Sunday, June 28, 2009

I have a hunch is a new site that has nothing to do with teaching English at first sight. Come to think of it, not even at second sight. But if you're an English teacher, you look at websites from a different angle - you tend to somewhat disregard their original purpose and try to come up with ways of using them in your teaching. With, this is fairly easy, since it is a typical Web 2.0 site and so it is about you, the user - just like a good language learning activity should be about the learner. helps with decisions the social web way, using the collective knowledge of their user base. After establishing your preferences, you can get answers to questions like "What's the best dog breed for me?", "Which URL shortening service should I use?", or "Which cheese would I enjoy?" Your students will be eager to compare their results and will most probably suggest questions to each other - a truly communicative activity; the format you set for this is up to you. Of course, site users can also add their own questions and start new topics - an excellent way to improve writing skills, needless to say.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Measuring the difficulty of vocabulary in a text

The Oxford 3000 Text Checker will tell you which words in a text are not part of the "Oxford 3000", the 3000 most frequently used words. You can type or paste your text and you will get a percentage as a result. The only minor inconvenience is that you have to manually add proper names that you want to ignore. Of course there are other factors that influence the difficulty of a text, but this tool should help you assess the vocabulary level, which is a main factor.

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Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Hot Potatoes Charity Month

A message from Martin Holmes, creator of Hot Potatoes (probably the best tool for creating online teaching exercises):
May is Charity Month for Half-Baked Software, which means that for the whole of this month, we're donating all the money we receive for Hot Potatoes and Quandary licences directly to charity; the University of Victoria has waived its percentage, Stew and I have waived ours, and the company will cover ongoing costs and taxes out of its pocket, so if you buy a licence we'll give the entire amount of the licence price to charity.
More details are here:
Also, please note that licence prices are very cheap right now: A single-user Hot Potatoes licence is only $20 US, and a Quandary licence is also only $20 US. Buy now, get it cheap, and let the money go to charity!

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Sunday, May 03, 2009

The debate on IWB's heats up again

From what I saw, this new wave of the debate started as an exchange between Gavin Dudeney and Scott Thornbury on Twitter. Scott quoted this research report, which says:
Overall, the statistical analysis failed to find evidence of any impact of the increase in IWB acquisition in London schools on attainment in the three core subjects in the academic year 2004/5.
Gavin has this excellent piece on the question of IWB's which pretty much sums up my position as well so I won't repeat it here (see my comments there). Now the goal of this post here is simple: I'd like to approach this in a constructive manner and find the good side. I'm looking for examples of IWB's used communicatively in language teaching. You don't need to quote surveys and papers which found that IWB's in fact do make kids learn; please write from personal experience, either as someone who has actually come up with a meaningful way of using this tool or as someone who has seen it in practice in a real classroom (or even a link will do). Examples that could be reproduced using a computer and a projector don't count. Please comment.


Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Call for proposals for four TESOL 2009 Electronic Village Special Events

The deadline for EV Fairs, the Hardware Fair and Developer's Showcase has been extended to Jan. 9, 2009. Mini-workshop submissions are closed. If you have something to share, please consider submitting it.

TESOL 2009: "Uncharted Mountains, Forging New Pathways"

March 26-28, 2009, - Denver, Colorado, USA

DEADLINE FOR SUBMISSIONS: Extended to Jan. 9, 2009 for EV Fairs, Hardware Fair, Developer's Showcase. Mini-Workshops submissions are closed.

You are invited to submit a proposal for participation in one or more of these TESOL 2009 CALL Interest Section Special Events. You are welcome to submit proposals to more than one event, and it is possible to have more than one proposal accepted (depending on space availability and quality of the submission). Windows and Macintosh equipment will be available at no charge, along with CD ROM Drives, Internet connections, and (for the Showcase) projection equipment. Plan to bring a minimum of 100 handouts per Fair/Showcase acceptance slot since these are very popular events!

WHAT HAPPENS AT THE EV FAIRS: Presenters have approximately 20-30 minutes to demonstrate their material on 1-2 computer(s) without projection equipment in a presentation format similar to a "poster session." Participants walk around the EV, dropping in and out of demonstrations, thus precluding highly structured presentations. A demonstration may be repeated a second time (an additional 20 to 30 minutes), if interest warrants and space allows.

WHAT HAPPENS AT THE HARDWARE FAIRS: A Hardware Fair is a variant of the regular fairs, where presenters will demonstrate their material for 20-30 minute intervals, so people can go around the room and see the event multiple times. The variation is that presentations will be on devices which may or may not include computers, but may also interact with them in some way (see description below for suggested items).

WHAT HAPPENS AT THE SHOWCASE: A selected group of presenters will demonstrate their software or application for 8 to 12 minutes each. A brief question and answer session follows each presentation.

_____EV FAIR_____
Coordinator: Roger Drury (

In the EV Fairs, teachers or teachers-developers share their use of computer-based and/or internet-based resources. These resources can be software (PowerPoint, Microsoft Word, Excel, Focus on Grammar, Word Attack, Skype, etc.) or websites (presenter-made or public like, Yahoo! Groups, an online concordancer, etc.). Demonstrations may highlight student projects, activities or curriculum created for students or educators. Examples:

* Email projects
* Lesson plan archives for teachers
* Vocabulary worksheets using an online thesaurus
* Skimming/scanning activities using a local newspaper webpage
* Research/writing exercises for investigating Internet hoaxes
* A descriptive writing activity combined with HyperStudio illustrations
* Web 2.0 activities, using social networking or SecondLife

Please submit your proposal(s) for the EV Fairs online at

Coordinator: Randall Davis (

Do you have an innovative, effective or otherwise interesting instructional activity that utilizes hardware other than a conventional computer? Do your students use hardware in an interesting way? If so, why not share it with others in the EV Hardware Fair? Presenters will be located at stations around the Electronic Village demonstrating use of specific kinds of hardware like:

* handheld devices
* cameras
* portable technologies
* smartboards
* clickers
* MP3 players
* cell phones

It is suggested that you bring your own small hardware (as in hand-held device, camera or cell phone) or ask the company (like Smart) to send you a loaner for the larger equipment (like interactive whiteboards) to demonstrate at the workshop (they are usually good about this). Some responsibility for hardware by the presenter will be needed.

Please submit your proposal(s) for the Hardware Fairs online at

Coordinator: Andrew Bowman (

The Developers' Showcase is one of several ways in which the CALL-IS disseminates information about computers and computer-assisted instruction to the ESL/EFL professional community. The Showcase provides an opportunity for the designers of ESL/EFL software to display their work, and for potential users, software developers, and marketers to examine and react to it. We especially welcome projects produced by teachers for their own students or projects produced under development grants.

This Showcase includes materials in the following two categories:
1. disk-based software, including floppy-disk, hard disk, and CD-ROMs.
2. web-based software, including both programs that can be accessed directly from the web and those that can be downloaded.

The Showcase is not a commercial venue. Only work that is not yet on the market will be considered. The following types of software are not acceptable for the Showcase:

* Software that is already contracted with a publisher
* Software that has been offered for sale independently, or which the presenter plans to sell independently, including by subscription or as shareware
* Software given away free to promote a commercial interest

Please submit your proposal(s) for the Developers' Showcase online at

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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Third International Wireless Ready Symposium

Digital Technologies in Language Education

A Simultaneous Real Time and Second Life Symposium

An IATEFL Learning Technologies SIG Event

NUCB Graduate School (Fushimi Campus / Nagoya)

Nagoya University of Commerce & Business, Japan

Friday, 20th February 2009 (09:50 - 18:00)

Go to the symposium website at

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Monday, December 29, 2008

Call for Papers: Language Learning in Computer Mediated Communities

The Language Learning in Computer Mediated Communities (LLCMC) Conference will take place October 11-13, 2009, in Honolulu. A pre-conference, CULTURA: Web-based Intercultural Exchanges, will take place October 10-11.
Abstracts for papers on the topic of language learning or language teaching in computer mediated communities are welcomed. Abstracts are due by March 1, 2009, with notification of selection results by April 15, 2009.
View the full call for papers at

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Tuesday, June 17, 2008


What is edupunk?
My take on it:
  • learning against all odds and
  • relying on yourself for your own learning and
  • learning in innovative ways and
  • rejecting corporate pressure/constraints
Here are some other interpretations:
"Edupunk is an ideology referring to teaching and learning practices that result from a do it yourself (DIY) attitude. Many instructional applications can be described as DIY education or Edupunk. It describes inventive teaching and inventive learning."
from: (page considered for deletion - for being too new [!!], since the whole concept first appeared under this name on 25 May 2009)
Here is how the whole thing was started by Jim Groom:
"For within those ideas is not a technology, but a group of people, who argue, disagree, and bicker, but also believe that education is fundamentally about the exchange of ideas and possibilities of thinking the world anew again and again, it is not about a corporate mandate to compete—however inanely or nefariously—for market share and/or power. I don’t believe in technology, I believe in people. And that’s why I don’t think our struggle is over the future of technology, it is over the struggle for the future of our culture that is assailed from all corners by the vultures of capital. Corporations are selling us back our ideas, innovations, and visions for an exorbitant price. I want them all back, and I want them now!
Enter stage left: EDUPUNK!"
Leslie Madsen Brooks had this to say:
"In short, edupunk is student-centered, resourceful, teacher- or community-created rather than corporate-sourced, and underwritten by a progressive political stance."
You might have been an edupunk all along only you didn't know you are one! At least it has a name now.

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Saturday, June 14, 2008

A free online course on connectivism

Taken from the course description at :
Connectivism and Connective Knowledge is a twelve week course that will explore the concepts of connectivism and connective knowledge and explore their application as a framework for theories of teaching and learning. It will outline a connectivist understanding of educational systems of the future. George Siemens and Stephen Downes – the two leading figures on connectivism and connective knowledge - will co-facilitate this innovative and timely course.

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Sunday, March 09, 2008

Live event in Second Life

Wireless Ready: Interactivity, Collaboration and Feedback in Language Learning Technologies, Nagoya, Japan, 29th March 2008

This one-day international symposium on language learning technologies will be simultaneously live in Second Life.

Registration is now open in Second Life at the following URL. Click on 'sign-up' to register. Participants in SL will be able hear and see the presenters in Nagoya, Japan:
(requires SL to be installed)

Places will be limited to 50 participants in Second Life, so please sign up soon.


Wireless Ready SL

Keynote speakers to include:
Michael Coghlan - Web 2.0 & ICT (ICT consultant, Australia)
Dr John Collick - Interactive Whiteboards in EFL (International Education Manager, Promethean)
Russell Stannard - Screen Capture Software and Student Feedback (University of Westminster, UK)

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