Saturday 7 November 2015

Creating online learning with Riddle

On the surface Riddle is a great free tool for creating a variety of quizzes and polls that can have rich media embedded into them, but when you look below the surface it's actually a pretty sophisticated tool for quickly authoring engaging elearning.

Creating a Riddle is easy
Go to: and sign up. Then you will see the different quiz types. The main types of interactions you can create are:

  • Opinion polls - These are simple single question polls which can contain a number of fixed response for the recipient to choose from.
  • Lists - Lists aren’t questions as such, they are more like a nice way of presenting information in a series of chunks. Each chunk of information can also have media or text embedded into it. This would make a great way of presenting infographic type information in a more mobile friendly way.
  • Pop quiz - A pop quiz can contain a number of multiple choice questions. Pop quizzes can be scored across percentage of correct answers. Students can also get feedback on each answer within the quiz and you can attach specific messages to scores to tell students what they need to do in response to their score.
  • Personality tests - With this kind of test you can create a number of questions for participants to answer and link the answers to specific personality types. So for example if the participant answer a to all questions they are shown their a personality type. You can actually create the different personality types yourself.
  • Surveys - Surveys are the most flexible poll type. You can have a choice of different question types from text fields for written input to single choice or multiple select questions.
You can either click on ‘New’ to start from a blank template or click on ‘Template' and you’ll see an example of that type of quiz which should give you an idea of how to create one yourself.
Most quiz types start with some kind of introduction screen where you outline the theme and purpose of the quiz. With Riddle it’s easy to add media to this part of the quiz just by clicking on the media type and searching for it or uploading your own file.
Then add the questions and potential answers. You can also add a score the answer in the pop quiz type questions and some explanatory feedback.
Once you have added the questions you can customise the look of the quiz by changing colours or fonts.
Then once the quiz is complete you can share either a URL or embed code or post it directly to your social network accounts.

The responses to all the questions are collected within the platform and you can view and download these by clicking on ‘Statistics’ (to download a csv file you need a pro account) so this provides a form of LMS though it doesn’t enable you to identify specific students (again you would need a pro version to do that).

How to use Riddle with learners
  • Riddle is pretty simple and quick to learn so you can get students to create their own research questionnaires. These could be for classroom research or they could share them through social media networks. You could use infographics to base the research on and get students to do parallel research and create their own infographic.
  • You could get students using the List option as tasks to report on films or reading assignments. They could create a ten point list to include the ten most important features of the book or film.
  • You can create opinion polls to lead into classroom discussion. This would give students the opportunity to think about the issues before they come into class. You could then follow this up with a second poll to see how many people had changed their mind about the issue.
  • You could use the list option to have mock elections. Students could use the list to create a ten point election manifesto. The students could then look through them and decide who they would like to vote for.
  • You can use lists to present different aspects of verb tenses with a section each on meaning, form, pronunciation, time lines and usage. You could also include links to videos or songs where the verb tense is being used.
  • You can use personality tests to identify learning styles and make students more aware of them. You just need to define the different learning styles and then add answers to the multiple choice questions that identify each style.
  • You can create a pre test to get students thinking around topic you want to teach and to find out what they already know about it.
  • You can use Riddle as part of flipped learning approach with video embedded into quizzes or polls. Then you can collect students’ answers and go into class with a clear understanding of what they have understood from the material.
  • You can embed articles, short stories or video clips in the pop quiz or surveys and then build them into  complete online course.
What I like about Riddle
  • The free option still gives lots of scope for creativity.
  • There is a great range of quiz types.
  • The simplicity of creating the quizzes makes this easy for students to learn quickly
  • I love the choice of media and how easy it is to embed media into the quizzes.
  • I like the way the personality type quiz answers can be set up with sliders to refine the way the answers apply to the different personality types.
  • The list type quizzes are a great way to segment the presentation of new materials
I hope you enjoy using Riddle and create some useful interactive learning materials.

Related links:

Nik Peachey

    Saturday 31 October 2015

    Creating illustrations and infographics for ELT tasks is one of my favourite tools and the one I use most for creating graphics and infographics. As someone who doesn’t draw very well and has only limited design abilities it has really helped me out a number of times and enabled me to produce professional looking illustrations, product mockups and teaching materials.

    How it works
    When you go to the site you can either open an existing diagram or create a new one.

    Click on Create New Diagram and you will have the option to either choose from a number of templates that you can edit or use a blank template.

    Once you open a blank template you see the canvas in the centre and on the left of the screen there are a number of shapes and a search engine. If you scroll down the categories on the left and click on them you’ll see a vast range of shapes images and icons any of which you can use by simply dragging them onto the canvas.

    The canvas appears to be A4, but to can drop images and shapes anywhere around it and it will expand in any direction to accommodate your graphic.

    If you want something specific you can type a key word into the search engine and you’ll see images related to the word.
    All shapes and images can be resized, dragged around and have text and colour added once they are on the canvas.

    Going to the insert menu also enables you to add images from URLs or search Google for images to add to your graphic.
    Once you have finished creating your graphic you can export it as an image or save it in a number of different format types including PDF, PNG, SVG and HTML. You can also save an XML file of the graphic and then open it at a later date or share it with someone else to edit it. This is a really useful if you spot an error or typo at a later date.
    The files can be saved on the device you are working on or on Google Drive or DropBox, so they are easy to share with other people.

    How to use it

    Create time lines
    Time lines are great for helping students to understand the concepts and time relationships in various statements. You can use the timeline to map out the events in the sentence and illustrate the order in which they happened. can help you to quickly produce visually appealing timelines with images to help illustrate the sentences.

    Creating flashcards can be time consuming, especially if you can’t draw. You can very quickly create your own flashcards using the images from and add text or phonemic script (You can copy paste the phonemic text from: ) or you can find and add the images on Google Images.

    Create infographics
    Infographics are a great way to convey dense statistical information in an accessible way for the computer screen. is a great way to create your own infographics for students or you can get students to create the infographics themselves. makes it easy to add images and colour to the graphics.

    You can find lots more tasks and suggestions for exploiting infographics in my ebook.

    Process maps is great for creating process maps students can create these to demonstrate their understanding of the processes described in a text or you could create them to show students different process, such as visually explaining a the writing process.

    Mindmaps are a great way to support memory and show connections between different topics. They are also great for helping students to remember and review vocabulary. makes these very easy to create and you can also add images to illustrate them. If you save the xml file created by you can also share it so that others can edit it and create their own version.

    Grammar summaries
    You can use to create illustrated grammar summaries or get students to create them. You can have a section for meaning, form, pronunciation and appropriacy and use icons or illustrations to help clarify and make the summaries more attractive and memorable.

    Conversation/ dialogue maps
    Many transactional conversations follow very similar patterns. You can use to create dialogue maps to illustrate this for students or get them to map out a conversation themselves. They can use the dialogue map to show the purpose of each part of the conversation.

    Visual story summaries
    You or your students can use to create visual summaries of stories. These can show the characters and the main events in the plot. For longer stories, students can build the visual as they read each section or paragraph. This is a great way to get students to demonstrate their understanding of the text.

    Lifeline maps
    Students can create lifeline maps of themselves showing the main events in their lives. These can be really useful as prompts for speaking activities and to help students get to know each other better. They can also create lifelines for famous people or historical figures or events.

    Illustrations for materials
    If you create your own texts or worksheets you can use to add illustrations graphs and images to them to make them look a bit more attractive and professional.

    What I like about it
    • It’s free and runs in the web-browser so no need to download anything.
    • Great selection of images and icons to add to illustrations
    • Great to be able to save to Google Drive and share with others
    • Great range of formats for download
    • Love the unlimited canvas space
    • Doesn’t require any login or registration
    • Quick to learn so usable with students
    • Great that photographic images can be imported in too

    As a tool for creating graphics, infographics and illustrations there isn’t much that can be improved. I guess some people might prefer a freehand creation tool but I’ve personally never had much success with these. For me is great the way it is. I hope you and your students find it useful too.

    Related links


    Saturday 24 October 2015

    Brainstorming and polling with AnswerGarden

    AnswerGarden is a very simple tool for creating short answer polls and displaying the answers as word clouds. It’s really simple and quick to use and can be used in the classroom or embedded into webpages, blogs or in online courses.

    To create an AnswerGarden poll just go to and click on the + sign at the top. Then you can either type in a topic to brainstorm or a question.

    AnswerGarden poll responses are limited to either 20 or 40 characters so be sure that the type of question you use doesn’t require a long complex answer. AnswerGarden works best when only a single word answer is required.

    Once you have added your topic or question you can just click enter and your poll will be ready. Then just share the URL with the recipients.

    You can refine your poll and add some security to it if you wish.
    • There are a number of modes you can choose for your poll.
    • You can allow different users to repeat the same answer, in which case the repeated word will appear larger depending on the number of people who enter the word, or you can allow each word to be entered only one time.
    • You can set the poll to be moderated so that words only appear once you approve them.
    • You can add a password for the poll and add your email address to get an admin link for the poll.
    • You can lock the poll so that nobody can add to it, but this would usually be done once the poll is complete.

    Once the poll has been launched there are a number of other nice features including an automatically generated QR code to make the poll easy to access for students on mobile phones.

     You can also share the poll quite easily through a range of social media or get an embed code to add it to a webpage or blog. You can even geo broadcast the poll through your local network so that anyone can discover it on their mobile phone or laptop.

    Once your students have completed the poll there are a number of export options including export to Wordle, Tagxedo which allow you to customise the word cloud and save or edit the results. You can also send it to Twitter or save it as a PNG.

    AnswerGarden in the classroom
    • You can set a topic and get students to brainstorm vocabulary connected with that topic. Once all the words have been added you can ask students to peer teach any they don’t know in pairs or small groups or research the words in an online dictionary.
    • As a warmer you could get students to enter all the verbs, nouns or adjectives they know that start with a particular letter. You could even create two or three AnswerGardens with the same task and give them to different groups and see which group produces the most examples.
    • You could do a variation of the above game by getting students to brainstorm nouns that have specific qualities. For example, students could add anything they can think of that has feet, or anything that can fly, or anything that is green.
    • You could start with a route word and ask your students to enter or collect words that collocate with it. This doesn’t have to be done in one lesson but students could use a number of these AnswerGardens to collect collocations. They could do a similar thing with phrasal verbs using either a verb or a preposition in the question.
    • You could use AnswerGarden to get your students to create anagrams from a route word. Again you could have a different poll for each grup and make this competitive.
    • You could use an AnswerGarden to find out more about your students by getting them to enter things or people that they like or don’t like, such as favourite sports or actors.
    • You could find out how students feel about something by getting them to enter adjectives to express their feelings about anything from politics to action research on specific classroom techniques you use. Or they could just enter adjectives to describe how they are feeling. This is a good way to take the temperature of the room.
    • You could use AnswerGarden to get students to decide between two or three options. They just type in the one they want and the most popular one will appear as the biggest word.
    Because AnswerGarden is so simple and quick to use and doesn’t require registration it would be great to get students using it to create their own small research questionnaires. They could then share these within the class or through their social media networks and then present the responses in class.

    I hope you enjoy using AnswerGarden with your students. Please post any additional ideas or links to examples you have created in the comments.

    Related links:

    Nik Peachey

    Saturday 3 October 2015

    10 reasons why you should buy my book

    Over the last year I have been working on the first in what I hope will be a series of books to help teachers exploit new technologies in ways that will enhance their students learning. My first book - Digital Video - A manual for language teachers - was released in August 2015 and here just a few of the reasons why I think it's worth the price of a cup of coffee.

    1. It’s a ground breaking ebook that combines text and images with 26 embedded video tutorials.

    Here's an example:

    2. It combines instruction on how to use the best in new technologies with creative practical classroom activities.

    3.It gives an overview of how new technologies can be combined with existing methodological approaches such as TBL, CLIL and Flipped Learning to make students’ learning more engaging and effective.

    4. It shows you how to build your own technical and pedagogical skills to enable them to create their own materials and activities for students.

    5. It helps you to see beyond the concept of using video for comprehension and consumption and looks at ways you can exploit the amazing power of handheld devices to encourage students to use video creatively to develop their skills.

    6. It includes annotated links to some of the best free video based apps and resources that are available online.

    7. It shows you how to build the technical skills and confidence you need to gradually start introducing new technologies to your classroom.

    8. It helps you to see how you can make the transition from classroom teaching to blended and online teaching.

    9. It’s the cheapest good quality 400 page full colour multimedia ebook for teachers that you can buy online. (Price at present is below £1 / $1.99 so around the price of a cup of coffee)

    10. The money raised from creating the sales of the book will help to ensure that I’m able to produce similar books like this at a comparable price.

    You can buy the book from:
    I really hope you enjoy the book and please do leave a review.

    Related links:
    Nik Peachey

    Saturday 19 September 2015

    Managing the digital classroom - Using a backchannel

    In my first post in this series - Getting students' attention - I mentioned the use of backchannels. This post should give you more information about the use of backchannels within the classroom.

    If you are working in a classroom where your students have internet connected devices, either through wifi or their mobile phone, using a backchannel can have a transformative impact on the way you can use technology with your students.

    “Backchannel is the practice of using networked computers to maintain a real-time online conversation alongside the primary group activity or live spoken remarks.”

    Most backchannels are text based and many-to-many, meaning that anyone can type in a message and it is seen by everyone who has access to the chatroom.

    Back channels are particularly useful if you are working in a face to face environment where all or pairs/groups of students are working at a computer or if you are delivering live online classes using some form or web conferencing or webinar platform.

    Backchannels help to solve a number of common classroom problems

    • I often describe a backchannel as the communication that happens between your students in the classroom every time to turn your back on them. The advantage of using a backchannel tool is that you can capture the intercommunication, be part of it and make it a constructive rather than a distracting part of the class.
    Democratisation of learning
    • Backchannels democratise the classroom or lecture room, at least for periods of time, and enable everyone to contribute what they know about the point or topic being discussed.
    Giving students links to online resources
    • If you want students to investigate a website, do an online task, watch a video or complete a digital worksheet, you simply use the back channel, paste in the link and they can access the materials simply by clicking the link and opening it in a new tab. This saves a lot of time and gets students directly to the sites you want them to access rather than leaving them struggling to write down long URLs and type them into the browser address bar.
    Getting all students to respond to questions
    • You can type in questions and get students to respond through the backchannel. Using this method all students are able to participate and respond to questions rather than the first one to put up their hand. This also gives less outspoken students the opportunity to respond.
    Setting and reinforcing clear task
    • When you set tasks for students to do you can back them up by also typing your instructions into the backchannel. This gives them something to refer back to and also helps to reinforce your verbal instructions. This can reduce wasted time going round the class helping weaker students get on task.
    • You can get students brainstorming ideas, suggestions, vocabulary, opinions or anything else through the back channel. This way everyone's contribution can be collected, shared and acknowledged.
    Enabling students to share knowledge
    • Students get share what they know about any topic or ask a question at any point during lesson, even when you are presenting, without disrupting the flow of the class.
    Socialisation with students
    • Students can socialise and you can socialise with students within the back channel. Just spending a few minutes at the start of the lesson asking questions and finding out what students are up to can really help to engage with your students.
    Developing written fluency
    • Interacting with students in a chatroom also gives students an opportunity to develop their written fluency through genuine communication.
    Saving notes from the class
    • The script from a backchannel can be saved and downloaded, so this is a great form of collaborative note taking. At the end of the class each student can edit their own version of the text to ensure they keep the parts that they feel are relevant.

    Some problems with back channels

    • As always we should take our students' online safety very seriously  when using any form of computer mediated communication that allows students or others to communicate with our students.  Some back channel tools require registration and this adds a greater element of security to the platform as users are more traceable, though student registration can add an extra layer of time management and friction to the setup process.
    • If you decide to use a back channel that doesn't require registration then it's better to make sure you create a new one each lesson and only leave it live for only a short time.
    • When you first start to use a back channel you may have some initial behaviour problems, especially with younger less mature students. Try to stay level headed when you deal with this. As the use of the back channel becomes more common place your students will get used to using it in a more responsible way, especially if they realise their comments can be traced back to them.

    Class size
    • If you have really large classes and lots of students are contributing comments it may get hard to keep up with all the interaction. Having a more complex backchannel tool like Backchannel Chat can help you to manage this more effectively.
    • Reading back through the text from a back channel can seem like reading through chaos to someone who wasn’t there at the time. Backchannel records will need to be edited to be useful, but  this is a good review activity for students.

    Backchannel tools

    Here are a number of tools you can use to create a backchannel in your classroom.
    TodaysMeet is one of the simplest and easiest to use tools, and also one that’s free and very reliable. It doesn’t require registration by you or the students so it’s really quick to set up and get students into, but if you want that extra security you can register for a free account, which will also enable you to save your chat transcripts.
    You can enter an example room here:

    Backchannel Chat:
    Backchannel Chat is a bit more sophisticated and enables students to choose avatars for the chat and more importantly it enables you the teacher to pin a question or message to the top of the chatroom stream so that it doesn’t disappear as students respond. There is both a free version (which is limited to 30 students) as well as paid versions which have larger limits and other features like file adding attachments and personalising avatars with students’ own picture.

    You can enter an example room here:

    Chatzy offers two options; A quick chat room which you can set up quite quickly and simply (more like TodaysMeet, or a more complex virtual classroom which you can configure to allow students to add various types of online media too, such as images and videos.

    You can enter an example room here:

    Find more tools to use in the digitally connected classroom by downloading my ebook - Digital Tools for Teachers

    Check it out

    I hope you find backchannels useful with your students and that they help you to integrate technology into your classroom in a more meaningful way.

    Related links:
    Nik Peachey

    Friday 11 September 2015

    Managing the digital classroom - Getting students' attention

    Competing with a computer or mobile screen for students' attention can be a challenge at best and at worst extremely frustrating. In this posting I will share some techniques and approaches for dealing with these problems.

    Ban devices
    • Obviously this is the simplest way to deal with the problem, however, banning devices in class can be hard to enforce especially with teen students and older. It will also become harder as more technology becomes wearable, and particularly with adult classes, this approach could border on the insulting. 
    • Banning devices in the classroom also deprives us and our students of the opportunity to develop responsible approaches to using these devices and robs students of the opportunity to develop their digital literacy skills and exploit the genuine benefits that technology in the classroom can bring.

    Turn off the device
    • This is much less extreme than banning devices from the class and can be part of a strategy for more responsible use of devices. Have parts of a lesson or even complete lessons when you ask students to turn off their device. 
    • In this way the devices can be available when we need them and we can start to build a more responsible though very controlled approach to the use of technology. This becomes more difficult with computers which take much longer to boot up.

    Motivational reward
    • You can use mobile or computer use as a motivational tool by giving students a break when they have been working well and allowing them a few minutes to use their mobile device or computer freely. 
    • This isn't to say that you don't also use them as part of the lesson, but just giving students a short break to check their email or social media can help top reduce their anxiety levels. Remember that many more digitally connected people now have parallel virtual lives happening along side their physical life.

    Turn off the screen
    • If you have students sitting with a computer screen screen in front of them in a more old fashioned computer room with desktop computers then you can ask them just to turn off the screen when you want their attention. Then they can quite easily turn it back on again when you are ready to get them working again.

    Go to the home screen
    • Rather than turning the screen off, you can also get students to go to the home screen on the computer or device, until you are ready for them to go back to work.

    Turn over
    • In the case of tablets or mobile phones an easy solution when you want students' attention is simply to ask them to turn their device over on the desk so the screen is facing downwards. Then as soon as you are ready for them to get back to work they can turn it over again.

    Reinforce instructions
    • You can use the devices with a backchannel tool like TodaysMeet to reinforce your instructions. As soon as you have given instructions verbally you can add them to the backchannel and then students also have them to refer back to during the activity.
    • This can also help them to stay on task and interact with you and each other while they work.

    Reduce teacher directed learning
    • Think about how you can reduce teacher directed learning and point students towards web based materials where they can learn for themselves. 
    • You can use the backchannel tool like TodaysMeet to share links to the materials you want them to investigate. This could be text video or audio materials that you have created yourself or that you have discovered. You can point different groups of students towards different materials sources and then get them to share and compare what they have learned together.
    • This approach makes much better use of the technology and helps your students to develop as more autonomous learners. It also demands more from them as critical thinkers and researchers and helps to develop the kinds of real life digital literacy skills they will need. 
    • This approach also has benefits for you as a teacher. It takes the spotlight off you and gives you The opportunity to get up close to the students, to monitor what they are doing and steer weaker students in the right direction. 
    Controlling the device
    • Teach students how to control not be controlled by their mobile device. Many mobile apps are designed to be attention needy. They constantly flash up notifications through messages and sounds which attempt to engage the owner’s  attention. Teach your students how to switch off these attention grabbing alerts so that they can control when they decide to check messages.

    Keep doing it
    Whichever of these techniques you use, the important thing is to be consistent and persistent. You have to train your students to adopt the kind of responsible behaviour towards their device that you want in your classroom. This isn’t going to happen instantly. You’ll need to stick with it.

    Please feel free to share any suggestions or techniques you have for helping to manage a digital classroom.

    Related links:


    Nik Peachey

    My eBooks and Lesson Plans