Using Google+ Communities with classes (2)

All of a sudden we are 5 weeks into term. This week, also known as 5+1 (so not to get it mixed up with teaching week 6, which is next week) is Learning Conversations week (the closest we get to half term, and only in the September term!) so it seemed a good time to take stock and see how things are going with Google Communities, following my introductory post from many moons ago.

Firstly, it must be said that the situation has changed since I wrote that first post: Now, all teachers are required to use GC instead of my Group on MOLE (the university brand of Blackboard VLE) because we had trouble setting up groups on MOLE at the start of this term. Nevertheless, I am carrying on with my original plan of reflecting and evaluation on my use of GC with my students because I think it is a valuable thing to do!

In order to evaluate effectively, I wanted to have the students’ perspective as well as my own, I posted a few evaluative questions in the discussion category of each of my classes’ GC page.

So, no science involved, no Likert scales, no anonymity, just some basic questions. (The third question was because I thought I might as well get their views on how the lessons are going so far at the same time!) I’m well aware of the limitations of this approach BUT then again I’m not planning to make any great claims based on the feedback I get and I’m not after sending a write-up to the ELTJ or anything like that either (would need all manner of ethical approval to do that!). I did try to frame the questions positively e.g. “What do you think would improve the way we use GC?” rather than “What don’t you like about GC?” so that the students wouldn’t feel like responding to the question wasn’t a form of criticism and therefore feel inhibited. An added benefit is that it pushes them to be constructive regarding future use rather than just say how they feel about the current use of it.

Before I go into the responses I’ve had from students, however, it would make sense to summarise how I’ve been using the GCs with them. I recently wrote about GCs for the British Council TeachingEnglish page (soon to be published) and the way I came up with for describing them in that post was “a one-stop shop for everything to do with their [students] AES classes” and that is basically what it has become:

Speaking Category extract


Writing Category extract


Vocabulary Category extract


Listening Category extract

I would say the main use I have made of it is to share materials relating to lessons, mostly in advance of the lessons – TedTalks, newspaper articles etc – but also useful websites and tools, for individual use or class use – AWL highlighter, Quizlet, etc. Finally, it is great for sharing editable links to Google Docs, which we use quite often in class for various writing tasks. Other than these key uses, I have also used it to raise students’ awareness of mental health issues and the mental health services offered to students by the university, during Mental Health Week here (which coincided with World Mental Health Day) and to raise their awareness of the students union and what it offers to them.

In terms of student feedback, they think it’s “convenient”, “easy to use” and they “enjoy using” it. They also mention the ability to comment on posts (not present with My Group on MOLE) and communicate outside of the classroom as well as in it. In terms of suggestions for improvement, one student said students should use it to interact more frequently but that it should be clear which posts are class content and which are sharing/interaction. A couple of students also said they’d like the Powerpoints used in class to be uploaded there. However, those are available on MOLE. The trouble, of course, is that in using GC rather than My Group (which is on MOLE), students are a lot more tuned into GC (which we use all the time) than MOLE. I have no scientific evidence to back this up, but I suspect that be it academically or personally, if you have to use multiple platforms you tend to gravitate towards one, or some, more than others rather than using them all equally, particularly if time is very limited, as it is for busy students! (I could be wrong – if you know of any relevant studies let me know!) Unfortunately GC cannot fully replace MOLE as students need to learn how to use it in preparation for going to university here and they need to submit coursework assignments to Turnitin via MOLE. Perhaps, then I need to come up with ways to encourage them to go from one to the other and back, so they don’t forget about ‘the other’…

In terms of future use, I have set up a little experiment in that as part the of Learning Conversations that are taking place this week, we have to decide on Smart Actions that the students are supposed to carry out. E.g.


Go to Useful Websites on MOLE and explore the ‘Learning Vocabulary’ websites available. Tell your teacher which websites you visited and what you learnt from them by the final AES lesson of Week 6.

Some of them, like the above, lend themselves to posting on GC. In this way, not only do they tell me what they have learnt but also they share that learning with the rest of their classmates. So, in their learning conversations, whenever the Smart Action(s) were amenable to this plan, I have been encouraging students to use GC to communicate the outcome to me and share the learning with the rest of the class. We will see how it goes, if they do post their findings etc. Be interesting to see what happens! Another idea I’ve had is to do something along the lines of “academic words of the week”, where I provide a few choice academic words along with definitions, collocations, examples of use and a little activity that gives them a bit of practice using them, and get them to also make a Quizlet vocabulary set collaboratively (I have a Quizlet class set up for each class). Then perhaps after every couple of weeks we could do an in-class vocabulary review activity to see what they can remember.

Finally, it seems to me that Monday, being the first day of the second half of the term, is a crucial opportunity to build on student feedback by getting them to discuss ways in which we could use the GC for more interactive activities and find out what they’d be interested in having me share other than class-related materials and the occasional forays into awareness-raising that I have attempted. The key thing that I want them to take away is that I want the GC to work for them and that I am very much open to ideas from them as to how that should be, so that it becomes a collaborative venture rather than a teacher-dominated one.

We shall see what the next five weeks hold… Do you have any other ideas for how I could use GCs more effectively? Would love to hear them if you do!


#ELTChat Summary 18/05/2016 CPD for teachers, using social media

ELTChat is a weekly Twitter-based discussion that takes place on Wednesdays at 7pm U.K. time under the hashtag #ELTChat. You can read more about it here and find a list of summaries of past discussions here.

The topic up for discussion on 18/05/2016 was CPD for teachers, using social media. I nabbed the summary writing duties (for the first time in ages, it seems!) as entering the online community in early 2011 was one of the turning points of my career.

In order to make this summary as user-friendly as possible, I am going to organise it by general comments and then by tool (titles are clickable links that take you to the site) and finish off with some thoughts of my own. So, feel free to read about them all or skip to the ones you are less familiar/more interested in. Order is random rather than some kind of ranking!


  • I think any social media is good for CDP depending on who/what you follow (@nahirco)
  • It really is about who you follow. Makes such a big difference. (@Hada_ELT)
  • Can anybody follow you (like Twitter)? Or do you have to accept them (like Facebook)? (@sandymillin – asking about Google+ but always a relevant consideration when newly using some kind of Social Media!)
  • Social Media is a great way to do CPD as most people already use it… just haven’t necessarily thought of using it for that purpose (@thebestticher)
  • One of the big questions – what to choose among this cornucopia of info (@Marisa_C)
  • It’s the five minutes a day thing for me, much like learning a language. Daily habits easier (@sandymillin)
  • I try to make Twitter and Facebook lists of interesting ELT/Phon profiles and keep up with them once a week. Feedly helps me keep track of blogs. (@pronbites)
  • Curation principle the same in all these tools – look and feel is different of course – which is great (@Marisa_C)
  • The ability to read and type quickly both help too 😉  And now, lots of experience of what is worth sharing/saving/reading (@sandymillin)
  • My CPD saw a major shift when I linked it to social media. It got me into the ‘global classroom’ -sorry cliche but true (@Hada_ELT)
  • I tend to take what comes in on my timeline – but LOOK for stuff when preparing sessions for Delta or talks (@Marisa_C)
  • It’s often easier to be surprised when you don’t mind what you find (@SueAnnan)
  • Wanted to share a few links from my blog with guides to online CPD, then realised too many! Mostly here:  (@sandymillin)
  • It’s also nice to be able to ‘talk shop’ without driving everyone I know insane 😉 (@thebestticher)
  • I presented this topic on the #vrtwebcon and shared the post on the #ltsig blog  (@Marisa_C)
  • And we are mostly able to share info now beCAUSE of social media (@Marisa_C)
  • Sharing recent @iatefl_ltsig blog post on Social Media Symposium #vrtwebcon   – summaries, slides, recordings (@Marisa_C)
  • I switch(ed) all of the automatic things off on my social media accounts. Think I should choose when/where to post (@sandymillin)

1. Twitter (obviously!)

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  • Twitter is home to #ELTChat (see above for more information).
  • I think with Twitter you assume people want professional connections, some people prefer to keep FB personal (@TeresaBerstwick)
  • Source of ELT info (blogs, events, books, freebies..) and of course new technology. Endless source of inspiration  (@Hada_ELT)
  • The assistance is super fast on twitter whenever you need an ear (@SueAnnan)
  • And the learning – there is ALWAYS a great takeaway for me whenever I log in but I DO follow good people (@Marisa_C)
  • #ELTChat kick-started my professional development online and changed my life. (@sandymillin)
  • I tend to come across things on twitter when I’m being intentional about CPD (@thebestticher)
  • I wrote this post about Twitter for CPD  (@LizziePinard)
  • The hub is Twitter in general for my CPD (@Marisa_C)
  • I find that work on #eltchat has improved my ability to say a lot in just a few words #eltchat have been able to describe lesson pln in 140 (@Marisa_C)
  • Twitter is my CPD (@fionaljp)
  • I love the random #ELT discussions I sometimes get into on Twitter – they end up being really informative. Great motivation (@Hada_ELT)
  • I find Twitter more serious than Facebook and Facebook can be more contentious (@SueAnna)

(Though it wasn’t discussed, don’t forget other hashtag discussions such as #ELTChinwag [alternate Monday evenings at 8.30pm UK time] and #TEChat [Friday lunchtime UK time], as well as hashtags that are always in use like the #IATEFL one and the #mawsig one.)

2. Facebook

Screen Shot 2016-05-20 at 12.29.07

  • Lots on Facebook now I’m friends with @sandymillin (@TeresaBerstwick – and I second it!)
  • I use Facebook a lot, am friends with lots of teachers who share interesting things so CPD kind of comes into it! (@Thebestticher)
  • FB has changed a lot in the last couple of years or rather WE have changed it (@Marisa_C)
  • My FB contains teachers that don’t use Twitter much. It means contact there too (@SueAnnan)
  • I only have one account (not separate) because I can’t be bothered with two, so I do try to think about who I add (@sandymillin)
  • Facebook is the things I ‘stumble upon’ so to speak (@thebestticher)
  • I find that stuff is often duplicated on Facebook and Twitter. Depends which I opened first (@SueAnnan)
  • Which is actually good I think as I sometimes miss stuff on one that I catch on the other (@Hada_ELT)
  • There’s a way you can link the accounts I think so it posts automatically to Twitter but not sure if it then posts EVERYTHING you put on Facebook (@TeresaBerstwick)
  • 5 years of building up a network of people on Facebook means I tend to ask questions there – amazing discussions often result (@sandymillin)
  • Definitely more cosy on Facebook. Slower and a bit less ‘open’ (does that make sense?) (@Hada_ELT)
  • Some people prefer to keep FB personal (@TeresaBerstwick)
  • It’s also possible to have a couple of profiles on Fb – one professional and one personal (@Hada_ELT)

3. LinkedIn

Screen Shot 2016-05-20 at 12.30.15

  • I have to say that I can’t stand LinkedIn. I find it incredibly unwieldy and not user friendly at all. (@sandymillin)
  • I use it to connect my school – I find other kinds of connections- discussion groups mostly unwieldy though agree (@Marisa_C) (More information provided subsequently to this Tweet but extending on it: people looking for me or my school for all services we provide – so yes more as a course provider/consultant)
  • I only use LinkedIn now to keep my CV up to date. I used to use the groups but not now (@MarjorieRosenbe)

4. Pinterest

Screen Shot 2016-05-20 at 12.31.15

  • Tried Pinterest but couldn’t get into it. (@MarjorieRosenbe)
  • For me, Pinterest looks pretty, but I don’t find it very useful for CPD. Good for crafts etc (@sandymillin)
  • I use pinterest a l ot when I prepare talks or seminars while doing background research/ ideas or reading (@Marisa_C)
  • I love Pinterest for new ideas and activities and the constant reminder to try new things (@thebestticher)
  • I have a pinterest account, but I get bored with it (@SueAnnan)
  • I love pinterest – let’s follow one another – i use it a LOT! (@Marisa_C)

5. Diigo

Screen Shot 2016-05-20 at 12.32.21

(Just in case you weren’t aware, Diigo is basically a social bookmarking tool, which enables you to curate bookmarks in way that they are available for anyone to see.)

  • I bookmark every useful link I find using diigo. After 5.5 years, I have over 4500 bookmarks, but can find them again quickly 🙂 (@sandymillin)
  • All of my bookmarks are publicly available too, and other people can access/search them:  Very easy to use (@sandymillin)
  • I add 3-4 links a day.That’s why I like diigo over something like Evernote – free + easy to share with other people 🙂 (@sandymillin)
  • You should be able to download a file of all your bookmarks from delicious. I try to backup diigo in case (@sandymillin)
  • Here’s my guide to diigo (@sandymillin)

6. GooglePlus

Screen Shot 2016-05-20 at 12.33.20

  • It’s just another platform which has other possibilities of sharing -since it’s Google, it’s easier wth all shared docs I guess (@Hada_ELT)
  • Anyone can follow you and you can create circles or join circles. There’s also a totally private area. (@Hada_ELT)
  • So I guess that’s why it’s so good for MOOCs/ITDI – you don’t have to friend people (@sandymillin)
  • You get sent a link whihc gives you access to a ‘closed’ area where material is shared and convos take place (@Hada_ELT)
  • Google+ just doesn’t do it the same for me for some reason. Whatever I sign up too, Twitter and Fb still have the best connections (@Hada_ELT)
  • Have seen it used to great effect during a course – for example – or EVO MOOCs, very versatile (@Marisa_C)
  • Joined a MOOC in Google+ community and it worked really well as a platform for a course. (@fionaljp)
  • Oh yes, you remind me that I do use it and it’s great for the @iTDipro  courses (@Hada_ELT)

7. Feedly

Screen Shot 2016-05-20 at 12.34.27

(From the horse’s mouth (an American horse judging by the spelling of organise!): A single place to organize, read, and share all the content that matters to you — and your team.)

  • For me, it’s about using a reader and having a routine. Feedly collects everything for me… (@sandymillin)
  • With feedly you cannot share  your feeds the way you could with google reader (@Marisa_C)
  • Feedly is a blog reader, whereas delicious is a bookmarker (@sandymillin)
  • I use feedly. Migrated to it after GoogleReader closed. 1 slightly annoying thing is you only have 30 days to read (@sandymillin)

8. Blogs/Blogging

Screen Shot 2016-05-20 at 12.35.39

  • I find blogging helps me reflect on CPD. (@MarjorieRosenbe)
  • Agreed – committing to a ‘new things I’ve tried’ post at the end of each month forces me to keep developing! (@thebesttticher)
  • (@sandymillin promised us a blog post about blogging, based on a recent talk she made at the Innovate ELT  conference this year – well worth reading! – and has duly delivered. Enjoy!)

Passing mention was also made to Delicious (social bookmarking), Scoop.It (curating) and Pearltrees (From their website: “Pearltrees is a place to organize all your interests. It lets you organize, explore and share everything you like”).

Other online development options

We touched on this very briefly at the end!

  • We haven’t said much about webinars and recordings for online CPD. So many available! (@sandymillin)
  • Lots of @iatefl talks available to watch too, and you can read @LizziePinard‘s summaries of many of them:  (@sandymillin)
  • Macmillan recorded all their sessions too (@LizziePinard)
  • Webinars are great, the conversations in the chat box are social interaction and reflection. (@MarjorieRosenbe)
  • Are there too many webinars these days? attendances seem to be low and people watch the recordings instead (@SueAnnan)
  • Guess they’re like blogs. You’ll find what you’re interested in, and ignore the rest. Depends what you’re looking for (@sandymillin)
  • I love webinars! There’s such a luxury. Chilling in my study, in the comfort of my home, I learn, for free! (@Hada_ELT)
  • the #Iatefl series us attracting good numbers, not sure about others (@MarjorieRosenbe)

Basically, as far as I can make out from that little lot, it’s mostly a case of personal preference. “One man’s meat is another man’s poison” kinda thing. Twitter and Facebook seem to be the main ways of connecting with people, though Google Circles also put forward as useful in a course context. LinkedIn didn’t seem to have many fans, but Kirsten Holt swears by it for networking! There are lots of different content curation tools, some purely for bookmarks (Diigo, Delicious) and other for general content (Feedly, Pinterest, Pearltrees, Scoopit). Online webinars are another means of online development, as is blogging. There isn’t time to use all of it, so find what works for you and do it! Then, if using tools that involve following or friending people, think carefully about who you follow/friend as this impacts the content you are shown in your timelines. One thing I think is interesting, and which has just occurred to me while writing this summary, is that no one mentioned Edmodo! Yet, Edmodo is supposed to be an educational platform where teachers can connect with teachers and share stuff. (That said, I’ve only used it with students, which is its other, and perhaps main, purpose)

For me, my Twitter account is a professional account while my Facebook account is a personal account. That said, Facebook gives me some CPD too, through the people I’m friends with (e.g. Sandy Millin who shares lots of blog posts), the groups I am a member of (such as the IATEFL group) and the pages I “like” (like the TeachingEnglish page). I only “friend” people I actually know so sorry to all the people who have attempted to add me that I haven’t accepted – if it’s any consolation, all you are missing out on is photos of my garden/vegetable patch, my horse and the like! I also have a LinkedIn account but haven’t got to grips with it fully. I recently joined a load of groups but haven’t had time to follow up yet. Pinterest I use for vegan recipes, but when I say “use” – I have an account, it periodically emails me stuff that might be of interest (read: vegan recipes) which I occasionally click on. So, not exactly an active user! I used  to use Diigo but forgot about it, feel like I should resurrect it at some point… Finally, of course, there is my blog. There is always my blog. 🙂 

IATEFL 2016 Online: Enhancing writing and speaking outcomes using Google Apps (Joe Dale)

Joe’s session was…fast. In keeping with my approach to blogging about these online sessions, I will just share a few things I learnt together with my comments on them. I recommend that you watch the full recording to find out more!

The first thing to say is that I am already familiar with some Google Apps. However, that that doesn’t mean I didn’t learn something from Joe’s session.

Google Docs

I’m guessing you all know what Google Docs is? Most people do, it’s been around a while. Basically it’s a web-based version of Word that enables multiple editors to make changes to a document simultaneously and comment on each others’ changes. This makes it perfect for collaboration. Students can work together to produce a piece of writing, teachers can comment on it, other students can comment on it and everybody can respond to everybody else’s comments on it. (If you want to know more/see it in action, watch Joe’s session!)

A simple yet excellent tip from Joe, that I will use when I next use Google docs with students:

  • If you are having multiple students edit one document at once, insert a table so that the document is divided up into sections. This way, each student, pair or group can take one section and you eliminate the potential issue of students writing on top of each other!

I did a lot of collaborative writing using Google Docs during my two summers teaching on Sheffield University’s pre-sessional programme and this did not occur to me! The students did manage to sort it out themselves (by using enter to find a space further down the shared page to type on) but this would be a much quicker way to do it. Another potential option is to use Google presentations and then each student/group gets a separate slide. However, by using Google Docs in the way Joe suggests, the editable space is unlimited and the Document expands to absorb any extra room needed by the editors.

Chrome Extensions

I didn’t know about these! Hopefully the link should take you to Chrome Store where you can download them for free, otherwise put the name in your Google search bar and it will give you the appropriate link! Once you have installed them, your browser bar will look like this:

Screen Shot 2016-05-03 at 15.15.45

After Diigo and Evernote (the “d” and the elephant respectively), you will see Tab Scissors, Tab Glue and Voice Notes.

  • Tab Scissors: This splits a window containing multiple tabs into two equal screens side-by-side with the split occurring at the tab you are on when you click the scissors. It basically means you can quickly have a look at 2 screens at once, without needing to create multiple windows by extracting the tab you want to see and resizing both new and initial screens. Like the Word keyboard shortcuts I wrote about here, this is  a nifty little time-saver!
  • Tab Glue: This basically undoes what Tab Scissors does! So once you no longer need to see two windows at once, you click on the Tab Glue icon and it puts all your tabs back how they were to start with.
  • Talk and comment: This enables you to make a voice note at any point when you are in a Chrome browser window. Once you have installed it (at which point you will see it in your tool bar as above), you will see a little microphone at the righthand edge of your browser window. Click on this and it pops up a little time counter with a red cross and a green tick beneath it, which is your recording. Speak and then once you have finished, click the green tick. It then generates a link which you can share with others. As far as Google docs is concerned, you can paste it into a comment and the student will see the link in the comment with “Voice note” in brackets after the link. So it’s a little bit like Jing except voice only!


This is an app that enables you to make and edit voice recordings. (Much like Audacity, Wavepad or Garage, for those you familiar with any of those) If you google Soundation, and go to the first website that appears, you will see at the top of your browser window “Soundation Studio“, which you need to download and register to use. However, if you scroll down a little, you will see Soundation for Chrome. If you click on this link, then you can use Soundation within your browser window without registering or downloading anything.

In Soundation, you can create multiple audio channels, into which you can directly record yourself and/or others speaking:

Screen Shot 2016-05-03 at 15.34.33


You tell it which audio channel to use by clicking on the one you want it to use, thereby selecting it. If you use Tab Scissors to split your windows, you can look at Google Docs with your Voice Notes comments and Soundation at the same time. You can hit record in Soundation, then play on your Voice Note and Soundation will record your voice note:

Screen Shot 2016-05-03 at 15.45.39

In this way, you can create a single sound file that knits together a series of comments, making it into a dialogue. So, students could create a dialogue in Google docs using the Voice Notes app and then you could turn it into a complete file and share it, for example using Padlet. You would have to first export it to your desktop as a .wav file (which you can do without registering still – just File -> Export) and then upload it to the platform e.g. Padlet that you are using to share it.

Gotta love technology! This stuff all has tons of potential! I like how simple Soundation is to use. I didn’t manage to follow Joe’s explanation but a minute or two of clicking around and I had the hang of it. I also love the Scissors and Glue thing for viewing two tabs and then putting things back how you had them in the first place in a couple of easy clicks. Time-savers are always a win in my book! I do question, though, with the Talk and Comment, just as with Jing, exactly where all these files that you get links to end up?! You know, you get the link to them so the link links to somewhere out there in the big interweb world, but where? And can I ever delete them? Answers on a postcard! Anyway, again, I recommend watching the recording – it’s literally 24 minutes long. And you get a lot for your minutes!! 

ELTC Training Day 2016 – my takeaway (including lots of tech-y stuff!)

After I did my learner autonomy workshop in November, I was invited to repeat it as part of the ELTC Training Day which took place on Thursday 14th January this year. I didn’t need asking twice to be part of this exciting programme of sessions – so duly organised my holiday to be back from visiting family and horse in time to participate! The day didn’t, of course, disappoint. There were two parallel sessions running throughout the day with a tech-focused block and a development-focused block in the morning and again in the afternoon. (I gather the lunch provided in between these two sets of session blocks was rather good, though I did the packed lunch thing which is always easier when you’re vegan :-p )

As all the sessions were really useful, I thought I’d share my notes/take-away from each of the ones I attended…

Smartboard Extras

Smartboard Fun!

Do you have Smartboards at your school/centre? We have. And with Smartboards comes the responsibility of a) knowing how to use the thing properly and b) using it in a principled manner in your lessons!

It turns out that the newer versions of Smartboard (Version 15.1 onwards) have some additional interactive functions built in, that allow for student participation using mobile devices. Much of it is geared towards school children *but* one of our tech gurus, Nick, identified and shared with us a couple of features that lend themselves to use in the ELT classroom.

The first of these is the ability to post things to the board. This can be text or images (pre-selected by the teacher depending on requirement) and the board can be open or divided into categories (again, pre-set by teacher).

Basically, to set this game up, the teacher selects the “Lab” button, which is in the toolbar of Smartboard and looks like a Top-hat that a magician would use, and chooses to add an activity of “Shout it out” which is mobile-enabled. The default setting is “categorised” board and you can either switch that to open board or keep “categorised” so that in the next step you will then set the category titles. You can have up to four categories. You also need to choose the type of contribution (i.e. text or images) and the maximum number of contributions per device. 3 is the default but you decide and change accordingly. NB: one device could mean one student, a pair of students or a group of students, depending how you want to run the game/your goals. You could then add a timer or buzzer if you felt it necessary (bearing in mind that timing out doesn’t stop the game and stopping the game doesn’t stop the time! It’s not that fully integrated yet…) and load the game.

You will have a dialogue box and if it is the first activity you do on a day with a group, there will be as yet no contributors. If you do a second activity, the contributors remain loaded, but can be added to. When you click on “start activity” a code is generated and students must input the code into They will have a screen that requires the code and a username. This username will be associated with a symbol and that will appear next to all their contributions on the board. (NB you may want to turn off the screen while the students do the activity to stop them seeing each other’s contributions, if it is a competitive activity!)

It is useful to cue your computer to the point of the dialogue box being open and the code being generated (so clicking on “start activity” after which you can pause it) before class starts, as it takes quite a while to load fully. You can hide the dialogue box by clicking on the “activity” button, and clicking again reveals it again.

Suggestions for use include but are not limited to revision of vocabulary and academic language e.g. linkers. (One of my challenges to myself is to come up with different ways of using this with my latest group of students who I started teaching yesterday evening, so watch this space for related blog posts! Likewise the picture activity that follows… )

You can use the same activity “Shout it out” for picture sharing. In this case, the set up is the same but you select images rather than text as the contribution type and use ‘arranged randomly’ rather than setting categories (a setting that could also be useful for brainstorming vocabulary, for example, if you use text rather than images!). Again, a code is generated, which the students enter into

Smartboard also has the capacity to enable teachers to create quizzes and questionnaires. This works in a similar way to google forms but with the added advantage of students being able to respond live in the class, using their devices, alone or in pairs/groups while the teacher can control the time spent per slide or per activity as a whole. It also enables you to view/display graphics showing answers chosen by participants.

A final tip we were given was in use of the pens. You know how when you write on the Smartboard and it looks like a five year old could have done better? Well, if you choose “Text Pen” which is under the pen function, when you write on the board it automatically converts into text! According to Nick it’s pretty accurate even with his writing, and you do have the option to select “x” if it gets it wrong, and that will revert it to handwriting again. Or you can select the tick and edit it, if you prefer.

Ideas for doing a TD session

This was the other TD block session I went to other than my own, and it too gave some food for thought. The TD programme at the ELTC is very teacher-led – the TD team are teachers (as vs. managers) and of course the scholarship circles are teacher-managed too. There seems to be one and often more than one workshop in any given week, with various focuses. Teachers are always encouraged to give workshops (as part of their own development) and attendance isn’t compulsory. Of course, teachers are expected to log 3hrs a week of scholarship time, and workshops can be useful to this end.

Anyway, this session was aimed at teachers who are interested in delivering workshops and we looked at:

  • reasons for attending a workshop
  • reasons for giving a workshop
  • different delivery formats
  • things to keep in mind when preparing a workshop

Reasons for attending included: to support a colleague, to help log scholarship time, to see what others are doing in the classroom, to share ideas, to learn/increase knowledge and skills, amongst others. Reasons for giving included: to help log scholarship time (!), a way of developing yourself, sharing research, sharing ideas and getting feedback on them, feeding back after attending a conference, amongst others.

We looked at different delivery formats and suitability to different scenarios, so talks, presentations, workshops, panel discussions, structured discussions and unstructured discussions, and also agreed that within a single session there may be elements of multiple formats.

Things to keep in mind in preparing a workshop included: knowing your audience (and possible mismatch between their and your aims), knowing the context (e.g. here, it’s not compulsory and teachers are therefore there by choice but that doesn’t mean they aren’t tired at the end of a long week etc.), choosing a suitable format with maximum possibility of engagement, not being OTT (we watched a brief youtube clip parodying a TD session!), amongst other things.

It was an interesting session and I made a few minor changes to the delivery of my session (which was in the afternoon TD block of sessions) based on what I had picked up.

Tech Timesavers

This was one of those sessions that was a whirlwind of little tech things that make you go “ooooh I wish I had known that before!!”

Our main browser on the centre computers is Firefox, so the first thing we looked at was some handy add-ons:

Screen Shot 2016-01-19 at 15.04.14

  • “Reader” enables you to extract articles (except from BBC) without all the ads and links, so that when you open it in Word, you start with a much cleaner piece of text.
  • “Clippings” is a clipper tool that enables you to reuse chunks of text. So, first you create them (think of and input phrases that you commonly use in giving feedback or report writing – I think this would be super for my colleagues at IHPA during report writing, for instance!) and then you can drag it into any browser window or programme for reuse.

We were also shown how to set the options so that: downloaded files are always saved to a specific location (rather than in some hard to find temporary folder somewhere!) – by clicking on the three horizontal lines, going to options and under general selecting “always ask me where to save files”. The browser will then remember the first location you pick for the rest of your browsing session, which is handy!

Finally, we learnt how to save things to the toolbar by selecting “bookmark this page” and changing the option in the drop-down menu to “toolbar” and THEN how to create folders in the toolbar. So Nick has an ELTC folder with things like the portal link in it.

We then moved on from Firefox to other things…

Screen Shot 2016-01-19 at 15.10.25

  • Sticky notes – my notes for this read “(like Mac!)” … I’ve had my current laptop for nearly five years now and I remember when I first got it, Stickies opened automatically. So I’ve been using it since then. It is basically a programme that enables you to have post-it notes on your desktop screen, in a choice of colours. So you could colour code for priority, for instances. Turns out this programme also exists on PCs! Little did I know… It’s pretty basic in terms of use, you just add new sticky, write what you need to remember on it and drag it to where you want it to be on your desktop. You can also resize them according to need, and, as I mentioned, select the colour, as well as setting a due date (must check how to do this on Mac!). One of the teachers mentioned that when she initially started to use it, she needed a real post-it on her real desk to remind her to look at the electronic ones on the computer desktop! 🙂 So maybe it takes some getting used to. Good though. One thing to remember if you use a “managed desktop” : the stickies only open on the first computer you log into. So, for instance, if you got in and went to your classroom to set the computer up, the stickies would appear on there. If you then went to your office and loaded up that computer, the stickies wouldn’t then appear on there too. So, you need to make sure you first access the computer you want the stickies to show on!

Screen Shot 2016-01-19 at 15.06.45

  • Google Keep – this is available to anybody who has a Google account. So, when you are in your email, you go to those nine squares in the top righthand corner of your screen, and click on “more” as many times as you can, including “even more from Google” and in “Home and Office” you will see Google Keep waiting for you. There is also an app for it that you can download onto mobile devices, so you can use it “on the move”. Basically, it’s a lot like Evernote but free. If I didn’t already use Evernote, then I would use Google Keep. The concept is great. An electronic organiser that lets you do most things you could think of – write notes to yourself and keep them in different notebooks, of course, but also saving pdfs/links etc., making checklists that you can tick off, speaking into it for it to convert to text etc. You can colour code notes and add labels (like tags in blog world!) that make the notes more easily searchable, like an index system. And you can share notes.

Next we looked at a couple of things that Google Drive allows you to do:

  • Convert a photograph of a .pdf file into text – take a photograph or screenshot (saved as a .jpeg) of a pdf and save it in your drive. In the options (three vertical dots), open it as a google doc and ta-dah! It doesn’t, however, pick up on italics or reproduce diagrams/images.
  • Voice to text: This only works when using Google docs in Google Chrome browser, apparently. You go to ‘tools’ and select voice typing. You will get a pop-up message asking you to allow use of your microphone and then you are away. Say stuff and it will appear on screen. It also converts punctuation – e.g. if you say fullstop it types a “.” and so on. “New paragraph” and “new line” also have the desired effect. You can imagine the potential of using this with students when creating dialogues etc…

Finally we looked at a few more general things:

Screen Shot 2016-01-19 at 15.03.52

  • Web CorpA corpus tool that bases its analysis on up-to-date web data. You can specify exactly what it looks at using the advanced options. (E.g. newspapers, which type of newspapers etc.) You can also generate a wordlist for a text that you input (by link or by copy-paste) that ranks words by how often they appear in that text. This could help you decide what language to focus on before teaching a text, for example.
  • This is NOT free. However, Sheffield University has some kind of licensing agreement with it, so teachers can access it for free, except not me because I am an associate not a teacher apparently! Anyway, if you work for a university, or big institution, could be worth checking if your place has such an agreement and therefore you have free access. It is basically a collection of tutorial videos on everything under the sun, indexed. Would have liked to have had a proper gander but who knows, hopefully one day!
  • Youtube playlists: Unlisted playlists are a good way of collecting videos and sharing them with students. When you find a video you want to share with a class of students, click on “add to” to add it to a playlist. You can then create a new playlist, which you would probably name after your group of students (for ease of identification for you!) and set it as “unlisted”. This means that it won’t appear in search engines but that anybody with the correct link can access it. You copy and paste aforementioned link into whichever platform you use with students (e.g. Edmodo, Google Classroom etc.) in a static location, so that they can easily access it.

At this point we sadly ran out of time and the whirlwind of techy stuff tour came to an end! And you can imagine, at this point I had to directly change classrooms, set up my workshop and deliver it! My poor little brain…

Learner Autonomy

So, my Learner Autonomy workshop was in the last slot of the day (save the Tech Q and A and TD Q and A drop-in sessions, where you could ask the TD team and the tech team any questions – I, for example, asked for a re-run of the questionnaire/quiz thing in Smartboard as I had missed the crucial bit of information for how to access it!), with all that had gone before being a tough act to follow. It seemed to go well enough though, with teachers doing their best to push their tired brains just a little bit longer in order to participate. I enjoyed delivering it, but then I am an LA geek, can never get enough of talking about LA and motivation, and, all-importantly, hearing what others have to say about it too. 🙂 For example, one of the teachers told us about his successful reading project, which sounded really good. In fact, hmm, wonder if I could elicit a guest post…

And that was the training day! Lots of useful stuff to kick start the new term and year with, which I look forward to implementing/using…

Hope some of it is of use/interest to you too!

IATEFL 2015 An Engaged Tone: How ELT might handle the ‘EdTech revolution’ – Nick Robinson and Laurie Harrison

I can’t remember what the abstract for this one was, only that it roused my curiosity and I wanted to be here. In any case, with Nick Robinson (who until yesterday was the MaW SIG coordinator) speaking it’s bound to be good. This is also the last talk I’ll watch before my own which is in a couple of hours time. Gulp…

Laurie and Nick are from ELTJam (yes, *that* blog!). Today they will talk to us about how ELT will handle the EdTech revolution. Since its conception two years ago, the main focus of ELTJam has been looking at two different worlds – ELT and EdTech, which seemed to be something interesting springing up out of the high-tech start-up world. There’s lots of cool interesting stuff happening, and through the emergence of “EdTech”, that world is starting to get very interested in education and ELT. They want to explore how it might play out.

The ‘…’ around EdTech Revolution are deliberate. They don’t subscribe to it. BUT, over the last 15 years, a lot of change has happened and as a result there is and will be a big impact on education. We are not just talking about the fact that there is tech in ELT – that is nothing new – but that it has coalesced into a movement under the banner of EdTech.


Bill Gates is driven by evangelical zeal to transform the world of education. George Lucas is a leading figure in EdTech did you know that? 21st century learning etc. Sugata Mitra….! Google, Apple, Microsoft all moving into education in a big way. Duolingo. Voxy is also a well-funded EdTech start-up. EdTech is within ELT already, they are interested in it as a movement.

What are the characteristics of this revolution?

  • Money – there’s a lot of money pouring into education right now that wasn’t previously. Big corporations and companies are throwing money at it, specifically digital education. We have venture capitalists into a start-up, who are looking for at least 10 times return.
  • Disruption – education is seen, by a lot of people in the movement, as a sleepy, backward, old-fashioned place that is ripe for disruption.
  • Grassroots entrepreneurship – with the digital technology available now, it is easer than it ever has been before to create a digital education product and get it out into the world. We are seeing more and more teachers in ELT thinking “I can do this” – who think they have identified a need in the market and think they can do something about it.
  • Polarisation and controversy: On the one hand you have “EdTech is an amazingly wonderful thing. It is going to transform education. We are going to equip learners for the 21st Century” on the other, you have “EdTech is a conspiracy to take over the world” (or similar).

What about ELT?

Specifically, is there polarisation and controversy? Enter Sugata Mitra at IATEFL last year! A mixture of standing ovation and people walking out in protest. Standing ovation because he is doing something very interesting, trying to improve access to education etc and the converse, that he is saying teachers are redundant, not needed.

Not all EdTech in ELT is controversial. But some is. And some is more controversial than others. Controversial – Sugata Mitra, adaptive learning etc. Less controversial: there’s lots of cool free stuff out there we can use for learning. Some things will become more acceptable over time.

Let’s take a closer look at the Scale of controversy in ELT about EdTech. This is the SCREECH index!!! 😀

This is brand new, this is the first announcement of it. It’s early days.

At the top we have zero (uncontroversial) to 5 (most uncontroversial)


Maybe things will move up the scale as they become less uncontroversial.

Meanwhile, ELT has three response choices: Resist! Surrender! Engage! i.e. refuse it completely, accept it blindly or engage with it and getting involved with it in order to change it for the better and…make it less screechy!

How might that happen?

We will look at publishers, language schools/institutions, teachers and writers


Thinking back to the characteristics of the EdTech revolution, one of them was disruption. Our sector is ripe for disruption with new ideas and money. ELT publishing is a good target for this.

So publishers need to engage actively in order to be able to stand up to the massacre or ignore perspective of EdTech. ELT publishing needs to look outside itself: look at its competitors, who is out there in EdTech land? Yes they know to an extent, but not enough. DuoLingo is free and trying to market itself directly to language schools. How will publishers complete? How are they making this free product sustainable? How are these products developed so quickly? Understand how it all works. There is potential mutual benefit. This could be by working with established EdTech companies or interesting new start-ups who need help to get the next level with their really good ideas. Finally, most EdTech companies are terrible when it comes to the methodology behind the products, most ELT publishers are hot on that. Somewhere there is a marriage in heaven waiting to be made!

Within publishers there is stuff that can be done too. E.g. within the publishing company, create start-ups. In-house start-ups.


Doesn’t need to look like this, but needs to be small, self-contained.

E.g. Newsmart: The Wall Street Journal. This was developed as an in-house start-up at News Corp (?). The question was can we create an interesting product using content from the Wall Street Journal? The answer was yes.

“If it isn’t digital, we don’t do it”

This was said by the head of the English programme in a big chain of language schools.

The first thing we are seeing a lot of is expansion beyond the four walls of the school. An illustrative example of the scope of ambition a school can have. EF London has Englishtown, completely online programme that has had 2 million students.

British Council – lots of apps, podcasts etc. They have an app portfolio of these things, they are not just a language school chain anymore. They also have the MOOC. ELT’s first MOOC didn’t come from a publisher but a language school chain. The lines between language school and publisher are more blurred now. Language schools are saying, we can build these courses for ourselves, we don’t need publishers. And now they are selling these to other schools. So customers become competitors.

DuoLingo and Voxy started by selling direct to learners, now want to sell direct to language schools. So language schools have power to influence the product and make it better via feedback. They could do with some improvement, time to feed into that.

Teachers and Writers

We’ve seen teachers starting to solve some real problems in their classrooms. Meanwhile – problem – in EdTech high-up people don’t have active recent classroom experience. In start-up weekends, people get together to come up with ideas for new products. Only 5% came from ELT and only one active teacher showed up. Marie Goodwin. And she won. With a reading device that helps children struggling with reading. Her idea came from the classroom.


We are starting to see teachers talking to learners about EdTech. #ELTyak is a hashtag for learners and teachers to address.

Why do it? You get insights, you get your assumptions challenged.

Teachers or writers – 3 things you might want to learn to engage with EdTech:

  • Read “The Lean Start-Up” by Eric Ries.
  • Figure out how to get some cash
  • Look at Easy Tweets – you need to learn coding (you can do it in 3 months)

Don’t let EdTech just happen to you. As whoever we are, we can get involved and do cool stuff!


Contact details


Another really interesting talk! 🙂


IATEFL 2015 Plenary Day 2 – Joy Egbert

IATEFL Day 2 Plenary session time!

Screen Shot 2015-04-12 at 09.54.29

Before coming to IATEFL, Joy tried to learning British as a Foreign Language (BAFL – baffle!) with Doctor Who:

  • No social interaction,
  • No fb or support,
  • Challenge too great,
  • Loss of interest,
  • Lack of engagement/learning

Leads on to topic:

Engagement and practice in classroom learning, language and technology

Why are we talking about it? In high school, she took 4 years of Spanish, in university she took two years of Spanish, but never really learnt how to speak. There has to be something better? A better way to learn? 4 years of Russian at university. Used PLATO – a system that gives no feedback and you have to sit in front of it till you give the right answer. Has been around the world and seen a lot of people trying to use technology to learn language. Her children have very different teachers – her son gets to sing songs and play games, her daughter has to learn lists of words including a car part that I can’t spell (carburator?).

But a teacher’s goal is to provide an environment where students will succeed and learn effectively. One of the ways to think about how to engage our students is to think about how languages are learnt. What opportunities do your students have for using language? We know that activities need to be engaging – the more engaged students are, the better their language achievement will be (in their terms – their goals). Students become disengaged when they do things that don’t make sense to them, that aren’t relevant to them. What we want is students participating, focusing, leaning in etc.

Engagement deals with the relationship between the learner and the task. The teacher can set it up, but then the learner has to carry it out. If the task is engaging, the learner wants to carry it out.

Engagement can occur with opportunities that:

  • include authentic tasks (as perceived by students)
  • integrates connections with students’ lives
  • provide social interaction or deep individual focus
  • offer practice and feedback of an appropriate kind
  • offer connections to authentic audiences and materials.

And technology use can help teachers meet these engagement principles. However, there are issues with it. So, perhaps people don’t use technology, or pedagogy doesn’t change to use the affordances offered by technology, or people use it atheoretically i.e. use is unprincipled.

Today we will discuss a principled and effective use of technology.

The first step is getting to know your students. <Joy had us complete a questionnaire about our students at this point> These are the kinds of things we need to know about our students, but in general knowing about our student is important.

Thinking about authenticity: what can I do that can help my students be involved in this task? You can use different materials for different students, which help them achieve the same goal in different ways.


Three things to frame a lesson:

  • “Yesterday we… and today we’ll…”
  • “You’ve said you like to learn by… we’re going to try that today”
  • “This makes a difference in your life/connects to your life outside of class in this way..”

Social interaction/deep focus:

How to make group-work successful?

  • Need to encourage cooperation/collaboration
  • Structure roles: put students in charge of different things (typist, artist, etc.)
  • Let students answer their own/others’ questions
  • Students need a reason to listen

Think about what students are going to do with the information they are listening to. Take notes BECAUSE…. <e.g. they are going to do a project>.

Feedback and support:

We need to think of ways that students can use the feedback/support in other activities. For example, in MS word, you can use text comments or voice comments – depends which your students prefer.

Challenge/skills balance:

You need the students to be in the flow channel, where there isn’t anxiety of it being too difficult or boredom of it being too easy. Students can learn something and teach other people, choose their own materials, create tasks, get feedback from peers. So you allow students to learn and to teach. E.g. expert groups and jigsaws.


  • We need to work from students’ strengths but also help them work on their weaknesses. All students will rarely be engaged all at the same time, all the time; BUT all students can be engaged most of the time.
  • There are many technologies that can work across contexts e.g. storyjumper, googledocs, MS Word, Open Office, TikaTok
  • There is a wide variety of uses for these technologies. E.g. Popplet – a brainstorming software – could be used for word walls, timelines…
  • Can’t use all the new technologies all the time, but simple things can be so effective e.g. email.
  • We need to think about what we are getting out technology use. We need to evaluate it. What does it work for? With whom? What kinds of technologies, integrated how, into what kind of syllabi, at what level of learning, for what kind of learners? etc
  • If it helps you to meet your goals better, use it; if it doesn’t, don’t use it!

It’s about devising engaging tasks that are going to lead to language learning. Use or not of technology depends on how it fits in with this.

If you want to know more, you can contact Joy on

….common sense? 😉

IATEFL 2015 Through the looking-glass: creating a video-ready classroom – David Read and Will Nash

As I shall be working at the University of Sheffield over the summer, naturally I am curious as to what they are getting up to over there at the ELTC… 

It turns out this talk is part of the Learning Technologies SIG day.

At some point last year, Will and David started thinking about how they could use video for CPD and teacher training. They came up with a project and… <Insert here a very clever use of videos of them speaking, which they spoke to! Brilliant!>


Started with 30 teachers 10 years ago in one main site, now up to 100 across many sites. Multiple sites, multiple teachers, different contracts, how do we get them together for CPD? And what about CELTA and Delta? Peer observations? PO relies on giving up own time to observe others. Workshops? Getting teachers together is difficult. How can we create a classroom with video and audio enhancements that can be booked specifically for these things.

What systems could be used?

Looked at off the shelf bespoke systems to creating own system, buying software and hardware for this. There are many. David looked at 3 in particular, when he went to London.

  • Panopto

Purely software-based system. You  buy all the cameras separately. Panopto provides a service where you can upload everything. Like a youtube service for your school. A content platform. Anyone in the institute could access. Good because you can access the content easily, can be integrated with a VLE, and it is searchable as well as trackable. However, no hardware. Panopto costs £12000 per year only for the software and hardware would have to be purchased on top of this.

  • Sony Anycast

This is a hardware based solution. You purchase a laptop like device and cameras. With this you can live edit what is happening in the classroom. You can have cameras and mics in the classroom and someone can switch between cameras and audio mikes using the laptop. Very high quality again, streaming available again, and the content was accessible. Also mobile, can pick it up and take it and record someone else. BUT relies on live-editing. This isn’t practical for ELTC purposes. Again, very expensive.

  • Iris Connect

A mixture of both. Commonly used in state schools, also for ITT. Combination of hardware – cameras – and a mobile element e.g. iPads. There is also a software package that goes with it. Video is uploaded to IRIS servers, where it can be viewed and commented on etc. The equipment is very high quality, there is the ability to stream, there is the ability to share and comment (useful for CELTA/Delta). Being a ready-made system was good too. The big issue was that the content is locked down. Only the teacher who uploads it can access it by password. This didn’t fit the ELTC purposes. It’s also quite expensive – in the tens of thousands of pounds.

In the research for these bigger solutions, they found some smaller solutions:

  • Swivl 

A small, robotic device. Not too expensive (£350). It is basically a tracking device. The teacher wears a device round their neck (one comes with the Swivl when you buy it and you can also buy additional ones) and the tracker (in which you can put a mobile phone or iPad) follows this. It does not need an operator, which is useful. It can sit on a table, or a tripod. It can also be used (with an add-on) with other types of cameras. There is a microphone attached to the device that the tracker follows. Very high sound quality (where low quality is often a problem with recording in classrooms). It uses the camera and memory from the phone and the swivel system is directing where it is recording and providing the audio from the device worn by the teacher. Connect it to a computer, download the footage, upload it to youtube BUT !! unlisted. So it is not available to the public. Just as a storage system.

For peer observations, you can make it available for peers to see. The person doesn’t have to be in the classroom. David has also used it to observe a teacher for example teaching a class of muslim women who didn’t want a male in the classroom but was willing for a camera to be in there.

  • Google Glass

A pair of glasses. Enable showing the classroom from a teacher’s perspective. So you see what the teacher is seeing. (We saw an example of giving instructions, and of monitoring) Delta teachers have given them to the students to wear to see the class from a student’s perspective.

What about Web Tools?

After the video has been created, then what? They investigated tools that could be used for doing things with video.

– Video Ant: A tool for commenting on video. It allows you to annotate it and have markers where the annotations are. And you get “New annotation at ‘5.68” for example. Could be a comment or a question for the person to respond to. These annotations are shareable – for view only or for annotation as well, so people can respond.

– eduCanon: You can create different types of questions which are linked to a video. So you can add in questions at different points, that the viewer has to respond to as they watch. So the recording pauses and the questions appear and then the video continues again.

– Video in Google Forms: An additional feature where you can insert a video into a google form. E.g. with students who do presentations. You could insert the video and get them to self or peer assess it going through the questions on the form while watching. Or with CELTA trainees etc in a similar way.

-Youtube editor: Good for stitching bits of video together freely and quickly, if you want to make one video using bits of several.


Balancing out the needs of the hardware systems and the software systems. E.g. IRIS you get ease of use and quality, but no ownership. Or excellent quality vs. too high price.

Swivl and Google glass cost a lot less but the quality is sufficient for the moment.

Future plans

David and Will want to continue investigating it and use it for in-house training development. They also want to look into creating production quality video for commercial sale. There may be a gap in the market there. (Think the IH Observation DVDS etc.) They want to use this system also for standardisation of internal observations – a bank of two or three lessons to carry out standardisation for tutors who are going to go in and observe other teachers. Of course also it is bookable for self-development, teachers can privately film themselves for their own development.

To discover and understand is the university motto, this is one way for them to do this within the ELTC…

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Here  is the link to the presentation.

Wow! Again with the technology presentations where I learn all about things I didn’t know existed! 🙂


MATSDA 2014 – What about the other 165 hours a week?

Today I was lucky enough to do a 45 minute presentation at the MATSDA conference in Liverpool. This was held at Liverpool University and the usual lovely crowd of people attended. Thank you to all who attended my talk – one of four that took place at 12.0o.

My presentation focused on ways of helping learners increase their exposure to English, and their use of it, outside of class time. I feel this is essential for learning and acquisition to take place, as the limited quantity of time available in class is insufficient, and beset with course-book related issues.

I discussed obstacles to acquisition and then looked at the various projects I’ve been working on with learners,  for the last 8 or 9 months: my reading project, my experimentation with English project, my use of collaborative tools project (which is linked with the aforementioned experimentation project), my efforts to help my learners become language researchers. I also briefly discussed the materials I made for my dissertation project, whose goal was also to help learners make use of the language in the out-of-class environment.

For further information about these projects and to access all the references made during the talk and that I’ve used during the course of all the projects, please visit my learner autonomy page and look in the section entitled Learner autonomy-related projects. For information about my dissertation materials, scroll down further on the same page and see the third link in the Presentations section.

Finally, here are the slides I used during the presentation.

Thank you to MATSDA, and especially Brian and Hitome, for allowing me to speak and making me feel very welcome.

How do we help out learners to bridge that gap... Copyright: Lizzie Pinard 2014 (between Palermo and Cefalu, Sicily)

How do we help out learners to bridge that gap… Copyright: Lizzie Pinard 2014 (between Palermo and Cefalu, Sicily)

Top ten resources for teachers (part 2!)

“The internet is a great place for English language teachers, if you know to where to look!” …thus began part 1  – a post that was written to bring a group of internet-based gems together, to make it easier for all English language teachers to find and benefit from them. It has turned out to be a popular idea, even gaining a nomination for the  Teaching English British Council blog of the month award, BUT it also ruffled a few feathers: In making the list, I left off some brilliant resources!

So here is part 2 – another top ten resources for teachers to try out… This time, including the websites/resources that YOU wanted to see included! (Plus some more of my own…)

1. ELTpics


Screenshot of ELTpics home page

Screenshot of ELTpics home page


This collaborative project has made it possible for teachers to easily source creative commons – licensed photos for use in their classrooms. The above website has links to explanations about creative commons licensing, as well as how to download and accredit images. The images themselves are stored on flickr:

Screenshot of ELTpics Flickr site

Screenshot of the ELTpics photo-stream home

If you click on “albums”, then you can see, at a glance, all the different categories that are in use on ELTpics e.g. predictions, phrasal verbs, adjectives…  The project leaders set a new category on a regular basis, inviting everybody to send them pictures to upload into that category. You can also submit photos to be included in older categories. It is important that the photos you upload are your own and that if there are people in the photos (e.g. a picture of students doing an activity), that you have their permission to share those photos too.

2. Take a photo and…

Screenshot of Take a photo and...

Screenshot of Take a photo and…

Linked with the ELTpics initiative above, this blog contains ideas for how you can use photos – taken from the ELTpics stream or otherwise – in your classroom to great effect. Worth a look if you are after some inspiration!

3. (a) Teachit ELT

Screenshot of Teachit ELT

Screenshot of Teachit ELT

This is a website I hadn’t come across before – to the surprise of one of the readers of the original post. Free members have access to the above-pictured resources (nicely indexed in various ways – by level, skill, specialism etc) but can only download  .pdf files. If you want access, for example, to an audio track, you’d have to upgrade your membership. It looks as though you can get plenty of mileage out of .pdf access only, though, so worth a look.

Because you have to pay to enjoy the full benefits of this site, I will offer an alternative no. 3:

3. (b) Breaking News English

Screenshot of Breaking News English

Screenshot of Breaking News English

A 2014 ELTon nominee, this site offers freely available lesson plans and activities based on simplified news articles written by the site owner. Resources are divided up by level and as well as providing written text, there are also recordings of the articles being read aloud. These can be accessed at different speeds. There is also a dictation facility, which you can use with learners, allowing them to listen and type what they hear into a box (containing clues in the form of the dictation text written in asterisks, one for each letter of a word with space between words), and find out if thy are right or wrong.


A screenshot of

A screenshot of

Time for one of my own favourites! This wonderful site allows you to find out about words and chunks of language, through corpus data analysis. You can input a chunk of text and see which words fall into the top 500, the top 3000 and which words are outside of the top 3000, according to frequency of use. You get definitions, synonyms, common collocates divided up by word type. You can also see which register(s) words/chunks are used in and see examples of use, either filtered by register or all registers mixed together. As teachers, we are often faced by student questions regarding usage or student work containing language that doesn’t seem quite right to us, though there is no grammatical reason why it couldn’t be. is great for answering all these queries. Going a step further, it’s a great resource to get students using themselves, as a tool to help them answer their own language-related queries. If you want to know more, or want help using the site, I’ve written a series of posts about the site, including self-access materials to guide students (or teachers!) through use of it.

5. Science Direct

Screenshot of Science Direct

Screenshot of Science Direct

This is another one of my favourites. I hear you wondering, though, if I’ve got the name wrong – what’s science got to do with ELT? Well in fact, this is a site that allows you to search for articles from (as you can see) a range of disciplines. There are no small number related to different facets of ELT too. E.g. this search I did relates to learner autonomy and metacognition. You can search by journal title, author name etc. or browse by broader categories. One good thing about this site is that if you access a particular article, it will then offer you links to another set of articles based on the subject matter of the initial one you looked at. Of course there are the usual quantity of articles that are not freely available BUT, equally, there are plenty that are, and you can download these as .pdf files. So this is a handy way to access ELT-related literature.

6. Hancock McDonald English Language Teaching

Screenshot of Hancock McDonald English Language Teaching

Screenshot of Hancock McDonald English Language Teaching

This great site contains a mixture of classroom materials and other resources e.g. articles and reviews related to pronunciation and listening skills. The site owners, Mark Hancock and Annie McDonald, are successful published authors and materials writers, so the materials are of high quality and the blog content worth reading. Pronunciation and listening are often referred to as the Cinderella skills, those that get neglected, and that are difficult to teach. Well, this site provides the inspiration necessary to get to Cinderella to that ball!

7. Recipes for the EFL classroom

Screenshot of

Screenshot of Recipes for the EFL classroom

This handy little blog fills a niche: It doesn’t offer lesson plans or glossy materials, but what it does do (and well, if the stats I’ve heard about are anything to go by!) is offer a mixture of activities, techniques and ideas that you can very easily use in the classroom. Taking the metaphor of a lesson as a meal, this blog divides aspects of teaching up by course and provides “recipes” for doing things differently and perhaps that little bit better. As an added bonus, you get some actual food and drink-related recipes too! Well worth a visit and bookmark.


Screenshot of

Screenshot of

This site has been around for donkeys years. As well as lesson plans and resources, it hosts some discussion forums, a plethora of articles on ELT-related topics, a site of the month award offered on a – you guessed it! – monthly basis to recognise quality ELT websites, and more. You can also sign up for a weekly email that will bring teaching tips right to your doorstep – or inbox – regularly.

10. Film English

Screenshot of Film English

Screenshot of Film English

This website is an ELTon award winner for Innovation in Teacher Resources, and rightfully so: It contains a wealth of lesson plans based on short films. As well as using these to teach language, the lesson plans deal with “cine literacy” and encourage critical thinking skills development, important in this day and age. All resources are freely available, with the option of offering a donation to support the site and maintain its current “ad-free” format.


That brings me to the end of another Top 10! I hope you enjoyed it and will find it useful. To the person who recommended EFL Smart Blog , it seemed a good site (if an interesting colour scheme) but more directed at students than teachers. For my top ten resources for teachers list, there has to be a significant element of the site that is geared towards helping teachers in some way. As you can see by the range of sites listed, there is no fixed format for this help to take, the only stipulation is that utility for teachers, not only students. 

Keep the recommendations coming – there’s always the chance of a part 3!

Top ten resources for teachers

The internet is a great place for English language teachers, if you know to where to look! Here are my top ten resources (ok I cheated a bit by grouping some!) – have you used them all yet?

Conversely: What is your favourite resource?

– Have you used any resources that completely wowed you, that aren’t on this list?

Please comment and let me/everybody else know about them!

In no particular order then…

British Council Teaching English – website and Facebook page

Screen Shot 2014-05-11 at 20.40.15 screenshot of the home page

The British Council Teaching English website and Facebook page are both very valuable resources for teachers with any level of experience.

The website contains a wealth of freely available content, such as:

  • teaching ideas
  • articles on methodology, skills etc.
  • webinar recordings
  • downloadable ELT-related research
  • links to the blogs that have been awarded the popular “blog of the month” award and associate blogger posts
  • information about professional development courses

…and much more besides!

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Screenshot of the British Council Teaching English Facebook page


The Facebook page is where links are shared and people can be found discussing the ELT-related issues that those who run the page raise for this purpose on a regular basis. Both are well worth a visit!

Onestop English

Screen Shot 2014-05-11 at 20.39.23 screenshot of the homepage

onestopenglish is another goldmine of ideas for lessons and articles about different aspects of teaching. Good things about this website include the breadth of its resources (which are regularly added to) – as well as general English (divided into Grammar and Skills, which in turn are sub-divided into numerous other categories) the site holds ideas for teaching:

  • Business English
  • CLIL
  • TKT
  • ESOL
  • Young learners and teens

– and the ease with which it is possible to find things due to clear categorisation. In addition to resources, they also have a handy jobs section. Some of the resources are freely available, while some are only available if you subscribe.

Screen Shot 2014-05-11 at 20.39.39 screenshot of homepage. might seem less user-friendly than the above two websites, but is nevertheless a very valuable resource: as a researcher, you can register and upload .pdfs of articles that you have written, to share with the community, and as a teacher/reader, it gives you access to research for free, which is not something to be sniffed at!

English Teaching Professional magazine’s website : a screenshot of the home page : screenshot of the home page

You have most probably read, or at least heard of, the ETp magazine for teachers, which contains articles and activity ideas, book reviews and much more. Well, the ETp website is equally worthwhile and demonstrates commitment to professional development in the resources it provides to this end. Each of the different sections contain links to articles around various topics and the site also has its very own registered blogger, Chia Suan Chong, whose posts are always worth reading. Currently, EtP are also organising a one-day conference, which will be held on 21st June 2014 in Brighton.


Screen Shot 2014-05-05 at 14.46.31

The ubiquitous Twitter bird via Google search for images licensed for commercial use with modification.

Naturally! By Twitter, I don’t mean the Twitter website, per se. What I mean is the wealth of links it can make available to you and the discussions you could participate in, if you use it professionally. As everything you need to know is in the afore-mentioned link, I’ll leave Twitter right here.

Teacher blogs

Many ELT professionals these days maintain a blog. It is considered to be a valuable form of professional development to do so. It is easy to follow these blogs and be notified each time a new post is added. Here are a few to get you started:

Screen Shot 2014-05-12 at 08.29.42

Sandy’s blog – a screen shot

  • Sandy Millin’s blogSandy is a DoS at IH Sevastopol and has been blogging for a number of years now. Her blog contains a wealth of teaching ideas that she has tried and tested, reflections, collations of useful links, for example relating to the Delta qualification that she recently completed and to Cambridge exams like FCE. You might also like to check out her (Almost) infinite ELT ideas blog too, if you require an injection of fresh inspiration! In this blog, which is all about collaboration, she publishes a potential resource and canvasses ideas for how to use it with students. Now that she has finished Delta and is settled in her post-Delta new job, this site has been resurrected so keep checking back.
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Adam’s blog – a screenshot

  • Adam Simpson’s blog:Adam works at a Turkish university and is dedicated to his students and to his own professional development, as well as sharing these passions with others. His blog contains a wealth of interesting posts related to this.
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Rachael’s blog – a screen shot

  • Rachael Roberts’s blog Rachael Roberts is a teacher, MaW SIG committee member and materials writer, and her blog contains lots of useful teaching resources and materials that she has developed, together with the rationales behind them, and tips for creating your own materials too.

Some of these blogs sport a “blog roll” of other blogs that the owner has found interesting and useful, so it would be worth checking these out too. Of course there are hundreds more I’d love to name, but this post would get awfully long if I did so!

Some of the “big names” in ELT  also maintain blogs:

Jim and Adrian’s Demand High ELT blog – a screen shot

  • Demand High ELT is a growing site, owned by Jim and Adrian, and devoted to Demand High ELT. There is discussion, links to relevant resources, materials for seminars and more.
Screen Shot 2014-05-12 at 08.39.42

Scott Thornbury’s blog: a screen shot

  • An A-Z of ELT is Scott Thornbury’s blog, containing a wealth of articles about a range of ELT-related topics and issues.
Screen Shot 2014-05-12 at 08.40.49

Adrian’s pron blog – a screen shot

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Hugh’s multi-faceted blog – a screen shot

  • Hugh Dellar’s Blog is full of interesting discussion about various ELT-related topics and ideas that you could try out in your own classes, as well as recordings of talks he’s given at past events.

Of course, the kind of blogs you read will depend also on your own interests within the profession.

For example:

To see links to blogs which relate to ELT management, please click here.

To see links to blogs which relate to Delta please click here.

Why not start blogging yourself, too, if you don’t already? There are lots of good reasons to do so!

Free Webinars for Teachers

Free Webinars for Teachers

Free Webinars for Teachers

Free Webinars for Teachers is a Facebook group where people share information about free webinars that teachers can attend. This makes it a good way of keeping up with what is available in this area of online professional development. You need to make a request to join and posts are moderated so that content remains useful to members. You can choose whether or not to receive notifications when something new is posted.


There are three major players in the technology game, all of which are worth keeping an eye on in order to stay abreast of technological innovation:

Screen Shot 2014-05-12 at 08.49.11

Nik’s technology lover’s paradise – a screen shot

Russell Stannard's website which answers "How to..." for pretty much anything technology-related.

Russell Stannard’s site which answers “How to…” for pretty much all techy questions – a screen shot

The Consultants-E

The Consultants-E – a screen shot.

  • The Consultants-E : These guys offer training courses and consultancy services but also carry some freely available great resources relating to technology on their website. You can find these by clicking on “Resources” on their home page.


You could argue that this is part of Twitter, but these days #ELTchat exists beyond the bounds of Twitter too. There is the website, where you can find all the summaries carefully indexed by date, as well as links to podcasts and videos.

ELTchat - a PLN in the making: a screen shot.

ELTchat – a PLN in the making: a screen shot.

And there is also the Facebook group, where people share links to interesting sites they’ve found, to recent chat summaries and more.

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…and the Facebook group page – a screen shot.


IATEFL is the International Association for Teachers of English as a Foreign Language. This organisation has a website , a Facebook group page , and lots of satellite pages run by various of the SIGs or Special Interest Groups. - a screen shot – a screen shot

The website contains information about forthcoming events, links to webinars that the association has put on (as well as information about those forthcoming), information about the afore-mentioned SIGS and of course its jobs pages where you can see job advertisements, especially in the run up to the annual IATEFL conference, due to the job market place that runs during this event.

IATEFL Facebook group page

IATEFL Facebook group page – a screen shot

The Facebook page is a space to discuss ELT-related issues and share links of interest to others in the profession. It is not a place for self-promotion and advertising (or spamming!).

In terms of SIG pages, here are a few that I know of:

  • MaW SIG Facebook page : For materials writing fans –  here you can find information about events run by MaW SIG, links to materials writing-related blog posts and sites, information about other materials writing-related events and connect with people who are also interested in materials writing.

Here is a list of all the SIGs currently in action, so if you find one in your area of interest, google it and you will doubtless find a Facebook page and/or a website that it maintains. You could also email the coordinator (name and contact details given in the list) for more information.

SIGs are a great way to connect with like-minded individuals and keep up with issues in your professional area of special interest.

You have to pay to join IATEFL, as well as any of the SIGs themselves (which is highly recommended, as you get plenty of membership benefits), but following their Facebook pages and Twitter handles is open to all.

image taken from via Google search licensed for commercial reuse with modification

Don’t forget: share your favourite resources too, by commenting on this post!  – image taken from via Google search licensed for commercial reuse with modification.

I hope this post gives you some new resources to look at and I look forward to hearing about the other resources you’ve tried…