Tuesday, 29 July 2008

My Personal Best

I've been blogging on this site now for just over a year, so I thought that just before I head off on my holiday for a couple of weeks, I would leave you with what I feel were some of my best postings over the last year or so.

Creating audio-visual monologues
Back in April 2007 I wrote about a nice bit of free recording and lip syncing software that enables students and teachers to create small animated flash characters like this one.

Interactive presentations
Back in September 2007 I discovered Voice Thread and wrote a tutorial and some teaching tips and some ideas for how to use it.

Creating a mobile phone website
In October 2007 I wrote about how to create your own mobile phone based community using Winksite. This included a demo tutorial as well as an example site for you to try out.

Exploiting two computer-based RPGs
In November 2007 I created some tutorials and teaching materials based around two online Role playing games (RPGs) and looked at how thee could be used for EFL/ ESL.

3B Village 3D browser
In December 2007 3B Village added lots of new functionality to there 3D collaborative web browser and this inspired some teaching tips and ideas based around that.

Soundscapes from Soundtransit
In March 2008 I wrote about a wonderful site for sharing and downloading audio files. I really enjoyed this site as it inspired quite a few teaching ideas and tips.

Iconic teen video
From April 2008 I thought that my best posting was a look at the kinds of videos teens are watching on YouTube and the new micro-genres that are developing through that medium.

Immersive Image Environments
In May I discovered one of my favourite browser plugins and one which I still enjoy everyday- PicLens. I wrote some suggestions showing just how useful i thought it could be in class.

Create your own social network 7 steps
Lastly, in June of this year I wrote about creating a social network using Ning. This was a real learning experience for me and I tried to share some of what I had learned from creating a network for a project i have been working on.

I hope you have enjoyed at least some of these postings. I've certainly enjoyed and learned a lot from producing them.

Anyway, I'm off on holiday for the next couple of weeks and will be back with more mid to late August.

Best wishes

Nik Peachey

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Sending Bubble Joy to your EFL / ESL Students

It's amazing how you can spend ages looking for something you want and then when you find it a whole bunch of other things come along with it. That seems to be the way things have happened for me with video conferencing. I found and posted about tokbox last week and then came Bubble Comment this week which I wrote about on my Quick Shout blog, and now Bubble Joy!

Bubble Joy is a way of sending short (60 seconds) fun video messages to people.

Click here to see the live video message (only good for the first 50 visitors)

They have a selection of message cards and you just record your video message to go in the middle using a webcam and microphone. The whole thing is very quick and easy to do.

So why use this with EFL / ESL students?

  • It's good listening and speaking practice
  • It's good fun and easy to do
  • It's communicative
  • It's creative
  • It's free, easy to use, doesn't require registration
  • Nice selection of cards

So how do we use this with our ESL / EFL students?

  • Well a lot of the suggestions that I mentioned in my posting Video conferencing for EFL will also work with Bubble Joy, but be sure to remember that with Bubble Joy you only have 60 seconds, and the video card expires after it has been viewed 50 times.
  • You could also try using it for specific occasions (there are cards specifically for Christmas, Easter, Valentines etc.)
  • You could also get students to create messages that match the other themes (What would you say from inside a lion's mouth, inside a shark, on safari) and then build a story to go with the cards explaining why this happened.
  • Students could also plan an imaginary holiday and then send a card to tell other as about it (on safari, riding in a hot air balloon etc.)
  • Students could use one of the TV or stage designs to give a brief news report. They could each report on their day in class or what they did on holiday, at the weekend or on a class visit.
  • They could use the stage or TV designs to record a joke each and then send them round and vote on the best one.
  • The cocktail glass card could be used to create warnings against the dangers of alcohol.
See the full range of Bubble Joy designs here:

What I'm not so sure about
  • Students need to email the cards, so to avoid them having to share their email addresses it might be better to have the students send the cards to you and then you grab the links and share them in class or on a web page etc.
  • It would be nice to be able to upload your own frame to put the video in.
  • 60 seconds can be a bit limiting
  • Shame the cards expire after they have been viewed 50 times
Well I hope you enjoy Bubble Joy and that it helps you to spread some joy among your students.

Here are some related links:
Great Video Commenting Tool
Video conferencing for EFL
Send Free Video Messages


Nik Peachey

Friday, 18 July 2008

Microblogging for EFL with Plurk

Well I never thought I'd say this, but I've become a fan of microblogging! I have to say that it's mainly because of Plurk. When I first saw Twitter some time back I couldn't really understand what all the fuss was about. I had a look at a few 'twitterers' sharing such information as what they had for lunch or that they were washing their hair and decided there are levels of detail at which information stops being informative - if you know what I mean.

Anyway, as the Twitter phenomenon continued to grow and other players joined the market I decided to give it another try. At the beginning of June I started a Twitter vs Plurk comparison. Now almost 6 weeks later, I have to say that for me Plurk has come out as a clear winner. Watch this demo to see why.

Here's a quick demo of Plurk and some of the features.

What I like about microblogging
  • One problem that I constantly have is the amount of information and new things I find that I'd like to share but just don't have time to research and write about. What I have found over the last few weeks is that mircoblogging allows me to share this information, admittedly with less depth, but I've been able to share links to resources that people might find useful, but which I don't have the time to explore in depth.
  • See my Plurk line here if you'd like to check out the sites I don't have time to write about: http://www.plurk.com/user/NikPeachey
What I like about Plurk
  • For me the best Plurk feature is the ability to embed video from YouTube and images into the Plurk. This enable users to watch the clip or image without leaving the Plurk interface.
  • I also really like the horizontal time line and the way you can scroll back through time lines and thread in comments. Threaded discussion can often become very disjointed and hard to follow on Twitter, but Plurk makes it much clearer which comments are related.
  • I like the distinction between friends and fans (friends Plurks can also appear on your line, whereas fans just subscribe to your feed)
  • I like the sense of accumulating 'karma' as you develop your plurk presence.
  • I love the Plurk widget (you can see it embedded towards the bottom of the right hand column on this page).
  • I really like that Plurk gives a choice of verbs for the message
So how about using microblogging with EFL studnts
As a teacher you could use microblogging to:
  • Share resources and links to useful websites or videos (they open in the interface so students don't have to search around YouTube for them.
  • Send out prompts and reminders to students about assignments and due dates.
  • You could just use the social aspect to share a bit of what you do each day with them
  • Send students images to comment on / describe
  • Send out words and ask students to respond with a definition.
  • Create single sentence assignments that students respond to wit single sentences.
  • Create sentences for the students to correct.
  • Create a collaborative story. You start the story with one line and each student has to add another using the response feature.
Your students could use microblogging to:
  • Create a learner diary, recording briefly their language learning activities and insights through the day.
  • Ask questions to the groups and get support with new words they find or things they don't understand.
  • Post a short sentence each day using a different one of the verbs in the Plurk line
  • Share good websites etc.
  • Share a little of their world and what they do when they aren't in class.
What I'm not so sure about
  • It's really hard for a competitor like Plurk to break into a market that Twitter almost invented, so despite the fact that I use Plurk more often and it seems to me a much better product, I've got far more followers on Twitter than I have on Plurk, so the audience potential is much greater with Twitter.
  • As ever privacy is something you need to be careful of, and I've found that a few people who have requested friendship only do so to 'spam' my time line. Though that's easy to sort out and stop.
Well which ever you use, whether it's Twitter, Plurk or something else I hope you enjoy your microblogging experience.

Drop me a line if you know of other alternatives, or if you have used these microblogging applications in other ways. As always you comments are welcome (though moderated!).


Nik Peachey

Related links:
See Wikipedia's definition of microblogging
See My Plurk microblog
See My Twitter microblog
See My Plurk demo video on YouTube and grab an embed code.

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Video conferencing for EFL

It's not often that you look at a product and think 'Ah! That's exactly what I've been looking for! And it's free!' But tokbox does seem to be that kind of product for me.

For some time now I've been looking round for a suitable video conferencing type application and while there have been a few that look okay, like SnapYap which I reviewed a week or two back, when I saw tokbox this morning I realised that here was a video conferencing tool that had exactly what I wanted and a bit more.

Here's a quick video demo of what it can do.

So what do I like about it?

  • It's free and doesn't require any downloads.
  • I was registered and signed in without disclosing any personal information (apart from email address) within less than 3 mins of finding the site!
  • It has a range of ways to communicate including group video conferencing, person to person live video calls, video email messages, and a video feed.
  • You can embed videos or your call messages into blogs websites and a whole range of social media sites including Facebook and Blogger.
  • You can report inappropriate use and users who are doing 'unsuitable' things with their accounts get deleted.
  • Students can use it privately, with groups of friends or publicly.
  • I like the inbox idea so you can check your video mail and get alerts sent to your own email inbox when someone wants to call you or has left you a message.
  • It has a really nice clean easy intuitive interface.
Here's a quick message that I created to show you the kind of quality you can get.

So how could we use this with ELT or EFL students?

  • Chinese - video - whispers - Use the video email feature to record a short text. Send it to the first of your students. Ask your student to write down the message and then record it themselves and send it to the next student. Each student should rerecord and send the message on to another, until the last student sends it back to you. You will then see how accurately the message matches to your original text.
  • Interactive video learning diary - You could get students to create an interactive learning diary, they could email you their video summary of what they feel they have learnt that day and you could then respond. Your videos would form a good learning record and students would be able to look back at them later and see how they had improved -quite literally - and also hear the improvements in their speaking ability. This is also a great way to give your students one-to-one-time which can often be a problem in class.
  • Class survey - You could send a video message to your students with a class survey question that they could respond to. This would be a good way to carry out classroom research, decide on learning goals and make sure that all students had a means to feedback to you in private and on an individual basis.
  • Different perspectives - Show some of your students a video clip or picture, that includes a number of people (scenes from films with bank robberies, where a number of people are involved are quite useful for this). Then ask the students to imagine that they are one of the people in the film or picture and they need to describe what happened. Ask them to a video giving their account of what happened. You can then ask the other students to imagine they are detectives and watch the clips your students have created and make notes to piece together what happened. The 'detective' students should then try to recreate the scene using the student videos to guide them. Afterwards they can watch the original film clip or picture together and see how well they did and what they missed.
  • Favourite poems or haiku - Students could record themselves reading their favourite poem or haiku, you could then embed the videos into a webpage or blog as a class poetry collection.
  • Live tutoring support - This looks like an ideal tool for supporting distance learners and doing 'face to face' tutorials.
  • Video interviews - You could get in touch with someone for your class to interview. Just have one computer plus camera set up in class, and a visiting expert, friend or colleague on the other end for your students to interview. They could also interview an expert in groups from home with a conference call.
  • Video lesson with conferencing - You could use the conference call to video cast your lessons to a group of distance learners.
  • Video twitter - using the feed feature you could create a kind of video Twitter, with your students video micro-blogging about learning English, their day at school, or any topic they find interesting.
  • Text and video message - Using the video email feature, you could record a video of yourself reading a text, then add the text within the email message. You could include some errors in the text and get them to watch the video and correct the errors.
  • Create a collaborative story - Email students a video with the first line of a story and ask them to record your line of the story and add their own, then pass it back, or pass it on to another student. This way you could build up a story between the group over a period of time.
  • Tip of the day, word of the day - Send you students a tip or word of the day by video email. These could be exam tips, study tips, recommended websites, or words and definitions.
  • Video dictation - Send a video email of yourself dictating a text and ask your students to watch and write the text in the email and send it back to you for correction.
So why use video conferencing with your EFL / ELT students?
  • It' a great real life IT skill as these kinds of tools are going to become a normal part of our day to day work and pleasure daily routine.
  • IT adds an element of personalisation to your lessons and materials and can make it easier to build up rapport, especially with distance students.
  • It can help you get some one-to-one time with your students.
  • You can use it to create some really nice personalised materials.
  • Students can use it (with caution) to find people with similar interests to talk to or to do learning / language exchanges.

Possible problems

  • As ever be sure your students are aware of how to protect their privacy and that they don't share any personal information or contact details with people they don't know.
  • Try to keep any video messages you make quite short or they will become slow / bandwidth heavy to watch. This is almost certainly a tool that will be more useful to broadband users.
  • Students are going to need a webcam and a microphone of course.
  • Even though inappropriate use can be reported, someone has to see it to report it, so if that is going to be one of your students, make sure they know how to report anything that disturbs them.
  • You have to be careful with any tool that enables mass communication, even if it's only email, but despite that I think that tokbox is a fantastic product and one which can really enhance your teaching and your students learning. I think they have come up with a fantastic product that could become a market leader in the field of web based video communications.
  • Appearance is important, so watch out for bad hair days, hangovers ad make sure you wear something nice and try to find a room with some good natural light.

Fantastic! Hope you and your students enjoy it. Happy EFL video conferencing

Nik Peachey

Similar postings

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Naming My Sources: Part 1

I've decided to start naming some of the sources I use to locate new and interesting websites and information. I've decided to do this for a number of reasons

  • I just don't have time to write about everything I find, so this gives people the opportunity to find things for themselves and perhaps write about them.
  • I always feel guilty that I don't acknowledge the sources of much of the information I get. This isn't because I'm guarding my sources, it has more to do with not working in a very organised way. I tend to mark interesting sites and come back to them later, by which time I can't remember the original source.
  • I don't have a blog roll, but I would like to send some kudos to some of the sites and site owners that I feel have really helped me.
  • A number of people have asked me how and where I find great sites to write about.
If you have a blog and it doesn't appear on this list, please don't be offended, I will try to make this a regular feature as there are so many that I don't think it's useful for readers to put them all into one post.

Lastly, before I get started I would also like to say that the list is not in order of importance, so I'm not saying that any one source is better than another. Anyway, here goes:

Today | KillerStartups.com2122

This site is a great source of new websites that have just been launched or are in Beta or Alpha still. One thing I really like about the site is that users can rate the site in terms of its likelihood of surviving. There is some basic information about the new sites, then some reasons why it might succeed and some reasons why it might fail. Users can also add their comments. This is potentially quite a useful activity for students too as it gets them reading and evaluating - valuable thinking and analytic skills practice.

Go2Web20.net - The complete Web 2.0 sites directory

This is another great source and one that I could browse for hours. It also has a really nicely designed interface which shows you the logos of all the sites. If you mouse over the logo you'll see a brief description and clicking on the logo gives you a more detailed description. There's a search engine too, if you know what you want to find. Every time I visit the site I find at least 4 or 5 really interesting sites within a few minutes.

Web Worker Daily Software Apps «

This is another favourite of mine and is the source of lots of great information and ideas. It's a great place to get ideas, tips and information about ways to work more efficiently with your computer, but tends to be more 'geek' than educationally orientated. Still a great source of information though, and it's well worth checking through the archives if you have some time.

Demo Girl

Demo Girl
This is a great source for finding useful sites and demo girl also provides video tutorials showing how to use the sites. There's quite a huge archive of information on her site too, so it's well worth sorting through the archive search categories on the right of the screen.

Cool Websites, Software and Internet Tips

This is another great source of information and in particular web based apps or free software. They tend to focus mostly on free stuff which is handy and they have a great Web2.0 Directory which is worth browsing through, especially if you are looking for a particular tool.

Well that's probably enough to keep you busy for a while. All of these sites provide an RSS feed, so if you don't have time to look through the archives, just sign up to the feed and keep up to date with what's new on them.

If you don't have a feedreader, you can check out my article on Creating a personal hompage using Netvibes as that can really save you some time.

Hope you enjoy these sources and find something useful. More coming in the next week or two.


Nik Peachey

Monday, 7 July 2008

Karaoke with a Social Network

Well it had to happen! As every other kind of site these days has a social network attached to it, why not karaoke too?The site I've been looking at is called RedKaraoke and it has quite a few useful features. There isn't a huge range of songs there yet, but users can upload their own, it also has a web cam feature so for potential singers who want to be seen as well as heard you can have your web cam hooked up while you sing.

As with most karaoke, there are background tracks and you see the words of the lyrics highlighted as you are supposed to sing them. You can rate other singers too and have your own profile as well as take part in forums (mainly used for technical support by the looks of things) and there's also synchronous chat too.

Click image to enlarge

The high ranking singers get pushed to the top, and if you like someone you can leave encouraging messages of support.

So why use this with EFL students?
Anyone who has ever taught a EFL / ELT will know how powerful and motivating music and song can be to help students acquire language, so sites like this can be really useful.

  • If your students are interested in music and singing, you can get them along to the site to record a few of their favourite songs (Onlye the more confident students though)
  • You can get students to listen and rate other singers too and leave messages for them if they like them (though don't encourage messages to singers they don't like)
  • The site has the words and music to quite few songs, so even if your students don't feel confident enough to record themsleves, they could still get some practice in the privacy of their own homes.
  • If students do record themselves you can get them to rate each other and see if any of your students can get into the top ranking list.
What I like about it
  • Well as ever for me the first attraction is that it's free.
  • There are a range of songs and it's not all in English, so if you are teaching or learning other languages then there is potential material here.
  • I like that you can have the web cam recording too.
  • The interface is quite easy to get around simple to use.
What I wasn't so sure about
  • I think this is going to be pretty bandwidth hungry, especially if you are using a web cam too, so only one for broadband users working alone from home.
  • The quality of some of the sound files wasn't so great, but that's always going to be the case with Web 2.0 type content.
  • Looks from the forum like a few people have had problems with getting their recording synchronised, though I'm guessing that switching off the wqebcam would help with this.
  • As with any site where students are asked to register and add a profile, be sure your students know how to protect their pivacy and personal information.
In theory, if you have students who like karaoke, this could be a potentially very useful site. To be honest I'm not a great fan of the art and have to admit that I didn't make recording myslef, but thought I would share the site anyway, as I know some teachers and students really enjoy it.

Hers the ful URL of the site: http://www.redkaraoke.com/

Hope you find this useful


Nik Peachey

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Creating a personal homepage

Creating your own personal homepage / feed reader can be really simple to do and can also help you to save time and stay in touch with what's going on in your professional and personal life.

My own personal home page is something I use everyday and have open for most of the day. It brings me the news from all my favourite websites, blogs and yahoo groups and allows me to scan content from 20 -30 different sources within a few moments. This would otherwise take me a few hours!

So when I was asked to design a course to help teacher trainers use Web 2.0 technology in their teaching, I decided that a session on RSS and personal home pages was an essential.

I've been using a yahoo reader for more than 4 years now, but I've become increasingly impressed with some of the other readers on offer and so I decided to have a look around at what else was available. Some of the main ones that impressed me were:
Of these my favourites turned out to be Netvibes. So I produced this task list to help teachers set up their own homepage and explore some of the capabilities of Netvibes. Feel free to print and use this yourself if you want to set up your own homepage or use it with other teacher if you would like to help them set up their own page.
What I like about Netvibes
  • It is quite easy to add feeds from sites and blogs
  • The visual design is really nice and quite clean and modern with simple block colours
  • There is a nice assortment of widgets to add including ones to enable me to check both my Apple DotMac email account and my Yahoo email account from the same page.
  • There is some nice localisation of content
  • The interface is generally pretty simple and intuitive so a good one to use with people who aren't too IT savvy
  • I particularly like that you can set up the 'Web search' widget to search across multiple search engines and a variety of different formats from text to video.
  • You can add and name different pages for different topics (one for ELT and a separate one for technology etc.)
  • You can have private pages and also have public pages to share with your students.
So why should teachers use a personal homepage?
  • There's lots of functionality all in one place, so it can save you loads of time
  • You can keep in touch and up to date with blogs and other sites that change almost every day / few hours.
  • The Flickr creative commons feed is a great source of images / flashcards to use in class or online.
So how can you use this with students?
  • You can have your own personal homepage and add public pages for different students / classes to feed them information or publish their work or links to their projects. There's a great example of this which Gladys Baya created http://www.pageflakes.com/gladysbaya
  • You can get students to create their own home pages and use the range of resources and widgets to help support their learning. Things like 'to do list' can help to set learning goals and remember homework. Sticky / web notes can be used to help them remember new vocabulary words and definitions.
  • There are a host of different widgets from dictionary / thesaurus ones to word of the day, idiom of the day etc which can help our students learn.
  • They can set up their homepage to supply them with the kind of English language content they are interested in, from sport to lifestyle.
Well I hope you find the task sheet useful and if you don't already have a personal homepage, you try this out. It really is a time saver.

I'd also be very interested to hear comments from anyone else who has their own personal homepage and to hear what you are using to create it. Any other Netvibes fans???


Nik Peachey