Thursday 13 December 2007

3B Village 3D browser

I spotted 3B Village about a year ago and initially I was impressed, but some recent developments have, I feel, put this on the map as a really useful educational tool.

What is 3B Village?
3B Village is an amazing cross between a 3D virtual chat room and a web browser. Using the free software you can visit or create your own 3D rooms which have walls lined with webpages that you can click on to visit. You use an avatar to wander the rooms visiting various websites whilst text chatting with other virtual visitors.
The learning potential for this software is huge and I can see how it could be especially useful for creating webquests or web based treasure hunts and other collaborative tasks for groups of students working virtually / at a distance. The software has none of the versatility of virtual worlds like Second Life, but partially due to that it seems like a much ‘safer’ environment to take students into and a much simpler one for teachers and students to learn how to navigate.

It is very easy to create your own rooms for your class and then just invite them along. You can create a room by specifying the URL of particular resources you want to share with your students or you can generate a ‘quick room’ using a range of other sources, like Flickr , Google, MySpace and you can even generate rooms full of YouTube videos.

I created a room just by doing a search in YouTube based on ‘Shakira’ I then create a quick room by pasting in the URL of my search results and within less than 5 clicks and 5 mins I had room full of videos to wander around.
I also created a gallery type room by typing the word ‘family’ into Flickr and generating a gallery based on the results.
Here’s a quick tutorial movie to show you just how easy it is to create a room
How to use this with students
  • Create webquests and store the resources in a special 3B room(s) so that groups of students can work together virtually analysing data and searching for and sharing information
  • Create film shows from Youtube that students can watch together. They can then do their viewing tasks together and discuss them as they watch.
  • Meet together virtually and discus / share web resources
  • Create your own collection of bookmarks to share with your class
  • Students who have a 'MySpace' can convert it to a 3B room and show their classmates around. This should help to build up a sense of presence and familiarity with virtual classes, something that is often hard to do.
  • Get your students to create their own collection of study bookmarks as a project to share with other students
  • Create rooms based on materials from Flickr and get students to meet virtually to discuss the images
  • Students can work together to create a 3B room or village which represents their town or country
  • Students can visit a 3B city and write a report on it, plan a visit to that place based on the resources they access there.
What I like about it
  • A nice collection of rooms already created including some for kids
  • You can either create rooms quickly using searches through various online content such as Flickr, YouTube, or Google, or you can hand pick websites to create a customised room specifically for your students
  • It’s simple to use
  • It’s free
  • At 14Mb it’s not too huge a download
  • Love wandering round the YouTube video type rooms and this may well be a way around institution that block YouTube!!?
What I'm not so sure about
  • No MAC version yet
  • Would be great if it had voice chat too
  • It’s definitely for broadband users only
  • A lot of the ready made rooms seem to be aimed at online shoppers
  • There aren’t many casual visitors, so it’s not a place where students are likely to bump into people for casual conversation. Though that could well be an advantage too.
For anyone involved in distance education or any kind of online courses, I think 3B Village could make a really valuable contribution.

To use 3B Village you’ll need to download and install the 3B browser software from.
There’s no MAC version yet, but they are working on it.

As ever, I would love to hear from anyone who uses this with their students. Please feel free to leave comments, though they will be moderated.



Monday 10 December 2007

Create your own game

This is something that caught my eye last week. I just couldn't resist adding a feature about it here, though I think this does come with some warnings and reservations. is a website which enables you to create your own games very easily with just a few easy steps. All you need to do is:
  • upload a picture,
  • select the part of it you want to show
  • choose a game type
  • add in a title and description.
Then you simply click to see the completed game. You need to register to upload and save the game, but it's free and very quick to do. There are quite a few different game types to choose from, but there are lots of examples on the site that other people have made, so you can look at those to help you decide which type to make.

Here's a rather annoying game that I created in less than 5 minutes

So how do you use this with students
You could just create a game using a picture of yourself and use it;
  • as a filler for those students who finish early if you work in a media lab / connected classroom.
  • as a nice 'leveler' to make a game for your students with a picture of yourslef and shows that you have a sense of humour.
  • to include a messages in the game like, "Hey! Remember to do your homework"
You could get students making games as a short task using either pictures of themselves or of well known celebrities.
  • This will give them some practice at following instructions and they could work in pairs to discus the type of game they would like to create and who it would be for
  • You can have a class competition for who can create the best game. Get students to vote for the best one and justify their choice
  • Some of the games include quizzes to test general knowledge
  • Get each group of students to create a different type of game and then describe to the other groups how the game is played
What I like about it
  • It's free and very easy
  • It's a nice simple fun task that you can get students to do as a filler
  • Students can share the games quite easily either via email or through blogs or other online forums
  • It can easily be integrated with other Web 2.0 applications such as Facebook, Blogger etc.
What I wasn't so keen on
  • Some of the games are unsuitable for younger kids
  • You need to make sure that students don't misuse the site and create unpleasant games using photographs of other students

This isn't the world's most useful site for developing language, but if used properly it's one that you can use to lighten up your course and your students can have some fun with.

I'd be very interested to hear from anyone who uses or has used this with their class, just to see how your students reacted and what you did with it.



Friday 30 November 2007

Making quizzes for i-pod

With the growth in interest in mobile learning and the ubiquitous nature of the i-pod among our younger (and increasingly older) students this piece of software looks like a really useful tool we can use to extend learning beyond the classroom.

The software I’m referring to is I-Quiz Maker. You can download I-Quiz Maker for free at:

Once you’ve installed it you can make quizzes using either True / False question types or Multiple Choice questions. The quizzes a very simple to make and you can make as many questions as you like and as many quizzes, as you like.
This looks like a really useful tool to:
  • help revise and develop your students vocabulary. You can write a vocabulary quiz and up- date it each week with new words that your students have learned
  • get the students to create quizzes for each other and share them
  • set up revision exercises
Although there is a bit of work involved in creating the quizzes, once you made them you’ll be able to keep them and use them again with other students.

Once you have finished creating your quiz you can then export it to your desktop and it can be uploaded to the I-pod through I-Tunes. The only catch here is that you and / or your students will need to buy the I-Quiz game for your I-pod. It is really cheap though (less than 1 US dollar / 79 p in the UK) and it does come with some ready-made quizzes.

What I like about it
  • You can set the quizzes so that students get a maximum number of questions in each game and so that they loose after a specific number of wrong answers. This should make it more competitive.
  • The game will randomise the questions so you could input 50 questions and they would get 10 or 20 random questions each game.
  • It’s very easy to use and is just simple point and click
  • You can update quizzes so that they grow as your students’ knowledge grows
  • There's a version for PC and for MAC!

What I’m not so sure about
  • Students will need an i-pod, they can’t just run the quiz on their computer or i-Tunes
  • The game is only compatible with Fifth generation i-pods (This may become an advantage as more people trade up to more modern versions and the older ones become available more cheaply second hand) which isn’t much help for students with older i-pods.
  • I couldn’t get the user manual to download so there wasn’t much documentation to help me learn how to use the software
  • I think there may have been one more question type, but I couldn’t get the button for it to work ??
  • Students will have to buy the I-Quiz game (though as I said it’s quite cheap) and that means setting up an i-tunes account.
On the whole though, despite the above drawbacks, if you have a classroom full of students who carry i-pods about then this could be just the thing for you.

Let me know how it goes



Interactive multiple choice activities

This is the third part in a series that I’m writing on how to use word processors to create computer-based materials. This one looks at how we can create interactive multiple choice activities using 'dropdown' menus.

Multiple choice must be one of the most common question types in the history of education. I’m sure we all answered them when we were at school and we have all given these question types to our students.

When I was at school, we used to call them ‘multiple guess’ questions, because we knew that even if we didn’t have any idea what the correct answer was, it had to be one of the choices, so we had a 1 in 4 or 1 in 5 chance of guessing the answer correctly.

In the movie tutorial you will see how to insert the dropdown menu, add your choices and also add a ‘help text’ which can be used to give clues or the correct answer.
Students access the ‘help text’ by clicking on the dropdown field and pressing F1 on the computer keyboard.

Here’s document with some interactive fields in. Click on them and then push F1 on your keyboard to see how they work.
There are a range of ways you can give clues
  • Direct students to a part of the text
  • Remind them about time relationships (for verb tense exercises)
  • Remind them of context
  • Remind them about part of speech or word morphology
  • Give them pronunciation clues (it sounds like)
  • Give a translation
  • Remind them of the unit of the coursebook / lesson when you covered the topic
Adding clues, rather than correct answers, will help to make the exercises developmental rather than a test of knowledge / memory.

You also need to be careful in your choice of words both when you select the word that you want to use from the dropdown activity and when you add your choices.

If you are selecting words from a text, then look for clues within the context which will help the students to deduce which word is correct.

When you add the ‘distractor’ words, try to make them reasonable alternatives. You could use this exercise to focus students on common problems, by using errors from their own written texts and the correct version as alternatives. If you do this, don’t focus only on their negative aspects, but also try to include some of their positive aspects of their work, like good use of vocabulary.

Anyway, hope you find this useful and by all means leave a comment if you have used this feature in other ways.



Thursday 29 November 2007

Machinima with Moviestorm

I recently came across a very impressive piece of software for making Machinima. It’s still in Beta at the moment, and it’s free, so I’ve spent a bit of time looking at it and seeing how it works.

For those of you who don’t know, machinima is a form of animated cinema, which is produced in computer games or virtual worlds. In some case the animated characters are ‘played’ by avatars and in others the characters are figures within a virtual world which are controlled by a ‘producer’.

Moviestorm offers the second of these two options, so once you have downloaded it from the Moviestorm site, you no longer need an internet connection and you can work alone or with a group to produce your machinima project.

The software is pretty impressive and can enable you to do many things. You can;
  • create stage sets and characters,
  • place the characters on the set
  • get them to move and interact with each other and various props
  • place cameras around the set to film the action from different places
  • create and record a script for your characters
  • lip-sync the animated characters with the recorded dialogue
  • cut, edit and render your final movie in a format which can easily be distributed on the web or CD.

So this is pretty much all you need to get started creating machinima movies.

So why do this with students?
The learning potential of the software is huge, even if you don’t ever get your students to a stage where they can produce their own movies.
  • You can get them to create characters and change them to practice language of description
  • You can use it to practice a whole range of clothing, colours and textures
  • You can get them to create a set and place things to practice prepositions of place
  • You can create your own movies to demonstrate a whole range of prepositions of movement, various tenses
  • You can add dialogue to the movies to demonstrate functional and intercommunicative language
Personally I feel though that the software is ideal for project work. You can get your students working together in groups on their own machinima projects. They can right a screen play and a script it. Record themselves and lip-sync to the animated characters, decide on and create their own scenes and stage sets. Even the act of learning ho to use the software would make for an excellent project. There is an online forum where users of the software can exchange ideas and help each other.

You would probably need to run the project over the space of a few weeks or even months and be sure to specify to students before they begin how you intend to evaluate their work on the project. I’m sure that most students would find this a motivating and creative way to practice language.

What I liked about it
  • It’s free, not too difficult to learn and doesn’t involve any programming skill.
  • Once you’ve downloaded it you don’t need an internet connection to use it
  • The tool set is great and you can make the animated characters do a whole range of things and film them from loads of different angles
  • It’s fun to use and learn and easy enough so that you can install the software and produce a short clip within an hour
  • Any films you produce with the software are your own property and you have the right to sell and distribute them!!

What I wasn’t so sure about
  • It’s a big download (almost 200Mb) so you’ll either need a good connection or a lot of patience to download it.
  • There are expansion packs with more stage sets, props and characters but you have to pay for these (not that you really need them)
  • There’s no MAC version and you need a pretty good graphics card and a lot of RAM for it to run easily

On the whole I think this is really one to watch. As more people start using it and the forum / user community builds up I think this will turn into an excellent resource.

If you want to find out more about Machinima have a look at a few of these links.
The home of machinima and probably one of the biggest collection of machinima films and links.

Machinima and education
An interesting article from Futurelab on the uses and benefits of including machinima in education
A site designed to help machinima creators within the virtual world of Second life to upload and share their creations.
Here’s a widegt from their site that shows some of the arts machinima being created in SL

More information and a definition from Wikipedia

I hope you enjoy the software and I would love to hear comments from anyone who gets their students working with it.

Friday 9 November 2007

Exploiting two computer-based RPGs

In this article I’d like to look at how we could use two computer based RPGs (Role playing games) as the basis for language development.

The two RPGs that I’m suggesting you use are both very similar and very different.
  • They are very similar in that they are both simulations of everyday life scenarios and involve day to day ‘survival’ type choices.
  • They are very different in that the situations they are based around are a stark contrast between life in a rural developing nation and life in an urban developed nation.
The first is called Stick RPG and features a small blue man living in a hotel. The player manipulates the man and makes choices for him whilst helping him to survive life in the city. The player has various options each day including fining a job, studying, eating various foods, gambling etc.

The player has to maintain health and keep his finances in check and see what he can achieve within the cycle of the game.
The second game is called Third World Farmer and features a small rural family. In this game the player needs to make decisions about how to spend the yearly budget, what crops to plant and what tools or animals to invest in.

At the end of each turn, the player gets a yearly report showing how successful the year was and how much money they have for the next year.
The games would be appropriate for teens or older learners with an intermediate+ level of English.

How to use these games with students.
Here are some suggestions for using these games in class. You could combine all or just some of the suggestions.
  • Get half of the class to play one game and the other half to play the other. Then in class get them to describe, compare and contrast the games in pairs.
  • Get the students to collect any new words they find while playing the games.
  • Get each pair to describe their own ‘story’ in the game. What happened to them and what was their outcome?
  • Get the students to compare the different problems their character had in the game. Which game do they think was harder?
  • Ask them to compare strategies. What things did they do in the game that helped them to be more or less successful? How did they change their strategy?
  • Ask them to rate the game. How good do they think it was? Did they enjoy playing it? Would they recommend the game?
  • Develop some of the themes from the games for a class debate.
  • Who do they think these games are aimed at?
  • What did they learn from the games?
  • How accurately do they depict the two different lifestyles?
  • Does playing a game like this trivialise the situations?
  • Can computer games like these educate people and change their opinions?
  • Do these games depict stereotypes rather than realities?
  • What do they think the makers of these games wanted to achieve?
  • What other political or educational computer games do they know about?
Of course you could just forget about all of the suggestions above and get the students top play the games at home and see what they learn from them.

I hope you and your students enjoy these games. Please feel free to leave a comment and suggest other games you have used for language learning.

Related links:



Thursday 8 November 2007

Teacher Training Videos

Over the last few weeks I’ve been exploring some of the content on Russell Stannard’s website. The videos aren’t pedagogical type classroom videos of teachers working with students, as you might at first assume from the title, but are video tutorials which show how to use various software and websites to develop your teaching.

What’s on the site
The site is aimed at ELT teachers who are interested in developing their technology skills for teaching purposes. The main content of the site is split into three main categories, which you can find in the left-hand column of the homepage.
  • The first is ‘General teacher training videos’
    This contains video tutorials on how to do some pretty useful stuff from how to use ITunes and download podcasts to how to create a Blog and PowerPoint tips. There’s a very useful series on how to create a Wiki and I really enjoyed the ones one PhotoShop basics ( A program that I have tried to master a number of times!)
  • The second is ‘ELT teacher training videos’
    This section is particularly aimed at the ELT teacher and looks in-depth at some ELT related sites and how best to use them. There’s a really useful review of some of the best ELT podcasts as well as a series of videos on how to use Podomatic to create and upload your own podcast.
  • The final section is ‘Multimedia learning videos’
    This contains videos that will be particularly useful for anyone who wants to learn how to use some of the major authoring programs being used to create e-learning materials. The main focus at the moment seems to be on Flash and Director. The videos go from the basics of understanding the tool set to some of the more demanding tasks, such as animation.
Each one of the topics above is covered by a whole series of as many as 20 short 2 minute video tutorials with audio narration which take you through the processes involved step by step showing you exactly what to do.

What I liked about it
  • The tutorials are very clear and are really well staged.
  • You can easily jump to just the video you want to watch from the side menu
  • The videos are short and download reasonably quickly (on my broadband connection)
  • They cover a real variety of software tools and websites
  • It’s free
What wasn’t so good
  • This is a huge collection of really well prepared and presented FREE training materials so what’s not to like?
This site really represents a wealth of free development for anyone really interested in improving the tech skills and using ICT with or to create materials for their students. Russell has obviously put in hours of time and a huge amount of work on the site to provide a really excellent resource that I’m sure teachers around the world can benefit from. Check it out at:

Wednesday 31 October 2007

Creating an interactive cloze text

This is the second part in a series of tutorials based around using word processors to create interactive and multimedia materials.

This tutorial looks at how you can use a word processor to create a close text - also known as a 'gap fill'- that users can interact with on their computer.

This is quite a common type of activity that we use in the classroom. The students usually do it in a book and then the teacher tells them the answers. But we can create these materials to be used on the computer.

Here is an example text that I created based around a Shakespeare sonnet. Click on the gaps and then hit F1 at the top of your keyboard. You should get a clue to help you fill in your gaps.
At the end you can scroll down and check the answers.

Here is a short tutorial movie showing how the interactive 'gaps' were created (Using MS Word 97)
How to use this with students
This feature could be used in a number of different ways. You could use the text to give the students:
  • The correct answer
  • The first letter of the missing word
  • A synonym
  • Some instructions telling them to add to the text
  • A textual clue or prompt
The advantage of getting students to do these activities on the computer, is that by adding prompts or clues there is some middle ground for development between getting the answer right and getting it wrong, so this isn't simply a test.

Close activities like these can be used for a number of purposes:
  • Students can listen to an audio file and fill in the missing word
  • Students can watch a video and complete a description of the action
  • You can delete all the prepositions and get students to add them
  • Delete all the verbs and students replace them
  • Take out all the vocabulary words of a lexical group
  • Delete words at random ( every 5th, 10th word etc.)
Making the right gaps
Generally I think it's best to take out words where there is some chance that the students will be able to work out the meaning of the missing word from the context that surrounds it.
  • Example 1: "He went to the shop and bought a ____ " doesn't give you much clue to the meaning of the missing word, but
  • Example 2:"He reached into his pocket, took out a _________ and lit a cigarette" gives you a much better chance at guessing the meaning of the missing word ( Probably match or lighter)
The same can be true of grammatical words.
  • Example 1: " He had an operation on his __ last year" Not much chance of guessing this, though you would know it was probably a part of the body.
  • Example 2: " He had an operation __ his leg last year" Good chance of guessing this. If your students know their prepositions they'll know that the missing word is 'on' (operate on).
Hope you find this useful. The tutorial movie above was done on MS Word 97, I'm guessing that other versions of Word operate in a similar way, but if anyone knows how you can do the same thing on other free software like Open Office, then please do leave a comment.

For anyone interested in using the Sonnet worksheet above, there is also a recording of Alan Rickman reading it here on Youtube (Thanks to Jo Bertrand for the link)



Thursday 18 October 2007

Phonology can be fun and free

Phonetics Focus is a really wonderful new free resource produced by Cambridge English Online Ltd.

Basically it is a collection of interactive multimedia Flash based games and resources that can be accessed through the CEO website at

What is it?
In all there are almost 20 different interactive tools all accessible through the one page. These vary from an interactive phonemic chart where users can click on the symbols to hear the sounds and so develop their knowledge of the chart and the phonemic alphabet, through to more fun games which involve shooting the correct sounds to make a word in a ‘duck shoot’ type game.

What I liked about it
All of the activity types are pretty intuitive as they draw on standards like hangman, odd one out, word searches etc and they all have clear instructions. Many of the games and quizzes also have more than one level so this isn’t just for beginners.

Some of the really exceptional features are:

  • ‘Record and Practice’ which is a small tool that users can download to help them record and listen back to what they are saying.
  • ‘Flashcard Maker’ which helps you to make your own flashcards by either using images from an image library or sketching you own pictures on the program, and adding phonemic symbols to them. You can then print them up for use in class.
  • ‘Entry and Exit’ tests so that students can check their level before using the tools and then check again as often as they want afterwards.

What wasn’t so good
I can’t think of anything much wrong with this

I have to say that it’s rare to find really good computer based pronunciation materials, but to find them for free is a real exception. They are really nicely designed, work well, load pretty quickly and have made really good use of multimedia. This is a fantastic free resource that will be useful for teachers and for students of any level or age too.

Be sure to check it out

Please feel free to leave a comment if you use these tools and let me know how it goes.



Saturday 13 October 2007

Creating a mobile phone website

With the growth in interest in mobile and handheld learning, I thought I’d investigate one of the many new Web 2.0 type start ups that are offering free (at the moment at least) services for setting up websites and web based communities to be accessed on mobile phones and other mobile devices.

The one I’ve started with is a service called Winksite. On the home page of their website the company claims that, “Winksite makes it easy to publish mobile websites and communities that can be viewed worldwide on any phone.” So I thought I would try to set up my own site as an extension of this blog.

What’s good about it

I was actually quite impressed at just how easy it is and at the number of features on offer. Once you have registered, Winksite offers users the opportunity to set up as many as 5 websites for mobile devices. Each site can have a range of features that you can select and edit from a fairly easy to use web based interface. Some of the possible features for your mobile website include:
  • Announcements
  • Blog entries
  • Journal entries
  • Field reports
  • Profile information
  • User surveys
  • Chat rooms
  • Forums
  • Feed syndication
  • Plus a few others
I spent about an hour on Winksite, by which time I had;
  • set up my mobile site
  • added my profile
  • personalised the look of the site
  • created a couple of surveys
  • added chat and a forum
  • posted a blog entry and an announcement.
Once you’ve created your site there is also a tool that allows you to import email addresses from your address book to send out invitations to join, so you can quite easily get people onto your site and publisise it to your friends.

The sites that Winksite creates comply to all the established standards for mobile site, so that’s great too and also means that the site can be accessed through other mobile devices. I use an Opera browser on my Nintendo DS Lite as a kind of wireless palmtop as I roam around the house and garden, so to be able to access the site on that for me is really a great bonus.
The Featured books section is also interesting as it provides a way to access books on your phone, page by page and chapter by chapter, as they are written. This also enables you to interact with the writer as the book is written and discuss various elements through the forums and surveys.

What’s not so good about it
From the Winksite homepage you can also have a look around at the other sites that are being created. This isn’t so impressive, as it seems that lots of people are interested in finding out how this works etc, but it’s hard to find any sites that have more than one or two members signed up, and not many have much content added. That isn’t a criticism of the tool though, I think it’s just that the audience / market for mobile web content is still quite new and there is obviously huge potential here. The makers have also tried to steer you towards the best content by adding an Editor's choice section, as well as having a regular Featured site.

Unless you have a good contract with your phone provider that gives you plenty of web access included, accessing the site could be expensive. Having said this the pages the site produce are all pretty lite and should load pretty quickly, so comparatively, this won't be such an expensive site to access.

How to use it with my students
This is a difficult one. If you have students who come to class regularly, are they really going to want to use a mobile phone based web community to interact with their teacher and the other students from the class? I think probably not. There is also the problem that some students may well not have phones that are capable of browsing websites.
  • If however you have distance or online classes then I could see the possible potential of using a tool like this in conjunction with other web based materials to support students and make it easier for students to work together and keep in touch with you.
  • The site could be useful for a class project. Get the students to decide on issues that they feel are important to them, then set up the site based around one of these issues and try to get students from other classes or schools exchanging opinions and polling each other.
  • You could set up polls and surveys on Winksite as a form of action research to get anonymous feedback from students and create dialogue with them about some of the methods you’re using in class.
  • You could get students to create their own site as a form of learner diary.
  • You could set up a site to keep in contact with the parents of your students and help to keep them informed about what’s going on with their children and any events etc that are happening at the school. You could even post your homework assignments on the site so that the parents check to see that their children are doing the work you set them.
  • You could try to get students to collaboratively write a book/ story from their phone or computer. Decide on the topic first and then ask students to take it in turns to add a page each. Others could interact and vote on what they would like to happen next using the survey feature.
If you want a multi-featured mobile phone website with lots of interactive features, and you don’t want to pay anything for it, this is a great place to start. The feature set is rich and varied and the interface seems to be pretty easy to use. It’s difficult to say though at the moment if having a website that is accessed though a mobile phone has any really significant advantages over one that is purely accessed through a computer. I suppose a lot depends on how much change there is in coming months / years regarding access the web through mobile phones. The popularity of Apple’s new I-phone certainly points towards, this happening, but looking at the costs involved at present, it’s still going to be a while before this kind of access is available to many in poorer countries.

If you try out this tool or have tried similar one please leave a comment.



Tuesday 9 October 2007

Looking at

For a while now I’ve been a fan of the virtual 3D world Although it isn’t as developed and hasn’t had a fraction of the publicity of Second Life I think there are a few things in its favour and for anyone wanting to take some steps into teaching in virtual worlds or for students who are interested in finding others to chat to or practice their language skills with, they could do far worse.

What is
It’s a simple 3D online virtual world where multiple players can create avatars, create worlds, build and interact with each other. The interaction is mainly through movement gesture and text chat, but voice chat is also possible too if you opt to pay for a premium membership rather than free. Have a look here if you want to see the maker's description.

If you want to see what it looks like, there is a video here created by the company, but it's quiet a big download (30Mb)

What I like about it.

  • There are a number of attractive features within The most striking one for me is the way the text chat appears in cartoon-like balloon bubbles, which order themselves as the conversation progresses. This makes the conversation very easy to follow.

  • I also like that when you register you get a free hover board (a bit like a small flying surfboard) and there are areas of the world where you can go to do speed trials or join other hover-boarding enthusiasts for races or lessons. See how to ride a hoverboard movie (3.5Mb)
  • The visual graphics of the world are far less detailed than in Second Life, for example, but this means that the hardware and bandwidth requirements are much less, so you don’t need an expensive computer with high-end graphics card to join in the fun. The system requirements also claim that you can enjoy the world even if you are on a 56k dial up connection, though this I find much harder to believe.
  • During my visits to, I’ve generally found the other inhabitants to be much friendlier than in SL and generally more willing to talk to strangers (though I have a female avatar in, so that could be part of the difference).
  • There are regular organised events taking place so you can go along and be sure that someone will be there and something will be happening. You can see what’s going on in the ‘There Fun Times’ new site:
  • offers a range of developer tools including a style maker for those interested in designing clothes etc.
  • There are some ready made ‘Quests’ so there are things for students to do which will get them working together and exploring the world.
  • The world is much more controlled than SL so there isn’t the ‘adult’ type of sexual imagery and content. Though that isn’t to say that it is safer in terms of the people who may be visiting, so the normal precautions apply. There is a guide for parents though and Online safety tips
  • The picture taking tool is handy for getting students to produce follow-up assignments. Here’s a picture of me (my avatar) exploring an Egyptian tomb close to the Pyramids.
  • has some very active machinima projects and also has a yearly machinima film festival
What isn’t so good

  • Generally it has a much smaller population so there tend to be less people about than in more popular worlds. So if you are recommending it as a place for your students to just hang out and meet other native speakers, then they might be disappointed.
  • There is a voice client that enables audio voice chat, but to use it you have to have a premium membership and that involves paying. Though it is just a one-off single payment of $9.95 (about £5) and this also allows you to start building and selling things for ‘there bucks’.
  • If you make things within you have to pay to store them in-world.
  • isn't Mac friendly and you can't log into the site through Firefox either

How can I use it with my students?
  • You could get them to do some Quest activities together.
  • You could ask them to visit various places and take photographs (Using the camera tools), then produce an illustrated report or narrate a story.
  • You could ask them to find out how to ride a hover-board and how to drive a ‘there’ buggy and then teach each other.
  • If you have distance students, you could host your class in a beach hut.
  • Start a machinima project. Get your students to write a script for their avatars, storyboard the action and act it out in world. Then film the scenes and edit it together as a movie. Here's a guide on how to create machinima in
  • Organise a hover-boarding tournament for your students
  • Take a series of pictures and get the students to create a story around them
Really though I think for these environments to work well for language learning you need to use them with distance learners or within a blended learning context. Not one where students are meeting regularly face to face.

On the whole I think is a fun and very sociable environment where teens are likely to enjoy hanging out and meeting people. There are things to do there and it has the potential to be quite accessible because the makers’ claim that it can run on much lower spec computers without broadband. It doesn’t have the visual impact and programming potential that more complex worlds like Second Life have, but if you just want to make a start on understanding how these worlds work and what the potential is, before you invest serious money in a powerful computer, then is well worth a look.

I'd be really interested to hear what other people think of, especially with ideas to use with students.



Friday 5 October 2007

MS Word tutorial 1: Adding ‘comments’

This is the first in what I hope will become a series of tutorials on exploiting the teaching / learning potential of some of the more common desktop applications like MS Word. Like many people I’m a regular user of this application and it’s probably the one I use most, with the exception of my web browser.

Despite the amount of time I have spent using it, I’m often surprised to discover another useful toolbar or technique that I can use to make life easier or my teaching more effective.

This first tutorial shows how to use the ‘comments’ feature that can be found on the ‘Reviewing’ toolbar.

The ‘comments’ feature allows you to add comments to the text of a document. These comments don’t appear in the text itself, but can be seen on screen whenever you hover the cursor over the part of the text that the comment refers to.

To find out how it works, Watch a tutorial (450k Flash movie)

What I like about it
  • This tool enables me to start a dialogue with my students about their work on the actual work itself, without interfering with the flow of the text. I’ve tried using tracking before and found that it can soon become a real mess, so nowadays I much prefer to use this ‘comments’ feature.
  • It doesn’t add greatly to the file size so you can email documents back and forth as you review and re –review them with your students.
  • It’s an ideal tool for encouraging a ‘Process writing’ approach, as students don’t have to re-write their compositions every time they need to change it.

A few ideas for using it with students
  • You can use it to add explanations of difficult words
  • Students can add translations or explanations to words within the text
  • You can comment on students’ work and suggest improvements, or better still they can use it to comment on each other’s work.
  • You can add questions to a text at very precise points. These could be comprehension questions that you would like to ask, or could be questions about a text they have produced which encourage them to write more or add further detail or description
  • You could simply use it for error correction or to point out weaknesses in the text.
  • You could build up dialogue with students about the text, by adding questions to it or asking students to add questions and then reply etc.

None of the ideas above are exactly revolutionary and they could all be done with pen and paper. The advantage though, that I have found, of using this method on a computer is that students seem much more willing to go back and revise work if it doesn’t involve rewriting text. After all the real process of writing that we want to develop and aid is the act of creation, not the physical process of forming letters.

If anyone else uses this feature in other ways, I’d love to hear about your ideas.



Monday 24 September 2007

Interactive presentations

I’ve just been looking at a really interesting on line tool called Voicethread.

What's Voicethread?
Voice thread enables users to create online presentations using their own images. It also allows the creator to add audio or written text to the images and give access to other people to leave audio or text comments on the presentation. This is a really nice way of creating presentations that can interact and create dialogue with an online audience.

Here’s a couple that I’ve created. I decided that I wanted to use this tool for a class of students I teach in Second Life. I wanted them to explore various islands and take snapshots of what they found. They would then be able to upload these to Voicethread and record audio reports, which they could then share with the class and leave comments on. I thought this would be a good way to get them to really concentrate on producing a high quality fine tuned finished product, as they would know that there was and audience for these presentations.

I created these two presentations of examples of what I wanted them to do.
  • Example 1 This one is a tour of Edunation II in Second Life.
  • Example 2 This one is a visit to Vassar Island and you’ll see that a few people have already left comments.

How do I use it?
In order to help them understand how to use the tool I also created this movie tutorial.
I really think that this is a remarkable tool. It’s been specially created for educators and so it has some really nice features.

How can I use it with my students?
Here’s a few other things I think you could get students to do which would help to develop their language abilities.

  • Ask then to upload some images of things with personal significance and create a kind of online show and tell.
  • Get students to create and tell a story using pictures. If they have access to digital cameras, you could get the students to work in pairs or small groups to produce a story together.
  • Upload two images and ask students to record what they think is the connection between the two images
  • Upload images for students to describe, such as rooms or people etc.
  • Upload images of people speaking and ask students to add a dialogue. They could also add text bubbles of what they think the people are thinking
  • Ask students to research a member of their family then upload an image of the person and tell about them.
  • Get students to upload pictures from around their town and create a sort of interactive tourist guide
  • Upload some images of graphs and statistics and see if students can describe them appropriately
  • Upload some images with incorrect descriptions and see if they can spot and correct the errors
This page is also well worth looking at:
It has some user guides which you can download and also shows you how to set up identities for your kids so they don’t have to disclose any personal information.

I hope you find this useful and do let me know how you use it.

Tuesday 18 September 2007

Subtitling your video clips

I’ve just been looking at a really excellent Beta site called Dot Sub

The site is an interesting adaptation of the Youtube model. People can upload videos (up to 300Mb) and share them among limited groups or with everyone.

What’s really interesting though about Dot Sub is that it is aimed at subtitling and translation for people with hearing problems. The video tool allows you to input subtitles beneath the clip. These can either be translations or transcriptions. Users can also upload clips for others to translate for them. The site isn’t limited to English only and so the translations or transcriptions for the subtitles and film clips could be in any language.

This is really a marvelous idea and has bags of potential for language teaching and development.

Here’s a few ideas off the top of my head.

  • Upload a film clip (in English) and ask students to translate or transcribe it. They can then compare with your own translation / transcription.
  • Transcribe a clip with some errors and see if they can spot / correct them.
  • Ask students to independently translate a clip of a poem and then compare their different versions.
  • Ask students to create their own video clips (If students have their own cameras or webcams) upload them and then get another member of the class to transcribe it.
  • They could just browse and translate or transcribe one of the existing videos.
  • Transcribe in what people are thinking as opposed to what they are saying

Here’s a video produced by the site with a very fast explanation of how it all works.

The site is free and registration is quite quick. So check it out at:
By all means let me know what you think and post a comment here.


Wednesday 8 August 2007

Teaching English in Second Life

Over the past few weeks I've been pretty busy teaching my first English students on a Business English course I have been developing for Second Life.

The experience has been pretty daunting with myself and the students having to come to terms with the complexities of the user interface and I have felt at times that my fifteen years of 'real world' classroom experience and the subconscious habits and reflexes that I developed over that period have totally deserted me.

The introduction of voice within SL has certainly made a huge difference, though there are still problems and bugs to be ironed out. Though to my surprise I did find myself drilling a group of advanced learners to help them with their word stress, something I rarely do in the 'real' language classroom. To my relief though, the number of students in the class seems to be steadily increasing rather than decreasing and they seem keen to come back for more.

As part of the course I've found it necessary to give a lot of help with the user interface, especially with some of the complexities of manipulating the voice client to get students into pairs and groups without having to shift them across the island so they don't overhear each other.

I've created these videos which have been really useful both for myself and my students, so I thought I'd share them here. I hope that anyone involved in teaching in SL finds them useful, and anyone who isn't involved gets some insight into how this tool can be used, particularly for language learning.

  • This one shows how you can get students into pairs or groups, so that they only hear the people you are working with. (Be careful though. This feature still seems to be a bit buggy)
    View the movie
  • This one shows how can use the 'Active Speaker' panel so that you can change the volume of the other speakers around you or mute them.
    View the movie
  • This one shows you how to create a note card to take notes during the lesson.
    View the movie
  • This one shows how to copy notes from Second Life note cards into a Word document (If you want to keep copies of your notes outside of SL)
    View the movie
  • This one shows you how to share and pass note cards to other avatars / students.
    View the movie
  • This first one shows you how to set up the interface so that you can listen to audio and watch video.
    View the movie
  • This one shows you how to use the camera tools to take pictures / snapshots within Second Life.
    View the movie

Hope you enjoy and benefit from these. Please feel free to leave comments.

Best Nik Peachey

Friday 20 July 2007

Voice in Second Life

Over the last couple of weeks I've been trying out the new voice client for Second Life and despite a few remaining bugs with voice groupings it seems to work pretty well. It is sensitive to distance and location! If you turn around while someone is speaking to you, it really does sound like they are behind you etc.

It is possible to put groups / pairs of students (avatars) into different groups so that they can only hear the 'person' within their pair or group and for the 'teacher' to switch between groups to listen in on how each group is doing. (though this is still buggy at present)

This is really going to open up the potential for language teaching.

How to try it out

  • If you want to try the voice client out. You will need to download a separate 'First look Viewer'. You can get this from:
  • It seems to run fine on both MAC and PC.
  • If you can't get it to work, it could be that either your firewall or anti-virus is blocking it, so you may need to check your settings.
  • You'll also need a reasonably good quality microphone and headset, preferably with USB connection.
  • NOTE: Not all areas within SL are voice enabled
  • To find voice enabled areas check out this map
I hope you enjoy this and by all means leave a comment to say how you got on.

Tuesday 26 June 2007

Materials design for Virtual Worlds

I was recently lucky enough to be invited to give a presentation on course and materials design for Second Life at the SLanguages 2007 virtual conference (June 23rd 2007) which took place on the Edunation Island in Second life. The conference itself was a fascinating event and the experience of presenting a conference paper within a virtual world to an audience of avatars was certainly a new and novel one for me.

I was asked to give this presentation because I have been working over the last few months on designing a Business English course for Second Life. As part of putting together the presentation I came up with a list of lessons I’ve learnt while going through the process of designing the course. The list is by no means finalised and I’m sure it will continue to grow and change as I learn more about developing materials for this world, but I thought I’d publish it here for anyone who is interested in designing their own materials for language teaching in SL.

For anyone who hasn’t already visited Second Life then you can download some instructions from here and see how it is done (1.3Mb pdf). Be warned though. To access SL you need to have a good broadband connection and quite a powerful computer. See system requirements

So here is my list of things to think about if you are trying to design teaching materials for Second Life. Feel free to leave comments.

Tips for language learning materials design in Second Life

1. Design outside the classroom box and into the computer game box
Think about the kinds of common computer game genre. They are really quite limited. The main ones are things like
  • Driving or flying games (Grand Prix racing etc)
  • Shooter games (Kill everything in sight etc.)
  • Sports type games ( Football, Golf etc.)
  • Strategy type games ( Zoo Tycoon, Hotel Tycoon etc.)
  • Sims type games (The Sims, Sims 2 Pets etc.)
Think about how these can be made collaborative and why students playing them might need to communicate. Admittedly, it’s much easier to produce these types of games if you have an island and a team of technicians to work on them for you. If you haven’t there are still plenty of things you can do using places and objects already built in world. If you get your students to go to Nissan Altima Island they can pick up there own car, which they can either use there or anywhere else to have a driving competition. On AOL Pointe they can get their own skateboard and a collection of tricks to do on it. There are numerous places to play just about any sport you can think of. Finding and learning how to use these objects and places could be a communicative task in itself.

2. Build in ownership of the environment
If you have your own Island why not build a student area of some kind. Somewhere they can post their own materials, pictures etc. or give them their own room to decorate.

3. Give students control of their learning / activities
When you design learning tasks like role-plays let students be themselves, don’t try too hard to orchestrate things like what they will do, where they will be or what they will say. Good role-play is like jazz improvisation, you provide a structure and students improvise within it.

4. Make learning and task goals clear to students
Sounds obvious, but when we know why they are doing things we often take it foregranted that students know. This often isn’t the case, so be sure to let your students know why you want them to do something and what you think they should be achieving.

5. Make sure that students get individualised feedback on their performance
Especially in virtual world activities where students are in reality quite isolated and really sitting at home on a computer alone, it’s very important that they get some feedback on their performance and know how they are doing. Keeping note cards at the ready while you are monitoring your students can be really handy for making notes to pass to them at the end of the lesson.

6. Maximise student to student interaction
Now that Second life is going to have voice communication for everyone, there is no excuse for the activities to be tutor led. Let the students work together. Be sure to explore the voice capabilities and look at how you can group and pair students for voice chat.

7. Breakdown texts into smaller chunks and make ‘input’ tasks collaborative.
SL isn’t a text driven environment and doesn’t really lend itself to reading long texts. It’s much better to divide your texts up by giving a small chunk to each student on a note card, and then get them to reconstruct the overall meaning collaboratively.

8. Make the activities engaging on a mental (cognitive), personal and a cultural level
SL offers us the opportunity to connect people from all around the world, so be sure that your tasks and activities draw on that international experience and exploit the unique experiences that each student brings from their culture.

9. Build the materials into the immediate SL environment
SL is a wonderfully rich graphic environment. Try to make sure your materials exploit that immediate environment. Get students doing things in different places and moving around. Don’t just try to recreate a classroom in SL, remember the most successful language learning that happens goes on outside the classroom.

10. Make tasks relevant to real life and real SL life
The borders between real life and SL are becoming increasingly blurred. Think about how virtual 3D worlds will become integrated into our everyday lives and the kinds of skills people will need to operate and communicate in them effectively.

11. Exploit the ‘authentic’ SL world
There are lots of interesting and novel things to do and places to go in SL, so why not exploit them and design activities around them? Get students to go out in groups and explore and create reports, plan trips and tours for each other, bring back experiences to share with other class members.

12. Exploit the SL user interface
The SL user interface is an incredibly useful tool and has lots of features that can be used creatively. The snapshot tool can help students to create magazine reports with wonderful graphics or a photo diary of their experiences. The movie tool can help students to create machinima. They can use it to create their own video interviews, advertisements, or record role plays or drama productions.

13. Train learners to exploit the SL user interface / develop good IT literacy / study skills.
The user interface can also be used more or less effectively as a study tool, to take notes make records or to share information. Make sure that you train students to use it effectively, so that it aids rather than obstructs their study.

14. Build in social interaction
Knowledge is socially constructed and language is a social function. Try to design social time and space into your course and your tasks.

15. Create and exploit information gaps
Make sure that you create the need to communicate within your tasks. Creating information gap type activities is relatively easy in SL as you have a lot of control about how and who you give information to.

16. Develop and exploit the students’ relationship to their avatar
The SL avatar that represents your student can become a vehicle for the expression of their personality. Think about how you can involve this relationship between student and avatar in your activities.

The Slanguage 2007 conference was sponsored by The consultants-e
Video and audio transcripts of the presentations can be found on the Edunation Island at:

If you are a teacher and you are interested in developing language teaching materials for Second Life or doing some language teaching there get in touch with The consultants-e as they are now running seminars and training sessions in SL.

Friday 8 June 2007

Developing screencast tutorials

There's a very handy web based tool called Screencast-o-matic that I've just spotted. If you go to the website and simply click on 'Create' you should be able to record and make movies of your on screen activity. This isn't anything new as there are quite a few software tools that you can either buy or download to do this, but what's good about this tool as that it all works through the web page and also allows you to create an account and save your screencasts online. This makes it much easier to share them.

The tool is very easy to use and it looks like it's even capable of recording some quite complex screen activity, such as gaming and 3D virtual worlds. You can also record audio voice over. Great stuff and all free.

Monday 4 June 2007

Exam Practice

I’ve just been doing some writing work for a really useful site called Exam English. The site specialises in providing information and free practice materials for a variety of English language exams including IELTS, TOEFL and the range of Cambridge exams..

The practice materials are mostly Flash based and are interactive. They test a range of skills and grammar, and you get the results at the end as well as the chance to review your answers. Many cover listening skills with professional quality recordings for students to listen to.

I’ve just written one for the TOEFL reading paper based on a text about Robert Capa.
  • You can try that out here
I've also written a listening paper based on the life of Sylvia Plath
  • You can listen to that here
There is also a basic level test which students can use to see which exam would be appropriate for them.
  • You can have a look at it here
On the whole I think this is a really useful site with some really useful resources and information and some well designed interactive activities.

Friday 1 June 2007

Creating an Online Classroom

The Nicenet Classroom Assistant is a really useful tool which enables teachers to very quickly and simply create their own virtual learning environment. I’ve been using this with various classes and groups of teachers for the last 7 or 8 years and it has remained reliable, stable, safe and free.

The VLE it creates has a number of useful features.
  • A messaging function which allows registered users to send personal or group messages to others registered on the VLE (this can be configured to forward messages on to email addresses if the user so chooses)
  • A conferencing function. This acts like a bulletin board where threaded discussions can be created around tasks or topics.
  • A link sharing resources where the tutor and / or users can post and share and annotate links to external sites. This can help to focus your students’ use of web resources.
  • Document publishing. This can be used by either tutor, to publish course materials, or students to publish their work.
  • The tutor has access to administrative functions that will allow them to configure the degree control they retain over these features.
  • The tutor can also set up and schedule tasks for their students to complete within specified deadlines.

Why I like it
This is a really good simple and free solution for any teacher that wants to start exploring online or blended learning. It’s very safe as only registered users have access. Users can only add text, as it doesn’t support picture formats. It enables teachers to create a forum for online communication even for younger learners who don’t have access to things like email.

Because the VLE is text only, it makes it very quick to move around within the environment even if users are accessing the site through a dial-up connection.

The features of the site are integrated so you can set up a task within the conferencing section, provide the resources within the link sharing section and get students to submit completed work and publish it within the document sharing section.

Here are some tutorial sheets showing you how to create your own classroom and manipulate the various features. These tutorials were developed for a workshop presentation that I delivered in Cordoba Argentina. This wokshop was sponsored by the British Coucnil in Argentina

I hope you find this tool as useful as I have. Good luck with your online teaching.

Nik Peachey

Wednesday 2 May 2007

Pronunciation videos

This is a useful site if you are teaching pronunciation. Though it could take some time to load the first time you use it.

There is a phonemic chart which has small audio clips of the phonemes along with video clips that show the mouth movements as the sounds are made. (Be warned, this is quite a big file)

Open pronunciation chart

You simply click on the mouth and then watch and listen. I’m not so sure how helpful seeing the mouth is with some of the sounds, but with some it could be quite helpful.

Because the chart is a Flash (swf) file if you right click on it, you can ‘zoom in’ and this makes the view of the mouth much larger. You can even fill the whole screen with just one clip if you want to, though this looks a bit scary!

If you use the menu at the side you can turn off the symbols and just have the video clips, so you could use this for a phonemic dictation activity. (Students listen and write down the phoneme they here)

You could also use it to pronounce words while your student try to spell them out (in standard script)

Also if you click the chart where it says ‘Words’ you will see a word chart and clicking the words that are in blue gives you a page with the different sounds that make up that word.

The page is there to promote the software that the company ‘Thrass’ is selling. I haven’t tried the software, so I don’t know if it is any good. If anyone does try it or buy it could you post a comment to say what you think of it?

Also please post ideas for activities using the free page if you think of any.



Friday 27 April 2007

Creating audio-visual monologues

Flipz TV is a really useful piece of free software for creating entertaining audio-visual materials.

The software enables you to record your own audio monologues and lip-sync them with a choice of animated talking heads. It then turns them into small Flash files which can be run in a web browser. These can be put on the Internet, run form your computer desktop, or the Flash files can even be delivered to mobile phones.

Here’s an example that I created using a Sonnet (130) by William Shakespeare. (You’ll need to have the sound o your computer turned up)

Click here to see an example

Use the small controls on the right to stop and replay the audio.

What I like about this software, apart from the novelty value, is Flipz creates quite small files. You could easily email the file to students with some instructions so they could listen at home or in a self access lab. Or put them on their phone or mobile device. You could make some really useful homework tasks for them. The students could even download the software onto their computers at home and create their own materials to bring to class.

Creating something like this is very easy. Just click through the five steps on the interface.

  • The first step is to choose the character you want from a possible 8 talking heads (two come with the standard download of the software and you can download another 8 by registering)
  • You then type or copy and paste in the text that you want the animated head to read.
  • You then either import your audio file or record your own
  • Then simply click a button and the software generates your audio character and synchronises the speech to the text
  • You can the either preview or finish your project. The software generates an html page with the talking head embedded in it.

You can watch this short tutorial movie to see just how easy it is.

Tutorial movie (Flash 523k)

Here are some ideas for combining this into your teaching.
  • Record short poems or stories for the students to listen to
  • Record some tongue twisters for the students to listen to and practice
  • Get students to produce and record their own news reports
  • Get students to record an imaginary daily diary for one of the characters
  • Get students to record imaginary problems for a problem page. They can then listen to each other’s problems and record some advice
  • You or your students could record a song or import a song audio file and add the words

You can download Flipz for free from:
It’s about 3.15Mb so it shouldn’t take to long to download, then just unzip the file and install it. It only runs on PC (sorry MAC users)

Click here to see how Flipz would look on a phone or PDA
Flipz on phone

If you use Flipz or have any good ideas for how to exploit it, by all means post them in the comments below.

Nik Peachey

Monday 23 April 2007

Make you own animated movies

D- film is a really useful website that has been around for a few years now. The site makes it very easy to create short animated movies with colourful characters and cartoon style dialogue in bubbles. (Be careful though, some of the characters may be unsuitable for younger learners less mature students.)

The site is really easy to use and you just click your way through various screens selecting backgrounds, characters, scenarios, soundtrack and credits. You also type in your own short dialogues. Then when you are ready a single click turns the whole thing into a Flash movie.

You can make short single screen animated movies or longer ones by adding more scenes. You can then email the link to your movie either to yourself or to your students etc.

How do I create movies?
  • If you watch this tutorial you can see just how easy it is to make a film.
    Tutorial movie
    (458k flash)
  • Here’s an example of a film that took about 2 minutes to produce.
    Example movie
  • This link takes you straight to the movie maker page.
    Movie maker

How do you use this in the classroom?
You can use it for a number of things:
  • To demonstrate language points
    Example movie
  • To give examples of social English
    Example movie
  • To tell jokes
    Example movie
  • I once got my students to create their own movies based around concepts (fear, happiness, boredom, etc) and we had our own miniature animation festival.
  • You could try setting up a competition in the school to see who can create the best film.
If you think of any great ways of using this little tool or you or your students create some nice films, by all means add a link to them in the comments below.

Thursday 19 April 2007

BBC online media training

I’ve just seen that the BBC has released a lot of its own internal staff training courses and made them available free online at:

What's on the site?
I’ve had a look through the courses and they really are good, especially if you want to work with audio for podcasts or video for projects. Some of them are very short, so even if you only have 10 – 15 mins to spare you can still get some development from them. I looked at one on interviewing for radio:

  • This one has some really useful audio files of interviews which you could actually use with your students for listening activities. There is also a collection of short vox pops interviews which have a huge range of different UK accents.
I also looked at one on the basic principles of shooting good video footage.
  • It had lots of short video clips with audio voice over and they all had text transcriptions available. The clips were all quite short, so they wouldn’t take too long to download even if you have a slow connection.

There are also quite a few on the software and technology side of editing the materials. All of them have clear slow commentary and great visuals. This really is useful material even for people who are basic beginners with this kind of technology.

A really useful site whether you’re looking for authentic listening materials for your students, teaching journalism or media classes or looking to develop your own ability and understanding of video and audio technology.

Monday 16 April 2007

Tutorial: Using Videos from YouTube

Sites like YouTube ( can be a really rich source of authentic video and audio. Many of the videos are great for the ELT classroom because they are quite short, so they don’t take too long to download and there is a vast collection all for free.

Sending students, particularly younger ones to a site like this can be very risky though. Even if you send them directly to the page with the video you want them to watch, you never know what other links are likely to be on the page and what kinds of unsuitable things they might take your students to. This quick tutorial shows you way to get around this problem

The Tutorial

  • It shows you how to use a simple template and 'Wordpad' to create a simple web page that you can embed the video into.
  • This doesn’t mean that you need to have your own website or web skills. You can store the web page on your hard drive. The video will still work as long as your computer has a live connection to the Internet.
You can see an example from here by just clicking on this link:
  • This is a funny short video that I thought would be really useful for describing prepositions of movement, or even a little bit of daily routine. Or simply just describing what you see happening. Students could either write a brief description of a short segment or take it in turns to describe to each other orally.
To see how the simple worksheet is created, just watch this Flash movie tutorial:

To try creating this yourself, you can download these step by step instructions:

You’ll also need to download the html template, just right click the link below and click on ‘Save target as’ and save the template to your computer's desktop:

My eBooks and Lesson Plans