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2 Way Tasks

Two way tasks are the staple activity of the communicative approach. Also known as an “information gap” activity, they force students to communicate with each other in order to retrieve information to complete a task.

Usually these tasks involve students with different sets of information, usually consisting of a handout. But now with students bringing their own devices into the classroom or with classrooms that have laptops/tablets/phones for all students – why not have students do the same tasks but using online information? It is also a great way to explore issues surrounding digital literacy and promote digital literacy.

Here are 10 easy to do two way tasks using the internet and technology.  I’ll be making  a 50 ways list of these to compliment all our other useful 50 ways lists. So stay tuned for the rest!

For all these two way tech tasks, you’ll need to do the following.

1. Make sure all students have access to the internet through a device.

2. Put students into pairs, facing each other so they can communicate but not see each others device.

3. Write on the board or on a handout.

  • webpage each student should look at / visit
  • the information each student should find from their partner
  • target language / phrases / sentences
  • task aim

4. Model the target expression, language. This usually consists of a language cloze or fill in the blanks. Students practice and communicate using the set dialogue but depending on the level, you might omit this or encourage students to use their own language to communicate and finish the task.

For more on 2 Way Tasks, EFL Classroom 2.0 members can see these Lessons In A Can:    #101    #80   or see this complete post

10  Two Way Tech Tasks

1.  Cheap Flights.  What’s the cheapest flight to …………….. on (date) 

Student A.   Expedia                   Student B     Kayak

Students work together to plan a trip around the world (East to West) starting at the nearest international airport. How much will it all cost, all flights?

Task Aim:  Which pair can come up with the quickest and cheapest flight schedule around the world.?


2.  Food Prices.  How much does a ………………. cost in ………………? 

Student A.   Big Mac Meal                   Student B     Movie Ticket

Compare the prices of these two items in cities / countries around the world.

Task Aim:  Where are these the most expensive and cheapest? Why?


3.  Famous people bios.    Who/What/Where/When ………..?

Student A.   Choose a celebrity                   Student B     Choose a celebrity

Students choose a favorite celebrity bio and then ask each other questions about the other person’s celebrity.

Task Aim:  What information is missing/not included in the bios?  What more do you want to know?


4.  Countries of the world.   What is the ………………… of …………………?

Student A.   Country in Africa                   Student B     Country in S. America

Students ask each other about basic geographical, cultural and political information about countries of the world.

Task Aim:  Which country would you like to live in? Why?


5.  At The Movies.  What’s playing this evening at ………………..?

Student A.   Carelton Cinema                   Student B     Canada Square

Students  look at the schedules of these two cinemas (or use links to Cinemas in your actual city/location) and ask each other what’s playing different times.

Task aim:  Decide between the two cinemas which movie to go to this evening.


6.  Giving directions / using maps.   How do I get to …….. from ………….?

Student A.   Downtown NY Map 1                   Student B     Downtown NY Map 2

Students start at Whitehall and South St. (South Ferry Terminal).  Using the maps they take turns asking for directions  to different sites/places in New York.

Task Aim:  Visit as many places as you can in Manhattan.


7.  Ordering food.   What about ………………………?  How much does ……… cost? 

Student A.   Pizza Pizza                   Student B     Boston Pizza

Students only have $30 to spend.  Which place will they eat at? What will they order?

Task Aim:  Decide exactly what will be ordered and from which store.


8.  Cost Of Living.   How much does …………………………. cost in ……………..?

Student A.   London, England                   Student B     Manila, Philippines

Students as about how much different things cost in either of these cities (or students can chose their own city – make sure they select $USD so they both get prices in the same currency.

Task Aim:  Which city is the cheapest to live in?  Which city would it be best to live in if poor? Why?


9.  The Weather. What’s The Weather like in …………..?

Student A.   Weather.com                   Student B     The Weather Network

Students ask and answer questions from each other about the weather in different parts of the world.

Task Aim:  Where is the best / worst weather today in the world?


10. TV Guide.  What’s on at …………….. on …………..day?  Let’s watch ……….. on …………

Student A – CBS                 Student B – ABC


Students ask each other about the television programming on these stations.

Task Aim:  Decide what to watch each evening during the week.

A Cowbird Lesson example

cowbirdI’ve long been a member of Cowbird and it’s a sterling example of real, authentic listening/reading/watching for ELLs. Along with several other sites that are truly “authentic”, it is ranked at the top of my list.  Off the top of my head, for students, I’d recommend:   Voicethread, EnglishCentral and Woices.

I’ve  done a few of my own Cowbirds recently and your students can too.  Challenge them!  Here is a nice one, focusing on the Irish accent. I love the Irish “lilt” and the sound of an Irishman/woman makes me dizzy. Really.

First, let the students listen to the whole thing. I think this very important for a listening lesson and especially when using authentic content. But give them a simple task, so they are listening actively. For this one, ask them to listen and finish the sentence, “Sean believes it is good to ………….”.

Second, take up student answers. Ask them where they think the man is from, what do they know about Ireland?

Third, provide the handout with simple listening questions. Listen again and students note the answers. Repeat as necessary. Take up the answers.  Download the Early Mornings listening sheet

That’s it. This type of listening lesson can be used with so many Cowbirds! And as I suggested, you might challenge students to make and share their own.  EFL Classroom 2.0 members can get some great St. Patrick’s Day videos and resources HERE.

This video complements this lesson perfectly. Hat tip to Sylvia Guinan for letting me know about it.

Read more posts about authentic materials. 

Video: Going To Pieces

blankI’ve long been a big fan of using video creatively in the classroom. My work with speech recognition and EnglishCentral proves that. However, I have a long history of not only making 100s of video based traditional lessons (see Lessons In A Can for EFL 2.0 members) but also using video editing software to really make a powerful language learning lesson.

A previous post – “Going To Pieces” illustrates well one underlying principle in materials design that works very well with video. Basically, you edit the video audio so that one or some parts are missing. Students must speak/write/produce the missing audio. Then compare against the original. Or do this in the opposite order, first listening to the video with full audio and then challenging students to produce their own remix.

This is powerful and the student gets real practice in communication and producing language for immediate response. This “embedded reality” aspect of video is its strongest point for learners. It provides immediate, close context that challenges the student to perform as if actually there in real time. This type of material helps us escape the trap of “the artificial classroom”. I urge many teachers to challenge themselves and their students by “going to pieces”, especially using video.

In a previous post, I describe a series of blank dialogues I created, illustrating this. You can download all the videos and use in class (EFL Classroom 2.0 members). Here’s an example.

Here is another example that community members can also download and use. It’s a rewrite the commercial activity.

Find more videos like this on EFL CLASSROOM 2.0

Job Interview Practice

PR.agency.job_.interviewJob interviews can be pretty tough in your first language but imagine doing one in your second! You need to be well prepared and the more “real” you can make it, the more successful your practice will be.

As someone who believes in video as a great medium to bring “reality” into the English language classroom or to the student, here is a video I edited to help students do a “dry run” of an interview using the top 10 interview questions.  Get students to prepare quick answers in advance and then have them play the part during the video!

EFL Classroom 2.o members can download the videos and get additional resources here, on our growing community.

Find more videos like this on EFL CLASSROOM 2.0
top 10 interview questions

Literal Video Versions

Very creative “literal version” where the audio / lyrics are exactly describing what is happening in the video. Students will love it.  Get more of the best literal videos available online, on this page.

I also highly recommend the video documentary: Remix Manifesto.  Highly though provoking and it clearly outlines how the concepts of “owning an idea” and copyright are changing and how the remix culture and talent pool is important to our future.

Literal videos don’t always have to be about music videos (but commonly are).  The Hitler Downfall series is really big – remixing and rewriting a speech of Hitler from that movie. I did one for teaching English.

Teachers Pay Teachers Pay Teachers

money-down-toiletEvery week or month brings another announcement within the educational tech space of a new player in the “Teacher marketplace” place.

I remember back in the early years online, before all the social media, Web 2.0 craze. It was natural and easy for teachers to share resources and help each other. In my own school board, we’d meet every month and share lesson plans. Our own intranet made it easy for colleagues to upload curriculum and share. My own community EFL Classroom 2.0 drew on that and it was great – every day, dozens if not hundreds of resources shared by enthusiastic teachers and IT WAS ALL FREE. Teachers helping teachers.

But now, the players and money men have moved in. It’s Teachers Pay Teachers Pay Teachers. It’s corporate boardrooms (think TPG now owner of TSL, owner of TES which owns or has 10 mil in Share My Lessons). It’s all a money grab, it’s making education all about the $$$$. Teachers are first asked to share resources freely. Then they are fed a line, a lie – you can make a great income. Don’t share, sell!

I recently got this invite from TES which for the last year or two has been allowing teachers to share their resources (with restrictions). Now they finally show their true colors and plan. Making money.  (And read this NYTs article just sent to me from a reader after I first posted this – Teaching Is Not A Business)


That would be great if teachers really did get the money paid for their great work and resources. However, it is far from the case, despite how these sites advertise it as such. I know, I’m active on many of these sites and you’ll not get anything more than 50%. The marketplace gets the other 50%. It varies but that’s the norm. And its unfair. Damn unfair. Teachers should pay teachers and not corporate entities. It’s even sadder given how easy it really is (and cheap) for teachers to now organize online and share. What ever happened to OER (Open Educational Resources)?

I have a lot of experience and a lot of perspective, selling on my own and on other sites, the resources and courses I’ve produced. My conclusion? Teachers shouldn’t pay for resources if they are paying some corporate entity that financially rapes (strong language but that’s what is happening). Imagine if you had a stand somewhere on the street and the city came up to you and said – give me 50% of all you make? You’d probably say, “Why?”. And they’d say, because, because we control the lights and the road and these are our “people”. Pay or you are out. You’d probably revolt but unfortunately nowadays, teachers just bend to the extortion thinking any bit is better than nothing.

And it gets worse. Most of these sites claim that they are “helping” teachers. BS. All they are is creating a culture whereby education is seen as owned and commodified not communal and shared. It’s hard to turn back after everything becomes a store.

Well there is an alternative. Look out for groups that freely share. EFL Classroom 2.0 had hundreds of thousands of resources to download. Even download videos. ELT teachers don’t have to pay. Plus they can share on the community.

But I don’t think this will happen – we’ve been brainwashed and the kind, hopeful days of open sharing during early web 2.0 are over …. and that’s sad.

Colorizing History. Technological Dilemmas.

dilemaTechnology is allowing teachers to not just tear down the walls that surround their classroom, it also is allowing improved ways to present content. For the language classroom, images are an essential tool to generate conversation, contextualize vocabulary and build critical thinking skills.

I’ve always cheerled my own powerpoint of “Best/Iconic photos of all time” as a great set of images to generate language and discussion/study. Now, many of these same photos are being colorized given technology that makes the process much easier. This is leading to some interesting moral, social, philosophical and educational questions and controversy (read more about this).

Take a look at the photos below contrasting the original black and white version and the “colorized” version. Besides the issues of appropriateness for classroom teachers, there are many questions about the colorizing of history that arise. Does the color version give the students a wrong image of history? Do we have the right to alter history in this way? Would you use the color versions in class without noting they aren’t truly the original?  What of the people in the photos – do they have rights, can we alter them without their family’s consent?

As teachers, it is important to  not use technology in our teaching without thinking about the consequences of its use.  Just like anything you “deliver” in class, technology should go through the same process of critical thought on the part of the teacher. That something is “ed tech” doesn’t mean it has no negative consequences or gets a free pass.

Here are just a few of the many questions technology has forced educators to consider:

1. Is social media a valuable, “constructive” tool to use with students or a path towards distraction and chatter that poses as learning?

2. Should students use Wikipedia as a reliable source and reference?  Can crowd sourced knowledge be reliable? Who should be the gatekeepers of knowledge and facts?

3.  Cell phones help students access information. But can they properly be allowed in class given they can be used in non-educational ways?

4.  Many tech tools take time to learn how to use. Is it worth the pay off in terms of time, introducing them into class?

5.  Cost. Do you use free stuff that has advertisements that may not be appropriate for students?

If you liked this post, you may enjoy – 50 Ways To Use Images In Class.






Stories from the trenches: The Creative Teacher

Over the years, spending time with thousands of new or budding teachers – I’ve thought and thought and thought about the major factors that make a “great teacher”.   It’s not an easy thing to pin down, given that there are so many different teaching environments, so many different students and subjects.  However, this story from my past speaks towards one that I feel is important and especially important in ESL / EFL teachers.

I was teaching grade 4, regular classroom of all second language students,  in a portable, out in the hinterlands of the school yard. Demanding job, any grade 4 class – but especially this one.  During recesses and lunch hour, I enjoyed the quiet time in my class while the students played outside or had lunch in the main building (unless I was on yard duty!).  During this time, I collected my thoughts, recharged my battery and took one step back to jump ahead during the following classes.

Rose Avenue Grade 4

Rose Avenue Grade 4

However, if it was raining (which seemed all the time), the students stayed in the classroom during recess.  It was a portable so it was loud! Plus the rain pounded down on the tin roof.  My head would feel like it were bursting and those days without my “alone time”, really were trying.

One such day, I was sitting at my desk watching the students play a game which seemed to engross them. They behaved and cooperated well. It was ordered and fairly quiet. Heaven!  But from my perch, I watched and studied the game they were playing, “zip-zap“.  Lots of fun.  Plus, my headache was less and recess inside didn’t seem so bad anymore.

But I got to thinking.  This game is fun but could be much more fun if the students were using English! Meaning, instead of just “zapping” each other as the original game does – the zap was a letter of the alphabet or a category and the students instead of responding by “zapping” another student had to both zap them and reply in English.

So I got up out of my chair and started playing with the students. Sneaky me.  I played and played both recesses but during the last recess I stopped the game and said, “This is boring.”    I then convinced the students to try my version – and being Grade 4 students they bought it and a new “zip-zap” game was born.  One where they were having fun and learning English – even during their recesses and lunch time!

I think back fondly on this adapted game. Since then I’ve designed many games, helped teachers use them effectively in their classrooms.  But what I really look back fondly on is my own ability to adapt, adapt creatively.  There was a classroom, there was the curriculum but it was up to me to see it as a canvass that we could create into something personal, beautiful, fun, happy.

And that’s the quality of a great teacher and what I especially love about teaching English. You can take the core objectives but wrap them up, deliver them with sparkling creativity.  And when it comes together like “zip-zap”, it is truly satisfying.  The creative teacher is the basis of the great teacher.

If you enjoyed this, you may enjoy reading: It’s Not A Box: Synectics

Not just playing a part

I’ve been working on a new post this weekend, a reflection on my own development as a teacher and all the footprints that truly led me to where I am right now. Something for myself but which other teachers might find some truth therein.

I’m not even near finished, so many footprints, so many seminal events that one after another pointed me to the here and now. But I’ll share one of the them and how it set me off towards an understanding that we teachers need to know when to break out of our roles, our routines, stop “playing the teacher”.

It was in the early 90s and I was in the storied, most beautiful movie theatre in Toronto, the Runnymede. It was way past its hay day but still could make any movie special. I was watching a movie I’d missed years before when it appeared, “The Purple Rose Of Cairo” – one of Woody Allen’s most treasured films.

There is a scene where Baxter who is playing the lead actor in the film, spots Cecilia in the audience. She’s been coming to watch this same movie for weeks. He literally “walks out of the movie” and into reality. The scene has always stayed with me and listen to Woody Allen explain it in the video below.

In the days that followed, I thought and thought about the scene and it really hit me hard as a teacher. I realized I’d been sleepwalking through things. Playing the part. Handing out worksheets, ticking off boxes, giving homework and smiling and nodding and punishing like a teacher. I wasn’t real. From those days on, I began to awake as a teacher, to keep slapping myself and keeping things real in my classes. I started to have a compass within myself that told me when I was just playing a part and that I needed to “walk out of the dream and into reality”.

Thank you Purple Rose of Cairo and Woody Allen. One of those footprints that I walked in and which pointed me to where I am.

Standardized Learning

One conclusion I’ve come to after years teaching – testing and assessment are poorly used as a way for students to learn.

This is curious and unfortunate because students for the most part DO get motivated and energized through tests and quizzes. The pickle is, the way they are designed doesn’t make the test a learning experience and rather is meant to trick students.  I’m calling for all teachers to review the way they test and I’m offering one example using the popular convention of testing – multiple choice questions.

I recently began one of my classes by writing the following on the board. A typical, 3 truths / 1 lie activity where students try to guess the lie.

This year I resolve to ….

1.  grow my hair long

2. plan my classes better

3.  travel the world and teach

4.  get a new coffee maker

It’s a great activity for teachers to share themselves and also for students to do and allow the teacher to get to know them. However, I’m teaching teachers so I took this opportunity to go beyond the activity and ask them what this multiple choice question might say about assessment and how we decide / design these questions.

What’s remarkable about this question is that you can pose it two ways.  One – which statement is the lie?   Two – which 3 statements are the truth?   Now you might think this is just semantics but I believe if we created multiple choice, standardized assessments where the students were asked to not choose just one right answer but  three right answers – they’d learn a lot more. They’d be encountering a lot of “right” knowledge and not trying to side step through a labyrinth of wrong.

Here’s another example.

A typical standardized multiple choice question for language students might be;

Beth ___________ to the store every day.

a) has   b) is    c)  went    d) liked

A multiple choice test that would actually give students more success and help them learn would be them choosing the 3 appropriate language forms.

Beth ________ to the store every day.

a)  went      b) likes    c) goes   d) has gone

It’s important that students choose 3 right answers and not be asked to choose the 1 wrong answer. This way, we can give marks for right answers. This way they feel “success”.

This is just one of many ways we could rethink assessment and make it more about “learning” and less about tricking students. Do you have any other ways?

PS.  The 3 correct resolutions for this year are 2,3,4!

Kinetic Typography Generator

autoktI’ve long been a fan of KT – Kinetic Typography, videos where the text is displayed in a “contextual” and visually appealing fashion. Find Here or many of my favs, all collected for teachers to use. This one is a beautiful example.

Made with Adobe Affect Effects, it isn’t for 99% of teachers, even the most techie. However, now someone has come out with a basic but cool generator. I like how minimalist it is and it could be used by students in the following way.

1. Copy / write text into the input box.
2. Press Go and see your KT video!
3. Change the text and spacing/lines as needed
4. Use Screenr.com to screencast and record this as a video after you press Go!
5. Post to the class page, share with classmates.

A simple but great way to motivate your students to learn English with the aid of technology! I can image students putting in their fav. song lyrics and then singing it accapella – after making the karaoke video.

Here’s my quick example I did in the same way for EnglishCentral(except I loaded it into my Videopad editor and put in a soundtrack).

Find more videos like this on EFL CLASSROOM 2.0

If you liked this post you might like: Kinetic Typography and Language Teaching

Using photos when teaching

mostimportantIn a few weeks, The Image Conference is being held in Barcelona, Spain. I won’t be able to attend but EnglishCentral will be a sponsor. The future of language learning and teaching is visual, is controlled reality.

I got to thinking about all the powerful ways of using images when teaching. I’ll most certainly be making a “50 Ways” list but I was also reminded of a presentation I painstakingly put together several years ago:  The Best Photos Of All Time.

                                                  Get the version with commentary about the images HERE.  PPT HERE.

Here are a few ways a teacher might use these images in the classroom. 

1.  Discussion & Play and Pause.  Have students describe the photo and state the reason for its significance.

2.  Give students a photo and have them research it.  Use the 5Ws.  Present the background and information to the class.

3.  Describe and Draw.  A 2 way task students each describe their photo to the other who must listen and draw. Then compare against the original.

4.  Timeline.  Ask students to research the presentation and put the photos on an historical timeline.

5.  Ask students to list their top 5 photos in the presentation.  Debate in a group and then explain their group choices to the class.

6.  What makes a great photo?  Students can brainstorm and then share together the main criteria of what makes a photo “iconic”.

7.  Vocabulary.   Give students a photo and have them pull out the vocabulary in the photo, label and then share with the class.

 If you liked this post, you might also like some of the other posts tagged “photos”

The #1 Reason To Use Tech In ELT

Number One** Not your ordinary, endless list – just what’s number 1.


I have thought about this long and hard. I’m not a big proponent of using “tech for tech’s sake” or just because it is there and students like it. I sympathize with the argument that we should use technology because it is such a ubiquitous part of our life/living (or that of our student’s). However, I still think we need a reason, a rationale for its use.

In general, technology is valuable for what it does to the continuum of space and time. Technology allows us to access knowledge like never before – the library doors are wide open and so many can enter. There is no bottleneck and no 9 to 5 access. So I did consider the #1 reason to use tech as being “time on task” or “connectivity”. Students have more access to language, the distinctions between ESL and EFL are blurring, they can have more contact with language through online immersive experiences and contacts. Still, I’m voting for differentiation when it comes to “teaching”, when it comes to the typical language classroom.

Technology allows students to encounter language in control. It provides levels and support so the language learner won’t be bewildered and overwhelmed. Think of our typical language classrooms and be honest – 70 – 80% of students are usually tuning out after the first 5 minutes because there second language brain just gets too hot and they can’t cope. Technology makes the chaos of authentic language manageable and can provide students with material at their own level and pace. This is, if it is used correctly and in a self directed fashion not just as a one size fits all thing on a screen. Here’s a wonderful example of a school in South Carolina.

No matter how good your placement test, you are going to have so many students with such different levels and knowledge in your language classroom. It is impossible to cope, to find a common space. Technology solves this problem and gives learners the tools to learn what they want, at the right time and moment. This is why I’m working hard and so excited about the video corpus and suite of tech tools for language learning we are creating on EnglishCentral. Learners can acquire language in a safe, controlled environment. They can practice and repeat, review, rewind, rerecord, redo, respeak until they feel ready to speak and test themselves in the town square that is life.

Differentiation – so important in language learning for language is a type of knowledge that is so personal and so close to us.

Low Impact Teaching

Over the last 5 to 10 years, I’ve been developing new ideas about how we should be teaching in our classrooms.   These ideas have changed as the possibilities and promises of educational technology have become reality.

The most fundamental of these ideas are always revolving around learning and the student. The possibility to differentiate and deliver personlized study to students is the most important possibility before us teachers. Technology allows us to tailor curriculum, materials, delivery to and for each student. It allows us to correct the most horrid feature of schooling – that everyone learns the same thing, at the same time, at the same rate.

Here are three approaches that I espouse and have worked to develop.

SCC, student created content    Students create the content that will be the basis of their language learning. We start from the students’ world and understandings and build on that. A teacher elicits language from the students, forming a material. This material is the basis for further language activities and practice. The teacher is the facilitator and organizes the language practice and learning of students – there is no direct instruction.

The Flipped Classroom for ELT    Students can learn and practice the structures, vocabulary and content of our language classrooms through mediated self directed learning. Either in a computer lab or BYOD class at school or as homework.  No longer do classes need a teacher in the front, leading the whole group.   Classroom time is taken up with actual production and the teacher having direct time with the students assessing, getting feedback, engaging.  The teacher no longer has to spend time (usually wasted), teaching infront of the class a language point or eliciting language for a group on a topic probably only 2 or 3 students are interested in.

Low Impact Teaching     I’ve long had a big interest in the work of Sugata Mitra and especially his concept of MIT – Minimally Invasive Teaching.  Now, he’s developed it along the principles of allowing learners maximum autonomy in the class and to allow for “self organizing learning environments” (SOLE).  I go a little further and more broad with my concept of low impact teaching (and I highly recommend Kevin Gidden’s DNT – Do Nothing Teaching approach).

Low impact classrooms are classrooms where a teacher is not the dominant focus, the central power and puppeteer. EFL has always been for better or worse, led by a teaching model where the native speaker was the primary source of authentic language/input.  Nowadays this shouldn’t be so and needn’t be so. Students in most parts of the world have access, immediate access to all kinds of spoken English, even at an appropriate level.   So now, the role of the teacher shouldn’t be one that dominates and talks but one that organizes and disappears.  The best teachers are invisible, just like the best use of technology is.

Low impact teaching is about organizing the environment in which the students will learn and then, as I’ve referred to Sugata Mitra’s approach – “going away”.  It is about driving back into the learning environment organic, intrinsic student motivation, curiosity and independent learning.  And that is the end goal of all education, helping to create a learner that will learn when we are not there, when nobody else is looking …… Low Impact Teaching is “I’m going away now” teaching – where the teacher doesn’t tell the student the answer but teaches slow and allows the learner to learn for themselves. It is about putting students back in control. Low impact  teaching but high impact learning.

It’s so energizing to be involved in education at this moment of time. Beyond opportunity, we teachers must realize there is a heavy responsibility on our shoulders to not let things get hijacked and to push for change, be disruptive and enact approaches like Low Impact Teaching or the Flipped model in our classrooms.  Once we’ve changed the existing cultural paradigm of teaching, I’m sure we can then take school out of the walls it inhabits and into the wide open world where it will best flourish and nurture students.


Get students practicing by embedding EnglishCentral videos

I was speaking with a few teachers this weekend and found out that though they are enthusiastic supporters of EnglishCentral, they didn’t know that they could embed EC videos on their moodle and get students practicing the videos right there!

Yes, it is that simple. Put them on a class wiki or your blog. Teachers won’t get use of our Teacher Tools or be able to track student progress / get reports without signing up as a teacher (do so here in the Academic Use area). However, your students can speak the videos as much as they want – and that’s the point, practice.

It’s easy to embed the videos.  Just go to the video detail page and click the embed icon. Grab the code and put into your page as html. Then students simply click  and study the video lessons.

Here’s how the video detail page looks and here is an example video lesson. Click it and start studying!

To Those Who Believe In Ideas

Rest In Peace

Contrary to what many think – it is not action, it is not money, it is not the vote which makes this world a better place. It is the interchange of ideas, the free flow of ideas.

In light of the death of Aaron Schwartz, I’m glad others are looking deeply at the protectionist academic journal racket and JSTOR. My own captive mind post written a couple of years ago – throws my own voice and light onto this important issue and if I may be so dramatic, “clash of civilizations”.

It is saddening that nations, politicians, the world – can’t see the value in keeping ideas flowing. That it indeed will be the lifeblood of a better world. That so many more can have access to ideas and knowledge will bring unfathomable benefits and results to all of us.  Yet we have a closed academic society and culture. Yet we have an internet more and more walled in. Yet we have a communications network that is becoming mostly about who can pay.

Let’s open the ideas pipeline. Let’s make the internet free. It isn’t something that should have a toll booth where the rich can zoom through and pick at what they want, the poor get the garbage under the crowded roads beneath……

I was picking through a lot of my older posts about copyright, in the light of Aaron’s death. Came across this one – Cut, Snip, Paste.  At the bottom, came to this image, my former posting of a wonderful video about the power of remixing and how it breeds brillance. This image fell upon my eyes.

Let’s remember Aaron and work even harder to make the world’s ideas available for mixing and minds everywhere.

If you liked this post, see some of the others in the captive mind series.



Pronunciation and Vocabulary Courses (like you’ve never seen before)

Today, EnglishCentral released the first version of their Pronunciation and Vocabulary courses. They’ll be making some changes and additions as they go along but what they have right now is just “out of this world” and a great leap forward in how students can both gain clear pronunciation and build academic vocabulary quickly.

Join my Pronunciation and Vocabulary course (click Enroll Now) and I’ll upgrade you to try them out as a Premium teacher! (make sure to Enroll As A Teacher)

Pronunciation Courses:

Tailored to the students L1, they allow students to review the major challenges they face regarding pronunciation. The language is presented through highly contextualized video context. To work on specific sounds, students may purchase individual sound units for practice.  Demo the Free Course /I/

Vocabulary Courses:

Made to ensure students gain a lot of practice recycling the vocabulary item and learning it in highly contextualized video segments – students first study each word in the patented speech recognition player. After studying in the player, students take a quiz of all the words in the unit. See all the courses available but more are forthcoming. Students can study the whole AWL and get prepared for study at an English university.  Demo the Free Starter Course

Interested in using EnglishCentral and our patented “Teacher Tools” LMS with your students this semester? Please take a look at our Academic Pricing and contact me. I’ll offer a full tour and can address any questions you may have.


pronandvocab from EnglishCentral on Vimeo.

Memory Games and Generators

Over the years, I’ve found that one of the most popular of the simple games for studying language is the Memory Game. Here’s a sample so you know what I mean – find a nice list below.

Basically, the students flip cards and try to match photos, sound or text. They try to do this in the least amount of tries. With disciplined students it can promote vocabulary development but be cautious! With the wrong students it can just turn into flipping cards and matching images (and text can just be an image – if it has no reference to its meaning).

Memry is a cool way students can generate these games on their own using the Flickr API. (much like 5 card Flickr which I wrote about, does for storytelling). Just type in the tag and it’ll create a related memory game instantly. Here’s a screencast tutorial I did quickly while walking on my treadmill desk – forgive me poor memory!

Find more memory games on EFL Classroom 2.0 Games page (look for “Memory” in the title) and EFL 2.0 member ridivan – Flash Games. Also this page has some nice ones for different subjects and letters of the alphabet.

If you liked this post, you may enjoy Memory And Language: An Experiment.

Montage Maker

Today I was experimenting with a cool way to support your classroom instruction and contextualize the language you are teaching. Even make a game of it!

I returned to Grant Robinson, maker of the wonderful Guess The Google game. It’s since been retired but now he has adapted it into Montage Maker.

The idea is fairly simple – type in a word and it will pull up photos in a montage (40 of them). Great for showing students and explaining a word, talking about a topic. Put the topic in and you’ll have a great backdrop!

Further, as I show in the screencast, you can download the montages and easily make games, ppts, flashcard sets. A very handy materials development tool! Here are two I made – I feel ….. and Where Are You? Get the ppts on EFL Classroom 2.0.

Here are a couple of similar tools:  Guess The Tag, Fastr.

Find more videos like this on EFL CLASSROOM 2.0

There is no longer any “normal” – disrupting ELT

I’m all about ‘disruption” (to borrow Clayton Christensen’s term) and think this is the most potent role that technology plays in our society.

A disrupter thinks small and keeps moving.   Large companies/groups are about sustaining and normalcy – the small can dress up in innovation and act quickly – revel in change.  Technology in the hands of one man can upset the apple card and enable a fresh wind to blow and bring greater efficiencies, better learning and more freedoms.  That’s the revoluton.

There are two parts to disruption that I play. One  part is making things real, trying things and putting things out there – see my previous post about my successes and failures online – Muckin’ About.  That’s only a partial list, I could add many more.

But another vital part of disruption is promoting the creation of products by the lowly individual AND the access to those products by the many.  It is about open resources that allow  us to put money into classrooms and learning and not the coffers of larger profit barons (and we know who they are).  It is disruption through creating connections and access where before none exists.

But it takes time to change mind sets. Teachers will not even blink asking their students to pay large publishers $20, $30, $100.  The pact with the devil is that by using the kings of publishing we are buying authority.  Like Pascal’s quip that “a judge would not have his authority without his wig”, so too many teachers without a Pearson,  Cambridge or Oxford textbook.  But it is an illusion and will one day soon fall. In the meantime, I’m going to keep playing my part and getting others to see the emperor’s wear no clothes (and especially in language teaching where the real world is IT and not a text, where with video we now can bring the real world to our classes and can throw out the textbook).

The last few years I’ve produced many free materials for teachers. Ebooks or “tech”books.   I’m often asked where a teacher might get them all.  I’ve made partial lists but until now, had no definitive collection.  So here it is, a definitive collection, each with a brief description. Enjoy. Download to your hearts content Support my work if you can by becoming an EFL Classroom 2.0 supporter for a one time, lifetime payment of $19.95.  It all gets plowed back into my efforts to give power to the many and keep tipping over apple carts.

I’ll also mention here, though not a book, still pretty damn disruptive – The Free Basic TESOL Certificate course I created. You’ll even get a certificate after you complete it!