Thursday, 30 October 2008

Photo Fun with Your Students

Some time back in March 08 I wrote a posting on ideas for creating personalised Personalised flashcards for EFL ESL activities. That posting used a site called FaceinHole which had some nice images that you could upload you or your student's picture to.

I've just spotted another site called PhotoFunia that also has a nice collection that you could use with many of the same ideas.
Here's a few examples that you or your students could use as prompts to create stories around. You could also get them to create a completely fake biography. Here's mine. See if you can decide which parts are true!!!
  • Did you know I used to be an astronaut?
  • Before I became a teacher I was in fashion.
  • I also recorded a CD, but I only sold one copy. Wonder who bought it!
  • Of course I've made some pretty influential friends too.
  • And like every celebrity I had my own chat show
  • And er! Well I can dream, can't I?

Well I hope you and your students enjoy this site. It is of course free, but has some advertising on so watch out for that.

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Nik Peachey

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

What Can Students Learn from the Urban Dictionary?

I've just been struggling to write another activity for my Daily English Activities blog. I spent most of an hour browsing through the Urban Dictionary, another user created record of the modern English language.


On the one hand I thought that it was a complete waste of time in terms of finding any usable materials for EFL ESL students, but on the other hand I found it to be a really fascinating doorway into our modern culture and lifestyle.

The Urban dictionary is largely a user generated and edited collection of 'invented' words, some of which are gradually becoming part of our mainstream language, such as 'muffin tops' and 'spin doctor', whereas others .... well who knows? Will mass merchanditis and boyfriend drop soon become part of your everyday vocabulary?
In the end I decided to go ahead and use the site, as I thought that the cultural information in the content was so valuable. These are the word and definitions that I've chosen to use, and I think they give some valuable insights into our modern culture. Hope you enjoy them.
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Nik Peachey

Create Text to Speech Movies

I've just been playing with a really nice tool called Xtranormal that enables you to create nice animated movies. You can create a scene an a series of movies simply by choosing back drops and characters, writing your script for them and then just drop on different actions and sound effects.



This is an example that took me about 10 - 15 mins to create (Took me a while to work out that you had to write the script first - Der!!)
In many ways this is a similar tool to one of my long term favourites DFilm, which I wrote about some time ago in Make you own animated movies, though this is perhaps even better as the characters take your script and actually say it using the wonders of text to speech.

Xtranormal is a great tool for generating listening and writing activities, as well as being a lot of fun. I hope to be publishing some teaching tips for it soon.

At present the site is still n beta and it says that it is free to use for now, which makes me think you should use it now as they might start charging soon.

Anyway, hope you enjoy it.

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Nik Peachey

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Killer Apps in Second Life

Well anyone who keeps up with this blog on a regular basis will know that last Sunday (26th Oct 08) was my debut as a chat show host in Second Life.

Firstly I have to thank Gavin Dudeney from The Consultants-E for being my first guest and of course for sponsoring the series which will be taking place on his Edunation Island. Here's a quick clip of Gavin telling me about his 'Killer app' in Second Life and how he got pulled into working in Second Life.



The experience of being the show host was actually very enjoyable, even if somewhat surreal, with a native American appearing in loin cloth in the middle of the coffee table and at one point a young girl avatar running through the wall and into the audience!

Gavin was a very informative guest and talked about some of the difficulties and challenges of teaching language in Second Life as well as some of the amazing potential that virtual worlds offer for education.

We hope over the coming few days to be able to make the complete audio available for anyone who missed the event and wants to hear what Gavin had to say. Here are just some of the questions that Gavin answered:
  • What goes on at Edunation Islands 1 - 3 and what kind of people / institution are setting up business here?
  • Who comes on your TT courses? What’s thee typical profile?
  • The course uses Moodle with SL. Why the combination and will SL make Moodle redundant?
  • Could you tell us about the free teaching tools you’ve created?
  • Do you think SL is a viable place to for commercial language schools to make money from teaching?
  • Is communication in virtual worlds a new ‘genre’ of communication? Are the skills needed different?
  • It's often said that online learning isn’t suitable for beginners. Can beginners learn languages online in SL?
  • How can you over come the sense of coldness and lack of reaction while teaching in SL?
  • How should languages be taught in SL? Should schools be replicating classrooms?
  • What future developments would you like to see? What would you ask Linden Lab to develop to make language teaching more effective?
  • Is there a ‘killer app’ or characteristic that made you want to dedicate so much time to SL?
  • Have you thought about SL competitors and which ones would you consider shifting to?
For anyone thinking about getting involved in Second Life Education then check out the information on The Consultants-E website where you can find out about their training courses for teachers. Also worth checking out is Gavin's Blog That'SLife.

Hope you enjoy the clip. More later.

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Nik Peachey

Saturday, 25 October 2008

Easy Photo Editing

If you or your students need to edit photographs or pictures quickly, easily and for free, then DrPic.com could be the place for you. You can crop, resize add text change colours and create a number off effects with the real minimum of ease. You simply upload a picture from your computer and start to play.

You can also download the images to your hard drive or upload them to the web and all without any registration or passwords.

DrPic is a great tool for creating your own flash cards, adding text to images or just giving your students some hands on practice at doing their own photo editing. I'll certainly be using this myself.

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Nik Peachey

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Creating a Nation

Back in my classroom days I used to play a simulation game which my students always enjoyed. They were given a budget and country to run and they had to work in groups to decide how they would spend the budget to protect and develop their country.

Cyber Nations seems to have taken that game one step further and created an online simulation which students can play over a period of time. Actually 'one step further' is a bit of an understatement, as once players have created their nation and started to develop it and decide on the budget, taxes and governmental policies etc. they are then launched into competition with other nations that other players have created.

They have the chance to develop alliances, form trade partnerships and even attack or aid other countries.

This is a wonderful way to get students talking, reading, thinking and experimenting. You could either get students to form nations in small groups, alone, or you could have a class nation which you ruled democratically as a class project making new decisions each class.

The site is free, but it does require a password to register and activate your account.

Hope you enjoy this and find the time to get your students playing it.

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Nik Peachey

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Coffee With Gavin Dudeney in Second Life

This is just a quick announcement about a free event for educators in Second Life. On Sunday 26th October at GMT = 18.00 (GMT is 7 hours ahead of Second Life time, so that's 11.00 to 12.00 PDT)

I'll be interviewing Gavin Dudeney co author of How to Teach English with Technology from The Consultants-E about his teacher training activities in Second Life.

Gavin Dudeney
This will be a pretty informal event and there will be plenty of opportunity to ask questions and find out more about the work of one of the main innovators of ELT and teacher training in Second Life. You'll also be able to find out a bit more about some of the free educational tools Gavin has been developing for use in Second Life.

teaching ools for second life
If you would like to come along and watch the show and join in the discussion, then go along to Edunation III and click the sign-up terminals or email Gavin at: dudeney@theconsultants-e.com. The event is free, but we are limited to 100 places.

To find out more about Gavin's work in Second Life, Check out his blog That'SLife

If you don't have a Second Life avatar but would like to know how to set one up then you can download instructions from here. Setting up a Second Life avatar

Hope to see you there.

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Nik Peachey

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Lip Sync for Second Life

I've just been trying out the beta Lip synching feature of Second Life in preparation for a chat show I'll be doing this coming Sunday on Edunation III. I'm hoping to be able to create a video recording of the show and decided to see how well I could record video and use the lip synching feature to make it all look more realistic.

Well here are the results.


I'm actually quite impressed. I think it does add an element of realism that has been missing and greatly increases the potential of Second Life for creating Machinima or any other video or animation projects. If you want to have a go with the lip synching, this video shows you how to switch it on.



To create the movie I actually used two computers each with a seperate avatar on. I then used one avatar as the 'actor' and the other avatar to record the sound and video (recording was done on a MAC running I-ShowU) I then edited it with I-Movie and uploaded directly to YouTube from there.

On Sunday 26th October at GMT = 18.00 I'll be interviewing Gavin Dudeny co author of How to Teach English with Technology from The Consultants-E about his teacher training activities in Second Life.

If you would like to come along and watch the show and join in the discussion, then go along to Edunation III and click the sign-up terminals or email Gavin at: dudeney@theconsultants-e.com. The event is free, but we are limited to 100 places.

Hope to see you there.

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Nik Peachey

Friday, 17 October 2008

RSS and Personal Homepages for Teachers

I've finally found the time to edit and upload a video presentation I created for a training course here in Morocco. The focus of the presentation is on how setting up personal homepages and using RSS feeds can save teachers time and keep them better informed.



The catalyst for finally getting this done, is a discussion that is taking place between the Learning With Computers group (EFL teachers mainly based in South America, but increasingly becoming more international). If you want to be involved in this discussion you can sign up to join the group at: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/learningwithcomputers/
You can also follow the discussion on their blog at: Learning with Computers

You can watch the video presentation from my YouTube channel, above, or if you would prefer a higher quality version, click this link Personal Homepages and RSS.

If you are interested in creating your own personal homepage or doing training to help other teachers create homapages, you can find the tasks and instructions that I refer to here: Creating a personal homepage

Hope you find this useful and that you join the discussion.

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Nik Peachey

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

World Languages Assessment

I've never been a great fan of testing and assessment, so I was quite surprised to find some quite interesting and useful resources on the World Languages Assessment website.

For me, by for the most interesting part was the video on demand section which has links to seven 15 minute video clips about different areas of assessment, including technology in assessment and assessing cultural competence.


The video streams quite well and the quality of the low bandwidth version is more than adequate. Once you get past the initial, slightly stuffy, introductions, there are some clips of live classrooms and interviews with teachers which I found really interesting.

The rest of the site is worth checking out too as it has professional development guides, teacher resources and a link to a Ning based discussion forum.

Hope you enjoy this.

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Nik Peachey

Monday, 13 October 2008

Writing Project Community

WeBook is a great tool for writing projects. The great thing about it is that you can work on a writing project collaboratively, and submit it to the community for feedback and advice. Once you feel your writing is finished you can also enter it into a poll and WeBooks is even proposing to publish some work if enough people like it.

It seems like a great tool for EFL ESL writing projects as it offers your students the opportunity to get feedback from other people.

There are also some nice writing support tools in the 'Toolbox' section. I especially like the 911 writers' block tool and the writing tips in the Writing secrets section.

This is definitely a site for adults rather than young learners, as there are community elements and some of the writing is more adult orientated, but for general English students' writing projects I think this is a nice way to add extra motivation to writing tasks and adopt a more process writing approach. There's also quite large group of writers there discussing each other's work and helping with tips, sharing experience too, so that could also make interesting reading.

Hope you enjoy it.

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Nik Peachey

Friday, 10 October 2008

Free Web Publishing Community

I've just been checking out Scribd and I have to say I like it a lot. Scribd is a web publishing community which uses a tool that looks very similar to Flash Paper to enable users to upload and share documents ranging from single pages to complete books.


There's a really wide selection of books and documents uploaded that you can search through, and if you register, you can also start adding your own documents and projects.

The 'reader' part of the site delivers high quality at quite good speeds and you can also get an embed code so you can add the books to your site or blog and build tasks etc. around them. Here's a quick example of a short document on how to teach poetry:


Adding the embed code to this page took just a couple of seconds and I didn't need to register to get it. You just need to register if you want to upload documents.

If you go to Explore and look through the education section there are at least 1000 books or documents there all of which are free. Some really handy ones on teaching and also quite a few dictionaries including the Dictionary of English Slang.

Scribd is definitely a site I want to spend more time on, might even use it to make an e-book version of my Learning Technology blog.

Hope you find something useful.

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Nik Peachey

Thursday, 9 October 2008

New Social Network Creation Tool

I've been having a look at a new social network creation tool called SocialGo and I have to say it has a couple of very tempting features, especially for creating language learning networks.

I've been using Ning for a number of projects, (See my posting on Create your own social network 7 steps ) but thought I'd have a quick look at SocialGo and see what it has to offer. I registered with the site and managed to create a new social network platform in just a few minutes.

My first impressions were that it was very similar to Ning. It seems to provide the same kind of basic structure and ability to add in similar gadgets etc.

For me though, one of the killer features in its favour is the ability it offers to support user interaction through synchronous text and video chat. I haven't tried this out yet, as at present I'm the only member on my network, but if it works I would give serious consideration to building a social network for students to support my Daily English Activities blog, as it would provide a great place for students to upload and share their work and give some peer feedback and encouragement to each other.

My only reservation so far, is that some of the premium features (which will cost) are at present being offered on the free beta platforms that people create, so I don't want to end up with either a big bill or having to disable popular features later.

Anyway, I think SocialGo is well worth checking out. Hope to be able to post a follow up to this in a few weeks / months. Would appreciate comments from anyone else who tries it out too.

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Nik Peachey

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Videos for Global Issues Lessons

There's a fantastic collection of videos which can be used for focusing on Global Issues on the OneWorldTV YouTube channel. There are more than 100 of them and they focus on different issues from around the globe.
Here's how OneWorld describe themselves:

"OneWorldTV is a unique public platform for filmmakers, video journalists, NGO's and just about anyone with a video camera and an interest in social issues. It gives you the opportunity to access video messages and short films from around the world. Anyone with access to a camera and computer can contribute their films."

This is pretty emotive stuff, so be careful about the age groups and how you use it with your students. This is an example about cluster bombs dropped on South Lebanon.




The videos are mostly quite short, so they can be used with some lower level language speakers if you grade your task effectively. This is a fantastic resource on topics that are often hard to approach in class.

Hope you find these useful.

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Nik Peachey

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Bring the News into the Classroom: Online Presentation

I've just been enjoying a recording of a live Adobe Breeze presentation given by Sean Banville from Breaking News English. Sean was presenting and being interviewed by Jurgen Wagner of Fremdsprachen und Neue Medien

This is really well worth a watch, both in terms of the content, Sean is veteran EFL ESL podcaster with a real passion for his work, but also in terms of how the online presentation works with a live online group audience.

I found this really enlightening, partly because it was the first time Jurgen had attempted this and you can see how they are thinking on their feet to solve problems, but also because I'll be doing a similar thing myself in Second Life soon.

Nice one Jurgen. Look forward to seeing more of these.

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Nik Peachey