Saturday, 28 May 2011

Free Tools Challenge #14 - PhotoFiltre



In the Free Tools Challenge #14 we explored PhotoFiltre.

I almost skipped this challenge. With Picasa, Picnic and BigHugeLabs, did I really need another image editor? And one that needed to be downoladed at that?

I did download it out of curiosity (download link here). I stared at it, but it didn't seem appealing at first. Then I started playing with it.

You can never have too many image editors at your disposal.

Having an image editor in your computer (rather than online) makes it easier to manipulate a large number of images without having to upload/download them all the time. PhotoFiltre can do a lot of things other image editors can do (crop, resize, cut, copy, paste), but it also offers some really cool effects of its own. They are called the 'filters'.



The 'masks' are an interesting replacement for traditional picture frames:



You always need images in a TEFL classroom. Using a tool like PhotoFiltre lets you create exactly the kind of image you need. Cutting, copying and pasting parts of images is particularly useful:



PhotoFiltre can be used to illustrate idioms and vocabulary in general. PhotoFiltre images can be an interesting conversation prompt. What is the chair doing in the middle of the bridge?




You need an interesting image for a ghost story? No problem:



Or maybe you want your students to peep through a keyhole and tell you what they see:



I hope you have enojoyed this very brief overwiev of PhotoFiltre. If you have any questions, I will be happy to answer them (or at least look for the answer together with you). I have just started exploring this tool myself.



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Friday, 20 May 2011

Free Tools Challenge #12 - Animoto

Free Tools Challenge #12 was something I was looking forward to. I love Animoto. I have used it many times before this challenge to create beautiful clips, memorise holidays and family gatherings.

My plan was to do the same thing this time. I had just come from my Spring Holiday and we celebrated our son's birthday there. So, what could be more logical? In fact, I was so looking forward to this challenge while I was on holiday that I kept directing my movie in my head and taking additional photos every day. I took the advice from one of the Animoto tutorials and photographed everything from our arrival onwards. Here is my holiday clip:




I was happy with my clip, but I wanted more this time. I have always sensed that Animoto could do much, much more than just create moving photo albums. So, I first came up with the idea of using it as a kind of a picture dictionary. I used their photos and worked with what I could find there. Here is the result:




This is just an idea. You can create thousands of these clips, depending on the vocabulary you need to teach or recycle. It is relatively easy to find the right image for anything among the Creative Commons images.

I still wasn't satisfied. I wanted to try telling a real digital story in Animoto, so I recycled an old one. It is The Boy Who Listened and it was first created in Mixbook. You can read the original story here and the related blog post is here.

Luckily, I had all the photos in a separate folder and I uploaded them into Animoto. I had to shorten the text a little, but it was worth it. When you are creating in Animoto, you never know what the final product is going to look like, but this exceeded my expectations. See for yourselves:




This can be used in the classroom in so many ways. The first thing that comes to my mind is recording role plays. Or students can write their own short stories or dialogues, record them and finally upload the photos to Animoto.

I was ready to wrap this post up when I suddenly had an idea. Yes, another one.

What if I recorded my own voice in the MP3 format, uploaded it to Animoto and told my story that way.

Luckily, I could yet again recycle an old project for this. It is a poem called The Dragon which I had recorded in Myna by Aviary for one of my online courses. You can find the relevant post here. I just needed the right images... Something to suggest the loneliness of the dragon, some caves perhaps. It was easier than I had thought to find the images. I used a search engine called Compfight which in my case is set to Creative Commons images.

OK, I will not hide it - I am very proud of this:



(Photos used in this clip: 1. DSC_0237, 2. Lonely tree on Planina lake, 3. Lonely in golden place!, 4. Maldives, a place you want to be, 5. DGJ_1985 - Paint my world (view Large), 6. Natural Bridge, 7. Vodable - cave - 26-08-2007 - 11h49, 8. THE SECRET OF NATURAL ARCH, 9. HDRcavernOrton, 10. NORWAY Flåm: Waterfall "Kjofossen" 18.953.17, 11. One Thousand and One Nights, 12. Phong Nha Cave, Vietnam, 13. Deep Inside the Iris Cave, 14. Ice cave in Glacier Gray, 15. Deja Vu, 16. Lavatube, Mojave National Preserve, 17. Ruby Falls, 18. The End of the Tunnel, 19. Reed flute cave, 20. Vodable - cave - 27-08-2007 - 11h05, 21. Devetashka cave, 22. Pirate's Gold, 23. Red Dragon Horizon, 24. The Dragon Cloud)

To sum up - you can do anything with Animoto. It is adaptable and it will never let you down. Whether you want to tell a story, use Animoto as a learning and teaching tool or simply record memorable events, Animoto is the right choice.













Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Free Tools Challenge #10 - Wordle



I created this image by running one of my longer blog posts through Wordle. Can you guess what the post is about? Check whether you were right or wrong here.

When I found out that Free Tools Challenge #10 was Wordle, I panicked a little. I feel that everything has already been said about this great tool.

Well, sometimes a bit of repetition doesn't hurt.



This wordle was created by using their Advanced feature. It helps you determine how big you want your letters to be.

What is this Wordle saying:

1. In the pre-reading and pre-listening stage, you can use Wordle to help the students predict what the text is about. You can also use it in the post-reading/post-listening stage for retelling and summary writing. Look at this Wordle on Romeo and Juliet.

2. When you want the students to write a story, you can give some words in advance by putting them into a Wordle.

3. You can help them improve their writing by having them run their essays through Wordle. That way, they can see if they keep repeating the same word over and over (in my case it was 'really') or whether they are mixing formal and informal language.

4. It goes without saying: Wordle is an excellent tool for introducing new vocabulary or for vocabulary revision. In fact, you can use it any time you want to replace an ordinary looking vocabulary box with something more beautiful. I love this Wordle that I have found in their gallery.

5. The largest word in my Wordle is brainstorming. I believe it requires no further explanation. Look at this Wordle, for example. Or at this one.

Of course, there are many, many other ways you can use Wordle. You can simply use it as decoration or to introduce yourself, the way I did here:



One thing you can't do is use Wordle as a storytelling tool. Right?

Wrong.

By the way, all the Wordles I have linked to here have been posted to the gallery during the past hour. Amazing, isn't it?



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Monday, 9 May 2011

Free Tools Challenge #9 - ToonDoo

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In Free Tools Challenge # 9 we are again creating comics. This time we are using ToonDoo.

ToonDoo is a fast, easy and fun way to create comics.

I already shared some ideas about how to use comics in a TEFL classroom here. So, this time I will just concentrate on exploring ToonDoo.

The first thing you will probably want to do is create a fun avatar for yourself using Traitr. Later you can use your character in comics the way I did here:

My Name Is Natasa


After that, I advise you to just explore the characters they already have in their gallery and I am sure ideas will come.

Every Day


One thing I like about ToonDoo is the wide range of characters they offer. This gives you freedom to experiment with different characters and different stories. That way your comics will never be boring:

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Bookmaker lets you can put several toons into a single book:




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Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Free Tools Challenge #8 - Glogster

I have been absent for the past two weeks. I haven't got a laptop, or a tablet computer. My only online connection when I travel is my old Nokia. I don't know whether this is good or bad. On the one hand, I get completely rested this way. On the other hand, I feel overwhelmed when I come back. Now I am even more late with my Free Tools Challenge. I am stuck on Challenge # 8, which is Glogster. Not that I am complaining too much, I love Glogster.

Glogster lets you create online interactive posters. It is easy to use and it looks beautiful. I haven't been using it for long, but, as I have already said, I love it. If you haven't tried it so far, I hope you will give it a go after you read this.

I promised I would give you practical advice on how to use these tools and that I would do that from the point of view of a TEFL teacher teaching adults. So, here we go.

A glog looks like a poster and it is precisely this feature that should be used to the full. You can use it to introduce yourself when you start teaching a new class, the way I did here:



As you can see, this glog has two elements. The first part is actually my Twitter bio and the second part is a collage of photos that represent what I like. Students usually like to know more about their teacher. This collage of photos is not that easy to decipher and they have to ask additional questions to find out what some of those pictures represent. (For your information, starting from top left-hand corner: my guys, teaching, coffee, dark chocolate, travelling, reading, computers, writing, nature.)

Students can create their own glogs and they can introduce themselves any way they like. They can combine text, images, sounds and videos. Or they can follow the format I used here. Writing a Twitter bio is not easy, but it is a fun way for the students to define their interests in a clear succinct form. Creating the "What I like" collage is great because it can later serve as a conversation prompt. When they get to know each other better, they can create a glog that represents their class and put it on their class blog for everyone to see.

The second glog I am going to embed here was created for my Digital Storytelling class. I was comparing three online tools and I used the same poem in all of them. The winner was Photobabble and I featured it in my blog here. I almost forgot about the Glogster version of the same poem, but here it is:



I searched Glogster a little and found a whole section devoted to text letters and poems. Some of them are just amazing. As I have remarked in this blog before, there are so many talented young people out there.

If you have students who like writing poetry, Glogster is a great tool for them. However, there is one other idea that came to my mind when I looked at my old glog with fresh eyes.

Glogs look like posters. (I know, I have already said that). What if this was actually a holiday destination? And what if it turned out the food was terrible, the beach was far away and the hotel roof leaked. Tourist agencies don't always tell the truth.

Students can create advertisements for different holiday destinations in Glogster or you can do it for them. You can put pictures of beautiful beaches and expensive-looking hotels. You can then add the text of the advertisement. As I have said, tourist agencies don't always tell the truth. Students can come up with a whole list of things that didn't meet their expectations. They can role play a dialogue in which one of the students is a dissatisfied tourist and the other one is a travel agency employee. This can be followed by a letter of complaint.

The whole poster/advertisement thing gave me an idea and I just had to try it out. So I came up with this ad:


This can be a speaking/writing prompt and different things can be done with it, from the mundane "We need to have the doors oiled" grammar exercises to horror stories. Who bought the house? Why? What was their first night in the house like? What did they do afterwards? Who is the ghost?

Glogster is great as a writing prompt. You can create a glog with a random combination of pictures and ask the students to write a story. You can give them the first sentence if you wish. Another thing you can put into your glog is different sounds. You can find the sounds you need here.

Looking for more things to do with Glogster? Check Greetingsfromtheworld. This amazing wiki project was started by Arjana Blazic and her students, but now it has taken a life of its own.

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