Sunday 30 May 2010

Image Based Speaking Activity for IWB

This is a quick image based speaking activity that any teacher with an IWB or just a data projector in their classroom can do.

It's based around a photographic portfolio site by photographer Scott Stulberg. Scott's site opens directly to a slide show of some of his fantastic images.
The slides change at the rate of about 1 every 4 seconds and the sequence seems to be pretty much the same each time you go to the site. Here you can see Scott's images

So what's the activity?
  • It's very simple tell your students to watch the image slide show. After about 10 - 15 images, close the site and put your students in pairs and try to get them to brainstorm as many of the images as they can remember. This should get them talking and describing the images to each other.
  • Once they have had some time to talk and remind each other, get some feedback from the class and try to get them to describe as many of the images as they can remember to you. Help them with any vocabulary they may be struggling with.
  • Next, ask them if they can remember the order of the images. Which one was first etc? Put them in pairs once again to discuss again and try to remember the order.
  • Next, play the slide show again and get the students to check the order. When the slide show is finished. Get the students to once again tell you the order of the slides.
  • In the next lesson, ask the students again to try to recall and describe in pairs as many of the images as they can remember from the previous lesson. You could use some vocabulary words, especially the new words that came out of the lesson as prompts.
If you want to follow this up by getting some more static images to get students to describe in more detail, then be sure to check the index, as there are lots more images there.

I've always found images to be a very powerful tool for helping students to remember vocabulary and descriptive words. I hope you find this activity useful.

Find more: image based activities for EFL / ESL students

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Nik Peachey

Tuesday 25 May 2010

Create Books for the IPad

ePub Bud is a free tool for creating books for the iPad. It does this in a number of ways. Either you can send a book to the company and they say they will digitize it for free, you can upload an existing digital copy and it will be converted on the site, or you can use the WYSIWYG interface to write straight into the site.

I tried uploading my Web 2.0 Tools for Teachers manual from the PDF format and this is what it came out like. You can download it from here if you are lucky enough to have an iPad Web 2.0 Tools for Teachers iPad edition

The process of uploading it was pretty simple. Once you are registered you just click on 'Upload', locate the file in the usual way and click again to upload it. Once the file is uploaded, it takes a short while to convert it to the format for iPad.

When it has been converted the status will change from 'unprocessed' to 'Converted to ePub'. You can then share the link with anyone who wants to read your materials or book on their iPad. You can set privacy status on the file and add tabs and index it. You can even edit the file once it's uploaded using the on site WYSIWYG.

This is a great way to convert content for use on the iPad. It doesn't have to be books of course, you could also use it for worksheets, or notes for your students or books or stories they have created themselves.

It's also worth checking out the books that are already there too as there is quite a collection. The focus seems to be mainly on children's books at the moment. Have a look in the 'browse' section and see if anything takes your fancy.

Now all you need is an iPad!

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Nik Peachey

Thursday 20 May 2010

Ask & Answer Video Questions

Much as I don't like appearing on video I do like web based video tools and is one that caught my eye recently. is an asynchronous Q&A site which allows users to ask and answer each other's questions either by text or video.

It's very easy to use, you just need a webcam and to set up your account. Once you have done that you can integrate it with Twitter or Facebook (though I would advise that you wait to see how useful it is first) and you can start inviting friends or students to follow you and invite them to leave questions for you. It's a good idea to get started by getting to ask you a few random questions, so that when visitors come there is something for them to see. This is very simple to do. Once you have created your account, go to the 'Inbox' and click on 'Ask yourself a random question'.

Once the questions appears, you can answer it either using text or video, just by clicking the icon on the right.
Clicking the video icon will launch the video recorder window. You'll need to click on 'Allow' so that the Flash plug in can access your camera and microphone.

Then you just click on 'Record' and start recording your answer to the question. You can try again if you don't get it right first time so don't worry too much. If you like your recording, just click on 'Use' .
All of your video answers are collected in your 'Activity stream'so you can go back and edit or delete them later.
The next thing to do is either start inviting friends through Twitter or Facebook, or if you prefer just send the URL of your stream to people who you want to ask you questions. The they can either submit a questions by text or record a video questions for you. You can see my stream and try it at:

The activity stream is a little like Twitter in that you can start to follow people or they can follow you, so you can start asking and answering each other's questions and see what questions other people have been asked.

How to use this with students
  • I think this is a great 'ice-breaker' especially for an online class where students don't really get to meet each other and are often working in different time zones.
  • It's also a great way for lower levels to get some online speaking practice for homework and the fact that they record their answers will be interesting when they come to look back on their progress. Also great for you to help assess their progress too.
  • It's also a nice way for new classes to get to know you as their teacher. This can be really difficult in bigger classes with lots of students, so this can add a nice element of 1 - 1 contact.
  • Questions and answers are the fundamental building blocks of language, so this is a great tool for checking out students' grammar and their ability to formulate questions and answers in any particular tense, so great online controlled speaking practice too.

Potential problems
  • This is an open site, so students can be 'found' by other people, so think about what age groups you use the site with. If you are following the students, however, you will be able to see who they are interacting with and as all accounts are registered you will be able to track back any bullying or abuse that may happen.
I hope you enjoy using this with students and by all means do leave me a question if you want to and I'll do my best to answer it.

Related links:

Nik Peachey

Wednesday 12 May 2010

Collaborative Text Editing Tool

If you have ever seen PrimaryPad or EtherPad, then will probably look quite familiar. It's an online collaborative text editing tool, that allows multiple users to work on the same text synchronously.

It's very simple to use, you just click on the 'Create a New Public Note' button and it launches the text editor and gives your text a unique URL. You then just click on 'Share this Note' to send your URL to any of a number of different social networks or by email.

Once visitors click the link they can start editing the text. The edits of each visitor are colour coded and they can even communicate with each other while they edit by using the text chat window that opens by the side of the document.

It isn't clear exactly how many visitors can work on the same text (PrimaryPad supports groups of six) but having too many people working on the same text can often lead to chaos. has very hand desktop launcher though, so you can create multiple pads and then get different groups of people using them, just by clicking on the 'New Note' button.

One of the other interesting features is that you can use the 'Time Slider' feature to 'replay' the development of the text. This shows you how and who has developed the text, added and edited parts. This is a great way to track how much work each of your students did on the text.

This is a really useful tool for a connected classroom or computer lab where you can get students developing texts and peer editing together. It's also great if you are running online courses and you want students to work together on a text. I've also written about how it can be used within presentations to make them more interactive here: 3 Tools for Exploiting the Wifi During Presentations

I've added a pad below so you can click the link and try adding ideas on how to use and editing other people's ideas. I'm not sure how long this will stay live though.
I hope you find this useful and manage to add some ideas or leave some comments.

Related links:

Nik Peachey

Sunday 9 May 2010

Create Quick Interactive Activities

I've just been looking at this really useful tool for creating interactive close text activities (300 words limit).

The tool is produced by Nottingham University and can work with quite a range of languages, not only English.

The first step is to grab a text you want to use with your students. I just grabbed the first couple of paragraphs of a BBC News Report. Paste the text into the field and select which type of words you want to remove. Then select the type of activity you want it to be. At present there are 3 choices:
  • Drag and drop
  • Fill in the blank
  • Multiple choice
Just click the one you want and then click on 'Submit' and wait for your text to appear.

The drag and drop activity works pretty well. The students see the words beneath the gapped text and drag them onto the gaps. If the words are correct, they turn blue and become part of the text, but if the are wrong, they turn red and return to their place.

With the fill in the blanks activity the students see the gapped text and click on the gaps to type in the missing words. Again, correct word go blue and wrong words go red. The students can right click on the gap to get a first letter hint, or the solution.

The multiple choice exercise is slightly more complicated, it generates a gapped text and then you have to right click on the gap to get the alternative choices to appear to the right of the screen. It's quite impressive that it generates its own credible alternative words for each gap, but when I tried to create an exercise that gapped multiple word types, it couldn't create the activity, so if you use this option just select one word type.

This is a really useful tool for quickly creating activities for students. The down side is these activities can't be saved, so you either have to use the activities in class with an interactive whiteboard or data projector, or get students to work autonomously to create and complete their own activities. My advice would be to do a few in class to show the students how they work, then get them to create their own on their own computers.

This is a great way to revise a text or to discover examples of particular structures in context. I like tat you can select to remove all numerals as this can be great for getting students to predict answers before reading for specific information.

I hope you enjoy using this tool and find it useful.

Related links:

Nik Peachey

Tuesday 4 May 2010

Future of Educational Technology 2: The Web Cam

In the first of these articles on the future of educational technology I had a quick look at the Digital Divide and how continually falling prices and improving standards could help to bridge the divide. In this second article I'd like to look at the developing role of the web cam.

Video Conferencing
So how about the role of the humble web cam? Web cams have been around for a while now, though they don’t tend to get used so much, though there is a lot of talk about telepresence. Telepresence is supposed to be video conferencing but with such good quality it seems like the person is in the same room with you. Here’s what it looks like.

Looks pretty expensive doesn’t it? I can’t say I’m impressed by this. Having used very similar equipment (probably equally expensive) and tried to have discussions between two groups of people in different rooms, I have to say that even if the quality was great it would be far from ideal.

Personally I feel that we can work just as well on our laptops with the built in web cam and a free tools like The quality that these services can offer is likely to improve over the coming years as they become more popular and attract more investment.

Iris and Facial Recognition
But how about this idea? Have you been through immigration at an airport recently. If you have you may have had your iris scanned as a means of identification. Suppose the technology that this system uses develops to the point where you can authenticate your identity on your computer through your web cam. So no more logging in and trying to remember user names and passwords to the sites you register on. Just sit in front of your computer and it knows who you are and unlocks all your sites and web based services for you. Possible? Useful?

Face recognition is also becoming more common place and you can now download free software for Windows ( will recognise your face and log you into your computer, so no more forgotten passwords!

Motion Recognition
Motion recognition through web cams is also making its way into games and there are already quite a few free games that you can try out using your web cam as the controller.
There are a lot more web cam controlled games available at: if you feel like investigating more.

Well and what about your interactive whiteboard? What’s the connection between IWBs and web cams? Well your web cam could make the need for a specialised board and controller obsolete pretty soon if the guys at Camspace have anything to do with it. They have been developing this system which turns any coloured object into a computer controller.

If we start applying this kind of technology to IWB software it could mean that any students in your class could hold up a pen or any coloured object and take control of the computer and write on the board from where ever they are sitting. Giving this control to students could make that interactive whiteboard a lot more interactive and better still save a lot of money.

So our web cam is not only the doorway to video conferencing and communication, it could soon also become a way of logging onto our computers and conforming our identity, a way of interacting with our computer and a way of giving students control of the board and making their interaction with the computer as a class a lot more interactive.

So that’s just a quick look at the part the humble web cam could play in the future of learning technology. I hope you enjoyed it and that it gives you some food for thought about the way technology can change the way we learn.

Related links:

Nik Peachey