos http://mthatlearning.blogspot.com.br/

Why did you choose that wallpaper for your computer? Does it have any special meaning to you?
I chose that wallpaper because I absolutely love sunsets. This image means a lot to me because I took it myself on a very special trip to the Great Barrier Reef, in Australia

How do you organize your desktop?
My desktop never looks neat. I need to learn how to organize it!

GRAHAM STANLEY   http://blog-efl.blogspot.com 

Why did you choose that wallpaper for your computer? Does it have any special meaning to you?
The wallpaper is a set of revolving sunset images...just something nice to look from time to time.

How do you organize your desktop?
My desktop is clean and functional as this is my desktop at work - the clocks show the time in the places where we have remote teaching going on from (Uruguay, Argentina, Philippines, UK)

ARJANA BLAZIC http://twitter.com/abfromz

Why did you choose that wallpaper for your computer? Does it have any special meaning to you?
Right now I have a photo of Dubrovnik, a city in southern Croatia on my desktop. This photo was taken by my husband during our last year's holiday. I have it on my desktop because it reminds me of the wonderful time we spent there. Another reason is that this photo makes me less homesick while I'm in the US on a ten-month fellowship.

How do you organize your desktop?

I like my desktop to be neat and tidy. The documents that I put there are usually those that I need to work on, so this is some kind of a reminder for me. I keep all the tools that I use most frequently on the dock. Sometimes the dock is a bit cluttered as I tend to work on a number of different documents at the same time.

NIK PEACHEY   https://twitter.com/nikpeachey

Why did you choose that wallpaper for your computer? Does it have any special meaning to you?
I love this tree. It was in the village where I used to live and it looked different every day. I used it to replace picture of my wife and daughter. I had to change it to something less personal as i was using my laptop to present at conferences.

How do you organize your desktop?
My desk top is a random mess of quickly created images, half written articles and whatever else. No sense of organisation, but I know what's there and where it is.

ANA MARIA MENEZES   yes, that's me :)

Why did you choose that wallpaper for your computer? Does it have any special meaning to you?
The image I have on my desktop was created by Jenny Highsmith from Maiedae, home of the artists who helped me with my blog template. I fell in love with this free image and its message which daily reminds me to design for myself the kind of life I love. 

How do you organize your desktop?
I like my desktop clean, but whenever I'm taking lots of screenshots it becomes clustered with images which I delete later on. Whatever I often use can be easily reached at the bottom dock.

I'd like to thank all the teachers who contributed to this post and kindly shared something so intimate as their own personal screens with us.

I wish everyone a FANTASTIC 2015. May all of us be able to design a life we love!