5 Tasks to Teach Yourself to Teach with Technology

Some months ago I had a plan to write a book of tasks to get teachers using technology. As with so many of my plans and ideas, time and circumstances over took me and I never got further than the first 15 tasks. When I went back to do some more I noticed that I was taking so long doing these that some had gone out of date, so to try to get some use from the tasks I've decided to revise them and start publishing them here so anyone can download them and use them either to do teacher training or to develop their own ability to use technology.

So here are the first five. If they are popular I'll publish the next 5 for new year, so they can be my new years resolution and yours.

Task 1: Create your learning journal
So here goes. The first task is based around Penzu and you can download the task or read it on Scribd. In this task you'll create an online journal that you can use to reflect on the other tasks you'll be doing, so you should do this one first.

Task 2: Create online storage for your teaching images
In this task you will create a Flickr photo sharing channel. You'll need to do this to enable you to best do some of the later tasks as they come up, but having your own store of images online that you can use for various teaching purposes is always really handy.
Task 3: Create an online speaking activity
In this task you'll learn how to create an online speaking activity using VoiceThread. So if you have never done that before try the task and see how your students like the activity you create.
Task 4: Create a blog with a video activity for your students
In this task you'll create a simple blog and use it to make a video based activity for your students. Many of you may already have your own blog, but it's a good idea to have a separate one that you can use to experiment with and create activities for students. Once you have created the blog you'll be using it for other tasks as you work through them.
Task 5: Create digital books with illustrations
In this task you will create a digital image book based around a short text. Once you have created the book you will embed it into the blog you created in the previous task.
If you manage to do any of the tasks please do leave a comment and tell me how they went and if the response is good I'll try to put 5 more tasks on the site early in the new year.

So, if you celebrate Xmas please take these as my gift and if you don't celebrate it, you will have more time to do the tasks.

Best wishes for 2011.

Related links:

Nik Peachey

So Ask Me a Question

I recently spotted this very interesting site called which exploits video to create asynchronous conversations. I find it interesting because of the simple way it creates presence. As you can see below, it looks like the person (me in this case) is waiting ready for your question.

All visitors need to do is type a question into the text line below the video and the creator will get a message with the question and post a reply. You can try it if you wish by posting a question to me. I'm not sure yet how long it will take for me to answer though.

This is very quick and easy to set up. You just go to the site and register for free, then once your registration is validated you record two short video clips. One is the one you can see above and another for unanswered questions. As questions are answered they appear below the 'waiting' video.

It's also a bit like Twitter in that you can 'follow' people and build up a group of followers. These people all receive notification of any video responses posted.

I'm trying this out because I think it's a great way of getting students to speak to each other and ask you or each other questions. All you need is a webcam and a microphone.

How to use this with students

  • You could set up your own grammar or vocabulary answers site and students could send you questions.
  • You could get students to ask each other questions about a story.
  • You could play animal, mineral or vegetable and each students has to ask question to see what you are thinking about.
  • You could just get students asking and answering questions about their likes and dislikes etc.
  • I think this would work particularly well for class exchanges with students from other classes or countries.

What I like about it
  • It's free and very quick and simple to set up.
  • There's a real feeling of presence and that someone is there waiting for your question.
  • I can generate some real spoken interaction.
  • It's a very simple idea made very effective.
  • You can embed the video chat into your blog or site.

What I'm not so sure about
  • Of course something like this is very much open to abuse, especially as it allows anonymous questions to be posted.
  • The widget which I've embedded into my post is a bit big and it would be nice to have smaller sizes.
  • A lot of the example conversations that have been created on the site are a bit adult in nature and certainly inappropriate for younger learners, so if you use it, be sure to use it with adults and embed it into a blog or site so that your students don't wander round the site.
  • WebCams aren't generally very flattering, especially in a bad light, but you can always wear a big hat or dark glasses.
If you do give this a try, please do follow me and I'll reciprocate, as I'd like to find out a bit more about how this will work in practice. You can visit my profile on the site at: . There you will be able to see a better view of the full size widget.

I hope you find this interesting.

Related links:

Nik Peachey

Grow Your Own Personal Learning Network

Well this is my first blog posting for quite a while, but I'm hoping to have a lot more coming up very soon. This is just a quick posting to share a session on building your own Personal Learning Network, that I did for teachers in British Council Bilbao recently (25th September 2010).

The session was part of a larger conference that was happening all over Spain to celebrate 70 years of the BC in Spain.

You can watch a recording my conference presentation here.

Or follow this link to it:

The links from the presentation are also below and you can download a PDF copy of the presentation slides here: PLN Presentation slides (PDF 4.7 Mb)

Tools for growing your PLN

  • LinkedIn is a great place to put your online CV, connect with other ELT professionals and start joining special interest groups. The groups are a great place for sharing and finding information.
  • I'm on LinkedIn at:
  • Although controversial as a teaching tool, Facebook can also be a useful professional networking tool, just start looking for the ‘Like’ button on various websites and click it to keep in touch with what’s happening.
  • I'm on Facebook too and am in the process of creating a page for people interested in learning technology in ELT.
Ning and other independent social networks
  • Many of the IATEFL Special interest groups use Ning for discussion of very specific areas of teaching. Here's an example from the Global Issues SIG
Yahoo Groups
Blogs of course
Some great bloggers to follow are:
Feed Readers
Storing links and social bookmarking
These are great tools for storing links to information so that you can find them when you want them and share them with others.

Here are some tools for reflection

More information
I'd really like to add a special than you to Barbara Sakamoto from Teaching Village for allowing me to share here work on PLNs and for helping to save me and I hope you a lot of work too.

Please also check out the other recorded presentations as they include:
I hope you find these useful and thank you to everyone at the British Council Bilbao for their hospitality and professionalism under pressure.

Related links:

Nik Peachey

3 Tools for Exploiting the Wifi During Presentations

Coming as I do from a background in language teaching that emphasises that the teacher should shut up and get the students to do the talking, I often feel uncomfortable doing conference presentations, many of which still follow the format of; speaker gets up in front of audience with presentation - does presentation - audience listen (try to stay awake) and desperately try to think of a few questions at the end to prove they were awake and listening.

One of the gifted- Jamie Keddie.

There are of course a few gifted speakers who can hold the audience’s attention for a full hour and keep most of them listening and awake. If like me you’re not one of those, then here are a few tools that, thanks to the increasing availability of wireless connectivity at conference centres these days, might help to turn your passive listeners into a bunch of multitasking audience collaborators.

Set up a backchannel
One of my favourite tools to use during presentations is Today’sMeet . It’s a great tool for setting up backchannels. A backchannel is basically what your students create when they talk among themselves or text each other during your lesson.
  • The advantage of setting one of these up to allow your audience to do this is that you can capture and share what your audience is saying while they are listening to you and enable them to collaborate and share with each other what they know about the topic and links to any relevant resources.
  • It can also help them to type in questions as they think of them rather than waiting for you to ask at the end, and for me it’s a great way to pass out URLs to interesting websites to give the audience some hands on participation during the presentation.
  • It’s also a good way of getting the audience to brainstorm and do tasks together, just ask a few questions and get them to type in answers, and they’ll appear in the backchannel window for everyone to see.

Setting up a back channel with Today’s Meet takes about 60 seconds. You just type in a name for your channel and launch it. You can select how long you want the channel to be available (from two hours to a year) and if you have people in your audience posting updates to Twitter, you can select a hashtag (#) specific to your talk so that their ‘tweets’ appear alongside the backchannel chat window.

Live polling
Getting audience response during presentations can be done quite easily by getting a show of hands, but I tend to find that pretty unsatisfying in terms of capturing and sharing data, so I’ve started using a polling / survey tool called Urtak during presentations.
  • With Urtak you can prepare a number of short online polls to to get your audience to do during the presentation.

  • Just send the URL to them using your backchannel and then you can show and capture your audience response live during your session, as Urtak collects and shares results as soon as people vote.
  • If you are logged in during your presentation it’s even quick and easy enough to create short polls on the fly and pass out the URL through your backchannel.
Here’s an example one I created for a presentation on digital teaching skills that you can look at: . Urtak even enables the audience to add questions if they register and log in.
Make note taking collaborative
Many listeners at presentations do their best to keep notes during presentations, so if your audience has wireless connectivity why not get them to do this collaboratively? A great tool for doing this is .

  • It has a desktop launcher that your simply click to create an online collaborative note taking pad. You then share the URL for each pad with your audience and they can then work in groups to assemble notes and comments on your presentation as you go or work on collaborative tasks that you can set them.
  • The texts can then be saved by each person at the end of the presentation or they can even continue to refine the notes after the presentation is over. also has a handy text chat room which runs alongside each document that’s created, so collaborators can discuss things and ask questions as they work. See Collaborative Text Editing Tool for more information on
Of course these tools aren’t just useful for conference presentations, but can be used for online training webinars as well as classroom teaching if you work in a wireless enabled classroom environment. Be sure to practice with them one at a time first for short tasks as you gradually build them in to your presentation skills repertoire.

Good luck and I hope you find these tools useful and soon have your audience multitasking as well as listening.

Related links:

Nik Peachey

3D Computer Games with Young Learners: Spore

In a recent digital skills survey I carried out using Urtak I discovered that more than 50% of digitally skilled teachers don't feel able to utilise 2D and 3D computer games to achieve pedagogical goals (See survey), so I've been looking around and exploring some possibilities. The first of these is the Spore Creature Creator. Spore is a game which allows you to create creatures and evolve them along with their environment, all the way through to a space traveling society.

The free trial creature creator that we will be looking at allows you to create creatures, take snap shots of them and make videos of them to see how they move. Here's an example of a video I created to get students interested. I added the captions and text using i-Movie though you could just as easily use a free online video editor such as Video Toolbox or Windows Moviemaker if you are using a PC.

The creatures are very easy to create, you just drag and drop different features onto a body and the add colour and test them out to see how they move. These are some of the other creatures I created.

Once you have created your creatures you can either make videos of them, take snapshots, which you can either save or email to someone, or create an animated gif of your creature (I wasn't too impressed with the quality of the animated gifs)

Here' a tutorial showing you how it's done.

You can download a .mov version of the tutorial here or this pdf document has the main screen shots and instructions if you'd prefer to follow on paper.

You can download the Creature Creator from the Cnet website here. It's a big download (205MB), but once you have it, you don't need to have web access to do any of the tasks or create the movies and snapshots.

How do we use this with students?
  • Create images of different creatures and get the students to create a story about them.
  • Get the students to create descriptions of different creatures - This could include appearance, but also likes and dislikes, habits etc.
  • Get students to match pictures to descriptions.
  • Get students to create a creature based around your description.
  • Create a creature and use a picture of it as a picture dictation with one student describing the picture while the other one recreates the creature using the software.
  • Get students to create a short video of their creature and add a description and narrative below it as a video project.
  • Ask students to create a creature suitable for a particular environment, or types of tasks, then get students to discuss which they think would be best adapted for the environment.
  • Get the students to write instructions for how to create a creature.
  • Use the creatures to demonstrate present continuous tenses ( sitting, running etc.)
What I like about it.
  • It looks great on a data projector and if you work in a single computer classroom, you can get students up and dragging things around and creating in front of the class.
  • The creatures are very colourful and in the environment mode they really start to take on character.
  • You can use the tool to create versatile and stimulating materials.
  • It's free and pretty easy to use once you get it installed.
  • I like the integration with YouTube as it makes it very easy to get your videos online quite quickly.
  • I like that they can produce a range of gestures and expressions.

What I'm not so sure about.
  • It's a big download and will need to be installed on any computer it is used on, so if you want to use it in your school computer room, you'll need the help of a supportive IT manager to get it downloaded and installed on all the computers.
  • The Gifs it creates aren't that good, but you don't really need to use them.
  • You need a fairly good computer with a good graphics card for it to work well.
I hope you enjoy trying some of these ideas with your students.

Related links:


Nik Peachey

Creating Social Polls and Questionnaires Using Urtak

I discovered Urtak a couple of weeks ago and took an instant liking to it. Urtak is a web based social polling application that enables you to very quickly and easily create online polls and questionnaires.
The only thing you require to get started is an email address to register as it is completely free. Here’s a short tutorial showing how it’s done.

The polls it creates are pretty simple. You just type in 'Yes , No' questions or statements and then click enter, give your poll a title and instructions and click on done. It seems like you can have as many questions as you like. The longest one I created had 45. Here are a couple that I created. Feel free to try them out and answer the questions to see how they work. You'll also be able to see the results.
Once your poll is complete you can either link to it via the URL or embed it into a web page.

Once the poll is live anyone who sees the poll can answer it without having to log in or register. Viewers can even add additional questions or statements to the poll if they do register though.

What I like about it.
  • Once users vote they can compare their answers to other people who have used the poll.
  • The poll gives a feed out of information on the right and you can even cross tabulate answers to different questions.
  • It’s great that other people can add questions to the poll.
  • I like that it doesn’t give the ‘correct’ answer but shows most popular answers. This is good to keep students thinking and questioning themselves.
  • If you don’t like the questions that people add to your poll you can easily get rid of them.
  • You can embed the poll into other web based materials.
  • It’s free and really quick and easy to use.
How can we use this with students?
  • We can use it for class / online surveys and get students to analyse and write up the results.
  • We can use it for action research to find out what things we do in class students enjoy or understand or just to get general feedback.
  • We can use it to test comprehension by creating question or statements about an online text.
  • We can set web research tasks for students by asking questions and getting them to search the web to find answers or find out if statements are true.
  • We can use it to create progress tests to evaluate the effectiveness of our teaching.
  • We can use it to create debate and explore attitudes by giving students the poll before they come in to class to get them thinking around topics to discuss in class. We could also follow this up with a post class poll to see if opinions have changed at all.
  • We could use it for needs analysis to see what students feel they need to study in class.
  • We can use it to get students to self assess their progress.
  • We can get students to create their own reading tasks by getting them to produce questions in a poll based around an online text, then they can answer each other’s questions.(Great to use with Mashpedia)
  • We can get students to practice Yes No questions forms and create questionnaires to find out more about their class mates.

What I’m not so sure about.
  • At present any poll you create is added to the Urtak directory, so it would be nice to have private URLs to ensure only your students answered the questions.
  • It might also be handy to be able to disable the option to have other people add questions to your polls as you can’t be sure that what they add will be relevant etc.
  • If students go to the directory of all polls they might find some unsuitable and potentially offensive ones.
On the whole though I think Urtak is a great free tool and one that I will continue to use. It’ helped me to make designing web based materials a bit more interactive and also enabled me to quickly and easily do research that I can share and use to inform training and workshop presentations.

I hope you find it useful too.

Related links:

Nik Peachey

A Tick List of 21st Century Digital Skills for Teachers

I've just been brainstorming digital skills that I believe are required by teachers in the 21st Century. So far I've come up with 45 of them.

What's striking for me about this is:
  • few of these skills will have been taught to anyone who trained as a teacher longer than 5 years ago.
  • few of these skills are being taught to teachers training now.
  • the 21st century teacher needs to be a pretty amazingly skilled professional.
Please look through the list and tick on the ones you believe you have.

Teachers Digital Skills Tick List

Teachers' digital skills tick list

I'd also be very interested in any comments about any you think I've missed or that you think don't belong there.

Related links:

Nik Peachey

Cropping YouTube Videos to Create Activities

Using YouTube videos with students can be really great, but finding a video with the exact language you want and at a suitable length with too many other distractions around can be really difficult. That's why SafeShare.TV is so useful.

  • SafeShare.TV is a tool that has two primary functions. The first is to enable you to share YouTube videos using a direct URL that frames the video without the advertising and other distracting features that might cause students to wander off into less suitable materials.
  • The second and perhaps even more useful function of SafeShare.TV is that it enable you to crop the video clip so that only a particular part is shown. This is particularly useful when you want to build activities or tasks around clips that focus students on particular linguistic features.
How to use SafeShare.TV
First find a YouTube clip that has a section that you would like to use. I chose this one from ‘Room with a View’ At 9 mins it's quite long so I just wanted to use a few sections.

Copy the URL and then go to: Paste the link into the field then click on ‘Generate safe link’.
This will create a new link to the video which you can then use with your students to show them the clip.
When the students open the link they will only see the single video clip with it’s title, like the example below.

If you want to crop the clip so that only a short part of it shows, then generate your safe URL and then click on the link that says 'Do you want to only share a part of the video? click to crop.' This will open a small video viewer. Click the video to watch it, then click on ‘Set Start’ at the beginning of the segment you want students to see. Watch the segment and click ‘Set End’ at the end of the segment. Now click ‘OK

Once you have clicked 'OK' your safe link will be adapted to only show the section of the video you have selected. You can then either copy the link to share with students or share it through a variety of social networking mediums.

Here's a quick video tutorial showing how to do this.

You can download this video here or download a copy for i-Touch or i-Phone here

How can we use this with students?
Clipping videos makes it much easier for us to create activities and tasks that focus on specific areas of the video clip without having to watch the whole thing.
  • You can select example phrases to show the use of language in context, such as a telephone call or a scene that shows someone booking into a hotel etc.
    Here’s an example: Booking a hotel room This was trimmed from a much longer clip on YouTube
  • You can show students the beginning to a clip and ask them to predict what’s ‘going to’ happen next.

    Here are two examples:
    1. What's going to happen?
    2. What's going to happen?
  • You can show the beginning and end of a clip and ask students to predict what ‘has happened’ in between.

    They watch this one
    Then this one
  • You can show students a number of sections from the same clip and ask them to order them either by using linguistic or visual clues and explain their rationale.

    Here are 5 clips for you to try to order:
    Clip 1
    Clip 2
    Clip 3
    Clip 4
    Clip 5
  • You can show each student in a group a different sections of the clip (like the 5 sections above) and then ask them to work together to describe the part they watched and put the different sections into the correct order as a group.
  • You can use the sections to focus on the use of specific structures, like this one for ‘should haveShould have clip or this one for the use of 3rd conditional 3rd conditional clip
  • At the end of these types of activities you can show them the complete clip.

What I like about it
  • It’s free and easy to use
  • It gets your students right to the part of the video you want them to see
  • It allows you to easily split videos into shorter clips
  • there’s a simple ‘bookmarklet’ that you can drag to your favourites bar, then whenever you find a YouTube clip your want to use you just click on it to get the SafeShare.TV link.
What I’m not so sure about
  • Sometimes it doesn’t work on my MAC
  • It would be great to have an embed code as well as a URL
Well those are some suggestions to get you started cropping YouTube videos. I hope you find them useful.

You can find 25 more video related activities for EFL and ESL students here.

Related links:

Nik Peachey