June 22, 2018

How to make an interactive reading activity (PART 2)

My previous post explained the reasons for writing this post and also brought the results of my exploration with a tool called ACTIVE TEXTBOOK suggested by Shelly Terrell.

This time, I focus on a website called NOWCOMMENT recommended to me by Nik Peachey.

At first glance, NowComment was exactly what I was looking for: a tool which allows teachers to turn documents into conversations and is appropriate for a large number of students.

It's free and you can upload different sorts of files.

Once you upload the document you want your students to read and discuss about, the site will alert you to possible overlays it may find on the document you've uploaded. I had problems with pdf files with images, graphs and also a pdf in two columns. I advise you to check the preview on the website to see if the formatting of the text is ok or not.

Check what happened to the PDF file I tried to upload.

Now, if the same thing happens to you, you can edit the document right there or try a different document with text only. And that's exactly what I decided to do next.

I copied and pasted the text into a Word file and also decided to try out something else, to embed a video to my word file. Following the instructions found in the website, I selected a video about the same topic and grabbed the embed code. Next, I pasted the code directly into the Word file I was going to upload to the NowComment website.

I clicked the blue button SAVE AND CONTINUE and Voilá, the video "magically" appeared.

You can use different color schemes to highlight parts of the text.

And you can also select specific paragraphs around which you can start a conversation by clicking on the speech bubble with a plus sign.

The conversation can be viewed by students in two ways: 2 panes or combined.

If you select the 2-pane view, the text is on the left and the conversations appear on the right side of the screen.

The other possibility is the combined view, with the text interspersed with conversations.

The conversation can be started by the teacher or the students themselves. And to interact with a previous comment, all you have to do is click REPLY.

Another plus is the possibility to develop discussions around videos. If you add a Youtube video embed code to the Word file you upload to the website, it's fairly easy to propose a discussion.

Above the video player, when you click ADD COMMENT, you can add a comment/question to a certain point of the video or to the video as a whole. The image I've added below shows a question I add at a certain time in the video.


Would you like to try it out with us?

If so, click HERE and feel free to leave comments, highlight parts you find important and play with the website. Be aware the text is not complete as I just wanted to test the website.


  • It's free.
  • It works well with Word files.
  • You can easily create Word files + embed code to different videos to create conversations around videos or flipped assignments around videos.
  • You can create great conversations around images you add to a Word File you prepare beforehand.
  • Using the COMBINE page view, you can create reading tasks which ask students to pause reading, discuss and then continue the reading.


  • PDF files are easily deconfigured once uploaded to the website and it's really time consuming to edit the whole text.
  • The documents are private as default so it takes some time to locate where to edit the document properties so that large groups of people can participate (especially if you don't have everyone's emails)
A video about NOWCOMMENT

Next week, I'll be exploring one more tool!

June 15, 2018

How to make an interactive reading activity (PART 1)

I'm back. After almost 2 years away from the blog, here I am again. 

I'd like to share a few tools you can use to make a reading text INTERACTIVE.

This post started with a genuine need. When I work with small groups (up to 30 people), I like creating reading activities on Google Docs and use the comments feature to have students answer questions and/or add their reflections (Click HERE for an example in Portuguese). However, this last year, I had to work with teachers all over Brazil and instead of 30 people interacting, I had more than 500 teachers in one asynchronous reading activity. The result was that despite instructing teacher/students to click on the comment in order to see the RESPONDER/REPLY box, more often than not they clicked RESOLVER/SOLVE deleting the original comment or question I had posted. Having said that, you can imagine the hassle to restore everything that had been deleted daily. 

This is an example of technology that works perfectly in one context, but not necessarily in another. As I didn't know other alternatives that could solve my problem, I asked my PLN (via Facebook) for help and they promptly came to my aid.

These are the tools they've recommended:

During the next few weeks, I'll be posting my explorations with each of the tools.

Let's start with ...

ACTIVE TEXTBOOK - https://activetextbook.com/ 

So far, it's my favourite one for what I needed. Apart from COMMENT THREADS, you can add several features to your text, such as highlights, videos, songs, text, images and quizzes. With the free plan, you get 50 MB storage and unlimited access to library. 

FEATURES I'VE ADDED TO THE TEXT: comment threads, image, highlights and a video.


Would you like to try it out with us?

Click HERE to go to this activity on Active Textbook and feel free to leave your contributions (look for the speech bubbles which I've added to the text). Then, I'd love to hear what you thought about the tool.

Before I finish, let me thank all teachers who have kindly contributed to this post with their wonderful ideas.

I'm truly happy to be see Life Feast come to life again and hope you are too.

P.S. I still love Google Docs.

July 31, 2016

Guest post: Mobile Learning at Braztesol Brasília

Today, we have a special post written by a dear colleague and a ConnectMe Education student, Priscila Renck. At the moment, Priscila is an English teacher at Colégio Marista in Curitiba, Brazil. She loves exploring edtech tools and has kindly shared some of what she learned during Braztesol 2016 - Brasília with us.

Mobile Learning at Braztesol 2016 by Priscila Renck

I'd like to share some of what I learned with Geoff Stead about Mobile Learning during the conference. He got a lot of experience working in Qualcomm and now he wants to bring the lessons learned there out to the wider ESOL world.

He talked about different apps:

  • Kahoot (a game-based learning platform), 
  • Plickers (poll your class for free), 
  • Quizlet (flashcards, games and learning tools) 
  • Padlet (to create and collaborate). 
  • Coursera and Future Learn give us the chance to study at different world universities
  • Pluralsight (online training)
  • Lynda.com (space to learn business, creative, and technology skills to achieve your personal and professional goals)
  • GetAbstract (business books)
  • Evernote (note-taking space)
  • OneNote (note-taking space)
  • Office Lens (mobile scanner)
  • Google Drive (cloud storage)
  • Goodreads (readers and book recommendations) you can save time using them. 
  • You can use Matterport to create 3D spaces
  • Google Card Board and Google Expeditions can bring a new view of the world inside your classroom 
  • Virtual Reality (VR) to build confidence or immersion therapy
  • Bluetooth Beacons (location-aware app) can connect you with places you like. 
He also recommended some interesting Cambridge web spaces to visit, such as Practice Test Bank, English Weekly, and Virtual Speaking Test etc.

I am a technology lover and I keep learning by myself, going to conventions and take courses to learn more.

Team Priscila Renck shares tips from Braztesol 2016

June 27, 2016

Quizzes on Google forms (without Flubaroo)

Now, it's possible to create gradable quizzes directly on Google forms without the help of the add-on Flubaroo. Thanks to Giselle Santos for the tip.

These are the steps you can follow to create your first gradable quiz:
1. Go to Google Drive, click the red button NEW, and look for Google Forms.
2. Before typing your questions, go to the settings icon (top right), look for TESTS and activate the CREATE TEST button. Save it.
3. There are two types of questions which can be graded: multiple choices and checkbox questions. Type your question, the answers and then below that click the blue text ANSWER KEY to indicate the correct answer(s). You can also leave a feedback about the correct/wrong answer.
4. To indicate the value of each question, on the same line as each question you will see some arrows to select the number of points you want to assign.

THAT'S IT! It's quite simple. Hope you find the tutorial (in Portuguese) helpful. I'm sorry if you don't understand Portuguese (my mother tongue), but I also wanted to help teachers who can't speak English.

Oh, I forgot! All your previous quizzes on google forms can be edited to be gradable too. All you have to do change the settings like I explained earlier.

March 9, 2016

Learning with String Phones

I remember Giselle Santos' workshop during Braz-tesol Technology Seminar in SP in 2015 and how excited teachers were when making their own string phones. I thought, "how can use this activity in an English Class?".

This post aims to share my first attempt of a "MAKER" activity with a group of undergraduates who are taking an English course with me. I planned it carefully, however, I have to confess I feared students would find it childish. After trying it out, I'm happy to say their reaction was rather positive.

These are the steps of the activity developed in class yesterday:

1. I prepared the plastic cups with holes and strings beforehand. (2 cups and a string)
2. In class, students were divided into groups of 3 or 4 students.
3. Each group received instructions in English (about how to make a string phone) which were out of order. Students had to read the sentences, try to understand the words and order the instructions.
4. I elicited the order of the sentences on the board and called their attention to sequence connectors.
5. Then, I asked them what the instructions were for. Many of them guessed right. I asked them to tell me what words helped them come to that conclusion.
6. At that moment, I took out the cups and strings out of a bag which I had hidden somewhere and told them we were going to play a little bit.
7. Groups followed the instructions to make their string phone and instructed to test their device by asking each other questions in English. Pairs stood up around the room and had some fun. It was nice to see that some of the students had never played with string phones and a few were pleasantly surprised at how well they work.
8. Making use of a text taken from the website Fun Science Projects for Kids, I used the site www.goconqr.com/ to create a fill in the gap activity. The text explains how string phones work scientifically speaking.
9. Each group used a piece of paper to write down their guesses for the missing words. I used my laptop and the projector to show them the sentences one by one. Finally, we corrected the answers.

Created with GoConqr. You have to sign in to play the game.

The aim of this activity was to develop reading comprehension, language awareness, speaking practice and have students play while making a physical object which they used not only during the activity, but throughout our class.

September 26, 2015

Flipping the Learning Experience

If you attended my talk during FAAPI 2015 in Cordoba, Argentina, you might be interested in exploring the links shared.

These are the slides I used

These are some of the links mentioned and used:


BERGMAN, J.; SAMS, A. (2012) Flip your Classroom: Reach Every Student in Every Class Every Day. International Society for Technology in Education, USA.

BISHOP, J. L.; VERLEGER, M. A. (2013) The Flipped Classroom: A Survey of the Research. American Society for Engineering Education. Available at http://www.studiesuccesho.nl/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/flipped-classroom-artikel.pdf

GUO, P. (2013) Optimal Video Length for Student Engagement. Available at http://blog.edx.org/optimal-video-length-student-engagement/

PRINCE, M. (2004) Does Active Learning Work? A Review of the Research. In Journal of Engineering Education, 93(3), p. 223-231. Available at http://www4.ncsu.edu/unity/lockers/users/f/felder/public/Papers/Prince_AL.pdf

Some photos taken during the conference