Tuesday 22 November 2011

Visualize sentences with video clips

A while back (well actually about 3 years ago) I wrote an article about Phrasr, a service that helps to visualize sentences by linking them to Flickr images, well now Vizlingo has taken this a step further.

Vizlingo enables you to type sentences and see them recreated as a linked sequence of video clips. Here's an example: This is a very smart way to visualize words and sentences. You like it?

These are easy to create, you just type your sentence into the field below the video and click on 'Create'. You may have to wait a few moments while the video is assembled and then it will play with the words that are represented underneath each clip.

If you don't like one of the clips in your sentence you can select it in the 'Lingo Breakdown' and you will see a number of alternative clips you can insert to replace it.

If you want to save or share your clips you will need to register and log in. Once you have done this you get a number of sharing options, including Twitter, Facebook and YouTube as well as getting a direct link to the video clip.

This is a great tool for students who are visual learners as it helps to connect the concepts in the sentence to visual reminders.

Some suggestions for activities
  • When learning vocabulary get students to create example sentences using the word (or better still two words) they want to remember in the sentence.
  • Try to assemble short dialogues using a number of clips.
  • Explore the relationship between the images and the words (The link can be a bit abstract sometimes).
  • Show students the clips and see if they can guess the sentence (cover the words)
  • Give students a list of ten sentences and see if the can link them to the videos you have created (again cover the words)
  • Get students to create a clip from a line or the title of a song in English and try to guess each others' song.  
  • Get students to create clips of idioms, for example

To some extent I think the value of getting students to create sentence visualizations like this and think about and select appropriate clips to represent different words has more value than the actual finished videos. It can really help the to explore the concepts of words.

Vizlingo is still in development at the moment and is likely to get better as more clips are added and more features (it looks like there will be a mobile version) so this is a simple tool that is well worth keeping an eye on.

 I hope you enjoy it.

Related links:

Nik Peachey

Tuesday 15 November 2011

Translate text into phonetic script

I always believe that the best  sites and web tools are the simplest, and this is certainly the case with Phonetizer. It's a really easy to use tool that takes and text and adds the phonetic spelling below it.

It's really easy to use. You just cut and paste or type in the text you want to use in the left hand side, click on 'Transcribe' and the text appears on the right with the phonetic writing underneath each line.  You can then cut and paste to a document if you want to save it.

Ways of using Phonetizer with EFL ESL students
  • This is a great tool to add pronunciation support to any reading text and help students to develop their pronunciation while reading.
  • You could also get students to use it to record their own version of the text using something like Audioboo.fm.
  • You could use it to produce vocabulary records with pron symbols added 
  • You could get students to transcribe a short text then use Phonetizer to check their own work.
  • It can be especially useful with things like scripts or poems which are intended for reading out loud.
  • It's a great way to add a pronunciation record to any dialogues students work with.

I hope you find Phonetizer useful and create some useful materials.

Related links:

Nik Peachey

A collocation thesaurus concordancer that produces word clouds!

On the surface of it Just-the-Word looks just like any other online dictionary or thesaurus, but start using it and you will soon find that it's much more.

If you type in a word, you can ask not only for alternatives just like any other thesaurus, but also word combinations for use with your key word.

The word combinations option produces a great list of collocations for the word, and what's better, if you click on the collocates, you get the kind of list that a concordancer will produce, with the expressions highlighted in context.

That's great, but there is still more, because if you click on a small button that says 'View in Wordle' the site will link through automatically to Wordle and create a word cloud of the most frequent collocations.

All of this is great, but there could be even more to come. There is also a button to select for 'Learner errors'. I haven't been able to get this to work yet, but to be able to search common learner errors really would be a very useful addition to such a site.
There are lots of ways we can use this site with EFL and ESL students.
  • We can create gapped sentences using the contextualised results from the concordancer, then create a Wordle that students can try to select the answers from.
  • We can create collocation Wordles and get students to try to make sentences with the combinations.
  • We can get students to use it as a tool to research words and collocations.
  • We can get students to check the collocations in their own writing to see if they are correct.
  • We can get students to research the context in which different collocations would be used.
I hope you find Just-The -Words useful and think of lots more uses for it. And if you work out how to use the 'Learner errors' button, please leave a comment below.

Related links:


Nik Peachey

Thursday 27 October 2011

Explore Lexical Relationships

Graph Words is one of those websites like Wordle that seems, because of its simplicity, like a gift from the heavens for English language teachers.

Graph Words is a visual thesaurus that it is really simple to use. You just type in the word you want to explore and click on 'Draw'.

You will then see a colour coordinated web of word relationships. You can then click on any word within the web to explore the relationships to that word and so on. If you hover your mouse over the 'nodes' that connect the words you can also get a definition for the word relationship.

One of the great things about the site is that you can save each web as an image with a single click, so you can use the images in your teaching materials. The site also works well on mobile devices such as iPads /iPhones etc. and you can also drag and arrange the related words to regroup them.

What I like about it
  • Clear, colourful, free and simple
  • Great to be able to save the images so easily
  • Dragging and rearranging words should work well on an IWB
  • Nice way to explore word relationships
  • Great that it is built on html5 not Flash, so it works on Apple mobile devices.

Some ideas for using Graph Words for English teaching
  • Give students a text and get them to see how many words they can change and substitute in new words
  • Give students two words and get the students to try to find the words that connected the first word to the second (like 6 degrees of seperation)
  • Get students to include a word graph with vocab records of new words they are learning or words the are revising.
  • Create word graphs and hide the central word. See if students can guess the hidden word.
  • Get students to try to predict related words then create a word graph to see how many they got right.
I hope you and your students enjoy using Word Graph and if you think of other ways to use it, please leave your suggestions in the comments below.

Related links:


Nik Peachey

Wednesday 26 October 2011

Instant back channel chat room

I've been using back channels in my training and conference work for quite a while now and I'm getting to the stage where I wonder how I ever got by without them.

A back channel a means of enabling text based collaboration among the people in your class / talk and this is usually done by using some form of chat room that people attending the class can log into during the session.

There are a lot of advantages to this:
  • It facilitates greater participation and knowledge sharing. Participants are able to share what they know with each other on the topic you are talking about.
  • You can use it as an audience response tool get students to write in and share their responses. 
  • You can pass links to websites that students can then just click and open, so you don't have students trying to type or copy long URLs. 
  • You can also pass links to worksheets that students can download.
  • The back channel is a great tool for students to base their notes from the session on. they just need to copy the interaction and all the links into a file.

 My main tool has been TodaysMeet, but I have recently discovered a new one that could be worth trying.

It's called SimpleMeet.Me and it was designed for meeting collaboration. It has an advantage over TodaysMeet in that you can upload and share a document through it. So this could be useful for sharing your presentation or the aims of the class etc.

It's very simple to use, just go to http://www.simplemeet.me and the site instantly produces the chat room for you and gives you a code to share. You then simply tell your students what the code is and they can go to the site and join the meeting.


Once you are in the meeting you put in your name at the top and can then start to chat at the bottom. Your shared file appears bottom right (I've uploaded my CV as an example). You can have a look in the chat room I've created here

Another nice feature of SimpleMeet.Me is that you can just enter your email address at the end of the chat and get a transcription of the complete discourse sent to you.

If you work in a computer lab or wireless environment and you want to encourage your students to bring along laptops and mobile devices and participate in your lessons, then SimpleMeet.Me is a really useful tool. Personally, I have found that using a back channel in this way has transformed the way I teach and enabled me to completely do away with using any kind of paper handouts in class - so no more photocopying. It's also reduced the amount of wasted time struggling with students misspelling URLs and increased engagement during the classes. Of course the catch is that you have to work in an environment where your students have access to the Internet in class.

I hope you give this a try and your students enjoy it.

Related links: 

Nik Peachey

Friday 21 October 2011

Create Online Social Interaction Around Videos

YouTube continues to be the biggest and one of the most useful video resources on the Internet, but creating online tasks and interaction with YouTube videos can be complex and time consuming, that's why it's always great to come across really useful sites like Grockit.

Grockit provides a really simple and fast way to build social tasks and interaction around any video from YouTube and it does it in a way that is much more suitable for delivery to students, as the interface removes many of the distractions that a direct link to YouTube would include.

Here's a quick example to show you what I mean: Married Life

Creating a Grockit
Creating an activity is very quick and easy though you will need to register and sign in (and so will your students).

Grockit starts with a simple field that you can use to either search for a video using key words or if you already have a video in mind you can just enter the URL.

Once you see your video in the search results you can click to make either a public or private Q&A.
Your video will then appear framed on the page and you just need to add a few questions to get things started. You type these into the field on the top left of your screen.  If you play through the video and pause at specific moments, the question will appear at that point in the video.

The last thing you need to do is to share the video by clicking on the 'Share this page' button. This will give you a URL that you can share with your students.

Then when students play the video the questions will appear below it as they watch. They will be able to answer the questions and add their own.

Lastly, as a bonus if you click on 'Moderate Q&A on this video' at the bottom of the page, you can create play lists, moderate submissions to the Q&A and even get an embed code to add the tasks to other materials.

All really simple and done in just a few minutes. Of course the difficult part is getting the right video and choosing good questions.

What I like about it
  • This is a great way to create interaction around a video clip
  • It's really quick and easy to create a task
  • Students can access it from home or anywhere else
  • Students can add their own questions
  • Great to time questions to specific points in the video
  • It's a nice clean interface with few distractions
  • You can set up your own playlists and moderate them
  • It even has an embed code to add the tasks to other materials

Grockit is a great free tool for creating online interaction that's social and communicative. I hope you enjoy using it and create lots of useful activities for your students.

Related links:

Nik Peachey

Friday 14 October 2011

Creating Texting Dialogues for Students

As mobile phone use becomes ubiquitous around the world and texting becomes a new genre of communication, it seems increasingly important that we as language teachers engage with these devices and help students to deal with the impact they are having on the English language.

Some time ago I wrote about a texting language translater called Transl8it which enabled users to trans late short texts from standard English to something approaching sms texting language.  Since then I've used the site quite a lot to:

  • Translate text for using in chat rooms such as TodaysMeet
  • Translate poems and short dialogues into texting language for students to read
  • Translate news headlines.
  • I've also tried getting students to record example sentences of vocabulary into texting language, just to add an extra element to creating vocabulary records.

Recently, I have also found a handy tool called ifaketext and this enables you to create a picture of a smartphone screen with your dialogue on. Here's an example:

This is a great way to create materials to use with students, especially if we combine it with the Transl8it. Then I can make dialogues that look like this:

All we need to do to create the dialogues is go to: ifaketext.com and type in a dialogue. Be sure to put a name at the top and format the dialogue with the name of each speaker followed by a colon (:) then the dialogue. Then just click on 'Create Your Screenshot'.

Once the screen shot is created you get a number of options for adding it to materials. You can either get a code to embed it or a direct link to the image and you can save it from there and add it to you documents.

Here are a few ways you could use this with students:
  • Convert dialogues from their coursebook into texting language.
  • Create mysterious interactions and get them to predict the context.
  • Create dialogues and get students to guess the relationship between the people.
  • Create the beginnings of dialogues and get the students to continue them.
  • Create dialogues with missing lines / words and get the students to complete them.
  • Create dialogues with the responses in the wrong order and get students to arrange them correctly.
This is one small way that we can start to adapt materials and incorporate this kind of language into a our classroom. I hope you and your students enjoy using ifaketext and transl8it and you create some interesting and motivating materials for them.

Related links:


Nik Peachey

Friday 7 October 2011

Can you replace your IWB with a $10 dollar app?

Idea Flight Enterprise is a new idea that makes a first attempt at using iPads to replace both the expensive IWB and the data projectors in your classroom.

In many ways it's a great idea that centres around using a $10 (£7)  iPad (Pilot) app to share materials and interact with a classroom full of students.

Students will also need iPads and to download a free (passenger) app so that they can view the lesson materials and make notes on them.

The 'pilot' or teacher can open their PDF course materials and take students through them page by page in step allowing students to make notes on the materials as they go. They can also 'unlock' the materials which will allow students to move backwards or forwards through the materials independently at their own pace.

The Idea Flight Enterprise app ensures that the teacher and students are all seeing the same materials and so this negates the necessity for both IWB and data projector (Though it is possible to plug the iPad into a data projector too if you require that)

The app runs through either the wireless connection (with up to 14 students) or through connecting the iPads by Bluetooth (with up to 3 students).

This looks like it could be a really good product for schools with small classes / classrooms, especially those teaching business English or very modern schools who want to experiment with class sets of iPads.

What I like about Idea Flight
  • Assuming that students already have iPads, buying a $10 app could save you the price of both a data projector and an IWB.
  • It would be ideal for teaching small classes or one to one classes off-site, especially when there is no internet connection as you can connect through bluetooth.
  • It synchronizes with your DropBox public folder so it's easy to upload your materials if you have a free account.
  • It allows schools to create their own course materials using PPT, Keynote or Word and publish them as eBooks in PDF format for their students.
  • Students can make notes on the materials and then store their own copy.
  • Running materials through iPads rather than desktop or laptops enables your students to still be pretty mobile within the classroom, so you can still easily move them around and regroup them for discussion and human interaction within the classroom.
  • The app has 'Linkedin' integration so new students can see each others profiles etc and find out about one another more easily, so this also makes it a great networking tool.

What I wasn't so sure about
  • In the PDF materials I used in the app, all the hyperlinks were dead, so it would be nice if linking out to other materials were possible through the app.
  • The app only runs on iPad which makes it a bit restrictive. It would be nice to see integration with the web, so that students with laptops or other tablets could also be included in the same class.
  • I didn't try the app with video embedded into PDF so it would be nice to know if that worked, but I'm assuming it's unlikely.
  • Classes of 15 students on wireless or 3 on bluetooth, make the use of this app pretty much restricted to private or very privileged classrooms, so it would be nice to see greater numbers of students made possible.
  • It would be really good if a broader range of formats could be imported into the app. At present, any animations or effects that can be created with presentation software are lost when the materials are exported to PDF.

Despite some of the weaknesses of this Idea Flight Enterprise, I still think it's a massive step in the right direction towards enabling greater use of these kinds of devices in the classroom and, at $10, making that step an economical choice and one that is a better fit for an interactive communicative classroom than something like and IWB and data projector.

If you are thinking of introducing iPads within your school environment, and especially if you are developing your courses and course materials in-house, then I definitely think Idea Flight Enterprise is worth investigating.

Here's their short promotional video showing how it works.

This is an independent review that was written at the request of one of my sponsors - Idea Flight Enterprise - What I have written was in no way influenced or edited by them.

I hope you find it useful.

Related Links:

Nik Peachey

Sunday 29 May 2011

Things to do with a Burning House

The simple basis behind The Burning House Website is this:

"If your house was burning, what would you take with you?"

It's a really simple website which asks a simple question. The rest of the website has images with accompanying lists sent in by visitors to the site. Each person's list and image has about 10 items.

I really like websites like this because the strong idea and images provide great authentic materials to get students thinking and speaking. Here are a few of the images.

How to use this with students
  • Get the students to look at the images and identify what they see.
  • Save some of the lists and images and get them to match them up for simple vocabulary practice.
  • Ask the students what they think all the images have in common.
  • Show students the images and ask them to try to guess what the person who owns the objects is like (great for modals of deduction).
  • Get students in your class to bring in their on image (you could mix them up and see if they can guess which one belongs to each person.
  • Get them to upload their image and list to the site or create a wall design in your classroom.
  • Get students to tell the story behind each of their ten possessions on their list.
  • Give each students one of the images from the website and ask them to imagine they own the objects and get them to invent the story of why each object is on the list.
  • Get the students to browse the site and find the person with the list which is most similar to their own.
I hope you enjoy The Burning House and the stories behind the images.

Related links:

Nik Peachey

Monday 16 May 2011

Questioning the Role of Technology in Education

Over the last six months I have been involved in a project with Delta Publishing on their development blog as a guest author to produce a series of postings which question the role of technology and how it is applied in ELT and education in general. This has been a bit of a new departure for me because I usually focus on very practical articles and tend to avoid getting into the sometimes lengthy debates that surround technology with ELT.

I'm now coming to the end of this series for a while and so I thought I would collect together these postings and some thoughts on what I've learned from the interaction with the various teachers who have responded to these posts.

Here you can see a short video I created to introduce the series.

Here you can find a brief summary and link to each article.

ELT and the Crisis in Education
In this first article I tried to put ELT into the greater context of general education and what is being described by some as the 'Crisis in education'. I often think that ELT is viewed and views itself in isolation from what is happening elsewhere in education. I used a social questionnaire to encourage readers to reflect on their beliefs and compare them with those of other readers.

ELT and the Crisis in Education – Part 2
In this article I tried to highlight and share some of the reading and viewing that had influenced my own thinking about the problems that education faces today and the kinds of changes we need to make.

ELT and the Crisis in Education: Technology in the Classroom
In this article I tried to examine what I believe are some of the mistakes that have been made in our attempts to overlay technology onto our existing classroom design.

ELT and the Crisis in Education: Digital Literacy
In this article I tried to examine the role of digital literacy within ELT and highlight the importance of improving our understanding of what digital literacy is and how and why we should integrate it into our course design.

ELT and the Crisis in Education: Digital Reading Skill
In this article I tried to examine the way receptive skills and the demands on 'readers' of web based content differed from the traditional reading skills we develop with our students.

It’s time to change the way we test our students
In this article I tried to examine the role of testing and its negative impact on the potential of ELT to move forward and become more innovative.

Breaking down the walls of the classroom
In this article I tried to examine the way that technology could be applied to course work to extend learning beyond the walls of the classroom and support a more blended and autonomous approach to the use of technology in ELT.

Some Pros and Cons of iPads for ELT
In this article I tried to examine the potential of iPads and tablet style devices within the classroom context and look at the way course books and published materials could be enhanced to make digital course books much more interactive and communicative.

The worst thing about educational technology is educational technology
In this article I tried to look at some of the worst aspects of our fixation with 'hardware' and the problems caused by misguided spending on complex gadgets without funding the support to make these work.

Is the 140 character ‘micro interaction’ enough?
In this article I tried to look at our tendency to be obsessed with 'the latest thing' and how this often limits view of what is potentially available to us. I tried to particularly focus on a contrast between microblogging and 3D game playing in virtual worlds.

Augmented Reality and Web 3.0
In one of my last posts I speculated about what could be the next step in terms of the way the Internet is developing and I had a brief look at how this could potentially impact on ELT.

Survey: Mobile Learning in ELT 2011
My final post will be a write up of some research I have been doing into mobile learning. This will be a follow up to some research that I published a year ago into the use of mobile learning devices in ELT.

I'd like to thank all the people who have left comments and questions on the articles and especially I would like to thanks everyone at Delta Publishing for sponsoring this series and leaving me absolutely free to say whatever I want.

I hope you enjoy reading them.


Nik Peachey

Thursday 21 April 2011

36 Tools to Digitise Coursebook Activities

Over the last few years, I have often heard teachers commenting that they would like to use more technology with their students, but they have to cover the materials in the coursebook. So, I started thinking about ways we could use technology to quickly and simply convert coursebook activities to something more interactive on the web.

I've created this document which shows 36 different ways we can use web based tools to enhance the things we do in the classroom and make students homework options more interesting and communicative. This document was used to support my presentation at IATEFL Brighton and you can see the presentation slides at: 36Tools for Digitising Your Coursebook

36 Tools for Digitising your ELT Course Book

I hope you find these useful and I hope to find the time soon to develop this document and add more detail and more examples. Until then please feel free to add comments and suggestions below and share ideas that you have for digitising coursebook materials.

Related links:

Nik Peachey

Wednesday 30 March 2011

Comparing and conditionals - The facts about countries.

Last week I saw IfItWereMyHome and instantly thought that it would be a useful resource to get students making meaningful 2nd Conditional sentences based on real information, but a closer look shows that the site has much more potential than just that.
By clicking on 'Country Comparison' the site detects your home country. You can then click on any of the country names below to get statistical comparisons between your own country and the one you have selected.
The comparisons are actually colour rated according to whether they are viewed as negative, positive or neutral aspects.
If you click at the end of each comparison you can also get more information about the facts being presented.

At the bottom of the page there is voting button where you can choose which of the two countries you would prefer to live in.

Once you click to choose the country you would prefer you can leave a comment to say why and also read other comments.

Here are some ways I think you could use this site with students.
  • Get them to find a country they would prefer to live in and ask them to find 5 reasons to justify.
  • Get students to find a country they would NOT prefer to live in and ask them to justify.
  • Select two countries and ask students to choose one to live in and justify their choice.
  • Ask students to look at the colour rating of the facts and see if the agree with the positive / negative rating of the facts.
  • Ask them to compare a number of different countries and find out which is the most environmentally sound / destructive.
  • Ask students to compare a number of countries and find out which has the best quality of life (They will need to decide what the criteria are for this).
  • Ask students to decide which of the facts displayed would influence their choice of country most.
  • Ask students to look at the facts that are compared and decide which important facts they feel are missing.
  • Ask students to look at some of the comments about the countries and decide - which they agree with / disagree with, which they think are ridiculous.
  • Ask students to compare their country to a number of others then post a comment or ask a questions about each country.
  • Get students to find the comments about their own country and respond to one of them ( in a polite way)
  • Ask students to look at the site and try to decide who constructed it and why.
  • Ask students to look at the facts about their country and decide if they think they are accurate.
I hope you find IfItWereMyHome and these activities useful. If you think of any other activities you could use the site for ,please post them in the comments.

Related links:

Nik Peachey

Monday 28 February 2011

Create a Web Based Song Activity in Minutes

Back in December 2010 I wrote an article about how you could use Batlyrics, a site which combined Song videos and lyrics, as a corpus to find examples of grammar or vocabulary you wanted your students to focus on: 'Lyrics and Video and Grammar - Song as Corpus'

Since writing this article I've spotted another useful feature of the site, and that is the addition of an embed code button.

This is really helpful, because now it means that you can select the song you want to use, copy the embed code and then embed it into your own web page or blog and write your activity around it.
This is particularly easy if you use the Posterous blogging platform, as all you need to do is copy and paste the embed code into and email, add a title and instructions and post it off to post@posterous.com.

A few seconds later you should get a message back with a link to your published activity. Then you just share the link with your students.
So now you can create quick online song based activities within just a few minutes. I hope you find Batlyrics useful.

Related links:

Nik Peachey

Friday 18 February 2011

Google Spaces for Language Learning

I was never a great fan of Google Wave. It arrived with a real wave of hype and disappeared just as quickly, but it seems that many of the 'gadgets' designed to work with Wave have survived and can now be used independently within a service called Google Shared Spaces.

There are lots of these small gadgets so I decide to have a look at some and see if they had any potential for use in language learning.

Here are examples of some of the more useful ones.

Wave Tube
Here you can add a Video from YouTube to a page and students can watch it and leave comments or ask questions using the chat box on the left.
Try this one: http://goo.gl/AXEFY

Yes/ No / Maybe
This is a simple gadget for creating single question polls that your students can then answer and add comments to.
Try this one: http://goo.gl/UQvGz

This is a nice brainstorming gadget that enables you to create mind maps around a topic. Students can actually vote for or against the elements they like too.
Try this one: http://goo.gl/StD9e

This is a nice tool for creating 'to do' lists. Anyone can add to the list of things to do and then tick them off as they are done.
Try this one: http://goo.gl/UVbjU

Magnetic Fridge Poetry
This is a nice tool for creating jumbled text activities. You just add your text when you create your board and then students can drag the words around wherever they want them.
Try this one: http://goo.gl/nCigp

These are just a few of the interactions you can create with the Shared Spaces. There are lots more, so why not try a few out, feel free to play with the ones I've created and let me know which ones work for you.

Related links:


Nik Peachey