Rliberni's Blog – Radical language

February 24, 2010

Is education ready for 21st Century learning?


 2-23-2010 – 18:00 CET 12 PM EST  

21st Century educators!


Thank you to Olaf Elch @olafelech for this week’s edchat summary (see bio at the end of the post). Olaf is a stalwart of edchat and was also our guest moderator at edchat yesterday!

This was a tough topic for discussion as there were four variables in the mix – 20th Century learning, 20th Century teaching, 21st Century learning and 21st Century teaching.  With so much scope for input, it wasn’t surprising that the views came thick and fast.  At the end of the hour there were over a thousand posts logged at a pace of around one every three seconds.

An important aspect that concerned me before the start of the discussion was that there would be a tidal wave of posts proclaiming the new world and denouncing the old. I had a post prepared, but @rliberni beat me to it with her warning not to throw the baby out with the bath water.  I was really pleased to see that people weren’t getting carried away and that there is still a need for traditional skills.

I started with the intention of giving my views on the discussion, but ultimately that’s not what the discussion was about today.  It’s not what I think that’s important, it’s what the people who were there think that’s important.  So I’m going to absolve myself from the teacher role and add what I took from today’s discussion.  If other participants would be so kind as to add their feedback, I’m sure the benefit for the group will be higher.
 Here are some of the main themes from the discussion: 
  • Has learning really changed or is it just the teaching process?
  • What do teachers need to do with the new opportunities available?
  • Dealing with the massive amount of information available.
  • Access to the new learning technology.

Here is a selection of some of the comments: 

With such a vibrant discussion, it’s almost impossible to do it justice in a summary, but I’ve picked out some of the comments that caught my eye.

@angelbrady I think 21st Century learning is defined by connectedness, 24/7 access, and rich media.

@bjnichols  21st century learning is not about techology. It is about what you do with it… Collaborate., Think Critically, Problem Solve, etc.
@CHuckeba  The whole learning process is redefined.No more ‘sage on the stage’ from the teachers. Students have ownership of learning.
@melhutch  I think the shift between availability of knowledge and engagement for students requires teachers to rethink teaching.

@timrylands: Today is a great time to be alive, to teach, to learn. Interactivity. Speed. Communication.

@ShellTerrell  Definite shift from teacher as center of knowledge to student & teacher supplying knowledge & working together.

@rliberni   … are we throwing the baby out with the bath water?

@seanbanville  21st century learning means focus on info management for students.

To give some idea of the pace of the discussion, all of the above appeared in the first five minutes.

@wmchamberlain  Has learning changed? I don’t think so. I think what can be learned has changed. Content is ubiquitous and so should learning be.

@Swanny203  students must realize that memorizing facts/content won’t cut it in 21st century – they need to be problem solvers, thinkers, innovators.

@nothingfuture  The problem isn’t access to information, but rather access to good filters for that information.

@boundstaffpress  Problem solving and creativity don’t have a specific century. These are always the tool of innovators.

@johntspencer I’m not enraptured by 21st Century learning. I want a classic education in a contemporary context. Socrates meets Linux.

@andycinek  … the world is now flat and hyper competitive, therefore the demand for mastery of skills is crucial.

@andycinek  Challenge students to find an answer in their community, in their world, not simply in their classroom.

@akamrt  Learning skills remain the same, the way we use those skills are different, enhanced by access to technology tools.

@bonitadee  Demand on teachers is different. Teachers must relearn what learning is.

@fredsheahan  The need for educators to become continuous learners themselves has increased.

@seanbanville  Internet access in extremely remote areas have increased education opportunities in many poor areas.

@openstudy  Teaching with technology doesn’t mean it has to sparkle & glitter. Technology facilitates connections to real life learning.

@sudam09  Our goal should not be to produce distinctive students but people to change thinking, outlook n way of living.

@Parentella 21st Century is about expanding the conventional lines of learning to include worldwide learning.

I could just have easily chosen fifty other tweets which would have done equal justice to the summary of this discussion, but I’d like to end with one tweet:
  •  @cybraryman1: So many wonderful collaborations & learning is going on. How do we make others aware of it?

This is precisely the challenge for those on #edchat.  We know about these issues and we are reacting to them, but for the vast majority of the education world this is just background noise.  To really change something, we have to go out there and get the other stakeholders involved, the hundreds of thousands who neither write nor read blogs, who aren’t really aware of the changes going on around us and haven’t been made aware how important it is.

I would ask that the following question is added to the poll next week:
  • What can we in #edchat do to get the message across to the education stakeholders that change is no longer a cause for discussion and is now a matter for action?

Getting the message of today’s discussion out to the people outside of #edchat would bring about an evolution from being a forum into being a movement for change.

To follow the complete discussion see here 

For the stats on #edchat participation see here 

As ever, there were some great links shared:

TeachTC  ITeaching after a career in business. Great, challenging, surprising, rewarding. http://nyti.ms/9LW55S

openstudy:  Changes of teaching methods and mathematical content caused by new technologies. #edchat – STUDY: http://bit.ly/9DxA1s

anneschwal  My favorite take on 21st Century skills (they aren’t new) http://bit.ly/djxlqk

olafelch:   Here’s a view of 21st Century schooling. Interesting comparison with the 1960’s http://bit.ly/cdgNou

angelbrady  Not just learning changing in 21st cent: Tufts Now Accepts YouTube Videos as Part of College Application: http://bit.ly/aoBx97

fredsheahan  21st century learning should combine diagnostic learning (http://is.gd/90W0g), connectivity, and authenticity

openstudy  A SlideShare MUST view for today’s #edchat: Teaching 21st Century Skills In A 20th Century Final http://bit.ly/9WQJdc

DeborahMersino  Worth watching! Short video about new public school & 21st Century learning in GA: http://bit.ly/da8Ogb via @WorldOfLearning

evab2001  @penciltommy very true http://www.teachingvillage.org/ do it your way is a gr8 example

msmithpds  And more from @EDPressSec http://twitter.com/EDPressSec/statuses/9534598162  I’m sure #edchat folks have thoughts.

k_shelton  At #ISTE2010 I am part of a great panel, discussing on this topic from a teacher perspective http://bit.ly/bb6Od9

here’s a 21st century reading and vocab lesson idea w/ rubrics http://maistec.posterous.com/6th-grade-reading-projects

Parentella  @hadleyjf @thinkmaya here’s the link: http://chickensaltash.edublogs.org/2009/06/23/you-heard-it-first-here-heroes-are-global/

rliberni:   Some Youtube videos on 21st C learning http://bit.ly/9klExN

openstudy e-Learning: Changes in Teaching and Learning Styles: http://bit.ly/91aNZn For those who wondered about LEARNING styles 🙂

NMHS_Principal:   Three-fourths of professionals believe the internet makes us smarter http://bit.ly/dmU7Hi I’m a believer!

rliberni  http://bit.ly/c8h3fH Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach’s site for thoughts

acmcdonaldgp  #edchat folks – if you still have thoughts on change you would like to add, I’d love if you added to the comments here: http://bit.ly/bTwAfi

rliberni  The UK viewpoint on 21stC edu http://bit.ly/aKsLRj

ShellTerrell  My friend sent me this brilliant e-mail today, We Mourn the Passing of Common Sense… http://bit.ly/9t3kVH

jpsteltz  Latest Post: ‘Building Positive School Climate’ http://bit.ly/9VHcy1

socializatiooon  SO crucial to keep working on those socialization skills we begin in Kindergarten. .. #edchat http://ow.ly/16E2T1

akamrt US Dept of ED in announcement w/ (@usedgov) #letthemknow

I studied industrial management and work as an ELT and intercultural competence consultant, both in industry and schools. I believe strongly that a school’s function is to open the doors to opportunity and no-one should be restricted by the system in what they can achieve. I have introduced a teaching system in schools where children are taught English as a foreign language according to their ability, rather than in single year classes. My hobby is to make life difficult for people who are not prepared occasionally to do the extra five minutes to see that the job is done properly. I love red wine, and my daughter Lauren (but not in that order). My blog is called What’s New in the World

New to Edchat?

If you have never participated in an #Edchat discussion, these take place twice a day every Tuesday on Twitter. Over 400 educators participate in this discussion by just adding #edchat to their tweets. For tips on participating in the discussion, please check out these posts! 

More Edchat


If you’re new to hashtag discussions, then just show up on Twitter on any Tuesday and add just a few tweets on the topic with the hashtag #edchat. 

What do you think? Leave a comment!

February 22, 2010

What is it that you need?

I’ve been looking over the posts I’ve made on this blog with a critical eye and trying to see which ones seemed to give the most value to those who are reading them. 

I checked out the most popular posts – I’ve listed the top 6 here:

  1. English verbs that confuse!
  2. 10 ways to increase your vocabulary
  3. 7 great virtues to help you write well in English
  4. 7 deadly sins to avoid in your writing
  5. 10 goofy ways to practice speaking skills
  6. Countable and uncountable nouns now you get it, now you don’t!

Are these your favourite posts?

From this I deduce that what you want/need is: (in no particular order):

  • Practical ideas for improving language skills
  • Advice on dealing with certain areas – such as writing
  • Help with some of the more ephemeral areas of grammar
  • Short lists of ideas that are easily absorbed and incorporated into your practice

What I really would like to know now is:

  • Am I right?
  • Are there other areas that I can look at to give help and advice?
  • How do you feel about learning and practising English in general?

So, if you can help me out here with your ideas, requests, suggestions and opinions I can make sure that I give value in upcoming posts.

You can leave comments below.

February 18, 2010

Pronunciation – Some practical tips.

In my last post I suggested some easy practice for speaking and to continue the theme I thought it was time to say something about pronunciation.

Pronunciation is a bit of a cinderella when it comes to learning English. We all want to speak fluently and accurately, have good listening and writing skills and improve our reading and vocabulary but unless there are any real issues, pronunciation can wait.

I have to admit, also, that many of my English teacher colleagues give it a bit of a cold shoulder as there is always too much to cover in lessons and it can be a very individual issue.

It does tend to rear it’s head at advanced level when it is one of those things that still needs to be addressed.

So where does that leave us?  Good, clear pronunciation helps with communication and it makes sense to include it with all the other skills from the beginning. However, there are some ‘self-help’ things you can try to work on by yourself,  not least, checking how to pronounce new words as you learn them. Most dictionaries both online and off will give you the pronunciation.

Macmillan dictionary

Consider these examples of less than ideal pronunciation.

  • A university friend from Hong Kong once asked me (this is true) – ‘Do you keep your ruggage in the loof?’ Ok, this is funny and it was very easy to understand what he meant – but in a different context it might have led to misunderstanding or embarrassment.


  • A close Indonesian friend always said, when she picked me up by car, GET IN, with a flat intonation and two strong stresses. It irritated me every time as she sounded rude and almost gangster-like. I finally showed her how to make this more polite and friendly and my irritation dissolved. Again in another context she may have created a less than favourable opinion of herself.


  • A Brazilian student had problems with the pronunciation of we and you, these always sounded like ‘you’ and she had endless misunderstandings in meetings when it was not clear who had, or was going to do something.


  • Another student from Turkey frequently asked for soap in the college canteen (soup).


  • Finally, my own mis-pronunciation to a Chinese friend of the Hokkien word for ‘thank-you’ with the result that I accused her of being ‘stingy’!

I’m sure we all have our own pronunciation stories to tell!

English teachers are very tolerant of pronunciation errors but, in my experience English speakers at large are not. I have often had students present themselves for lessons because their speaking/conversation skills were not good. In most all cases they had been referred by line-managers who were native speakers and in most cases their speaking skills were, in fact, very good – the mangers were having problems with pronunciation. In a work scenario people will not make too many allowances, if they can’t understand then it’s a speaking/English language problem and it is your’s.

Practical tips

It makes sense to start with your own pronunciation. Have you listened to yourself speaking English? Part of good pronunciation is being able to hear it in the first place.

  • Record yourself  speaking – try to do this in an authentic setting if you can. Listen to your performance and analyse it.  How do you think you sound? Is there anything that is unclear? Is there anything you spot that you should try to work on?

Sometimes there are sounds that are just difficult to pronounce perhaps because they don’t exist in your mother tongue or because they are simply tricky. The ‘th’ sound and consonant clusters e.g. ‘ str’ come to mind.

  • Does this sound exist elsewhere in your language? At the end of a word or the middle? If so try to isolate it.
  • Do you need to train yourself to pronounce it? Use a mirror – is your tongue in the right place, your teeth? Sometimes a very small adjustment is all that is needed and you will be able to see in the mirror how this can be achieved.

Reading aloud is a very good way of practising pronunciation.

  • Take a short text and read it out. Try and find something with dialogue so you can get the intonation for speech in as well.
  • Exaggerate the intonation , slow it down to get the pattern. English intonation has quite a wide range.
  • Why not record yourself? Do it a few times and see if it improves.

The old language labs used to work on the principle of model – repeat – listen and compare – model again etc.. until your version was as close as you could make it to the model.

  • Using models for repetition is still a good way to practice
  • Drilling, though not very interesting, is also a useful exercise

At word level

Ship or Sheep online (you may have used the book)

This exercise gives practice at word/sound level English-online

At sentence level

Try this exercise on weak stresses from Gapfillers

Use this poem for some intonation practice


BBC Learning English gives advice and information on all aspects of pronunciation.

As with other aspects of language learning little and often is the way to improve steadily and keep your interest.

Other posts which deal with practice

Language Immersion

An A to Z of effective language practice

Register – choosing the appropriate language for the context

Word Stress – words with more than 2 syllables

Word Stress – words with 2 syllables

February 17, 2010

How do we best build community in classrooms using edtech? How do we define community?


 2-16-2010 – 18:00 CET 12 PM EST  

Thank you to Lisa Michelle Dabbs @Teachingwithsoul for this week’s edchat summary (see her bio at the end of the post).


Edchat - community in action!

This morning’s discussion on how to best build community in classrooms using edtech, was powerful and thought provoking. Exciting to see so many Edu PLN participants and
such a variety of tweets! There was a critical mass of educators very committed to building an edtech community at all levels.
  Here are some of the main themes from the discussion: 

  •  Creating and establishing common language and expectations on use of edtech in classrooms
  • Technology in classrooms is enabling us to collaborate with schools on a global scale
  • Communication is important to have in an edtech community
  • Community building helps promote MANY positives for students
  • Educate parents on the tools of edtech so students can use them efficiently, appropriately, and wisely
 Here is a selection of some of the comments: 

@jasontbedell: Before tech gets involved, we need to help the students learn to be supportive and want to help each other. That takes time+effort.

@spedteacher:@rliberni community is a group of people cooperating.

@ ESLlibrary: Using Blogs is a great way to build up your student community, especially if you’re teaching online!

@ShellTerrell: Why is community building important for students & teachers?

@esolcourses: RT @rliberni RT @UltimateTeacher Gr8 definition! Community is a group of like minded individuals who nurture and support one another

@goralkai: A community allows for students to be wrong and to learn. If they are uncomfortable, students can’t push their boundaries

@colport: We need to be aware of digital exclusion. Those students with no tech at home! It is still evident. How do we include them?

@TheNerdyTeacher:@colport – Schools need to be more accessible before and after school to accomodate students with no tech at home.

@karimderrick: The outside world rewards people who can work together – the education world needs to do the same

@bmontana: @karimderrick I think collaboration enhances the learning experience and doesn’t need to be assessed. It needs to be fostered.

@saraebest: On student collaboration, I like to scaffold with 3 levels: w/in classroom, w/in school, then w/in global communities.

@derrallg: @ShellTerrell Give them real world problems and make them feel that collaboration will empower them to make positive change

@SSNS_Teachers: Set up a revolving door policy between home and school to encourage parents to come in, see, and learn about ICT and edtech.

@bjnichols: Community buidling via tech. involves vision, access, coaching and support.

@suedensmore: Tech enhances community building among stds, but there’s no way to replace the face-to-face part that’s so valuable.

@teachingwthsoul: @hadleyjf My 18 yo thinks we are so off the mark. He says “you need to ask us what we think WE need. not more grown ups deciding”.

@spedteacher: Is building community about getting us admitted to student communities or allowing them into ours?

@jpsteltz: RT @MissCheska: @hadleyjf An example I used for parent/stdt project: family members tell home stories, stdts record, and both work on a digital book

@SSNS_Teachers: We all need to play a collective role in helping teachers and parents become team members and work together

@TheNerdyTeacher: I use a Twitter account for school and encourage parents and students to follow what’s going on in class when class is over

@MissCheska: Very true!! RT @spedteacher @ShellTerrell Students build communities all the time. They just don’t build them for our purposes.

To follow the complete discussion see here 

For the stats on #edchat participation see here 

 As ever, there were some great links shared: so many this week! 

drezac @atwaterd for her blog resources wiki. http://tinyurl.com/yaezm22  She’s worth a follow.

andycinek: I invite you all to view our class wiki at http://blenglish.wikispaces.com/

spx8jkb: My community http://bit.ly/bkihBb using Blogs. Allows peer review and comment from students and teacher.

colport I am finding @twiducate and kidblog.org  great community tools with my 7/8/9 year old pupils

 nlakusta Read http://novemberlearning.com/resources/archive-of-articles/creating-culture/  – good article to discuss w/staff

spedteacher I use a private twitter-like site to help my students build communities http://shoutem.com/

paulbrichardson A way of building community. use @johndavitt ‘s Learning Generator http://bit.ly/zCzU3 e.g. “DO How steel is made AS a blues song”

spx8jkb Wallwisher for ideas here http://bit.ly/9l3kpi

MarjieKnudsen PLN: Efforts in Education using Twitter http://bit.ly/9LSsbb #education #edchat #tcea via @tomwhitby

openstudy @ShellTerrell some great #edtech tools here including collaboration: http://mashable.com/2009/09/07/web-apps-teachers/

dallasm12 Plse RT if you agree or post comment: 3 Obstacles of oppty 4 Education – Social, Mobile, n $$ http://bit.ly/aJUHu4

spx8jkb @colport agree. what about Home Access? http://bit.ly/6Vl3WN

derrallg @k_shelton You could try something like http://tweetgrid.com/search?q=%23edchat

spx8jkb Don’t forget to add your ideas and views here http://bit.ly/9l3kpi

amlusch @angelbrady A colleague’s student group project. FB was the student choice for open-ended assignment. http://tinyurl.com/yzw2z9l

dumacornellucia I think that the Ning networks are the best and very easy to use for students http://bit.ly/8wWnm1

andycinek If you like #edchat you will definitely enjoy The One Comment – #onecom – chat this Thursday and 12 noon and 7 pm EST! http://bit.ly/cXYnl

Janshs something to watch later http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lm1sCsl2MQY

motyar @Birdfish1 I think web platforms like Elluminate are really gr8 as well! #edchat http://url4.eu/1Q6ST

amlusch A colleague’s student group project. FB was the student choice for open-ended assignment. http://tinyurl.com/yzw2z9l

CHuckeba good video for internet safety: http://www.commoncraft.com/protecting-reputations-video

k_shelton see my blog posting http://malbell.wordpress.com/2010/02/10/the-safe-use-of-new-technologies/ 

mohax Here’s the chapter on tech in the classroom from @dig_nat http://bit.ly/cyRqFc

cybraryman1  Cyber Safety sites http://bit.ly/5fDZ4f

mohax And here’s the chapter from @dig_nat about South Korea overcoming public health crisis of internet addiction http://bit.ly/dAkzFq

MissCheska Before you log off #edchat in 10 mins, please help fill out a social networking questionnaire for educators! http://bit.ly/9hmdZM

cybraryman1 Skype Other Classrooms around the world: http://bit.ly/5y4BC1

Mrkeenan A new post at mrkeenan.com: Quick Thought: Quick Praise {Professional Learning} http://www.mrkeenan.com/?p=325

ShellTerrell Gr8 #edchat today! Talking about community, you can join a gr8 one at Edu PLN ning http://bit.ly/1RSL2n

@edutek: It might be a good idea for educators to read Tribes by Seth Godin to learn about online communities

Join other educators in Second Life on ISTE and on http://edtechretreat.com  where look forward to meeting you.

rpetersmauri In Praise of Online Obscurity (the scaling of socializing) http://bit.ly/56J28y

 2footgiraffe how 2 use slideshare.net pt1 http://ow.ly/17W90  Pt2 http://ow.ly/17W91 Pt3 http://ow.ly/17W92 give me feed back if u will

DeronDurflinger KC considering closing 1/2 of its schools http://bit.ly/cK83xl

joe_bower @mrallen5 Replacing Grading http://tinyurl.com/yznhrey via www.joebower.org – Tired of grading and marking? Skeptical of rubrics?

DeronDurflinger PBS looking for innovative educators http://bit.ly/anc9i8 Are you innovative?

PaulWHankins I’d like to hear some more of your dreams. All of your dreams are important. http://www.dreamwithme.org/ Oh, man. Community

Brian_ThomasTCI http://twitpic.com/13m735 – A flash presentation that is IWB-friendly and does Geography.

DeronDurflinger It’s never to early to learn to lead http://bit.ly/btkP6Q George Washington

NSNS Colorado may stop funding higher education: http://ow.ly/17StATheNerdyTeacher

 TheNerdyTeacher Thanks for all of the wonderful ideas everyone. Stop and leave a comment. http://bit.ly/8FvVXc

LATWF2010: #LATWF YouTube channel is proving very popular, over a 1,000 views http://tinyurl.com/y9gv327



 Lisa Michelle Dabbs: I have a B.A. in Child Development and a Master of Education in Educational Administration. I started my career as an elementary school teacher and taught for 10 years. I then spent 5 years as a Title VII Project Director of a federally funded K-2 Language and Literacy program. During this time I coordinated this program at 3 school sites, as well as presenting professional development to teachers and parents. Then I was called to serve as an elementary school principal, and did that for 14 years. It was a challenge, but I loved it! Recently I worked for Kaplan K-12 Educational Services as a Middle School Consultant/Literacy Coach. I have also taught Graduate Level Courses as an Adjunct Professor for Concordia University. Currently, I’m seeking the next career opportunity and spend much of my time serving on the Board of two local, Educational Non-Profit organizations.I’m also mentoring aspiring teachers and administrators. I’m a wife and the mom of two wonderful sons. I love to sing, dance, read and listen to classical music. I’m new to blogging and am doing so as “Teaching With Soul”. You can find me at http://teachingwithsoul.com My blog was started in an effort to begin to fulfill my true passion in education which is to inspire, mentor & equip teachers to “teach with soul”. 


New to Edchat?

If you have never participated in an #Edchat discussion, these take place twice a day every Tuesday on Twitter. Over 400 educators participate in this discussion by just adding #edchat to their tweets. For tips on participating in the discussion, please check out these posts! 

More Edchat


If you’re new to hashtag discussions, then just show up on Twitter on any Tuesday and add just a few tweets on the topic with the hashtag #edchat. 

What do you think ? Leave a comment!

February 13, 2010

10 goofy ways to practise speaking skills.

I’ve been thinking about some quick ways in which you can practise English as you go about your daily life. I realise that not everybody is in a position where they are surrounded by English every day. For others they have very limited time to practise and need ‘quick fixes’ to keep their language skills moving. One area which poses a particular problem here is speaking.

I thought back to my early days of learning French, I was in a similar position with no French around me and without things like internet access that are available today!  I invented little tricks and tasks to do in French to keep the momentum going. I’ll share these with you here and I’ve added a few more that I have observed from other people.

So, wherever you are and whatever you’re doing you can do a little effective practice!

These will work with any language you are learning.

Warning – you might want to do some of these behind closed doors!

All the activities require a little imagination, do them when you are performing routine tasks.


I love to sing and do these quite often. Great for in the shower, washing the dishes, cleaning or driving.

         1.  Choose a song you like and make up English lyrics – anything will do, wild and wacky or sad and sentimental.

         2.  Invent a ‘jingle’ to advertise your favourite chocolate bar, car, band etc.. let your imagination go wild!

         3.  Make up a rap about what you are doing.

OK, so how do these help anything, you may be asking. There’s spontaneity, which is something you also need when speaking – you don’t know what’s coming next. You can be totally uninhibited and try anything – true freedom of expression! It will help you drag out vocabulary from your boots, you’ll be surprised at what you know. You’ll also find out what you don’t know – no worries – look these words up in your dictionary later on.

Present a TV show!

          4.  Cooking is GREAT for this! As you prepare your dish/meal imagine you are on TV and show your audience how to make it.

        5.  Choose another task you are doing and imagine you are making a video to show others how to do it.

This is great practice for giving instructions and describing a process. Conjure up a team to help you and soon you’ll have your own TV studio!! Get into the part. You could even invite your friends to join in too!

Recite a poem:

         6. Learn a poem or verse by heart and then practise it while you go about your daily tasks. You can, alternatively, base it on a poem in your own language or even make one up.

When I was learning French at school we used to memorise poems and ‘perform’ them in class – great for pronunciation!!

Conversing with pets!

          7. Converse with your dog or cat! You have a real live partner for your conversation even if you get very quizzical looks! (I always did). It adds a dimension to your creativity and great for pronunciation.

Making speeches.

         8. OK, you need a microphone for this, so grab that washing-up brush, wooden spoon or shower gel bottle and make that speech to your invisible audience!!

Become a tour guide!

          9. Grab your  ‘microphone’ again and pretend you are a tour guide and give a guided tour of your city, town or village!

        10. Get Gapfillers word of the day on your mobile phone. An effortless way to improve your vocabulary!

Make your language practice a part of your life!!

Check out these posts to help you with your English practice.

10 ways to increase your vocabulary

7 virtues to help you write well in English

7  deadly sins to avoid in your writing

Warning – mistakes cost marks!

An A to Z of effective language practice

Some tips for improving listening skills

February 10, 2010

How can we guarantee equitable access and use of technology to ensure tech literacy and to support meaningful learning for all students?


 2-9-2010 – 18:00 CET 12 PM EST  

Amazing Edu Discussions!

I think last night’s discussion on equitable access to technology was one of the most amazing yet!! There were so many tweets it was difficult to read them at all! We certainly had a large cohort of teachers very committed to the idea of technology being at the heart of 21st century education at all levels. 

The discussion addressed two main elements of equity: 

  • Having the hardware in the first place
  • Making sure that all students had access to it in fairly equal measure (i.e. all teachers in the organisation used it)

Here are some of the main themes from the discussion: 

  • The need for technology funding to be equitable – this is a very key issue
  • The importance of having access in school and not relying on what might be available at home
  • Equal opportunity should be fundamental whatever the technology available
  • Using mobile devices should be encouraged – most kids have them
  • Teaming up with businesses to get ‘old’ hardware, making more grants available, creative ways of funding
  • As ever, the importance of training for all teachers
  • Proper strategies so buying decisions are sound – the need to involve all stakeholders in this
  • The need to embrace technology and demonstrate how it can make a difference – take away the fear
  • Ensure that its use furthers learning, emphasis should remain on the how and not the need to procure
  • The need for fundamental educational reform to ensure equity and efficacy in learning

There were so many themes and suggestions that this list only scratches the surface

Here is a selection of some of the comments: 

@Folmerica: Basic tech needs to be provided by the schools, we can’t count on families to have access 

@blairteach: This is an issue bigger than educators since equitable access & tech resources are influenced by funding 

@ShellTerrell: How can we get technology into the hands of districts who cannot afford it? 

@olafelch: RT @rliberni: @olafelch this is where schools can have infuence i think #edchat Wrong modal verb – “must” (Sorry!) ;o) 

@karimderrick: Give them all an #itouch (or similar) and let them into the classrooms….. 

@bjnichols: Labs are obsolete. We don’t go to a central place to use tech. We use it wherever, whenever. 

@cybraryman1: The most effective way is to literally show school boards & administrators samples of how tech was employed to teach 

@akamrt: Yes. Learning must return to center of concept of school. We are not producing employees. We are mentoring learners. 

@olafelch: That’s a good reason why schools should have control of their own budgets. 

@evab2001: do we really need a lot of technology to start with if Ts start with small bits & see the benefits I’m sure they’ll try it 

@AlexDLWS: The more web-based tools you use, the less dependent you are on certain software and hardware. Then you can open up to open source 

@UltimateTeacher: Ultimately the end goal for students is knowing how to interact with one other If you can train the person you can learn the skill. 

@andycinek: Content & questioning will always remain at the core of learning, venues by which we find & learn will chnge rapidly 

@esolcourses: LOL! Don’t get that one myself. Problem I sometimes get is with BOFH types who want to block sites/deny access to stuff 

@mbteach: RT @blairteach: “Leading does not require a title or position. Leading merely requires a decision to lead.” @LeadToday 

@AlexDLWS: Remember to use Technology as a Tool, Tech Enhances Teaching, It Doesn’t Replace Human Presence Or Knowledge Transfer 

@tkraz: The price of 3 textbooks = 1 smartphone. Do we have the comparative uses to make the switch? 

@rliberni: We keep coming back to this need for a cultural shift in edu 

@acmcdonaldgp: The word pedagogy (to me) carries connotations of teacher centered instruction. What about Learnagogy? 🙂 #edchat Students most important 

@celfoster: Agree with many – Fear is the reason – fear of: not knowing, losing control, too many to mention #edchat 

@blairteach: @akamrt The longer I’m around, the more I believe it’s a control issue (even at the classroom level); many tchrs like control. 

@olafelch: @msmithpds Exactly. Imagine you were banned from driving because you might have an accident. 

To follow the complete discussion see here 

For the stats on #edchat participation see here 

As ever, there were some great links shared: 

New to Edchat?

If you have never participated in an #Edchat discussion, these take place twice a day every Tuesday on Twitter. Over 400 educators participate in this discussion by just adding #edchat to their tweets. For tips on participating in the discussion, please check out these posts! 

More Edchat


If you’re new to hashtag discussions, then just show up on Twitter on any Tuesday and add just a few tweets on the topic with the hashtag #edchat. 

What do you think about equitable access to technology? Leave a comment!

February 3, 2010

Do we believe all educators should further educational reform? Why?


 2-2-2010 – 18:00 CET 12 PM EST 

Education reform begins with Edchat!

Edchat reformers - #teachertuesday!


This topic was one that really got everybody going! The discussion was lively and there were several threads being explored. The role of the teacher, other stakeholders, politics and of corse the students themselves all featured.

Here are some of the main themes:

  • Teachers must be involved in any educational reform because of their position at the centre.
  • Reform is a natural process of evolution and will happen anyway.
  • There are political implications which cannot be ignored.
  • The monetary aspect of any reform will always play a large role.
  • We need to ask questions such as ‘what’ and ‘why’ before considering any reform.
  • Reform can happen at classroom and school level.
  • Any reforms must include all stakeholders to be effective and have consensus.
  • Reform is a slow burn and starts with grassroots movements  like #edchat
  • Does reform have to be universal, a one size fits all approach – there is a case for localisation.
  • The poverty gap was one specific issue discussed and how through educational reform this might be addressed

Suggestions were made for having ‘brain trusts’  to include teachers, parents, administrators and other stakeholders. The feeling generally was that starting small and analysing carefully were key. There was also a call for further discussion this topic in future edchat sessions with, perhaps, more of a focus on specific areas for discussion. So, watch this space!!

Check out the Ning to register interest in an action group.

Here are some of the comments 

@hadleyjf We need to do more than identify the problem. We need to identify the goal! What do we want for students

@akamrt: Don’t teachers have a moral obligation to instigate reform? Yes, it’s a part of education looking at innovation

@kunami10: What exactly are we trying to reform? Instructional practices, curriculum, or both?

@Esolcourses agree up to a point, though IME government directives/cost considerations seem to carry more weight than other factors

@TallGamer What type of reform or we talking about here? Tech in the class teaching methods are the kit and kaboodle?

@swalker2: We need to reform our goal of education first – agree on what that is – and then get into the details

@StarrMatica So true. Should be a requirement to spend significant time in a classroom before working on reform.

@elanaleoni I wonder though, r “21st century skills” really that different from learning how to learn–critical, creative curiosity?

@ShellTerrell: If we are always disagreeing & never doing then that becomes a problem too! #edchat we eventually need to take the step

@elemveee: how do we reconcile reality of “testing culture” w/ desire 4 imaginative, purposeful teaching?

@sudam09 Politcians should be asked to allocate their social funds randomly out of their constituency so that vote politics can be minimised

@akenuam: reform must begin within the classroom, we (teachers, schools, parents) must raise our expectations of students

@paulbrichardson Yes! The open source movement would be gr8 for ed reform. Infuse bottom up creativity into ed reform.

@Boundstaffpress I’m working this semester to influence my fellow teachers a few at a time to get involved here. #edchat has reformed my best practices

@Evmaiden sounds like we need less “reform” a little more “transform

@acmcdonaldgp: IF I were charged with reforming a district, the first thing I did would be to work 2 identify the shared vision of all stakeholders

@cybraryman1: How do we convince legislators that we elected to allow teachers, parents and students more of a role in ed reform?

@jennar: just did something interesting- read through #edchat convo backwards replacing the word ‘reform’ with ‘refocus’ … made me think

@Akamrt I would have to disagree. If we had a relevant purpose for doing school, wouldn’t reform processes be more successful?

@Teachingwthsoul Has got to be to advocate for best practices that enhance student achievement, that then lead to change.

@Acmcdonaldgp I enjoy these a great deal. Would love to turn a chat like this into an action research proj.

@CHuckeba good discussion, but agree with many that we need a follow-up. How will we actually make change? How do we reform?

@Bcinfrance I just started thinking there must be huge cultural differences in the question…but got brilliant too late, lol! #edchat

@olafelch: Most of the reforms don’t need extra funding – they need new thinking. #edchat

@readtoday: If teachers were equal members at the reform table we would finally see real change

To follow the complete discussion see here

For the stats on #edchat participation see here

Many great links were shared

One education chat #ecosys is working on How to drive change in Public Education. See Ed Chats: http://bit.ly/7w7P59

tech in classroom..ugh…how to get experienced teachers on board? http://bit.ly/9duhwI

 I always worked to provide a new teacher boot camp at my school. This is critical. DuFour/Eaker Chapt 8-9

understanding educational reform: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0309/20487.html

This is high quality creative teaching: http://bit.ly/cUhIti @thenerdyteacher’s latest blog post is fantastic

Start with vision and leadership. See page 4 onwards in: http://tinyurl.com/yhg9fda.

At the root of it all don’t they need to be critical thinkers? http://www.litland.com

Reform on the local level: http://bit.ly/djY8Cx

Distance education for parents of children with autism found effective – http://bit.ly/aceYWn

Exploring One School’s Success with a Technology-Based Reading Program http://tinyurl.com/yefsznu

powerful article-leadership inspiration-winning hearts/minds: http://is.gd/7yR0z

Teachers and students should press for an education worthy of a democracy http://bit.ly/2zu27D

From a press perspective, one role teachers can play is challenging politicians school myths http://bit.ly/autjsZ

Anyone is interested in continuing a convo about making #edchat the focus of an Action Research project? at the ning http://bit.ly/1RSL2n

New to Edchat?

If you have never participated in an #Edchat discussion, these take place twice a day every Tuesday on Twitter. Over 400 educators participate in this discussion by just adding #edchat to their tweets. For tips on participating in the discussion, please check out these posts!

More Edchat


If you’re new to hashtag discussions, then just show up on Twitter on any Tuesday and add just a few tweets on the topic with the hashtag #edchat.

What do you think about education reform? Leave a comment!

February 1, 2010

Advanced Students – Case study 3

This is the third in my series of Case studies on Advanced students – posts about students I have taught and their English language learning journey. It was a journey I shared with them and I learnt as much from them as, I hope, they did from me!

See the first two posts:

Case Study one – Mehmet

Case Study two – Stepan

Student 3 – Maria

My third student came to me as an intermediate student. Her name was Maria and she and her family had been relocated to the UK from Chile by her husband’s company.

Maria had three children including a two-month-old baby boy! She was keen to improve her English skills but with a baby so small was unable to attend courses. Her husband had requested that a teacher teach her at home.

I first spoke to Maria’s husband who told me that Maria’s English was very basic and she was worried about how she was going to cope in London. He thought that she might be afraid to pick up the phone and so it would be better for me to call him initially to arrange everything. Before meeting Maria I had a picture in my head of a very timid, diminutive woman bowed down by the cares of the move and struggling with her new life in the UK.

The first lesson.

Imagine my surprise when, having arrived at the house, the door was opened by a very tall, energetic, confident woman holding a small baby! She greeted me in good, if a little hesitant, English. No shrinking violet here!

We agreed that we would build on the strong foundation in English that she already had and  would get her speaking more fluently, widen her vocabulary and generally take her English to the next level. We decided to use a traditional course book as a basis as she had time, being in the house with the baby all day,  to review and do homework.

During the first few weeks, we spent a lot of time on practical tasks like organising workmen to do various things around her house. We would prepare the calls and then she would do them. I would be ready to leap in and take over if there were any problems. There very rarely were and soon Maria became very confident about all these day to day language uses and we began to concentrate more on language exercises, newspapers and other things she was interested in.

Breakthrough 1

Maria’s two older children attended a UK school and so it wasn’t long before she had a small social circle of English friends.  She became involved in activities at school, had children over to play and quite soon had a social life which included people of many different nationalities and all with English as their common language. This improved her fluency and vocabulary and with her continued dedication to her English study she was becoming a very effective and proficient user of English.

Breakthough 2

Maria’s two school aged children although native Spanish speakers always used English to each other. This was unprompted and simply happened. They used Spanish to Maria and their father and any other Spanish speaking visitors. In the beginning she was unable to follow their conversations and when she tried to join in they made fun of her accent and mistakes (they were 5 and 7). Gradually, however, she was able to follow most of their conversations and although they still considered her accent to be ‘strange’ they corrected her sentences less and less.

Breakthrough 3

About two years after Maria had arrived, she and her husband attended a large public meeting. Throughout the meeting Maria’s husband was giving her a quick summary in Spanish so that she could keep up with the proceedings. At the end of the meeting questions were invited from the floor. Maria put up her hand, her husband, with a look of horror, tried to persuade her not to stand up and ask her question afraid that she would embarrass herself and him! She ignored him and at the appointed time stood up and in good, accurate English asked her question and entered into a short discussion with the speaker. Her husband sat open mouthed and flabbergasted! As they always spoke Spanish at home he had no idea how good her English now was. He felt very proud of her and also admitted that he could not have done it.

Maria and her family stayed in London for 3.5 years before returning to South America. She was so keen to continue the English of her children that they decided to send them to a British school and with the help of  one of my colleagues fixed this up while still in the UK. Maria also continued her involvement with the English speaking community and when I was last in touch her English had gone from strength to strength.

Her language learning experience opened doors for her not just here in the UK but wherever else she and her family decide to live.

You might like to see my post on whether some people learn languages more easily than others.

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