Saturday, 27 December 2008

The Google-isation of our lives??

Today, I came across a thought-provoking article written by Susie Dent, which asks intriguing questions about where our lives are heading. She states that we are entering a universe where people are increasingly "turning to public broadcasts to express their private thoughts" . New words have gained prominance in 2008 such as
Are these words above indeed a reflection of our times? I ask myself -is the Internet taking over our lives???

At the beginning of this year I would never have imagined that I would be writing a blog and that to date, over 130 people from all over the world, mostly complete strangers, would be reading my innermost thoughts regarding ELT and my new life in Abruzzo. (Information gained from "Clustr" maps). This is both a bit scary and also quite exciting in a way. My life has changed forever. Have I finally digitally come of age after half a century of blissful digital ignorance?? Is it a positive thing or not??

I invite you to join in a debate regarding this topic and please feel free to post a comment.
I feel that I am sometimes writing in a void with no feedback so your comments and opinions regarding the "Google-isation" of our lives would be very welcome.

Canis Lupus Italicus

One of the most interesting places I have been to is the Wolf Conservation Centre in the National Park of Abruzzo. There I saw many wolves roaming around in their natural habitat within a huge conservation area in the mountains. The Centre is run by "Il Bosso" Cooperative group and volunteers lead visitors on a three-hour guided tour around the parts where the wolves can be seen going about their daily business. Walking boots are strongly recommended! The guides are very enthusiastic and care deeply about the welfare of the wolves which are in danger of dying out. The guided tour is preceded by a very informative talk and multimedia exhibition of different types of wolves and the various cries they make. Not many visitors to Abruzzo know about this fantastic place. I say it's definitely worth a visit!


This is the entrance to the Wolf Centre.

Thursday, 25 December 2008

Buon Natale


Happy Christmas to everyone viewing my blog today. Hope you have a lovely day!

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Boaring news

The hunters are out again on this beautiful, sunny day. They are out looking for wild boar which roam around our parts very freely. I have yet to have a personal experience with any of these said creatures, but they obviously must be lurking about as otherwise so many hunters wouldn't be waiting all day (and night) for them. It is indeed a small world. There is a "wild boar"link between Abruzzo and Oxford, where I was born and grew up. Queen's College in Oxford has a tradition linked to the Boar's Head Feast.

Have a look if you wish at my hubby's blog posting "The Moon's such a Boar!". It adds another dimension to this topic.

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Fairy tale Abruzzo village

This is a lovely view of Castel del Monte, a small village in Abruzzo. The picture was taken a while ago but I think it represents a lovely Christmas scene.
Picture taken by LLJB

Friday, 19 December 2008

Christmas stories


Edible Christmas card


I have just read a very interesting article in BBC News Uk website about a company based in Devon which has produced Christmas cards which can be eaten. The idea of an "eco card" is certainly a good one and it's definitely a way of making a difference to the environment!

Another seasonal article in the same site refers to a conifer tree shaped in the form of a Christmas plum pudding.

I love the innovative nature of the two quirky stories above as I feel they sum up characteristics which are quintessentially English , don't you think?

"Techie" Queen to air Christmas Message 2008 on Youtube

Have a look at this video from Youtube that I have just seen in Jeffrey Hill's excellent and very informative "The English Blog". The video's a spoof version of the Queen's annual Christmas speech and it's actually an advert for PG Tips, a very popular English brand of tea. The Queen is drinking a lot of sherry and you can see traditional mince pies on the table behind her.



The real Queen of England is apparently going to air her 2008 Christmas speech on Youtube for the first time ever. I take my hat off to her
! For an octogenerian, I admire her amazing dedication and willingness to keep up with the latest trends in modern technology - she is into podcasting and sends regular emails to friends and relatives. I feel in doing this, Queen Elizabeth will definitely reach out to a huge amount of people, especially youngsters, this year.

The information regarding the link to the Queen of England was taken from the "Woodlands Junior School's" fantastic website, full of amazing stuff all written by school children. It's an incredible source of information about Britain and its culture. I first read about this particular school in this article from the Daily Mail.


Monday, 15 December 2008

Odd Word Out

I had fun devising a little vocabulary quiz today. Some words are acronyms that have entered the English language recently, others are newish compound words, some are blend words and some abbreviations. A lot of them have a connection with technology. I have used Word Spy - Top Hundred as my source of information and also wikipedia.


From the list of words below find one which is different and ask yourself why is it different from the other three? Please note- I had to invent something which didn't fit so hopefully you will be able to work out which one differs. Please do post a comment if you feel some of the words are a bit ambiguous and I will modify as necessary!

1) facebook digg youtube del.icio.us

2) netizen netiquette nethead networker

3) avatar second life island blog

4) wikipedia nibipedia voki encyclopedia

5) ple cpd pln vle

6) recession-chic silver-surfer empty-nester helicopter-parent

7) nimby wag bogof imby

8) cyberchondriac cyberpet cyberbully cyberstalker

9) webzine ezine fanzine magazine

10) clog splog vlog flog

Saturday, 13 December 2008

Fun Craftwork in Pescara


The big DIY store in Pescara Sambuceto called Castorama runs free bricolage courses every Saturday and I have been attending the lessons for the past few weeks. Castorama is owned by the Kingfisher group which is based in England and also runs the UK DIY company B&Q. It's a small world! These courses are great fun and the teacher is extremely patient and kind. The heart box above was created today in the "decopatch" session. This is a blend word from "decoupage" + "patchwork". I had never done this before and I enjoyed following the very clear instructions and having enough time to put all the necessary pieces of fine paper over the heart-shaped box which I had chosen to cover.

Running such courses is a brilliant idea and they have been very popular and fully subscribed to. Today was the last session of 2008. I'm looking forward to participating in more courses in 2009. It's been a great way to practise my very rusty Italian and to meet some lovely new people as well.

Thank you my teacher Rossano!!

Friday, 12 December 2008

Christmas party at the Lake School of English, Oxford, via Skype to Abruzzo


Today I joined in the Christmas party that The Lake School of English, Oxford invited me to. It was an honour to attend from the wilds of Abruzzo and we were able to connect via Skype. I had the most fabulous time and it was wonderful to see and hear so many of my lovely colleagues and former students. I worked for the Lake School for over 20 years and it was a real wrench to leave them on June 12th this year when I moved to Italy to begin a new life. It was the hardest decision I have ever had to make in my professional life to leave such a wonderful, permanent job, especially right in the midst of the "credit crunch", but coming to Abruzzo was also a fantastic opportunity to experience something completely different and I have no regrets. I am "living the dream" and my life is indeed a total "open book" at the moment!!

Today was the second time I had linked up with the school via Skype. The first occasion was when I was invited to attend an Academic Meeting in November and that was a great technological success. I do so miss the buzz of being with such a fantastic, dynamic, creative and friendly, warm bunch of directors and teachers and they were the happiest teaching times of my life, but the door has been kindly left open for me to teach in the future and I have been booked to do a Teacher Refresher Course in July 2009 and that should be great fun. The school runs courses for Primary school teachers as well. I love doing Teacher Refresher courses as they certainly keep me on my toes!! (Can you spot me in the picture with some of the teachers in the Lake School Home page?) If you are interested in one of the Teacher Refresher courses in 2009, please hurry and book soon as these courses are highly popular. If you would like to ask me any questions regarding the courses, I would be more than happy to answer. Just leave a message in a posting and I will get back to you as soon as I can. I can guarantee that you will have the time of your life at the school. I certainly did!!

At some stage soon, I am going to write a post specially about my happy times at the Lake School of English, Oxford. So keep your eye open for more details and information regarding one of the most formative and inspiring teaching years of my whole career.

If any of the Lake School directors (Susan, Carmel, Lilly), teachers, staff and students are reading this, I'd like to say thank you so much for today and have a very happy Christmas!! See you in 2009.xxxx

NB I am wearing a hat from a traditional English "Christmas cracker" and I have some red "tinsel" draped around me. I really enjoyed singing traditional Christmas carols today such as "Silent Night", "The Twelve Days of Christmas" and of course, the ever popular "Jingle Bells".

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

"Word Cloud" Abruzzo news update



This morning I was reading an interesting article in the local Abruzzo paper "Il Centro". Can you guess what it was about from the Word Cloud above?

I have written a short summary of the article in a previous posting re Abruzzo news. A big clue to the content is the word "centenarians". Good luck!

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Xtranormal Slang Dialogue

UPDATE FEBRUARY 2015

Sadly this post is no longer current, as Xtranormal ceased to exist in 2013, so no videos are available. They are all lost! What a shame!!

New Words Quiz
I am fascinated by the new words which are entering the English language at such a fast rate. I only took "my eye off the ball" for a short while during the summer (to get down to composting, bricklaying, making a huge haystack, learning how to cook Italian dishes and many other gentle pursuits) for me to re-enter the world of teaching English only to come across such strange sounding words as "twitter" and "Plurk". What on earth did these words mean? Where did they come from? Who was using them? Did I need to know them? If yes, why did I need to know them? I asked myself these questions from a pedagogical point of view. Being of an inquisitive nature, of course I had to find out what these words meant.... If you are not sure of the meaning just press on the words. I have actually become a "Twitterer" and I have joined a Wiki for fellow Twitterers. Where it will lead me to will be an adventure!!

In the middle of writing this post I took a short break and I couldn't help looking at my sidebar and I saw the word "smeet" in Larry Ferlazzo's blog. This is a totally new word for me today and it's "hot off the press"!!! Larry Felazzo's site is excellent and I learn a lot from it.

A brilliant site for teachers and students to keep up to date with new words is bbclearningenglish.com. One of my favourite words of all time is "bling" and this lesson click here is dedicated entirely to this word!

Another one of my favourite sites for keeping up with the meaning of new expressions which come into the English language is WordSpy  Recently I had to look up the following words as they were new for me and I thought it would be good to create a little quiz to test you! Have a go and see how you get on!

A "fakeaway" is
a) something which you know is fake but looks genuine
b) a homemade meal that is similar to a takeaway meal purchased from a restaurant
c) something not worth the price you have paid

" recession chic" is
a) style and elegance on a tight budget
b) living beyond one's means during a recession
c) trying to look chic but not succeeding

"adorkable" means
a) adorable and cuddly
b) delightful and charming in a sociably akward way
c) an adorable young lady from Dorking

Friday, 5 December 2008

Abruzzo news update

Italian Minister "hit" 36,000 times
This morning I went to the local village of Catignano to post my Xmas mail to the Uk and then stopped by for a nice Cappucino in a local bar. I was reading through "il Centro", the local Abruzzo paper when this article caught my eye. Mariastella Gelmini, the Italian Minister for Education, has set up a Youtube site at www.youtube.it/mariastellagelmini in order to create a "dialogue" between her and school pupils / university students to promote an exchange of ideas. Her reason for deciding to use Youtube was because "The Internet is what interests young people nowadays and they are more likely to pay attention to Youtube than any other form of communication." So far, 36,000 students have "hit" her site in a matter of hours since yesterday to voice their opinions! I find this is quite incredible and it is a good example of modern technology being utilised in a pro-active way.

Crucifix Furore
Another interesting story I read concerning the theme of Education is about a teacher in Terni, Abruzzo, who removed the Crucifix hanging up in the classroom during his History lesson. His students protested and went to complain to the headmaster. The Italian Ministry of Education is now looking into the matter.

Migrating Starlings
The photo below shows thousands of starlings travelling through our area on their way to hotter climes. They have recently landed in Rome and are causing havoc there with their eternal droppings. When I saw these birds flying past it was the most awesome sight as they were all flying in perfect formation.

Photo taken by KRB




"Word Cloud" article (10/12/08)
I read an article about a small village of only 2,000 inhabitants in the Abruzzo mountains called Civitella Casanova. There are 5 centenarians in this village and a lot of 80 and 90 year-olds. The secret to a long and happy life according to these elderly villagers is apart from food, water, love and air, the "aneto" (dill - herb) they put in their ravioli!

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Picture Phrasr



Can you guess the idiom depicted by Kelly, Sofia and Isabella above?


I have just been looking through the archives of Learning Technology Teacher Development Blog and have come across "Phrasr" by PimPamPum, which was highlighted in the blog in February 2008. I decided to have a play and I wrote the answer to my question above. Please see this sentence. Did you guess the idiom? It looks like a fun site and great tool for exploiting the huge array of pictures available on flickr. Have a go at creating a picture sentence or paragraph yourself!

Saturday, 29 November 2008

Appraisal of my first month of blogging and thanks

The above posting was generated thanks to link here. This site provides many different activities for creative text writing including fun short newspaper articles like my example.

Feedback of my first 30 days
It's been a rollercoaster journey of highs and lows and then highs again. My overall feeling is one of great satisfaction. I have achieved what I set out to do (create a blog) and the future of where my blog is going is in my hands now. One of the "highs" was the very first comment I received - this proved that at least someone was reading my blog! The lowest point for me was when I realised or thought that I was the only person reading my blog regularly and my posting "All Quiet on the Blogging Front" was written when I felt a bit down and was questioning the worth of what I was doing and why. The other "highs" have been the practical adaptation of all the new ideas in technology that I have come across in the past month. It's pushed me to new heights and opened up a whole new universe.

Personal thanks
As stated in "The Abruzzo Daily", I have come a long way since November 1st when I began my blogging adventure. I did a ten-day e-course on blogging with The consultants-e.com. It was money well spent and for a novice like me in the fast-changing world of technology, I needed more personal guidance and the course truly helped me to get to where I am today. Thank you so much Kristina! Personal thanks are also due to the blogs and bloggers that I am following and are listed in my sidebar. They have all been an inspiration to me. In particular, Nik Peachey was kind enough to give me personal encouragement at the beginning of my journey into the unknown and I owe my growing confidence in part to him and his amazing site. Thank you Nik! Steve Dembo's very informative 30-Day Blog Challenge for novices like me has been very practical and tremendously useful. I have left a comment on his latest posting Day 29 "Be a Rock Star". A special word of thanks also goes to Jane for all your support. Your Edublog is very interesting and full of fantastic ideas for teachers. Last but not least, my dear husband Karl has been a true "rock" during these 30 days. He has been inspired to set up his own blog recently and it's been great fun seeing how he is fast developing as a fellow blogger.

You have all helped me in my quest for achieving something that I thought was unattainable just a short time ago. Wow! This has turned out to be like a veritable "Oscar's Ceremony Thank You Speech"! but I suppose that's what " stars" do!!
The Future
Where do I go from here? Well, now I have started, I hope that it's going to be a case of "onwards and upwards!" I hope I will find "my voice" and have a lot of fun in the process. If I can inspire others to do the same, and help teachers and students in some way, I will be very happy and proud and it will be mission accomplished. At the end of the day, it's a learning curve for me, regardless of the result.

"Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway!
One last thought I would like to share with you is that I have just taken a huge step. I have finally summoned up the courage to hit the "allow Anyone to read" blog Permission button.......

I will leave you with an image of what I have been up to recently. It hasn't been just blogging!!




This lovely little bay tree was uprooted by the savage, tempestuous winds we're experiencing in the Abruzzo region at the moment. This tree has now been partly shredded for the compost bin, the trunk chopped for firewood, and the rest of it used as cuttings to recreate it for the future. So luckily, life for this particular tree will go on........The rest of the day has been spent re-tying up the olive trees we have to protect them from the gale force winds.

Friday, 28 November 2008

"Speechable" site




I have just come across this very interesting site called " Speechable" and I decided to give it a quick twirl. After the initial playing around and leaving behind a few practice attempts , I was surprised to see how easy it was to upload my own photo and create a caption inside a speech bubble. This picture of Joey would be used as an introduction to the theme of "Animal Idioms". I personally feel it's always easier for students to remember new idioms if they are given a visual image of an idiom in context.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

My life behind "The Iron Curtain"

One of the best teaching experiences in my whole life took place from 1981-1982 in the former GDR in the city of Dresden. I taught EFL at The Technical University of Dresden. I had just done my PGCE in EFL and I was offered the golden opportunity of seeing what life was really like in a Communist country during the end of the "Cold War" in the early 1980's. It was to be a fantastic learning curve for me. I taught small classes of maximum six males - all eminent scientists, doctors, professors and leading experts in the fields of science, medicine and technology. My students
were all "mature" complete beginners and I
was relatively young in comparison. I had a secret "Stasi" member (East German secret police) in each class whose job it was to report whether my lessons contained any reference to three "taboo" subjects - religion, the Royal Family and politics. As you can imagine, I found it difficult to avoid talking about these subjects but somehow, I managed it.



Life is indeed a circle. The "hot" coursebook in 1981 in the GDR was the Streamline series by Bernard Hartley and Peter Viney and I used "Streamline Departures" (OUP) for the whole year with my beginners and that is why I know the contents inside out!! I recently used the same trusted book to teach a complete beginner. Twenty seven years later it is still doing a "solid" job!!


I made many friends in Dresden and I am still in contact with them. I remember that "Animal Farm" and "1984" by George Orwell were forbidden books. Nobody was allowed to have copies of them. However, I managed to smuggle a copy of each book into the country and therefore eluded the dreaded border control guards at "Checkpoint Charlie".
The look on my friend Uli's face when he had the books in his hands was priceless. It taught me to appreciate what I took for granted. The freedom to read and talk about whatever I wanted.

"The Lives of Others"
is an excellent film which reflects what was going on in the former GDR at the time I was there. When I saw it for the first time, I felt as if I had been transported back in time...

To be continued....

Sunday, 23 November 2008

"The Big Picture"

I have just read in "The English Blog" of a site which has lots of pictures attached to news topics of the day. It is called "The Big Picture" Click here. What is good about this site is that the pictures are large and easily displayed. Warm-up activities such as "slow reveal of picture" and "guess the picture" would be ideal. Once you have finished the warm-up stage,you could then lead on to a discussion about the topical subject of the picture.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

"All Quiet on the Blogging Front"


Today I realised that I am undergoing a classic beginner's moment of self-doubt. I began with great panache but somehow I seem to have got a bit lost in a dark wood like Dante in the Divine Comedy. Basically, I can't see the wood for the trees.

The photo above taken just a few minutes from where I live is nice and clear - that is how I'd like to feel about what I am doing with blogging. There are so many excellent articles re blogging like for example: http://www.teach42.com/
which has been written to help people exactly like me. However, the great "digital divide" is rearing its ugly head: those who know and can and those who want to know but can't quite get there! You can imagine which side of the dividing line I belong to.

Having taught Beginner level many times during my life, I know that it is easy for some learners to get worried about their progress when it is not fast enough and the classic "me class higher" syndrome is a desire to run before they can walk. Well, I'd be happy with simply "walking" at this particular moment!

Anyway, I will end this rather gloomy posting on a higher and more positive note. I will endeavour to listen to all the kind words of encouragement that I have received and I will not give up quite yet.....

Photo taken by KRB in Abruzzo 2008

Sunday, 16 November 2008

"BLOG" WORD SEARCH PUZZLE

One of my favourite sites for creating all sorts of games and puzzles is http://puzzlemaker.discoveryeducation.com/code/BuildWordSearch.asp

I have just created the "BLOG" word search puzzle below in a matter of seconds. The instructions from the site are clear and easy to follow.

I use word search puzzles for a)introducing a vocabulary topic
b)recycling grammar / vocabulary
c)true / false statements re personal information

Once the target words have been found and highlighted, students could make up a short paragraph using as many of the words as possible within a given time frame. Students would then share their ideas either in pairs/small groups or open class.

Students can then create their own word search puzzle to use at a later date in class or as a quick and fun review item.

Click here to open it in PDF format.

Friday, 14 November 2008

Book created by Janet

This is a "book" I've just created following Nik Peachey's video tutorial posted today on how to use an innovative new tool called Bookr created by "www.PimPamPum.net. Bookr enables us to create nice interactive image books with text captions. It's my first attempt at becoming an "author" so I do apologise for the simplicity of my first publication! I had great fun experimenting with this. For a complete list of ways of exploiting this activity, please refer to: http://nikpeachey.blogspot.com/



Here's the Bookr video tutorial I looked at before I created my book.





I can imagine students would have a lot of fun creating their own mini books or short poems.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

A "Word Cloud" experiment


Looking through Nik Peachey's blog archive link http://nikpeachey.blogspot.com/2008/09/using-word-clouds-in-efl-esl.html I read about "word clouds", a tool for creating some fun text-based activities. I decided to follow his very clear tutorial and came up with the example above. It is based on a short text about the coolest person on the planet at the moment. I wonder who he could be?

http://www.uk.news.yahoo.com/oddlyenough.html


Below is the actual short text taken from the above link.

'Elegant Obama' inspires fashion label

Barack Obama's elegance and fashion sense has inspired a Bosnian company to name a new line of men's business suits after the US president-elect.

"We chose the name Obama" for the suits, which were already selling well in Bosnia and neighbouring Croatia” said Ahmet Curic, a manager at Borac, the company that produces the outfits.

"It's a line of top quality business suits, and naming it Obama was an obvious choice because the president-elect is clearly a very elegant man and one of a few who knows how to wear a suit," he told AFP.

Curic added Borac also wanted to "pay respect" to the United States for providing the company with funds to help restart production after Bosnia's 1992-1995 war.

Based in the central town of Travnik, Borac is Bosnia's oldest clothing factory. It cooperates with several leading European fashion houses including Hugo Boss.

Have a go at creating your own "Word clouds" - it's great fun!








Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Five minute lesson plan using a picture prompt

Tonight I set myself a target of 5 minutes to create a mini lesson plan for a picture exploitation activity.

I would use a picture like the one above as a lead-in to a debate / discussion / opinion activity on such topics for example: the role of animals in society
dog or cat - which is the better pet?

I would ask students to think of adjectives to describe SOFIA's character by thinking of an adjective which begins with each letter of her name, for example


S -ociable
O -pen-minded
F- un-loving
I -ntelligent
A -miable

Students earn a point for each adjective they come up with which is the same as my list above.

Can you guess the IDIOM?

I have read "how to teach English with technology" so many times (!) that my book has become a bit DOG-.....................

The first person to post the correct answer will get 100 points!!


Tuesday, 11 November 2008

My thoughts on e-learning and F2F learning

This is my first e-course on Moodle and I really enjoy the challenge of studying in a totally different environment. Using Internet technology is fast and so many different activities such as blogs, wikis, podcasts and videos can be created and used by the teacher all in one place. It is a much more time-effective medium of instruction and a lot of ideas can be easily shared straight from the Internet.

The development of Second Life in the last few years has revolutionised the way technology is used as a teaching medium and the notion of a virtual classroom is definitely here to stay. I have seen e-courses advertised in many places and the idea of being able to study within your own home environment is naturally very appealing to a lot of learners. I can speak from my own experience now and I can honestly say that e-learning is an excellent way of studying. There is a lot of background support via e-mails, moodle blogs and Skype chatting which is very important and highly effective.

F2F teaching and learning has many advantages of course. The buzz you get from direct contact I suppose is one of the features that technology can't ever fully replace. I agree that possibly teaching via Skype could be as close as you can get to being in front of someone and video-linking also has been used very successfully to link students and teachers from all over the world. However, F2F is a more emotionally challenging and direct way of imparting knowledge and I do hope that there will always be a place in society for what could very soon become an old-fashioned style of teaching and learning. I have always taught F2F but I think it's maybe time for me to move on to a different level of teaching...

I look forward to hearing your ideas on this subject.

Monday, 10 November 2008

Xtranormal video tutorial


I have set myself a challenge. By the end of 2008, I'd like to have created a few dialogues using the Xtranormal programme and if it's possible, I'll post them on my blog. This video tutorial makes it seem quite easy to do. We'll see....!.


Sunday, 9 November 2008

My first post


Welcome everyone!

This is my first posting to this
blog.

I would like to share new ideas on teaching and thoughts on new trends.
This photo was taken very near to my home in Italy.
Janet