Monday 14 November 2016

Thinking Critically through Digital Media

Although the use of internet and digital materials in the language classroom has come a long way over the last 20 years, still the vast majority of web based material that finds its way into the language classroom is used for information input or comprehension purposes. The students’ interaction with the materials is as such largely passive with the teacher controlling the suitability of the materials selected and deciding what information the students will extract from it.

In Thinking Critically through Digital Media I have tried to build on this model, but develop it and take it to deeper and more critical levels of analysis that go beyond the superficial linguistic level and help to develop students not only as English language speakers, but as capable information literate participants in the global knowledge economy.

The book uses as its basis the development of key digital literacies. These include the ability to understand visually presented data, the ability collect and analyse data using a range of techniques and survey tools and the ability to create and deliver a range of presentation types using digital media tools.

Whilst developing these digital literacies students are also encouraged to assess the validity, credibility and underlying bias of the information they study and are given a range of research tools and techniques for reassessing the information and evaluating how it fits within their personal framework of belief systems and values.

The book itself has four main chapters. The first three chapters contain a range of activities that teachers can use with students to develop their abilities to understand and create infographics, develop research polls and surveys and create and deliver presentations. These activities give students hands on exposure to a range of recommended tools and develop students as active creators of information whilst developing their abilities to work collaboratively in digital online environments.

The fourth key chapter of the book is a collection of lesson plans that teachers can use to take students through a complete process from accessing their existing knowledge about a topic, understanding new input, examining how the information fits into their existing value scheme, checking the credibility and validity of the information, carrying out their own parallel research through social media to finally sharing and reevaluating what they have learned.

I believe that the skills and abilities teachers can help students develop through the use of these materials are ones that are sadly lacking, not only in the English language classroom but also in the general education of many students around the world. Through the use of these materials I hope teachers can develop more actively and intellectually critical students who approach digital media with the ability not only to comprehend and consume information but also understand the possible bias, motivation and underlying values of those creating the information. I believe these skills and abilities are key to creating a more tolerant, open-minded and critically aware global society.

Related links:

Nik Peachey

Monday 3 October 2016

Exploiting Infographics for Digital Literacy and Critical Thinking

This is just a short post to anounce the publication of my new ebook 'Exploiting Infographics for Digital Literacy and Critical Thinking'.

Exploiting Infographics follows on from 10 Lessons in Digital Literacy, which is a collection of lesson plans based around infographics, and looks in more depth at the genre and how infographics can be used as both sources of information and as creative learning tasks for students.

The tasks that accompany the infographics are intended to encourage students to think more critically about the information they are exposed to and to question the sources of information they find whilst browsing the internet.

Exploiting Infographics should help teachers to start creating their own tasks, activities and lesson plans for students and to integrate infographics in a way that will enhance students’ critical thinking, digital literacy, language and communication skills.

Exploiting Infographics was conceived as part of The Digital Classrooms Series which started with the award winning Digital Video - A Manual for Language Teachers.

The series is intended to help teachers, teacher trainers, materials writers and course designers integrate digital technologies into their classroom practice in a pedagogically sound and impactful way.

I hope you enjoy these books and find them useful.

Related links:

Nik Peachey

Tuesday 2 August 2016

Using Phraseum to learn lexical chunks

I recently revisited Phraseum, an app which I first discovered and reviewed in March 2014. I’m glad to see that the tool is still around, has gathered a loyal following and has developed both in terms of design and functionality since that first review.

In this article I’d like to show you some of the new features and also share some ideas for how you can use it. Let me start though by recapping what Phraseum does.

Phraseum is a tool that students can use to capture lexical chunks, collocations and expressions while they read online text. It helps students to collect these expressions into theme based phrasebooks that they can then use to revise and share their learning. 
Within the platform there are also a number of features to help them learn the phrases, these include tagging of phrases and links through to Google translate. Phraseum also records the source of the phrase so that students can go back and find the phrases in their context. 

A new feature that’s been added since the last review is the ‘Learn’ feature. This is great as it  helps them learn and memorise the phrases using a process of spaced repetition. To use this students just select a phrasebook and then click on the ‘Learn this phrasebook’ button.  
They can then select key words to remove from the phrases. After these have been clicked, they will have to select them in the correct order to put them back into the sentence. 

They work through the phrases doing this a couple of times and each time things get harder and more words are removed. Eventually the prompt words are removed and they have to type in the missing words. 
Once the students type in the words they will be able to compare with the original.

Phraseum can also create revision tests so that the students re-study a selection of the phrases in their collection. When students have learned new phrases, each session begins with a test. This test is designed to identify exactly what they can remember. In each test they are required to type in phrases with minimal prompts. Their success in the test determines whether a phrase is learned or marked as weak and repeated again.

As a teacher you can also create your own phrasebooks just by typing in the phrases you want stusdents to learn and then sharing the phrasebook with them.

Getting started with phraseum. 

Once you have registered on the site, one of the first things to do is to add the ‘Clipping button’ to your browser. You can find it at: and just drag the button onto the bookmarks bar of your browser. 

Once you have done this all you need to do is highlight some text while you are reading and then click the button and it will open the clipping window which helps you to save the text chunk into the correct phrasebook and add tags and annotation to it. 

It’s also wise to decide how you want to organise the phrase you collect and create some empty phrasebooks too, then these will appear as options when you clip phrases from a text. Once you have done that you (or your students) are ready to start clipping as you read.

Activities for students
Here are some activities you can do with your students to get them started with Phraseum.

  • Choose a web based text that you would like your students to read. Collect phrases from the text into a phrasebook. Share the phrasebook with your students and get them to check their understanding of the phrases. Ask the students to try to learn the phrases using the Phraseum ‘Learn’ feature. Once they’ve made an initial attempt to learn the phrases, get them to read the text.
  • Give the students a web based text to read. Once you have completed comprehension and reading development activities ask the students to look for sentences in the text that have vocabulary, collocations or lexical chunks that are new to them and save the sentences into a phrasebook. Then get students to use the learn feature and choose the specific words from the phrases within the sentence that they need to learn. Students can then practice them regularly.
  • When using a text that has a lot of dialogue such as a play, you can get the students to choose one of the people in the text and grab all the sentences they say into a phrasebook with that person’s name. They can then use the ‘Learn’ feature to try to memorise the lines of the text. You can then get the students act out or recite the text.
  • Collect some different lines from a range of short poems into a phrasebook. Share the phrasebook with your students and get them to try to decide which poem each line came from (You’ll need to give them the titles of the poems, or use poems they have already read.) 
  • Get students to collect wise quotes or sayings ( these could be based around a specific topic or just any that the students are interested in) once they have 5 to 10 quotes get the students to use the ‘Learn’ feature of the site to try to learn and memorise the quotes.
  • Create or get students to create a phrasebook containing each of the lines from a short poem. They can then use the ‘Learn’ feature of Phraseum to try to memorise the complete poem. 
 If you'd like more ideas for how to use Phraseum to develop your students' vocabulary, check back to my original review: Creating social phrasebooks with Phraseum

Related links:


Nik Peachey

Tuesday 8 March 2016

Creating engagement through interactive infographics

I’ve been a long term advocate of the use of infographics in education and especially enjoy thinking of ways that students can be encouraged to engage with and question the content as well as create their own graphics, so when I rediscovered I was really delighted to find the tool that I once thought was a PowerPoint substitute for creating online presentations had turned into an awesome interactive infographic creator.

What’s so impressive about Visme?
I’ve used quite a few infographic creation tools and most are either template based or they have a library of assets which you can drag and drop to construct your own layouts. offers a combination of both these options along with the possibility to animate the elements within the graphic, drop in your own images or online videos and also embed html elements such as polls and quizzes into the graphic.

This enables your infographic to be more than just data display, they can act as multimedia tools to encourage user responses and build learning and research and it's built on html 5 so it works across mobile platforms too.

How to use Visme
When you go to the dashboard you get three main options. You can create a presentation, an infographic or use a blank space to create any kind of hybrid of the two.

If you choose presentation you get a number attractive templates which you can flick through and select. Once you have selected one you can edit the design and images and add your own content.

If you choose infographic you can search through a wide range of completed infographic designs and choose one with a structure similar to what you want to display and edit and customise it for you own data.

 Every element within the graphic can be edited, moved around and animated.

If you choose a blank canvas, then you can search through the images and icons library and create your own design from scratch. You can choose the size of your canvas so that it can be presentation size or more of a poster format.

You simply drag on any elements that you want to include from the graphics library and then click on then to edit them to suit your design. It’s easy to resize them, change the colour or even animate them. You can also search through and add images.

You can find some really nice examples of what’s possible on the Visme blog.

What I like about it
  • is a really flexible tool which offers the choice between using templates to develop your content and an open canvas.
  • There is a huge range of professionally designed icons and graphics you can simply drag and drop into your creations to make them look professional.
  • The potentials for dropping in html objects such as quizzes that enable interaction can make static data much more dynamic.
  • The ability to drop in multimedia and particularly video can lend more significance and impact to the information in the graphic.
  • You can hyperlink elements within the page to pages on the internet so you can use this to show sources of information or link to other images or background information.
  • is built on html 5 so runs across platforms and devices.

How use it with students
  • Create multimedia posters - You can get students to research a famous person and create a poster about them. This could be a fan poster about someone they like, a historical character or even someone in the news. They can add short video clips about the person as well as a range of facts. 
  • Combine lectures with visual notes - You can combine a short lecture video with some notes about the lecture to teach students visual note taking skills or to make the content of the video more meaningful and memorable.

  • Create interactive animated work sheets - You can create colourful worksheets with images or text that links to various resources around the internet and embed them into online courses or blog posts. 
  • Poems or songs with visuals - You can have videos or audios of songs dropped into graphics and add images and icons that help students to understand the words. This is an example of a poem reading with a visual gap fill activity. The images below illustrate the words of the poem, but there are some clouds with question marks and students have to listen and hear the missing word. The cloud is also hyperlinked to the answer (an image of coral), so they can check their answers. They can then  use the images to help them remember the words of the poem.
  • Publish student research - You can ask your students to do research and find data and information about various topics and then create their own infographic display of the information.
  • Transforming text to visual - You can get your students to create a visual representation of a text as a means of checking comprehension. This could be based around literature, such as a play or story they are reading or it could be a representation of the information in an article or essay.
Tools like are great to lift the level of engagement in your classroom whether you use them to create tasks, present information or put them in the hands of your students to do the creating. There is a learning curve with these tools, but provides some great tutorials and support to get you and your students started. is a commercial product with premium lisences but there is also a free lisence you can use with your students.

I hope you enjoy using this amazing tool.

Related links:

Nik Peachey

Friday 15 January 2016

9 Generic activities for exploiting infographics

This post has been revised and moved to my new blog at:

Kind regards
Nik Peachey

My eBooks and Lesson Plans