Friday 29 February 2008

English Online

Please forgive more than a hint of self promotion (Well I am a blogger so what can you expect?) in this posting. I've recently written an Action Research Toolkit, aimed mainly at language teachers, but it may well be of use to teachers in other disciplines too, which has now been published on a pretty impressive new British Council website in China.

The action research toolkit is split into various components with articles on a possible research cycle, planning research as well as suggestions for how to use video and audio recordings in your research, how to design questionnaires and even some downloadable tasks and tip sheets.

You can download the complete kit from here

The Toolkit is part of the British Council in China's English Online site which has been designed with sections for both teachers and learners.

The section for teachers has some pretty handy tools like a flashcard archive , some video footage from inside the classroom (which is always useful and often hard to find) as well as a photo library for teachers to use.

What I like best about the site though is that it's one of the British Council's bravest attempts to really build a site that is very 'Web 2.0'. They have really tried to take on board and encourage the building of a sense of ownership and community within the site's user base.

Registered users can create their own blogs, get involved in forums and vote, comment on and rate the content.

I think this is a bold step forward for the British Council and a site that's well worth checking out whether you are based in China or not.



Thursday 28 February 2008

Looking at the universe

Well Microsoft had to go one better than Google's Earth and bring you the whole universe! I've just been watching an amazing video from the TED Talks website. It's about the new WorldWide Telescope that Microsoft will be launching in the Spring of this year. This will enable web users to explore the universe in close up detail by drawing on imagery from a whole range of the world's most powerful telescopes.

The images and capabilities being described on the video look really amazing. Well worth a watch!

Hope you enjoy it. Really looking forward to getting to use this.


Wednesday 27 February 2008

Football vocabulary

This is a great free online game called GoalUnited. It isn't designed for education at all but I'm sure anyone who is keen on developing their English and has an interest in football would enjoy it and get a lot of vocabulary and reading practice from it.

The game is played in a similar manner to the popular Football manager computer game and each player builds up a team and plays against other teams online.

As I said it's free. It is available to play in other languages too so make sure your students choose to play it in the language they want to learn rather than the one they already speak.

I'm not really a football fan myself so I haven't really spent time with this, but for students that are, I'm sure it could be very motivational.

English version is here
To choose from other languages try here

Hope you enjoy it.



Tuesday 26 February 2008

Free PDF editor

I haven't tried this yet, but I have just seen a free PDF editor on

Here's what it says; "Free editor for PDF documents. Complete editing of PDF documents is possible with PDFedit. You can change raw pdf objects (for advanced users) or use many gui functions."

Sounds pretty handy. I would also recommend keeping an eye on and having a look around as there is quite a lot of useful free software there.

Hope you find it useful


Monday 25 February 2008

Vocabulary and rice

This is a great site for revising vocabulary (at a higher level) and helping to donate food to the UN World Food Program. There is an audio of a word and students have to choose the correct synonym (there's a choice of four). For every correct answer Free Rice donates 20 grains of rice.

The site also rates the level of your vocabulary and sneds you more difficult questions if you are getting the answers.

Great vocabulary building and a worthy charity all in one.
I found it pretty addictive. Try it at Free Rice


Friday 22 February 2008

Tackling Race Issues

This week the Big Think is running a feature to coincide with Black History Month. It includes videos from Black American leaders from a wide range of fields and backgrounds giving their thoughts and reflections on race and identity issues.

This is great material for basing lessons around and should promote a lot of discussion within your classroom.

As ever with sensitive issues, you'll have to handle this carefully, but watching the videos is a good way of raising awareness, without having to tackle the issues head-on.

Here's an example of one of the videos.

You can check out some of the other videos at:

For a more complete review of Big Think have a look at my Learning Technology Teacher Development Blog at:

Hope you find this material useful.



Thursday 21 February 2008

DVD converter

Handbrake is a really useful piece of free software I've been using recently. It enables you to convert and even edit DVDs so that you can play them on other devices. This includes a range of mobile devices like i-pod and Sony PSP as well as just playing them on your computer / TV.

It also gives you the option of copying them with the subtitles showing or just saving particular scenes and reduces the file sizes for storing back ups of your DVDs.

It's really useful and runs on a range of platforms MAC and Linux as well as Windows.

Hope you find it useful, but remember to respect copyright laws.



Wednesday 13 February 2008

Downloading Online video provides a really useful and user friendly service for anyone who wants to use video clips from sources like YouTube, but doesn't want their students looking around at anything unsuitable, or for anyone who has ever found a really useful clip, only to go back later and find it has moved or been removed.

You can use the site to search through a huge collection of videos from various video sharing sites and when you find something you like the site will download and convert it to a file type of your choosing.

The range of file types is great and includes ones suitable for mobile phones and i-pods, so if you want to get your students doing some mobile learning then this is a seriously useful site.

The site is free and you can use it without login or registration, though if you do register, it's free and you do get other services too.

Hope you find this useful and by all means leave a comment here if you've tried it.



Five ways to improve technology in education

I've just been reading 'Five ways to improve technology in education' posted by Todd Ritter on downloadsquad.

Todd reports on a recent Technology Expo conference he attended and describes the reactions of teachers to what are some pretty mainstream technologies.

His five basic recommendations to teachers are:
  • Stay informed
  • Focus on the learning process, not the end product
  • Work with IT professionals who understand education
  • Become a user
  • Don't be afraid of change
If you are reading this, then you are probably well up on most of those, but I still think it's worth a read and worth printing up for your staffroom too.

I would also recommend subscribing to the downloadsquad rss feed as I've found it a really valuable source of breaking news technology information.



Saturday 9 February 2008

Free video editing software

I just spotted this rather nice simple video editing suite from Pinnacle. It's free to download (150Mb) and has quite a few nice features that put it above the standard Microsoft video editor.

It supports flash and direct upload to YouTube, it also enables you to save your movies in a number of formats, many of which are compatible with a range of mobile devices such as i-pod and Sony PSP.

I've downlaoded it and it seems pretty easy to use. You can add transitions, text , music sound effects etc.

The catch is that if you want to keep using the codecs that enable you to export to DivX and Mepg2 - 4, then after a 15 day trial you'll need to buy those. Not sure yet how much they are though.

You can download it from:

If you don't need those, then this is a really handy video editor for free.
It runs on Vista and XP, but not MAC, but then if you have a MAC you won't need it.

Hope you find this useful



Wednesday 6 February 2008

Temporary bookmarking

This is something I'm finding really useful right now. It's called Instapaper and it's something similar to a temporary bookmarking system. If you go to the site and create a log in, you can then drag a small icon from the page and onto your bookmarks tool bar. The icon looks like this:

Once the icon is in your tool bar you simply click it every time you find a page or an article on the web that you would like to read later (but don't have time at the moment) and it will create an entry on your Instapaper account page.

Then when you have time to read you go to the page and click on the links to the articles you want to read. The site then marks them read, allows you to delete them or if you prefer you can annotate them and keep them saved.

This must be a really handy tool for anyone doing web based research. It saves you having to bookmark a whole lot of stuff that you might want to delete later and is really quick and easy to set up and use.

Unfortunately, it won't read the articles for you though. Wonderful little tool, hope you find it useful.