Tuesday, 31 March 2009

IATEFL 2009 Conference Online

Well I have arrived in Cardiff where I'm working with the online team for the 2009 IATEFL conference. The venue is fantastic with some great architectural features and some wonderful sculpture. I'm a particular fan of chandeliers so here's a particularly nice one.

A part from the architecture, there will be plenty to see, even if you aren't able to attend. A number of the sessions will be streamed live from the conference, and you can see a list of these along with times at: http://iatefl.britishcouncil.org/2009/live-sessions

We will also be videoing as many as 40 of the sessions and making them available asynchronously at: http://iatefl.britishcouncil.org/2009/programme/home so you can start checking those out after the next few days. You will also have the opportunity to comment on the sessions and engage with the presenters.

To keep up to date with what's happening register at: http://iatefl.britishcouncil.org/2009

Hope you enjoy the sessions and get involved with the special interest group forums. You can see more images from IATEFL 2009 here

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Nik Peachey

Monday, 30 March 2009

The Role of Computer Games in Formal and Informal Education

I've just been listening to this interview on Edutopia with James Paul Gee talking about reform in US state schools. He also has a lot of really good points to make about the role of computer and video games in education and the role that they already have in our students informal education.

I think this is a 'must see' video for anyone involved in teaching and education.

He does place very strong emphasis on technology, but I also find what he has to say about the de-professionalisation of teachers very important too. Well worth a listen.

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Nik Peachey

Monday, 23 March 2009

Great Collection of Short Films

I was first attracted to The Hyde Tube because of it's fantastically simple interface, but once I started looking at the content I was really knocked out by its huge collection or really great short movies.

They have been divided into 3 simple categories.
When you click on one of the thumbnail images, the video opens in the top left of screen. I was also pretty impressed by how fast everything loaded. My first impression, from the name (including 'Tube') was that this was yet another YouTube ap, but it looks like the films are unique content.

This kind of short visually powerful material is great for language classes and a great way to stimulate discussion and descriptive language use. Even something as simple as getting students to watch and develop a narrative for a clip can work well.

If you click on the share link above a video it will also provide you with a unique URL for that video so you can direct students to the ones you want them to watch.

Great stuff, free, all really simple and great to see that YouTube doesn't have ALL the best content.
Hope you enjoy it.

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Nik Peachey

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

A Speed Reader that Chunks

I've seen and tried quite a few speed reader tools recently, but Eyercize is the best one so far. I think this is mainly because it has a few really nice controls that can help to actually reinforce the way we read naturally (in chunks rather than word by word).

To try out Eyercize, just copy a text that you want to read, go to: http://www.eyercize.com/ and paste it into the text filed. Then just click on 'Now Read it'

This will take you to a page where you have some controls on the left hand side. The controls enable you to adjust the speed of the text and also the number of words in each chunk. They also allow you to control the number of words from the surrounding text that are shown. These are some very handy features. It also seems like Eyercize can also detect some punctuation and headings so it doesn't chunk across sentences and paragraphs.

Eyercize also provide a handy bookmarklet, which you can drag onto you browser and then just click when you want to speed read some text. See Tools to find out how it works. I think Eyercize is a handy tool to use, especially with language students, to build up good reading habits and to help to transfer their existing L1 reading habits to a new language.

It might be interesting to contrast this with the text based gifs created by Sceedbot. Screedbot enables to to input a text and then create a typewriter effect gif from it.

This is a handy tool for some things, but it certainly doesn't compliment the way we read naturally.

it might be useful to contrast the output from these two tools to draw trainee teachers attention to how good readers read or perhaps even with students.

Hope you enjoy these tools and find good uses for them.
Source of the Screedbot text is an article that I wrote for the TeachingEnglish website: 'Listening to Body Language'

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Nik Peachey

Monday, 16 March 2009

3 Views on The Future of English Language Teaching

Just been looking through the various guest writers that have appeared on the British Council | BBC TeachingEnglish website and comparing some of the very different views on the future of English language teaching.

There's an interesting cross section here. I often wonder how long a future we have and how long it will be before voice activated translation systems can replace the need to learn another language. I wonder how many of us or our students would still have the discipline to learn a language for the joy of really being ale to speak it, if they didn't have to????

Anyway, here are some differing views.

Mario Rinvolucri

Interview with Mario Rinvolucri

Rod Bolitho

Interview with Rod Bolitho

Jenny Johnson

Interview with Jenny Johnson

There has been a whole series of these interviews with each of the guest writers that have blogged on the site, so others worth checking out are:

Hope you enjoy these and find them useful.

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Nik Peachey

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Understanding Irony

Understanding humour and irony in a foreign language can be incredibly challenging, but is also very important. I think this is especially true of British humour which can be very dry. That's why I think one of the new features on BigThink is so useful. There are a series of clips of British writer, actor and comedian Ricky Gervais on the site and some of these give excellent examples of this kind of humour.

What's also really useful is that the site also provides tape scripts, so it is possible for students to read first and then see how the intonation, facial expression and other paralinguistic features change the meaning of the words.

An excellent example of this is a short clip of Gervais talking about how the economic recession has effected Celebrities.


Quick suggestion
  • To use this you could introduce the topic by getting your students to think about their opinions on this topic.
  • Then get them to read the tape script and see if they agree with the celebrity.
  • Then watch the clip and indicate on the tape script where they think he is joking or being ironic and when he is being serious.
  • You could also get your students to try identify the paralinguistic features that indicate that he isn't serious.
If you would like to contrast this with more serious clips then you could try
All of these clips also have great examples of very natural speaking, with lots of pauses, repetition, self correction and 'fillers'.
Hope you and your students enjoy this material.

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Nik Peachey

Friday, 13 March 2009

Exploiting Travel Images

I have to say that I do really enjoy the multimedia pages on the New York Times website. I think they really demonstrate how web based journalism can add new dimensions to a story.

One of the things that I particularly like is the multi media slide shows, and I think these are great to use with students as the images are strong and can arouse their curiosity, and the amount of authentic text isn't too much so students with a reasonable intermediate level of English they will be prepared to struggle through it. They are also nicely categorised around themes, which makes it easier to use a group of them to design materials around.

Suggestion for a travel lesson

This is a very simple idea that I came up with for exploiting the travel slide shows.
  • Just give your students the links to 3 or 4 of the different travel destinations.
  • Ask them to watch and read the slide shows and decide which of the places they would most like to visit for a holiday.
  • Make sure they justify their decision, the ask them to discuss or write about what they would do or see there and who and what they would take with them.
  • If your students choose different destinations you could pair them and ask them to persuade their partner to change destinations and come to the place they want to go.
Here are some of the destinations they could choose:
Well I hope you and your students enjoy some of these marvelous images. You can find more activities based around images on my Daily Activities blog

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Nik Peachey

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Ideas for Creative Writing

The Movie Plot generator is a handy site if you want to get fun ideas to get your students doing creative writing.

It's very simple, it automatically generates new movie plots each time you refresh your browser
The plots are very simple and based around two characters and an, often strange, scenario.

The ideas are ideal though to stimulate your students' imagination. You could ask them to produce a short script for a scene from the movie.
  • Scene where hero and heroine meet
  • Scene where they realise they are in love
  • Opening scene
  • Final scene
  • etc
Or you could use it to generate five or six scenarios and get students to vote of the one most likely to succeed / worst etc.

Or they could just write the story in more detail based around the plot.

Lots of quick, simple, creative language practice.(Some scenarios may not be suitable for younger learners)

Hope you enjoy it.

Check out 20+ writing activities on my Daily English Activities site.

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Nik Peachey

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Art Photography as a Basis for Language Activities

I've always loved and been moved and inspired by great photographs and I have always found them to be powerful prompts for language and communication. I think the power of images goes all the way back to cave painting which was our earliest form of asynchronous communication.

So whenever I see site with great images on I try to think about how they could be used with language students. Simon Hoegsberg's site is one such site. It's not just that these are great images, they are also powerful themes and he has also understood the potential of websites to deliver these images.
You can see some of his photographic projects at: http://www.simonhoegsberg.com/

Some of the projects I think would have the most immediate use would be 'Faces of New York'. A collection of images of 10 New Yorkers talking about their faces. This could act as a nice model to get students doing a similar thing or be great as a split reading with students having information about the different people and having to connect it to the correct face.

I also like this one with the rather morbid title of 'We're All Gonna Die Sometime - 100 Metres of Existence' which is a 100 meter long horizontal image of people taken walking over a bridge. It's a great one for getting students to identify people by their descriptions and to describe them.

Anyway, it's certainly worth checking out the other projects, though some of the image are quite strong and not recommended for younger learners.

Hope you enjoy these. If you like using images in language teaching it's also well worth checking out the Images4Education group, a group of educators who collaborate to develop teaching ideas that exploit web based image technologies. You can also find image based activities for learners here on my Daily Activities site.

Related links:

Nik Peachey

Monday, 9 March 2009

Coffee with Leon Cych

This Sunday 15th March 09 (GMT 18.00 = 11.00 PST) will see the next in our series of 'Coffee With ..' educational chat shows on Edunation II in Second Life, so please do come along, join our audience and meet other people interested in developing education and learning within Second Life.
In this show I'll be interviewing Leon Cych (aka: Eyebeams Electricteeth) Leon Cych is a web designer, coder, teacher, poet, artist, broadcaster, journalist, independent consultant, advisor, teacher in ICT in education in the UK.

He is passionate about advancing the sound pedagogical exploitation of new technologies within the state school environment. Among the things we'll be discussing are his involvement in projects like Schools of the Future, the G20 Summit, the Holodeck project and his work on developing narrative based learning and learning communities within Second Life. Leon also has his own Learn4Life island in Second Life

If you would like to see some of his work and find out a bit more about him, checkout these links:

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. The show starts at GMT = 18.00 (GMT is 7 hours ahead of Second Life time, so that's 11.00 PST and 19.00 CET)

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

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Nik Peachey

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Great Source of Animated Movies

I've just been enjoying some great animated movies on the Aniboom.com site. The site is like a YouTube for aspiring animators. they can upload their videos and interact on the Aniboom communities. The site pushes the quality videos to the front page so it's quite easy to find the 'good stuff'.

These kinds of movies are great to use with students as they are short and engaging and a lot of the communicative message is covered by the visual aspect, so you can even exploit many of these videos with lower level language learners.

There's a section of the site called 'Produce' which has series of animated movies that have been created for the site, so you could use these to build up a series of lessons for your students.

I also really like the 'Create' section which has a couple of nice tools to get students creating their own short animated movies and gifs.

One is called 'Shapeshifter' and it's a free online software for creating 2D animation. There's a video tutorial here showing how it works: Shapeshifter tutorial

The other is called 'Micro-Smotion' and it allows students to create animations using their webcam. They can then post these to blogs, Facebook etc or email them to friends.

There are even some free basic lessons in animation on Animate 101

So lots to do on Aniboom and well worth a visit. As with any website, be sure to check anything you use with your students before letting them see it.

Hope you enjoy this site.

Related links:

Nik Peachey

Monday, 2 March 2009

Image and Video Search

Tag Bulb is a great tool to make images and videos accessible within the classroom. It's also incredibly simple to use. Just type in your keyword and click. It searches through a range of video and image sharing sites and displays the results as thumbnails. You can just toggle between videos or images.

Tag Bulb is a great fast way to access visuals from your classroom and really handy if you have a data projector or IWB. It can become an instant picture dictionary or great tool for helping you stimulate discussion or brainstorm vocabulary around a topic.

Of course be careful about what you or your students search for as you/ they could come across some more adult orientated images, but on the whole this is a really useful tool.

Hope you enjoy using it.
Related links:

Nik Peachey