Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Pros and Cons as Web Based Research Tasks

I'm always looking for handy tools that students can use as follow up tasks to online research and Pro | Con Lists certainly looks like a good one.

The site enables students to collect together the advantages and disadvantages of a particular subject and create a list of each to see how they balance out.

Here's an example one on Solar Energy

As you can see, at the top of the page is the list of pros and cons,

and below it is the balance of the results.

When creating the list students can also add to or reduce the influence of some factors and balance emotional and rational factors of each too.

It sounds complicated, but these are very easy to produce. Just register and log in and go to 'Create a list'. Give the list a title, select the topic and add a description. You are then ready to start adding the pros and cons.

Each of the pros and cons added has a default weight of 3 in both the emotional and rational settings, but students can click on the numbers to increase or decrease the weight if they think the pro or con is more or less significant.

Once they have completed their lists they can publish them or share them through a range of social media platforms.

Visitors to the lists can then leave comments or agree or disagree with each of the individual pros and cons in the list, simply by clicking on them and voting.

To see how this works I've created a short Pro and Con list on the topic of Interactive Whiteboards. Feel free to comment and suggest more pros and cons.
I think Pro | Con Lists is a great way to follow up web based research activities and would work really well combined with something like Mashpedia.
  • Students could go to the Mashpedia site and search for information on something like wind power, solar power or even different political parties or sporting teams, then use the information they find to create their list of pros and cons.
  • Once the lists are created they could share them with other students and vote on whether they agree with the pros and cons.
  • Students could also use the site to brainstorm pros and cons before they do research. This would get them thinking about the subject first and they could then look back at their own lists and see how they could change or modify them.
What I really like about the site is that it gets students thinking and evaluating the power of their arguments too.

It would be nice if the lists could be added to by visitors, but that doesn't seem to be possible, but I still think this is a really useful tool and one that can be used to create research based reading and listening tasks.

I hope you like it and find it useful.

Related links:


Nik Peachey

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Create Quick Video Task Sheets

Vidinotes is an interesting site that I spotted a few weeks back. It's a great way to produce instant (almost) video worksheets to go with YouTube videos.

Basically, what it does is to convert an flv video file into a number of screen shots with a space next to each screen shot for the students to take notes.

I picked this silent video with sound track by Micheal Galasso as it has a very visually rich digital narrative and made a worksheet for it.

To do this I first had to download the video as an flv file. I did this using the KeepVid site recommended by Vidinotes. Then you have to upload the flv clip to the Vidinotes site. This was pretty slow, but it will depend a lot on the length of your clip and you can do other things while you wait for it to upload.

Once the clip is uploaded start to play it and simply click the 'Capture' button when you see a frame you want in your worksheet.

As you capture images they will appear on the right of the video. And you can either give each image a title or leave it blank. You have to give the worksheet a name though.

Once you have captured all the images you want from the video (you can select up to 30) you simply click on 'Print' and you have your worksheet.
You can use these worksheets for a range of activities and with a range of different video types.
  • You could use them as prediction tasks before students watch the clip. Students could predict the story or what the characters will say.
  • Students could try to write in what the characters are thinking at each stage of the clip.
  • Students could use the worksheet to make notes of lectures or how to videos.
  • Students could use them to summarise steps in a process being described.
  • Students could describe the images from the video and build their own narrative or sets of instructions.
Here are some example worksheets from the site. You can check these out and think about how you might use them with your students.
This is a great way to create simple and versatile video worksheets that won't take you too long. I hope you find it useful and create some great tasks and activities for your students.

You can find 25 more video related activities for EFL and ESL students here.

Related links:

Nik Peachey

Monday, 26 April 2010

Get Rid of Embarrassing Ads

There's nothing worse than sending your students to or showing your students a website only to discover it is covered in embarrassing or unsuitable advertisements.

Most of you who use any websites with students will probably have seen these IMVU ones which seem to appear even on very respectable websites.

Well here's a really easy way to get rid of them. Just go to Enter the URL of the site you want to remove the ads from and click on 'Go'.

Now you have the site without the ads.

If you want to make sure the ads don't appear next time you go there or when you send your students to the site, just copy the URL from the top of the page and use that as your link. That's what I've done here, so if you click the link now you should be able to see the page with or without ads.

This won't work with every ad from every sites, but it can get rid of quite a few on most innocent sites.
  • You should also check to see if you can navigate around the site and make sure it has blocked any legitimate features of the site.

Adout isn't perfect but it's a free and easy way to get rid a few potential embarrassments particularly if you work with younger learners or students from more sensitive cultures.
There's even a browser button that you can add to your browser.
Just click on it if anything unexpected appears and it should help you to get rid of it.

I hope you find this useful.

Related links:

Nik Peachey

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Create Authentic Web Based Research Tasks With Mashpedia

I've just discovered Mashpedia and I have to say I really like it. It's a combination of a search engine and an encyclopedia. It's very simple to use, you just type in a search query and hit search.

The site will then generate a page of information links about your search topic. It collects information from multiple media and different sources from books, blogs , text images to video and even Twitter references.

Here's a couple of example pages I created, just click the titles to see the pages compile themselves.

This is a great tool for creating reading and research tasks for students, based around authentic materials. It creates genuine web based reading tasks that demand that students assess clues to text content from multiple sources before exploring the links, then read or watch for gist to check relevance before reading / listening more deeply for specific information.

The pages will always create similar though not identical content so don't create very specific reading and research tasks, make sure the tasks are general and more generic.

Here are some possible reading / research tasks you could use which would work for most topics:

  • Get students to look at the information and use it to create a quiz on the topic. They find information that interests them and write questions to quiz the rest of the class.
  • Set students to find 5 - 10 facts about a topic. You could stipulate some of these need to be negative aspects and some positive to make it more challenging.
  • Get students to search the page and decide which of the sources it links to is the single most informative or interesting.
  • Get students to research a topic and create a multimedia poster about it using text, images and video embedded. You could use something like Glogster for them to show their results.
  • Get students to research a topic and create a short documentary or news report about it. If you have access to a video camera you could video their presentations.
Of course you still have to be careful with younger students as you can't control what comes in to the page, and also expect much less of lower level students and set them quite simple tasks, perhaps as simple as pulling out some images and describing them etc.

This is a great way to generate web based reading tasks from authentic materials that students can access in an authentic way. I hope you find Mashpedia and these suggestions useful.

Related links:

Nik Peachey

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Future of Educational Technology 1: The Digital Divide

This will be the first in a series of articles I’m planning to post over the next few weeks on the topic of the future of learning technologies.

In this series I’m going to look at some trends and developments in a range of technologies and try to see how they relate to each other and how they might impact on education over the the next few years.

One of the first things I would like to focus on is the digital divide and what I believe is the ‘myth’ that technology is expensive.

Firstly, I would like to state that the digital divide hasn’t been created by technology, but by economics. It’s a financial divide that has been around for thousands of years and one that thousands of years of paper education hasn’t been able to bridge.

Here is some thing that I feel puts this in perspective though.

I first bought a computer in 1997. It cost almost £2,500. It was one of the first computers with an MMX chip which meant that, as well as connecting to the Internet (by unplugging my phone and connecting the cable to my computer) at a staggering 32k, if I waited long enough I could actually download and play extremely tiny and blurry video clips. When I paid extra (quite a lot extra) for some software I was able to create text and spread sheets and if I bought some more software I could edit images and make some pictures. This computer had the same storage capacity on the hard drive as that of all the computers in the UK in 1975 put together.

Ten years later in 2007 I bought an iPod Touch. It had ten times the capacity of the computer I had paid £2,500 for so that’s ten times the capacity of all the computers in the UK in 1975 combined. It fits in my pocket, connects to the Internet through wireless broadband, I can stream and watch high quality video, audio, read and create text, download literally thousands of small applications to modify the tasks it can do for me from using it as a recording studio to drum machine to games console and it cost me well below 10% of what I paid for the computer ten years earlier.

If this rate of development remains consistent that means that by 2017 for around £20 I will be able to by some form of portable device that will have 100 times the capacity of all the computers in the UK in 1975 put together, carry it in my pocket, if I need to carry it at all, be able to access the biggest library of books, audio and video ever assembled in the history of humankind and create who knows what on it.
Photo credit: Scott Beale - Laughing Squid
The educational potential of such a device at that price is truly astounding, especially when you put that in perspective against the price of books. That’s approximately the same price as just one students’ text book at today’s prices.

Often when I do talks or training on technology I get at least one teacher saying something about the digital divide, as if that were a good reason for not using technology in education (We’ll be making the digital divide bigger if we do!).

This has the same logic as refusing to give your students food because some people in the world are starving! Surely what we really want is to feed everyone and to educate everyone and perhaps for the first time technology is taking us to a place where that might just be possible. Personally, I’m looking forward to 2017.

In the next post in this series I'll be looking at the humble web cam and its possible role in the future of technology.

Related links

Nik Peachey

Monday, 12 April 2010

Let us Now Praise Famous Women

This is a post that I have been trying to find time to write for over a year now and the urge and urgency to write it has grown every time I go to conference and every time I hear a few irritating comments.

The comments usually fit into one or more of these categories
  • Where is all the new talent?
  • Why aren’t there more women speakers around?
  • Well technology that’s for the guys.
I think that more than anything, after this years' IATEFL conference these kinds of comments should stop once and for all.

So I’ve chosen focus this post on just a few of the many great tech savvy speakers, teachers, tweeters and of course women from this years conference.

Shelly Turrell & Ozge Karaoglu
One of the great presentations that everyone was talking about this year was by Shelly and Ozge.
Ozge based in Turkey and Shelly based in Germany were reporting on a project they created between their classes of young learners. They shared the results of their work and information about the kinds of tools and the issues involved in running a project of this kind with young students.
Shelly publishes her own blog ‘Teacher Reboot Camp’ which focuses not on technology, but on the pedagogical exploitation of technology with students. So be sure to check that out.

Ozge also has her own blog 'Ozge Karaoglu’s Blog' where she writes about and reviews Web 2.0 type tools for learning with a particular focus on using these tools with young learners.

Marisa Constantinides
Marisa was just one of the stars of this years’ Pecha Kucha presentations (20 slides in 6.40 minutes). You can watch the Pecha Kuchas here: IATEFL 2010 Pecha Kucha
  • Marisa also has her own blog ' TEFL Matters' where she publishes information on language teaching, teacher education and new technologies. Marisa is a teacher trainer and also runs a busy teacher training school in Athens. Among the things you can find on her blog are links to her recent presentation on animating course books with digital materials and some of her reflections on being an online teacher in a virtual world.
  • You can also add Marisa to your PLN and start following her on Twitter at:

Burcu Akyol
Burcu was also one of the star presenters at this years’ Pecha Kucha event and she opened the event with 20 slides of 20 seconds about how Twitter had effected her professional life and its impact on conference events such as IATEFL and the recent ISTEK International ELT Conference (27-28 March 2010 ) which she helped to organise in Turkey.
  • Burcu also publishes her own blog 'Burcu Akyol's Blog' on a range of teaching and ELT related topics and I can highly recommend it particularly if you are looking for somewhere to find information about building your PLN.
  • Yes you’ve already guessed that she too is prolific producer of tweets, so be sure to add her to your network.

Petra Pointner

Among Petra’s striking contributions to this years’ IATEFL conference was her presentation 'What students can get out of Twitter' on her use of Twitter with her students. Petra talks in this interview about how she became interested in Twitter and how it has impacted on her professional life. Interview with Petra Pointner
Karenne Joy Sylvester
Last but by no means least is Karenne Sylvester. Karenne’s presentation was on working in educational online communities and she explored some of the issues involved in being an e-moderator and working online with learners.
  • You can also see Karenne doing, what for me was one of the highlights of the entire conference, her Pecha Kucha presentation on the history of the English language.
  • Karenne also writes her own blog 'Kalingo English' which explores many of the pedagogical issues surrounding the use of educational technology with a particular focus towards business English. It’s a great read so do check that out.
  • You can also follow her on Twitter at:

So here are just six of the many great women who were presenting at IATEFL this year. I have picked these six, not just because they are women, not because they blog or tweet and not because they use technology, but because all six are primarily great teachers and educators with great ideas that they want to share and because they critically apply their knowledge of education to the way they exploit technology with their students.

For me this is of key importance and significance. Technology was a huge feature of this years’ IATEFL conference and it’s very easy to be blinded or pulled along by the technology, but in the work of these six women there is for me some sign of the beginnings of a state of normalisation of technology in language teaching. A state when we can move past talking about technology and get back to talking about teaching of which technology is just a normal part and an enabler in that process of learning. I'm sure that time of normalisation will still be a long time coming, but it's great to see that at least it's beginning.

Related links:

Nik Peachey