10 great websites for learning English

websites for learning EnglishWith such an abundance of authentic English online these days, from videos to articles, podcasts to blogs, there’s no excuse not to use the internet to help you improve. However, you might also want something targeted especially at the learner. Here, alphabetically, are 10 great websites for learning English that we think you’ll enjoy. Continue reading

To La Rioja with love :)

Two weeks ago I had the privilege of collaborating with La Rioja region.

The Department of Educational Innovation has included a blended course of CLIL methodology addressed to all the teachers interested in implementing bilingualism in their classes (or already implementing it!). Continue reading

Show and tell

A while ago I visited a school in the community of Madrid, a public bilingual school called CEIP Cantosaltos, and while I was there talking with Maria, a wonderful and professional teacher, a girl approached us and said so excitedly: “Teacher Maria!!  Tomorrow It’s my turn to show and tell!”

I asked Maria, what that was about and she told me that since she wanted to improve her students oral skills she had implemented this simple but powerful activity at the beginning of every Monday session. Show and tell is a very typical American game. And it goes like this:

A student brings a secret possession to school and they keep it covered up inside of a bag or inside of a box so the other students can’t see. The other students have to guess what’s inside the bag. The student who has the secret possession stands in front of the class and give clues about their hidden object, so they can say “it’s very big” or “it’s small” or they can describe what colour it is, or they can talk about why it is special for them, and then the students in the classroom get to ask that boy or girl questions like: “Is it round? Is it square? Is it blue?” The game ends when they figure out what it is.

It’s great for the children because it gives them the opportunity to practice questions and answers and to play with the language as well as share with their friends what is important for them turning this into a really meaningful learning experience.

Maria’s language assistant explains it in this video.

We hope you find it useful!!!

5 Major Edtech Trends

Pearson Morning Madrid 2014

Last week in Madrid I had the pleasure of doing the second session at the Pearson Morning for English teachers at Adult Learner Centres.  It was also a distinct honor (and more than slightly intimidating) as Speakout author Antonia Clare kicked the event off with her superb and provocatively titled talk: Love and the Art of Language Learning.  All of us at Pearson sincerely hope those of you who attended the event enjoyed it as much as we did.

For those of you who could not be there, or those of you who were but wanted to have a second look, I am including below a brief summary of my talk: 5 major Edtech trends for English teachers to watch out for… and embrace, as well as the presentation itself.

 

From Content Delivery to Prosumerism

We started out by attempting to define Edtech and a quick look at a recent post at the site eltjam made it clear quite quickly that, if nothing else, it is a topic which is often politically charged and stirring up considerable debate.  And we also saw a rather funky example of some pretty serious content delivery from the 1960s that showed us that Edtech is not exactly a new idea.  But today instead of being almost solely about the delivery (or bombardment) of content, Blended Learning approaches are (or at least perhaps should be) increasingly about 1) putting learners in the driver’s seat as Prosumers (doers instead of merely consumers) and 2) providing them with a process by which to access their own individualized learning paths.

 

My five Edtech trends?  Well here they are:

 

Video

Though this may not sound very new, video is like the glue which holds everything together nowadays.  It is THE medium which almost single-handedly defines the Internet experience today.  It is now an integral part of what makes courses and online learning spaces work and has to be taken into account from the moment these products and services are conceived. They are no longer just an add-on or extra component.  And from Prosumer video tools like Movenote to things like eduCanon which allow you to curate your own video content, or sites like Kieran Donaghy’s Film English where a true expert in video shares his ideas for how to use them in class, we are witnessing a real democratization of this form of expression applied to language learning.

 

Mobile Learning

There are lots of exciting advances in apps and e-books which are certain to take us in very interesting directions soon, but at the moment much of this is fairly straight forward content delivered in a pretty traditional way.  The real value that mobile can add to you classes today resides in its ability to bring the learner’s experience into the classroom, not simply receive content.  Just as a video or voice recorder your students’ smart phones are probably still worth more than most of the apps out there.  And if you are going to use apps why not use those that your learners are familiar with?  For these reasons BYOD is still king in most contexts.

 

Social Media

I’ve spoken about this and backchaneling before, but in a nutshell: This is one way that we are speaking to each other today.  As language teachers we know that anywhere and anyway that communication is taking place, we need to be there.

 

Online Collaboration Tools

What I find interesting about experimenting with things like shared Google Docs is the way they help us to see that the most transformative kinds of changes (see my explanation of the SAMR model for evaluating technology use) that come about from using technology do not happen because of the technology itself, but because an emphasis is placed on the types of skills needed to use the tool to its full potential.  And the teacher working as a guide is key to helping students hone these skills to use these tools in new and unexpected ways.  This example of “Chrome Smashing” is a great example of how you need to get creative to redefine tasks and take them up a notch.

 

Adaptive Learning (AL) and Big Data

This is perhaps the most fiercely debated of today’s Edtech innovations.  Proponents claim data mining the information trail that students leave when completing work online will allow us greater insights into their needs, helping us to personalize their learning experience.  Others feel that language learning is too complex to be able to be measured, or that any measurement will only be at the “McNugget” level.  I actually believe that there is some merit to the McNugget argument, but only because these are very early days for AL.  We still have only a very preliminary idea of where this may go, but new tools are already being developed which measure student progress far more accurately and granularly than before thought possible, give automated and nearly instantaneous results, and can measure gains using much more meaningful “can do” descriptors instead of the simple completion of discrete McNugget-type content items.

 

Big trends in ELT by Mario Herrera

Mario Herrera is the author and co-author of many acclaimed ESL/EFL series that are used in levels ranging from pre-primary to junior high schools. As an international consultant and teacher trainer, Mr. Herrera travels the globe, directing seminars and delivering professional development workshops throughout the Americas, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia…and we have had the enomous privilege to talk with him after his BIG conference in Madrid.

Thank you Mario, it was a pleasure to learn from such an experienced traveller, you gave us one of the biggest learning journeys!

We hope that you like it as much as we did!

Using Movenote

Unlike Jing or Screencast-o-matic, Movenote is not really a screencasting tool per se as is doesn’t give you the ability to capture your entire screen or use the cursor as a pointer for you audience (in other words it doesn’t record what you’re doing on your screen).  What it does do, however, is provide you with a quick way to upload a variety of document types and images, order them into a presentation and make a recording of your narration with a webcam.  And it can be used as an extension of your Gmail.  A new and easy option for teachers interested in flipping their classes!  Check it out below!

Click here

Click here

CLIL & ICT, a perfect marriage

Bilingualism and multilingualism in schools are hot topics in different regions of Spain that are and have been implementing different plans in order to improve students skills, and all of them have chosen CLIL as the most appropiate approach.

CLIL is a challenging and exciting approach developed by David Marsh and his team studies. It aims at a broader objective than just learning a language. It shows us how to use the language to learn and learn to use languages.

I have had the chance to work for several years in a bilingual school that, thanks to its principal and faculty, has achieved great success in implementing this approach and demonstrating how reflection, planning, commitment, passion and profesionalism can make a difference.

During my stay as a teacher there, I actively collaborated introducing ICT in the project and after all these years and experiences I can really confirm that the symbiosis between CLIL and ICT works beautifully! Communicative Competence and Digital Competence is a perfect marriage.

Now, I’m collaborating with the “Marc per al Plurilingüisme a Catalunya”, a very ambitious plan that aims to use the communicative competence of their students as leverage. I have attended some meetings with the people in charge of the plan to set a common framework and It was very interesting to observe that they are not only focused on external exams but on a more profound methodological change.

I delivered this session in Tarragona and in CPR Navalmoral, and It was great to meet and share some of my experiences with such passionate teachers.

As promised to all the teachers attending the sessions, here you have my presentations. Hope you enjoy it, and if you do…don’t hesitate to comment and share it!

Celebrate Martin Luther King Day with your class

Over the past year I have had the pleasure to travel all around Spain giving a talk to students of English on the topic of Freedom.  2013 was a year full of significant anniversaries in the struggle for civil rights in my country of origin, the United States, and it proved a wonderful opportunity to share some of my history and culture.  150 years ago saw the beginning of the end of slavery.  The great hero of the fight against segregation Rosa Parks was born 100 years ago.  And 50 years ago Martin Luther King gave his powerful “I Have a Dream” speech.

Though he was born on January 15, today, the third Monday of January, is Martin Luther King Day in the United States.  It is impossible to fully convey the importance of his place in the history of the United States, but I do not think it is an exaggeration to say that it goes far beyond his social and political contributions as the deepest impressions he left in the world were without a doubt spiritual, reminding us always of our duties to our fellow man and to the principles of justice and equality.

I would like to share with you a wonderful video put together by the expert in presentations and communications, Nancy Duarte.  In it she analyzes the “I Have a Dream” speech for its structure, pauses, and use of repetition, metaphor and reference to spiritual, literary or political texts.  The amazing thing about it is how visual it is.  And for a teacher of languages it represents a wonderful use of technology to convey some central concepts of discourse analysis to your students in a way which is easy to understand and intuitive.

It will provide you with a fantastic pre or post-listening or reading task for the speech, depending on how you want to use it.  And I am certain that having understood the rhetorical conventions that King uses it could also be a wonderful springboard for more productive work.  Perhaps your students could even write their own speech with their dreams for a better world.

It would be great to hear how you decided to use it in your class!

What are you thankful for?

Last week I travelled to Malaga to deliver a training session, and I had the chance to visit a great school called CEIP Valdelecrín, an elementary school in beautiful Fuengirola.

They have been running a bilingual program for 6 years and they have achieved great success implementing CLIL methodology…but…this is only the formal part…while I was there I met two of the teachers, and they were the kind of teachers that are driven by passion. Like most other teachers, their interest goes beyond simple things such as money or social status, they are driven by something higher, they are driven by values, by knowing that their work makes a difference.

The economic crisis is hitting education budgets hard and teachers find themselves tied by a lack of resources, but they manage to keep smiling and find creative and great ways to keep moving “onwards and upwards”. Ken Robinson says that there´s no better school than its teachers and It´s so true.

While I was there, Alicia showed me the blog that she uses to engage the students (we have added it to our blogroll here) and she explained to me how parents are thrilled with her work, and how families collaborate by taking part in the video tasks she proposes.

She also showed me some projects that they have done, and one of them was about Thanksgiving, so I thought it was a great opportunity to share their ideas with you.

Children are going through hard times, indirectly they are on the receiving end of the consequences of the crisis that many of their parents face, and they sometimes perceive anxiety, sadness and anger. This makes them feel unsure, and children need security.

Making them reflect on what they can be thankful for can help to reinforce their self-confidence and happiness. It also teaches them an attitude to life,  the same that I have seen in their teachers. It´s not just about Thanksgiving holiday…it´s about being thankful.

I would like to express what I am thankful for. I´m thankful for enjoying the little details in life. I´m grateful for my profession, for having the privilege to learn from all the amazing teachers I meet.

I´m thankful for enjoying teaching so much. I´m thankful for this learning journey. Thank you Málaga.

What about you? When was the last time you thought about what you were thankful for?

What is the relation between being grateful and hapiness? don´t miss this TED video

Let´s get real. Real competences for real life.

Last week I attended and participated in the “I Jornadas de Asesoramiento sobre secciones Bilingües”, held in a series of cities around the Castilla-La Mancha region.

On this occasion the workshop was focused on why and how to introduce Inquiry-Based learning in our lessons and how to include media making in the process as an answer to the real competences that our students will need to acquire in their lives. Here is the presentation (and at the end an interview with the organisers). I hope our non-Spanish speakers reading this get the general idea.

 

This region has a growing bilingual project and this was the first conference organized by the Administration. As they explain here, teacher training is going to be a key element in its success.