Thursday 6 December 2012

Mobile Learning in ELT: Survey 2013

In 2010, after buying my first iPad I decided to do some research into how teachers were using mobile devices in their classrooms and their teaching. At this stage ‘smart’ phones were already starting to make an impact and tablet devices were just coming onto the market.  The research results from this first survey were published in the Guardian Online under the title ‘English language teachers connect to mobile learning’ and the complete results and report can be downloaded from:

I followed this research up in 2011 using the same survey questions in an attempt to see how things had advanced with the intervening period and the results from that survey were  published in May 2011 on the DELTA Publishing blog under the title ‘mLearing and ELT: Are We Mobile Ready?

One of the main observations from this survey was that many teachers were in fact ready and willing to embrace mobile learning and mobile devices, but that publishers seemed to be more reluctantly lagging behind.

Over the last 18 months since publishing the 2011 survey results, mobile learning seems to have made its way into the main stream of discourse surround the implementation of educational technology in our schools and universities, so I have decided once again, thanks to the support of the Bell Educational Services Teacher Training department,  to launch a more extensive survey building on the original one to try to discover the extent to which the ‘talk’ about mobile learning has had any genuine impact and realisation in our schools and classrooms over the past three to four years.

Whether you use technology, mobile learning or avoid it please find time to answer these 20 questions and share your ideas, opinions and reflections and I will once again publish the results for all to share.
Many thanks for your help and participation.

Related links:


Nik Peachey

Thursday 11 October 2012

Two Contrasting Views of Educational Technology

I’d like to share a couple of videos with you that I have used recently in the courses I teach. I find these videos particularly interesting because they show such contrasting approaches to learning and in particular - for want of a better word - elearning.

This first one is from the early 1950’s and is about something called a ‘teaching machine’ which was created by behavioural psychologist B F Skinner.

As you see Skinner’s teaching machines, though not exactly iPads do look remarkably like  what we would recognise as computers. What’s also remarkable is the claims that he makes for them and the reasons why he believes they are effective are remarkably similar to those made by many producers of learning and especially language learning software today.

However, despite the extremely logical reasoning that Skinner expounds I’m sure if you were invited to sit down and use one of these machines for a period of time it wouldn’t hold your interest for very long and like me you probably watch those hard working children with a sense of pity.

Of course it’s easy to look at videos like this with the advantage of hindsight and with a shinny iPad sitting close by and wonder at how they could ever have believed these machines would be effective, but if we look closely at quite a lot of elearning being produced these days, it isn’t long before we realise how similar in many ways it is to the kind of learning materials used on Skinner’s teaching machines. Gapfills, Multiple Choice Questions, True false Questions, etc. but with some multimedia rolled in still seem to be the mainstay of much computer based instruction and even mobile apps, so I’m not surprised to find that many of the teachers who come onto the courses I teach want to know how to use and produce these kinds of materials and to be honest I can see that they do have their place, but I think we should be aiming to do so much more than that with the materials we produce.

Here’s the contrasting video that I like to use.

This clearly shows a completely different approach to the use of technology and for me a much more powerful one. It shifts the role of the computer from being a storage place for predefined information and transforms it into a conduit by which knowledge is shared and constructed through the interaction between people. I think this aspect of computer based learning is the one that most critics of educational technology most often fail to see, unfortunately it’s also this aspect and role of the computer that is most often feared and blocked by educational institutions around the globe, and ironically enough, by governments wishing to suppress the rights of their citizens.

These videos and the methods of education demonstrated within them also highlight some other important points.

In the first video knowledge is clearly seen as residing in the materials of the institution. The students have no part in the creation of the content nor do they have the chance to question the validity and accuracy of the content and the role of the students is simply to learn and remember the content.

They sit in rows obediently working hard with no communication between them and no discussion sharing or collaboration of what they learning.

The second of the videos is almost the opposite of this. The classroom and even the school has become almost unnecessary. The student creates and negotiates knowledge through interaction with multiple sources of information and using multiple channels of communication. The student acts independently and works autonomously much of the time.

In a time when critical thinking, creativity and the ability to evaluate and manage information have become so important, it’s clear to see which kind of student we should be creating within our schools and the way we design and apply out learning tasks and materials will be a key factor in this.

It’s true that the student in the second video isn’t a language student, and developing linguistic ability is about more than finding and applying knowledge, it also has to do with skills and the practice and development of those skills, but what better way to do this than from the kinds of authentic network building and knowledge building tasks that can help our students become life long learners of far more than language?

The final thing that strikes me about these two videos is how they reflect the kinds of societies that the system of education seeks to create. For me the first is a society of obedient unquestioning worker drones being spoon fed information that will enable them to fulfil their predefined roles. The second is a society in which individuals are encouraged to think, act and explore, to question and to create. I know which I would prefer to live in.

Related links


Nik Peachey

Wednesday 5 September 2012

Online Teacher Development Works Best - 15 Reasons Why

I've started this article with quite a bold statement, but it's a conclusion that I have been coming to over the course of quite a few years now. I should really put this into context though, as most of the teacher training I do deals with pedagogical training for the use of technology and is most often delivered during intensive face to face sessions, usually with groups of teachers working in a computer lab. Though, having said that, I do still believe that many of the reasons I have listed below do also apply to other kinds of more 'mainstream' teacher development too, especially intensive courses.

So, here are my 15 reasons why I think developing your teaching online can be more effective.

Learn while you teach - This gives you the opportunity to try things out with your own classes working in your own environment with your own students. Often when we take a face to face intensive course we leave our familiar teaching environment and come back with lots of new ideas only to find that in our everyday reality many of them don’t work or create unforeseen problems that we don’t know how to deal with. Studying while we teach can give us the time to try out new ideas in our own work place, discover the obstacles and try to adapt them to our own context.

Non competitive - Face to face courses can often become quite competitive and tend to favour people who are more confident and extrovert and who like to shine. This can often lead to the quieter more reflective types being overshadowed and not having the opportunity to contribute what may well be valuable comment or ask the questions for which they need answers. The text based and asynchronous nature of online training makes it much easier for everyone to have their say and can lead to a much richer and more collaborative learning experience.

Work at your own computer - This sounds like a very strange advantage, but training with technology on your own computer can be a huge advantage. Contrary to popular belief, computers do tend to be unique. The way one computer is set up and how it responds and the kinds of problems you encounter can be very different from one computer to another. Nothing is ore frustrating than going on a course with a computer that is set up to make things easy for you and then returning to your own computer and finding that there are a whole different set of problems that you don’t know how to solve. Training to use technology with your students needs to include training to trouble shoot the problems that you may have with your computer and learning how to overcome these and set your own computer up to run effectively in your own working environment.

Experiential learning - The best way to learn about technology and online learning is to experience it for yourself. Being part of an online course gives you first hand experience of being an online learner and helps you to understand some of the challenges and obstacles your students will face when they use technology to study online.

Develop digital literacies - Even if you aren’t doing an online course which is technology specific, you should still be able to pick up a few new techniques and develop some of your digital literacies by studying online. Again, a good online course will have some element of digital literacy and study skills development built in. This should go some way towards helping you understand how your students are learning in the real world and the kinds of study skills they need to develop.

Digital networking literacies
- This really falls within digital literacies, but it is worth highlighting as I feel that developing your digital networking skills has real significance for your continuing development. If you can learn how to build supportive relationships with the other trainees on your course so that you can retain these contacts as a network after you finish the course then you can put these networking skills to good use within the various open online communities and networks that exist within various social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. Having an online learning network and knowing how best to work within that network can help to ensure that you can guide your own continuing development after the course you are training on has finished.

Build international contacts - Online training often provides a much more international learning environment than the classroom and so this can help to broaden the learning experience as there is a much wider range of experience to share. Finding out about how things are done in different countries and very different contexts to your own can be very refreshing and enlightening and can really enhance the learning experience and the network building potential of the course.

Differentiated learning
- As a trainer when you encounter a group of teachers face to face, it takes time and effort to see them as individuals with individual needs and interests. As an online trainer this experience is reversed, you are constantly dealing and communicating with each member of the group as an individual and this enables you to more rapidly assess their needs as individuals and adapt the learning to suit them.

One to one time
- Following on from the previous point, almost all tutor - student time in online courses is one to one rather than whole group, so again it is easier to ensure that as a trainee you get the attention you need from your tutor.

Personality types
- For shyer less confident students online leaning can work to their advantage because contributing in text can be much less threatening than doing it orally. You also have more time to consider your contributions to the group and can edit and re-edit them to be sure that you express yourself clearly.

Longer period of study
- Learning something well really takes time. Online training can often take place over a much longer period of time than most face to face courses can. This keeps you supported and engaged in the learning process for a greater period and so allows more time for development.

Your learning journey - Because the interactions within an online course are digital, they are recorded and captured so you have the opportunity to go back and retrace and review your entire learning journey. This greatly increases the chances of a deeper learning experience and greater retention of what you have learned.

Time for reflection - Online training allows more time for reflection and good online learning structures in this reflection, so that you not only reflect on your learning process but have time to discuss and share your reflections and share in the reflections of other teachers

- You can study at times that are convenient for you and for time periods that suit your learning concentration span. A lot of classroom training time often turns into dead time, because the length of lessons are dictated by administrative convenience rather than pedagogical advantage and trainers and trainees are often left pushing their way through materials long after their optimum concentration period has been exceeded. When you study online you can have a break whenever and however often you feel like. This gives you time to ponder what you have learned or move on to new materials at your own pace and use your time more efficiently.

Lower cost
- The costs, not only of courses but also of travel, accommodation and time off work are often vastly reduced when you take an online course rather than a face to face course.

So those are my 15 reasons. Feel free to add any of your own in the comments section.

Related links:


Nik Peachey

Wednesday 27 June 2012

How I use social media for my professional development

This has been a common theme to many of the presentations, workshops, webinars and seminars that I have been asked to do over the last few years, but however many times I try to present on this subject I never really feel that I get the message across as clearly and persuasively as I would like.

The issue of how we use social media for our own development as teachers and as digitally skilled individuals, is one that I believe is of vital importance though, not just because it can enable us to keep developing as teachers through the content, ideas, resources and above all people it gives us access to, but also because the way use digital media for our own development should guide and influence the way we use it with our students and build their digital literacies and communication skills.

So here it is. This my own attempt to outline my digital media learning experience, or at least part of it.

I’ll split this into 3 sections which I’ll call
  • Information in - This is how and where I find information
  • Information processing - This is how I process, engage with and capture information
  • Information out - This is how I share what I’ve learned or discovered

Information in

One of my favourite and most useful sources of information is Diigo. What I particularly like about Diigo is the groups. As you can see here I’m a member of quite a few groups.
The thing that I really like about the groups is that each group is set to send me a daily digest of any links shared within that group, so looking through these email digests is usually one of the first things I do at the beginning of each working day. These groups have really provided a very rich source of professional development for me and most of the interesting articles I read originate from here.

I also have a range of RSS readers for my different devices and these keep me up to date on the blogs and journals I follow. I’ve been using Netvibes for quite some for this, but on my mobile devices I also use Flipboard for more general information and Zite for more professional things. This video shows how Zite works.

Both these are very easy to browse when I have a moment spare and have great integration with both Twitter and Facebook.
Apart from those I also use Tweet Deck to follow specific topics on Twitter. I have it set up so that I can monitor the most useful hashtag related streams when ever I have some down time.

Information processing
It’s really easy to spend a lot of time sorting through information and links to articles, only to discover a few weeks later that you can neither remember or find anything you looked at, so i use a whole range of tools to make sure I capture and attempt to digest all this information.
I’ve had a Delicious account for years now and I configured it so that anything I posted to Twitter also automatically went into that account. However after a while i found that I wasn’t really going back there and when I din’t find it a very useful place to search through, though this has changed a bit since the introduction of Stacks (collections of bookmarks that have a more visual user interface)
For a while I used a great visual bookmarking tool called SimplyBox, but unfortunately that disappeared, so I was left to resort through all my link there and find better solutions (never a bed thing). My solution has been to spread things out a little.

I’ve been collecting a lot of infographics recently and I find the Pinterest is the ideal tool for these. It’s easy to collect and save them using the browser bookmarklet and they display well when I want to search through and find the ones I need.
I’ve also found that Pinterest is great for collecting YouTube videos and this has been a great way to access the videos when I need them.

Though sadly, although Pinterest grabs YouTube videos well it struggles with other web based video embeds, so I might have to look for something better for that.
For a long time I had all my links to useful web tools and resources stored in boxes on SimplyBox and it has taken a while for me to find a replacement for this. I have tried publishing my favourite tools for learners using a site.
 Although this is a nice way to share the tools it isn’t so handy when I come back to find them again. The answer to my problem came a few weeks ago when I discovered Meaki.

This looks similar to Pinterest, but it grabs a visual of the entire web page instead of just one image from it and the way the stored links can be accessed is much more user friendly for me, so I’ve been busy shifting links from my old boxes into this new site. So here are some examples (more to come soon)

This process of curation (sifting and organising links to useful content) may seem a little time consuming, but it doesn’t have to be. Once the initial sites are set up, you can just use  any short bursts of 5 or 10 minutes either at the start or end of the day or between lesson or other tasks. Let’s face it many of us find time for facebook in those short moments so why not something more productive?

Of course the most important part of processing all this information and making use of it is to put it into practice in my teaching, training and very importantly my writing. Trying to synergise all this information, make sense of it and formulate it into a rational strategy for moving my development forward is something I couldn’t do without blogging. The act of writing something down and organising it into a rational readable text on a blog to be published for others in your profession to see can really help you to focus on and confront your own ideas and beliefs and many postings that I have started to write have ended up in the rubbish purely because the act of putting those ideas into text convinced me that was where they belonged.

So having been through this process or collection, analysis, curation and reformulation the final step is to start to share those ideas.

Information out

Sharing is a really important part of the process. It’s important because if you create  something of value that can help you develop it can probably help others develop too. It’s also important because you can get some feedback from other teachers, perhaps even a little encouragement and appreciation and start to grow your network.

My main tools for sharing are firstly, as I mentioned earlier, which is where I store links to any interesting articles I find, and also a few that I write. is a particularly useful tool because it synchronises with other services such as
The Tumblr site, is something I’ve only started using quite recently, and only really to back up all those articles, so that if disappears or decides to start charging large amounts of money I haven’t completely lost everything.
As I said posts straight through to Twitter, which I mentioned earlier is also a great source of information in. I tend not to engage with people very much through Twitter though. For me it’s a great way to share links to content and find links to content, but it’s not a great platform for communication, so I also have a Facebook page which I find much more suitable for that.

So that’s it. My social network for professional development. It does take time to build up something like this, but it can grow organically just by registering on a few sites and then putting in 5 or 10 mins whenever you have time. In the long run, that’s far more time economical than going to a conference and certainly much cheaper, and best of all the network you develop is one that is absolutely specific to your own needs, so what could be better.

I’ll finish with a word of advice. This process can become quite addictive, especially for the social attention it can bring to you,  as you start to accumulate hundreds or even thousands of followers, but don’t let feeding this network take over as the purpose of the process. Always try to retain your integrity and focus on quality. Have high standards - If you don’t find anything useful or interesting to share or write about, then have a day off, never share something unless you have genuinely learned something from it and feel it has value.

I hope this is useful.

Related links:

Nik Peachey

Thursday 7 June 2012

Developing Your Digital Study Skills

Making the move from our safe and trusted traditional literacy habits to newer digital skills can be quite a challenge, but as teachers I think we are really unlikely to be able to use technology and help our students use technology really effectively unless we are prepared to face this challenge. Technology needs to be more than part of the way we teach but it also has to be part of the way we ourselves continue to learn and part of our everyday professional practice.

Scrible is one tool that has been helping me to make this step away from my paper and pencil study habits and towards a more efficient and digital way of learning.

Scrible enables me to replace my highlighter, sticky notes and coloured pens and to work with similar tools directly on the computer screen.

As an information addict, I spend quite a lot of my time scanning through blogs and journal articles about educational technology and language learning and trying to keep track of useful quotes and information from around the web. Recently I have started using Scrible to help me do this.

Scrible is a simple browser plugin that I can activate whenever I find something interesting online. The plugin opens a toolbar which enables me to annotate and mark up webpages with different colour highlighters, sticky notes and change the colour of the text.

But is can do more than this, because it also enables me to save the articles and webpages I have commented on, along with my my annotations into a library so that I can come back and find them later.

Once I have saved the annotated pages I can also share them with others by creating a simple link. These links can be either as ‘read only’ (the students can see my annotations but not change them) or as ‘editable’ pages (students  can see my annotations and also add their own) that I can work on collaboratively.

For me this is a great study aid and really ensures that I can go back, find and review all the articles I’ve studied.

How to use Scrible EFL / ESL students
We can get our students to use Scrible in the same way that we would to study an online text, though we can also use it to focus them on language development too. Here are some suggestions.

  • Get students to identify and change the colour of all collocations. They can use different colours for different types.
  • Use the sticky notes to set up reading tasks and comprehension questions and get students to highlight the part of the text where they find the answer.
  • Get students to read a text and post sticky note questions about it for you to answer.
  • Get students to colour code different parts of speech within the text.
  • get students to colour highlight different verb structures. They could also leave sticky notes saying what the structure is or what use of the structure is being demonstrated.
  • Get students to use sticky notes to define words from the text.

 What I’m not so sure about
  • The toolbar can be a little bit fiddly sometimes and it’s difficult to attach sticky notes to specific areas of images.
On the whole I really like Scrible and have found it really useful to help me move away from pen and paper in a way that makes much more sense as most of my studying is done online using digital resources.

I hope you give it a try too.

Related links:


Nik Peachey

Tuesday 22 May 2012

Instant Opinion Polls in the Classroom

For a long time now I have been looking for a tool that enables instant polling in the classroom or in the lecture room. I specifically wanted something that:
  •  doesn't require registration (especially from the people I'm polling)
  • updates very quickly
  • works on any platform from computers to mobile devices
It looks like I have finally found what I've been looking for and best of all it's free. The tool that I have found is Mentimeter and it does all of the above.

Creating the poll was really quick and easy I just went to and typed in my question, then I clicked on 'Create Question',

I then entered my selection of answer choices, chose a theme and clicked on 'Save and Start Presenting'.

The poll is then ready to use. There are a number of ways of sharing it.

You can get a URL with a code to restrict entry or to make it quick and easy to share in presentations (Here's one on the flipped classroom. The URL is always then you have a specific code for the poll, which in this case is 23512 ) anyone with this code can then vote. By all means give it a try.

You can click on share after you create your poll and get a direct web link which you can share through social media, such as Twitter or Facebook etc.

By clicking on 'Share' on your poll page you can also get an embed code or a link to to a public results page. I've embded the poll below to show you how it looks.

So what's so great about creating live polls?
  • Well they are great if you are lecturing or presenting at a conference with a wireless network as you can get instant feedback and responses that everyone can share in and so involve more people.
  • You can use them in class as a quick test to see if students have understood your material.
  • You can get students to create them and test each other.
  • You can use them for opinion polls in class, both before and after discussions to see if there is any shift in opinion.
  • The responses are anonymous, so it's a good tool to use to get honest feedback if you are doing action research in class, especially if it is related to a sensitive issue, such as your own teaching style or methods.
What's not to like?
  • Well there isn't much I can say that I don't like about this tool.
  • I'd like to have polls with more than one question though.
  • You have to be careful about using polls like this on mobile phones if your students are having to pay a connection charge, so it really helps to be able to get them on the wireless network if you are using it in class.
I hope you find useful and enjoy using it with your students.

Related links:


Nik Peachey

Friday 6 April 2012

Getting Learning out of the Classroom with Augmented Reality

For a while now I have been expounding the wonders of augmented reality (See: Augmented Reality and Web 3.0) , so I thought it was time at last to give some examples of how we can actually get students using this technology and to show how it can superimpose the Internet onto their physical world.

So here are some teaching suggestion which exploit two augmented reality type apps and gives students some reading, listening and speaking practice, as well as a bit of exercise.

The apps you need for this activity are both free and the first is 'Woices'.

Woices is a simple voice recording app that you can use on your mobile device to create and upload audio files to the Internet. You can also add an image to your audio recordings. The wonderful thing about Woices though is that by using GPS it understands where you were when you created the audio file and 'attaches' it to that location, so anyone who has the Woices app can go to the location and find the audio file by clicking on the 'Explore' icon on their app.

So it's a bit like leaving hidden audio notes around the world that only other Woices users can find.

Here's how it works. 
First register on the Woices website and download the app for your mobile device.
When you open the app it looks like this. You simply click on 'Record' to start speaking.

 When you have finished speaking click on 'Stop'. Then you can listen and delete the recording (recordings are called 'echoes'), or if you are happy with it, you can click on the small blue arrow on the right and add a title and description as well as a photo to your echo.

Then you click on 'Send' to publish it to the internet and this will use your phones GPS to attach it to the location where you created the echo.

To find 'echoes' which are relevant to your location, just click on the 'Explore' icon and you will get a list of 'echoes' which have been left close to your location.

The second app is called Layar and Layar enables developers to create web based multimedia information (called 'layers')which can only be accessed whenever you are close to specific locations.

Layar comes with  a number of packs of layers and the one that I want to use is the Wikipedia one. This layer enables users to find entries in Wikipedia which relate specifically to places in their environment.

So wherever the user is standing when they  activate the app they will get information which relates specifically to that place.

Here's how it works.
You need to download the Layar app for your mobile device. Make sure that when you open the app for the first time, you enable the location tracking feature so that Layar knows where you are. Then go to the layers.

You'll find the Wikipedia layer in the Education section. Click on it and then click on 'Launch'.

When you hold up your phone and move it around slowly you should start to see the Wikipedia summaries appearing at the bottom of the screen.

At the top of the screen you'll also see a kind of 'radar' screen which shows you where the interesting places are in relation to where you are standing.

If you click on the small Wikipedia summary you will get two more icons.

One of these takes you to the entry on Wikipedia for that location.

The other takes you to a map, which will show you how to get to the place from where you standing.

So here is how we can use this to create motivating out of school activities
  • Ask your students to find 5 interesting places around their town using the Wikipedia layer. They should go to each place research it on Wikipedia  using the Layar app and then record a short audio entry using Woices and add a picture to it. (You can check their entries through the Woices web based interface)
  • You could make a kind of treasure hunt and got to the places yourself and use Woices to leave audio clues about the next place to visit, so that students have to listen to your clue when they get to the location (by pressing the 'Explore' icon on the Woices app) and research the places around them on Wikipedia to find out where to go next to find the next clue. You could get them to leave an audio entry and image at each place along the trail to prove they have been there.
  • You could use Woices to leave audio notes at a set of locations and have factual errors in the notes. Then your students would have to visit the places, press 'Explore' and find the factual errors by comparing your audio with the Wikipedia entry for that place.
  • Get students to create their own audio tours or treasure hunts for each other using Woices and the Wikipedia layer.

What I like about augmented reality

  • I think it's great that we can get students learning about their environment outside of the classroom.
  • Taking learning out of the classroom like this gives students tools which they can use in their everyday life.

Things to be aware of
  • Be careful of your students e-safety and make sure they don't leave any information about their home address or where they live.
  • Make students aware of their digital 'footprint' so that they use social media responsibly.
I hope this shows at least a little of the potential of augmented reality apps on mobile devices. I think there is huge potential in these kinds of apps to develop location based experiential learning that can get our students out and about exploring their environment and interacting with the world around them through the internet. I hope you give it a try.

Lastly, I'd like to welcome Worth Ave Group as a new advertiser. 

Related links:
Nik Peachey

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