Friday, August 08, 2008

DFILM movies!

Just a reminder that DFILM is a great way to have students practice writing! Here's a particularly nice example:

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Whoopee! Big Success With Student Downloads!

It finally happened! A student with a Nokia phone with mp3 capability asked how he could save the mp3 files of me reading one of the stories to his phone so he could listen to them outside of the classroom! Here he is downloading the mp3 files from the class wiki to his phone!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Visualize Student Writing (or any writing) Artistically Using Wordle!

Wordle is a clever new website (free)that lets you create artistic "word clouds" of any selected text or website. I'm not sure exactly how I'll use it in the ESL classroom but it's a lot of fun and beautiful too! Basically, you paste text or a URL into the site and it creates the word clouds automatically based on the frequency of the words appearing in the selected text. Here's one I made from one of my student's paragraphs.

As I said above, it's very artistic but I'm not sure about it's educational content! Any ideas? Is just doing it and displaying the text sufficient as a classroom activity? Perhaps it's enough to utilize simply as a motivational tool to get students to write something in order for it to be visualized...

Thanks to Sue Waters who mentioned Wordle on her blog Mobile Technology in TAFE.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Easily transfering and/or making large files accessible to yourself or others

On occasion, I've been blocked from sending Powerpoint presentations via email because they've been too large (file size) for either my email system or the recipient's email system to accommodate. I've had to chop them up into smaller pieces. I've just experimented with a free website that allows anyone to easily upload a file as large as 100MB for a specified period of time and receive a URL that can be distributed/emailed to others so that they can visit the site and download the file within the specified period of time (1 to 90 days). Files so uploaded can also be password protected. To check it out, click on the link below to download a 2.9 MB file of a book that I uploaded. The password is "test" and the file will be there for 15 days from today!

To try uploading something, click on the "upload" tab at the screen you reached when you clicked on the above link.

This could also come in handy when you're at a conference and just realized you left your flash drive/cdrom/computer/handout with all of your presentation files back in the hotel or in your office or in my case at the most recent CATESOL, brought along the working files of some video presentations and not the final correctly formatted versions. If you upload anything related to the conference to the wikisend website before you go and email all of the URLs to yourself, you'll be able to retrieve them from any computer at the conference.

Finally, instead of passing out multi-page paper handouts (expensive to produce and heavy to carry through airports), you could pass out a one page version at the session that includes the URL and direct participants to download the full version when they return to their school sites.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

You can always learn something new!

This past Friday, Paul Yung, a colleague in the Division of Adult and Career Education of LAUSD, co-presented with me in one of the monthly Technology Colloquium workshops that I organize and present. He presented techniques for using do-it-yourself multimedia for the first hour and I completed the session with simple ways to get your students to start using the Internet as part of the ESL curriculum. I'm pleased to report that the session went well and the participants were pleased by both presentations. The purpose of this post, however, is more to reflect on the fact that sometimes it takes the enthusiasm of another individual for a process or technique that causes you to re-evaluate your own processes and decide to try something new.

Basically, Paul's main point was that the Internet can provide easy access to a huge resource of images and since using images has always been a large component of language instruction, ESL teachers can access images on the Internet and easily integrate them into very simple PowerPoint presentations that can then be used as grammar or language practice in the classroom if the classroom is equipped with a projection system (LCD or TV) that enables the entire class to view the presentation. He compared it to the "old days" when he used to hold up pictures in front of the classroom that he had collected from magazines.

Paul's second point was that an ESL teacher can easily enliven or provide additional practice to the typical conversation practice found in typical textbooks. You know the type. A basic conversation is presented and the students, working in pairs, are supposed to replace various items or vocabulary words with alternate items or words. For example, the first student would say something like "I need to buy a book." The second student would ask "How much is the book?" there would be a response "It's $14.50" and finally a comment like "That's not too expensive!" Following the conversation there would be a picture of a "car" and a price tag "$24,500" and the comment "That's expensive!" The students are supposed to practice the first conversation, then replace all of the appropriate vocabulary with the "new" vocabulary. Paul's idea is to create PowerPoint slides containing all of the new information in image and text format. One one slide, he would insert an image of the new object, the price tag, and the final comment. As he goes through the slides, the students generate the new conversations using the image and text as cues.

Now all of this might not necessarily be a new idea (I used to use clipart in the same way) but his enthusiasm for the process and the demonstration about how easy it is to prepare the slides "on the fly" made me resolve to try it out at the first opportunity. That opportunity turned out to be the very next day when the unit I was teaching to my new Beginning High class turned out to be descriptions of people. The standard conversation was in the unit with the typical suggested replacement text. I instructed the students to practice the conversations in partners per typical practice. But this time, while they were working, I used Google image search to find online images with the key vocabulary featured in the unit (tall, short, heavy, slim etc.) and created a simple PowerPoint in the 10 or 15 minutes the students were practicing. When I felt that they had practiced on their own for a sufficient time, I turned their attention to the new presentation and went through the slides as a group. It was a tremendous success! I was able to find an assortment of images with enough contrasts that the students were able to practice most if not all of the adjectives or expressions introduced in the chapter, enthusiasm and participation were high, and it was clear that viewing and describing images of real people provided a realistic context for further practice. Best of all, I can continue to work on the presentation to add even more images and I'll be able to use it again at a click of a button.

Finally, the process is simple enough that students could do it on their own as a project demonstrating what they've learned. Click here to see the presentation! (it's the link labeled PowerPoint Slides in the section labeled Simple Ways to Start Using Web-Based Instruction

Monday, May 19, 2008

Finding out about edZone

The Spring issue of DataBus, a periodical of the California Educational Technology Professionals Association had an article by Alan Phillips of the Imperial County Office of Education about the California K12 High Speed Network that indicated that this California project would try to "encourage educators to utilize the latest web technology and tools, while simultaneously addressing concerns about appropriate content and providing access with risks minimized." They would accomplish this by providing platforms for blogs, wikis, podcasting and other web 2.0 tools and then only allowing access to those "verified as a member of California's K-12 educational system." Seemed like a great idea but why not adult educators too?

I sent off an email to John Fleischman, Director of Technology Services for the Sacramento County Office of Education and Executive Director of OTAN (Outreach and Technical Assistance Network) figuring he'd know the full story and inquired about adult educator access. He assured me that adult educators ARE already included in the group of eligible educators, and that adult education is one of the categories for all of the different products available. For example, if you want to find images or blogs posted or created by adult educators, you can search "adult education" to find them.

I spent about an hour exploring the various options available at the present time and while I don't yet have a complete handle on all of them, I can say that they are relatively easy to figure out and could function especially well for teachers who work in districts where more mainstream web 2.0 tools are blocked.

You can find more information at My new blog there is at
If you click on "adult education" in the list of "channels" on the right, you'll see some of my other attempts at using the tools listed. Click on the "My edZone" link to get to the California K12 High Speed Network homepage to log in to an existing account or create a new one.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Trying out

I read a tip by Darcie Priester (a Classroom 2.0 member) about this website which allows you to create a quiz and embed it in your own blog or website. It's called Mystudyio and here is my first attempt at creating a simple quiz relating to a reading selection my students are assigned.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Inspired by CATESOL 2008

I always try to implement at least one idea that I've seen at a conference within the first week after my return to the classroom. Sometimes it's more! The idea that I'm trying out came to me after attending the session on using PowerPoint presented by Beth Bogage and Jim Brice of San Diego Community College. Their workshop focused on having students prepare PowerPoint presentations enhanced by their own narration. Now I've been having students make PowerPoint presentations for several years, but they've usually involved preparing slides to accompany oral presentation of research they've carried out in class. Inspired by Beth and Jim, I've decided to have the students make two versions of their PowerPoint presentations from now on: one without narration to accompany their "in-front-of-class" presentations, and one with narration that can "stand alone" so anybody viewing the presentation will see the slides and hear the students explaining their research. Beth and Jim also suggested that students be encouraged to speak extemporaneously (as opposed to reading) and I've instructed the students to do that as much as possible. So far, the idea seems to have been well-received, and I'm getting my first student projects with narration to check. You can see the first one by clicking here, and the second one that was completed by clicking here.

Thank you Beth and Jim for your presentation!

Saturday, April 12, 2008


I'm sitting here at the Pearson Longman booth with Naomi Sato and Carol Swanson teaching them how to make a blog post. I'm going to show them about wikis too! Visit my wiki for students at

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Developments over at Pageflakes

Many of you know that I use Pageflakes for my class homepage on all of my classroom computers. Whenever any of my students open a browser on any of the classroom computers, the homepage is a Pageflakes "Pagecast" where they get daily assignments and links to the websites I want them to use regularly.

Pageflakes co-founder Ole Brandenburg informs me that they're working on an adult content filter that would be the default setting for any Pagecast which would prevent content that would be considered inappropriate in most educational settings from appearing in any pageflake. I think that would be a great improvement and increase the use of Pageflakes by teachers and schools.

The link above for Pageflakes takes you to the teacher version of Pageflakes (there's also a general version) which already has one feature that makes it more appropriate for an educational setting: a teacher version only links to other teacher versions, so the possibility of being exposed to inappropriate content inadvertently is already lessened.

Hello from TESOL 2008 in NYC

I'm pleased to report that my Pre-Conference Institute was well attended and well-received and that I've already been introduced to a new website that might be of interest to ESL teachers who like using Internet resources with their students. This website allows one to link to a YouTube or Google video and create a multiple choice quiz based on that video. It has promise, but of course, the major drawback is that most of the video sites are blocked by most school districts now including my own! It should work with TeacherTube but I haven't had a chance to test it yet. It's called ESLvideo and is at if you want to experiment with it. Like I said, it has promise but will not be completely workable for many settings and contexts.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

What's Up Tigerlilly for ESL students-Bombay TV

Here's a great idea by way of Larry Ferlazzo's "Best Ways" series! Bombay TV is a site where your students(and you too!) can have great fun with English. Basically, you caption real movie clips from Indian movies with your own comic lines. It's great fun for native and non-native speakers alike! Click on the link to see a sample:

Thursday, January 31, 2008

A blog of note

David Warlick spoke in his blog about a blog and teacher he finds inspirational, so I thought I'd take a look at the blog. Konrad Glogowski is a PhD candidate at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto and writes about his experiences and the development of his ideas about blogging with his students. I was especially struck by how his ideas about his own role as "teacher" have changed as he continues to have his students work with blogs. Konrad's blog is well worth visiting.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

A small success!

So I've been putting the daily assignment on the class web page for at least one semester now and the students have gotten into the habit of coming into the classroom and going straight to the computers to look at it. Usually they copy the assignment directly into their notebooks and start working on their own as others arrive. I also have numerous activities posted that can be done at any time. It has always been my intention that students be able to access and do the activities from home if they have an Internet connection as a means of keeping students involved in classroom activities even when they're absent. This morning, Alejandro arrived and handed me two assignments that he did from home, even though he has been absent for 3 days. Not only had he printed out all of the daily assignments, he had printed out the actual tasks and made his own "worksheets" to fill in. Needless to say, I was very pleased to see that at least one of my students made use of the opportunity to access the class from home even though he was not feeling well.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Using Garage Band to burn vocabulary CDs

Reading teacher Delondra Williams reports about using Garage Band to create vocabulary CDs for her students on her so very readable and interesting blog Adventures of an Urban Reading Teacher. She reports that her adult students were "really pleased" to get them. PC users can use the free Audacity program to do the same thing.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Recruiting for new teachers on Second Life

Turns out that the Kansas Department of Education has launched an effort to recruit teachers online via Second Life, the virtual world created by Linden Labs. According to their blog at The Kansas Recruitment and Retention Program will be hosting the first statewide virtual career fair for individuals interested in learning more about teaching in Kansas."

Do you think that teachers recruited through a virtual career fair on Second Life might be more likely to consider using technology in their teaching?