Saturday, 31 January 2015

Keep Calm and Publish

This is my "moderator post" for Week 4 in #etextbookevo . This is where I give advice and support for the participants, pretending that I am an expert in publishing ebooks and not just someone who published her first chapter last year. I will try to be useful, I know you have a lot of work to do. Week 4 is going to be "that" week, you will be expected to publish your ebook chapter and show it to the world. OK, so here's the first piece of advice:

Photo Credit: quimby via Compfight cc

I mean it - don't panic. You don't have to finish your chapter next week, you don't have to write 100 pages and, moreover, you don't have to make it all up. The internet is like a global supermarket, with CC-licenced images, lectures and worksheets. You can write content that is completely new and original, but you can also curate some of the existing content created by diligent and creative teachers like you. Or you can do a combination of both.

(And remember that, even if something is not CC-licenced, you can always link to it.)

Think of what you do every week as you prepare for classes. You think about your previous class, you look at what's planned for the next lesson, you think about your students and their needs, then you go and search for something on the internet. Or maybe you sit down and write some tailor-made worksheets.

My point is that we all do it all the time. We are all material developers. So you have never published an ebook, so what?

Maybe you are lost when you look at all these publishing options. This Google Doc contains a list of publishing tools with advantages and disadvantages. If you are willing to dig through the posts in Listly, you will find some tools that are not listed in the Doc. What you choose should depend on your students and their needs. It will also depend on the kind of ebook you are writing and the way you are planning to use it. Do you want something very interactive? Which devices and platforms will your students use to access the ebook? Do they need to be online all the time? Which formats are they used to? If they want epub, then you should probably forget about adding videos and quizzes.

If possible, maybe it is a good idea to publish the ebook on multiple platforms. Last year I published my chapter in Glossi, which is beautiful but sadly no longer available, but I also created a Storify story. Finally I backed everything up on a wiki. I am trying to create content that will resemble Lego bricks - I can move elements of my chapter from platform to platform, I can add or remove parts of my chapter or rearrange them in a different order. This year I am experimenting with Widbook, but I have no idea what the final result will be like. I am also planning to create a Word document because I can embed videos into Word 2013. And, of course, there will be a wiki.

Whatever you do, remember to have fun. And remember the first two rules of writing:

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Catching Up on Week 2 of EVO

It is the end of Week 2 in EVO. I signed up for too many sessions again this year and last week was crazy at work. So I found myself in front of my computer at the end of the week, having no idea where to start. Could I even hope to do all my assignments in two days? And interact with other participants?

A sane answer to these questions would have been "No". The right thing to do on a Saturday morning would have been to go out and enjoy life. Luckily, the weather was awful all weekend, with dark gloomy skies and rain. And, luckily, I am a nerd.

It took me six hours on Saturday and four on Sunday, but I managed. And I loved every moment of it.

So here's what I did. I first attacked the Flipped Learning homework. I experimented with PowerPoint and created this video for my advanced class:

There are blunders and mistakes and things I could have done better, but this is my first instructional video and I am proud of it. I am really enthusiastic about my flipped learning class, I can't wait to learn more and create more videos.

Working with PowerPoint on my Windows tablet was a great experience. I have become a Windows 8 fan by now and I want to explore the use of PowerPoint for flipped learning. I also created a Jing video, but I made so many blunders in that one that I am leaving it out. Still, Jing videos are great when you need to share your screen with others, or teach them how to use a tool. Or take a screenshot, the way I am doing it here:

This is a picture of my Blended Learning homework. You might notice that I have recycled my Idioms with Paint video. Our task was to create two different forum-based activities, to explain what the previous task was and what the objective of the forum was going to be. I have some experience with online forums and I have used Yahoo Groups with my students. I haven't got much experience with Moodle, except as a student. I am quite impressed by what Moodle forums can do. You can find out more about Moodle forums here.

Next, I created an audio recording for ICT4ELT, listing some ways how audio can be used with students. I used a Windows 8 application called Sound Recorder. It is great and the sound is very clear, but there was a slight problem with it - afterwards, the file was nowhere to be found. It wasn't stored anywhere in My Documents, or in Downloads. I searched and searched. Finally, I asked Google and this post helped me find it. After I had finally located my file, I uploaded it to several podcasting platforms (probably in fear of losing it again)  Anyway, here are my thoughts on how you can use audio with your students:

On more ideas how to use audio, I warmly recommend this article by Nik Peachey.

We also played with Skype in ICT4ELT and I suggest you read this article about Skype in the classroom.

Next, Teaching Pronunciation Differently. Did I already tell you how much I love that class? This week we watched a series of interesting videos (for example, this one) and did some practical exercises. I recorded myself again, and this time I was saying Sing a Song of Sixpence in a normal voice, stage whisper and ordinary whisper. I deleted the recording afterwards, it was for my own personal use.

This week in EVO eTextbooks we were thinking about the visual design and layout of our etextbooks. What do we want our books to look like? And which visual elements are important to our students specifically? If I think about my (adult) learners and the visual elements that are important to them, I believe we need to start with the basics, and that's the font. It needs to be easy on the eyes and large. Of course they can always enlarge it on their device, but it will help if the page is not cluttered with text. Instead, there should also be images, bulletpoints, arrows... I speak from personal experience. I can't see a thing without my reading glasses. The only reading app I like is FBReader. You can enlarge the letters as much as you want and, what's equally important, you can increase the space between the lines. That way even I can read without my glasses. Unfortunately FBReader only works on Android devices. 

More on visual design in this very informative post by  Walton Burns. And here's a helpful rubric by M. Jesus Garcia San Martin.

And what will textbooks be like in the future?

Of course we can't be sure, but in the future most textbooks will probably be read on people's devices. They will be interactive, with videos, interactive quizzes and exercises and lots of images. Students will probably be able to "write on the margins" and post comments and feedback for the textbook author. Digital textbooks should be designed in such a way that they can be quickly edited, so that the content can be changed and updated regularly.

I made a Prezi for last year's #etextbook course. I believe it still neatly sums up what I want future textbooks to be like.

In Educators and Copyright we had interesting readings and listenings this week. For example, in this post you can find more search tools which help you locate CC-licenced images. Quite a few of them are new to me. Sadly, I was mostly lurking in Educators and Copyright last week, otherwise I would probably have needed a Time-Turner.

Photo Credit: Natalie Barletta via Compfight cc

One last thing before I sign off. I mentioned the interaction. In every one of the groups where I have participated I have met great teachers who have inspired me with their work and their comments.

And if I can somehow get a hold of that Time-Turner, I will work even harder next week.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

My Blog is Seven Years Old

My blog is seven years old. I  can't believe it's been so long since I started blogging. It seems like yesterday.

I write a post on this day every year and I lead my readers through all the posts that I wrote the year before. However, I was a lazy blogger last year (as I have already explained here) and there wouldn't be much to share. So, instead, I have decided to celebrate my blog's seventh birthday by sharing seven random blog posts. I am not looking for the best posts, or even my personal favourites. I am not sure what criteria I am using here, but I hope you like the result.

My number one, Publishing My First Ebook Chapter, was written last year and it will lead you through the 2014 Ebook EVO session (or, at least, my experience of it). Since I am moderating #ebookevo this year, I thought it would be useful both for me and for my readers to go through the process of creating an ebook this early in the 2015 session.

How I Became a Teacher is a personal story about how the profession chose me. If you don't understand what I am talking about, you should read the post.

7 Reasons Why Educators Should Blog was originally written as an assignment for a writing MOOC I attended on Coursera. You will notice that a lot of effort went into this post. I also had more personal reasons for writing it - I was trying to convince a group of reluctant bloggers to just do it. If you are not a blogger yet, but want to start blogging, or if like me you have recently gone through a stage when you felt like giving up, read this post.

Activities for the First Class contains some nice warmers and you might find it useful.

Free Tools Challenge - Animoto contains practical ideas how you can use my favourite digital storytelling tool. I am rather proud of this post.

Trouble with the Mobile Phone is a lesson plan with a role play worksheet that I created. Hope you find it useful.

I would like to finish with Murphy's Law for EFL Teachers because we can all use a good laugh.

That's all, folks. Thank you for reading my blog. I hope I'll see you more often in 2015. In fact, I'll be reckless and make this a promise.

And stay tuned for more EVO updates.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

EVO Week One - Let the Fun Begin

It is Week 1 of EVO, so it's time to get this blog active again. As always, I have signed up for multiple sessions. And I am moderating one of them - Crafting the ePerfect Textbook, or #ebookevo. The session has 18 moderators, so it is a collaborative endeavour. We are a true MOOC, with a lot of participants, so we are very busy responding to the threads in our Google+ group. I will be moderating Week 4, but until then I am trying to be as active in the group as I can. Congratulations to the Week 1 moderators, Shelly Terrell, Özge Karaoğlu, Janet Bianchini, Debbie Tebovich, Michelle Worgan, André J. Spang, Jennifer Verschoorfor doing a great job during this busy week. You can read Janet's Week 1 post here. It contains lots of tips and tricks to help you write your own ebook.

I first attended #ebookevo as a participant last year and I wrote about it here. So, I was honoured when Shelly Terrell invited me to help moderate the session. This year I am planning to add one more chapter to the collaborative ebook I wrote last year with two colleagues from my school, Snezana Filipovic and Milica Svrzic. It is aimed at intermediate adult students.

Another session I am very excited about is EVO 2015 Flipped Learning, or #evoflippedlearning. In week 1 we were trying to decide whether flipped learning was applicable to our teaching situation. I find the topic both relevant and interesting. I teach busy adults who spend only two 90-minute periods a week in class. Flipping could free some classroom time for activating new vocabulary and grammar. I first need to learn how to create instructional videos. My YouTube channel has been mostly inactive, maybe that is going to change now. 

Week 1 in #evoflippedlearning contained some great resources. Here is a series of short videos by John Bergmann and Aaron Sams, who are considered to be pioneers of flipped learning. The main question they try to answer is What is the best use of my face-to-face time with students? Here are two articles by John Graney and Laine Marshall, our moderators. Laine Marshall provides further links to Katie Gambar's videos and this treasure trove. I can't wait to find out more.

I have to admit that I find the difference between flipped and blended learning a little hazy. The terms overlap and in an effective use of online tools there might be both methods present. Blended learning is another topic I find very relevant, so I am attending Using Moodle as a Bridge to Blended Learning. It is on the Moodle4Teachers website and you can read a short description of the course here. This video differentiates the blurry line between blended learning and technology integration. This video gives further examples of blended learning in the classroom.

I am also attending Educators and Copyright: Do the Right Thing. In Week 1, among other things, I read this blog post about using images legally. I find it very relevant to bloggers, especially since it also contains links to places where you can find CC-licenced photos you can legally use. More on places to find CC-licenced photos here.

I wouldn't feel I was in EVO if I didn't sign up for ICT4ELT. I sign up every year, and this time I earned myself a badge for Week 1.

Finally (don't count my sessions, please) there is Teaching Pronunciation Differently. This session has transported me back to my student days when phonetics was one of my favourite subjects. That was a long time ago and I have forgotten a lot, so I am struggling a little at this stage. Luckily, the moderators are very helpful and I am looking forward to the following weeks because I feel that here I will learn something new. Hopefully this course will help me help my students with pronunciation.

I hope you have enjoyed my report from various EVO sessions and that you will find the readings and the videos I have shared useful. See you again really soon.


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