Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Embedding PDF files into your posts

In my last post I outlined a lesson plan and I provided links for two PDF files. In order to get the files, you need to click on the link that will take you to the file page. Well, that is the usual procedure. The only problem is that the readers will then leave your page and might never return. Why should they continue reading your carefully written post once they got the PDF files?

There has to be a better way.

There are quite a few tutorials on how to embed PDF files, but I used this one. It worked like a dream, as you will see in the comments, but then Fileden got infested withTrojans. I was going to delete this post completely, but then I decided to follow S. Bolos's advice and try EmbedIt. Here is the result:

So, what do you think? When you read a blog post, do you prefer the traditional way (clicking on a link which takes you to another page), or this? And, if you are a blogger, do you think embedding PDF into your post would encourage the readers to stay on your page?

By the way, you can also upload your files to Scribd and it will generate the embed code for you.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Trouble with the Mobile Phone

Photo on Flickr by William Hook

I am going to share with you a role play I created a while ago.

I don't know what gave me the idea. Must have been the fact that my students constantly forgot to turn off their mobiles. There was this one student... The class started at four o'clock. His phone always rang at 4.30. He would try to hide under the desk and he would say in this loud, hissing whisper "I'm in class. I'll call you later." They informed me afterwards that he had this really jealous girlfriend.

Or maybe it was another student who ran a multi-level marketing business. Her phone rang several times during the class and I somehow managed to teach her to go outside while she talked to her clients.

Anyway, I had a long break between two classes and that's when the idea hit me. I could see the following bit of news in my head:

Angry Teacher

I wrote it down. I had some empty library cards in my handbag, I was doing a project or something, I can't remember. Anyway, haven't I told you that it's always useful to have things in your handbag? You never know when you are going to need library cards, for example.

So I took those cards out of my handbag and I wrote the roleplay onto them. I put the cards into my handbag (you never know when you are going to need stuff) and went into the next class.

The last class that day was with a very lively and creative group of intermediate students. We opened our books and started doing whatever we were supposed to do that day.

It was boring.

I don't remember what the topic of the class was, but I still remember the blank expression on their faces.

"Is this boring?" I asked.

"Yes," they said.

"Would you like to do something else?"

"Yes, please."

I pulled out my handwritten role cards. You really never know when you might need stuff. I explained about the angry teacher and about the phone. I spread the cards onto a desk and let each student pick one.

They screamed at each other. They argued. They negotiated. They went on and on for about an hour. They reached a compromise. I didn't have to do anything, except sit back and enjoy.

It was a magical experience.

It never happened again quite in the same way, of course. Still, whenever I did my little role play, the students liked it.

It had to evolve over years. What started as a discussion over how old children should be before they get their first mobile and whether mobiles should be allowed at school at all changed into how we could use mobiles in a constructive way in class. Some characters left the play (teachers who were firmly against mobiles at school and students whose parents couldn't afford to buy them mobiles) and new characters replaced them (the under-cover journalist and the geeky teacher).

The procedure for this lesson is really simple and you can improvise as much as you want.

I would start by asking them whether they had ever been in an awkward situation because they had forgotten to turn off their mobile. That serves a double purpose - it introduces the topic and it reminds them to turn off their phone in case they haven't already done it. Then they can talk about the mobile they are using at the moment, the mobile they would like to have... It depends on how much time you have.

After that, introduce the topic of the lesson. You can simply read out loud the bit of news about the angry teacher, or you can download it here, cut it into little strips of paper and give it to them. Ask them to discuss what might have prompted the teacher to do that. Ask them to try and predict what is going to happen.

The main part of the lesson is the role play which you can download here. Cut it into role cards and give each student a card. There are nine roles in the play, but it can easily be adjusted to suit your class. The first four roles are crucial (the student's parent, the principal, the student and the teacher) and if your class is small you can choose who else you want to keep. Some roles can be repeated (the journalist, the student's friend, the teacher's friend...). If your class is large, you can put the students into groups of nine.

By the way, you might want to pre-teach the language for agreeing and disagreeing and (why not?) a couple of taboo words.

As a follow-up, you can discuss various ways in which mobiles can be used in class in a constructive way. There are tons of great blog posts on that subject. This one, for example. And here is a nice vocabulary test connected to this topic.

And if, like me, you teach in a country where geeky teachers are an endangered species, you might enjoy this little video (which is not a part of the lesson plan, but, shall we say, a freeby). So, sit back and enjoy:

If you decide to try it with your students, do let me know how it went. Just post me a note in the Comments section. I have only ever done this with adult learners and I am really curious about what would happen if you gave it to teenagers.

And, in case you got so carried away by my elegant prose that you somehow missed the download links for the worksheets, here they are once again:

Angry Teacher Breaks Mobile Phone
Trouble with the Mobile Phone

Creative Commons License
This lesson plan by http://lunas994.blogspot.com is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.


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Sunday, 7 March 2010

Which came first - the picture or the caption?

Let me start where I finished last time:

How many ways are there to tell a story in the digital world?

I am not going to talk about the tools here. There are lots of great posts on that topic. Or you can go through the Images4Education wiki. You can even download this wonderful ebook free of charge.

I am going to concentrate on a single question:

Which came first

And if my new habit of speaking in pictures is starting to get on your nerves, do stop reading, because there is more coming.

To answer my own question (I know, I am a bad teacher), when you are telling your story, sometimes you will write the story first and find or create the pictures afterwards. I often do that in my blog by searching for Flickr photos that could illustrate what I am trying to say. Or you could start from the pictures and use them as an inspiration for your story, the way Janet did here.

Why are images important in TEFL in the first place? To answer that, I will have to use more images, I am afraid. So here is a slideshow I created during the third week of Images4Education:

I am an extreme right-brainer and I really do think in pictures all the time. Even if we take different learning styles into consideration (not everyone is a right-brainer), images are always useful in a TEFL class. They help us explain new vocabulary, they can serve as speaking or writing prompts, they can make grammar less boring... I am not going to talk about what you already know.

Even if the image has no immediate practical purpose, it is still good to have one. Let's say you are writing a blog post and you don't know how to end it. The words just won't come. You can place a nice image where your conclusion should have been and make your readers wonder what you were trying to say with it.

Frost on Red.egg by lunas994 on AviaryFrost on Red.egg by lunas994 on Aviary


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