Sunday, 31 August 2008

Holiday Homework 3: Social Networking for the Next Academic Year

It is official. My name is Isabelle and I am a Ning addict.

I like the fact that you can associate with groups of fellow professionals and find out about their experience of education in their own country, although Ning languages network seem to be dominated by American and Australian “educators”-not a word often used in UK edu-speech.

I have gradually got more involved with Talkabout Primary, my first Ning, created by "Ning Queen" Jo Rhys-Jones, a teacher from Devon, my favourite part of England and another fellow Ning anonymous member??. I often call it my "favourite Ning" as it was the first one I ever joined and I have seen it grow and develop. I am not always as directly involved as I would like to be and I am still to write a blog post a la Lisa Stevens, who is another active contributor and constant source of inspiration.

However, I have really enjoyed participating in the conversations on the forum and trying to get to find out more about each member from as they join. I even created a Spanish group when I found out I would be concentrating on Spanish Primary liaison. I have not really done a lot with it yet but the fact that some people already joined it make me aware of where to find support or where to go to pick other people’s minds-I will have to make sure all members feel the same…

Over the holidays, I also found out about the RezEd Ning, a Ning dedicated to teaching and learning in Virtual World. As part of my holiday homework was to start with Second Life, I joined the Language teachers’ group set up by Baldric Commons -Graham Stanley in RL- which has provided with some support with my SL holiday homework.

I am also moderating the Fabulous French Teachers group on Jess McCullough’s Technolanguages. Jess is a teacher of Chinese based in Australia and she is also keen to promote ICT integration into language teaching.

With the sad situation of language learning in the UK, getting involved with the FFT group has been a breath of fresh air as it has made me stop the navel-gazing to finding out about what is happening out there in different parts of the world including mostly the US and Australia. I find the Technolanguages Ning a constant source of personal and professional development and I am grateful to Jess for allowing me to get more involved in it.

I also joined the fabulous EFL Classroom 2.0 Ning run by David Deubel , an experienced teacher of ESL/ EFL from Canada, who has taught all over the world including the Czech Republic , France, Ukraine, Canada and Korea.

I feel that languages teachers in general have a lot to learn from what is happening in EFL as it is represented all around the world unlike the teaching of some other languages for various cultural and sometimes also political reasons. For instance, and I stand to be corrected, I am under the impression that Spanish is not selling really well in Australia whereas it is a certainly a very popular subject in the US! This Ning is a goldmine of ideas and resources to integrate ICT in lessons, an area in which we can all contribute and benefit from.

Finally, I decided it was time to join Nings directly run in French and Spanish, so I joined Internet en el Aula some time ago and I decided to set up a “FLE dans le monde” group on Florence Meichel’ s Apprendre 2.0.

Florence has set up a fantastic platform with Apprendre 2.0 and I really welcome the opportunity to connect with fellow native speakers as well as using French as a lingua franca with French teachers from all over the world.
Alors si vous enseignez le francais ou si vous voulez enseigner le francais, n’hesitez pas. Rejoignez-nous !

Saturday, 30 August 2008

Holiday Homework 2 : Microblogging-Is there life after Twitter?

Some time ago, I blogged about Why I still love Twitter .
Have things changed over the summer?

After trying the beta version of something called Kwippy , a message from a member of my Resources for Languages group reminded me of Plurk.

“Have you checked Plurk out? There is a nice group of educators on there…” and there is also a Diigo group for Pluking Eucators, created by Jo McLeay, a friendly teacher from Australia .

As Kwippy really had not convinced me that it had something different to offer from Twitter, I decided to have another look at Plurk and found that I could quite easily import my Twitter followers into Plurk. Easy, I thought-but what is the point? Funnily enough, I found that people had slightly different connections on Plurk and through the same “friends”, I often got to befriend different people.

When I started on Plurk, I asked straight away what was the difference with Twitter and I was directed to a number of bookmarks about this well-debated topic of conversation.

I like Plurk for its tidiness as it makes it easier to develop deeper professional conversations in it and in some ways to find out more about the people you befriend. However, I feel it can lack the spontaneity Twitter has and the fact that there are now so many tools to complement Twitter.

Twitter is messy, can be disorganised and unreliable but it does have that infectious energy that will be very hard to beat…

Friday, 29 August 2008

Holiday Homework 1: Venturing on Second Life

I have known about Second Life for over a year and I have even been known to lurk on there. However, I really struggled to see how this could be used for “serious teaching”.

Challenging? Yes. I kept having flashbacks from the past, imagining that the flatmates from my long gone student days would have loved Second Life. After all, they were all into role-playing games and willing to stay up all night to throw a few dice about.

At the time, I was told this was educational too : numeracy (probabilities and sums at least), literacy (LOADS of reading involved). I did give it a go but I felt so uncomfortable I did not even crack under peer pressure after that.

Was it the role-playing I found uncomfortable? Not at all. Although I would describe myself as a quiet person- most of the time, I have no problems singing, playing an instrument on stage or taking parts in role-plays.
So what is the problem, I thought?

After a twitter discussion with Helena Butterfield aka Langwitch Shoshtakovich, we decided to meet in SL Barcelona. Langwitch teleported me-Isabelle Firanelli, pictured above- to the Plaza Real and we sat down for a coffee. Well, Langwitch taught me how to sit down and to fly over to the roof top. I even tried out my headsets without any success as the echo was terrible and I am sure Langwitch could have sued me for damaged eardrums if the noise was as bad at her end.

How did it feel? Very strange but also liberating and refreshingly different, something that could really work as an low-stress environment to practise languages in.

I then did more reading and had another Twitter conversation withNergiz Kern, Daffodil Fargis in SL. On her slexperiments wiki, Nergiz introduce herself as a teacher of general, business and technical English to adults with a wide range of teaching experiences in Germany, Brazil and the UK. Nergiz now lives in Turkey and she teaches online and in Second Life.

She also runs a very interesting and informative blog about her SL experiences at
After joining the wiki, I managed to attend the end of one of the weekly meetings Nergiz runs for language teachers. I managed to sit on somebody else’s lap and on top of a cat, so I was a bit nervous to try out my audio after that, but then again, the atmosphere was both really relaxed and stimulating. A Brazilian traveller even gate-crashed the meeting and Nergiz turned this into a learning opportunity for everybody, using a translation tool to help us communicate with him.

Next week, I am definitely giving it another go and now I have met like-minded language teachers, I might even carry out other SL experiments with different people. Ideally, I would love other “lurkers” to meet with me. This is an open invitations to all the language teachers out there who are still feeling odd about trying it out. Come on! Even Oldham MBC has bought a plot of land in Second Life (that discovery did make me realise that it could not be so strange if even my local council was going for it)

You will stand on tables, fall over or even drop into the sea, but I really can see that this is time well spent (honest). Remember the first time you touched a computer mouse? It is a bit like that …

Friday, 8 August 2008

Flowgram: Jog the Web with Sound, Highlights and Much More...

On 30th July, I blogged about Jog The Web, a very useful programme to devise tours of the web to recommend websites by topic for students, blog tours or compile training material "packs" for colleagues.

I came across Flowgram on my web travels and decided to sign up for the Beta Version.

Flowgram also has a blog to keep you up to date with the beta development.

Although it clearly is not the finished article yet, it certainly has a lot of potential.

The difference with Jog the Web? It is a Beta, so there may be some technical problems at this stage, but you can include sound, post to Facebook and quite a few blog platform. There is also a facility to email your friends about your flowgrams. You can also browse for other people's Flowgrams if they decide to make them public.

I like the fact you can add highlights, notes and sound and it does work with "framed websites", unlike Jog the Web who are currently working to solve this problem.

The program did not like one of my recommended website, but the rest of it went relatively smoothly. Do check the blog out to see when the final version is coming out!

And... Have a look at my own creation (will update this with sound at a later date...)

Enjoy, try it out and tell me what you think!

Thursday, 7 August 2008

The IWB Challenge is Back!

Jess McCulloch is a teacher of Chinese in the seaside town of Warrnambool on the south west coast of Victoria, Australia. She teaches students from 5 to 17 years old and is very keen to develop her own use of the interactive whiteboard. She is also a prolific blogger with lots of tips, hints and useful resources to be found on her fantastic Technolote blog.

Her original April 08 IWB challenge focused on:

*Using the SMART Board in at least two new ways each week ;

*Posting a ‘Weekly Whiteboard Workout’ post on her Technolote blog ;

*Making sure all students are directly involved in interacting with the SMART Board-considering impact on the students directly involved and the rest of the class ;

*Finding some great IWB resources to share.

This has been a great opportunity to concentrate on regularly developing whiteboard skills and share experiences through blog posts.

The IWB challenge is back. It is now bigger and even better !!

It starts in August, which means that some of us will have more preparation time, but what a fantastic way to focus for our new academic year…

Check out the IWB Challenge Wiki for all the details of the 7 challenges set (one a week) and for a look at who is taking part.

IWB experts from all over the world will be helping by setting the challenges and there are already quite a few interesting links for support. More can also be found here .

This promises to be the best CPD session ever… See you there!

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Blogging and Writing : Same Difference?

I recently came across this excellent post by Terry Freedman, information and communication technology specialist

Terry is interested in the differences between blogging and writing and especially in the reasons why some writers blog and some don’t. He has put together a very thought-provoking short survey .

The following really got me thinking…

What is blogging?
It is a versatile form of writing that can be informal or as developed as academic writing, so how do you define it? It made me consider what I wanted my blogging to be…
Approachable in terms of readability, practical but also thought-provoking and hopefully useful to others.

What are the similarities and differences between writing and blogging?
The style? Writing sounds to me less spontaneous but more elegant and backed-up by evidence. The audience? I feel blogging is more of a reflective activity even if there is always a desire to reach an audience.

Where does microblogging fit in?
I see it as something quite different: even more spontaneous, sometimes even untidy but also full of creative energy as a brilliant way to bounce ideas off like-minded or very different people.

How important is dialogue between blogger and reader?
Essential! However, it is also so difficult to develop but microblogging can help a lot here by helping the creation of communities where people feel more confident to comment on each other’s posts.

I can’t wait for the results…