Sunday, 23 December 2012

Natale 2012

Here's wishing all my readers and viewers a very peaceful and relaxing Christmas.  Thank you for reading my blog.  I hope it will be a very happy time for everyone, wherever you may be.  Images in the Christmas collage below were taken in Abruzzo.

Friday, 30 November 2012


Janet's Abruzzo Edublog is proud to announce its fourth birthday.  My blog has been going for four enjoyable years, and I hope to continue writing on it for many more years to come.  Last year I didn't celebrate, and I vowed I would in 2012, after reading this blog post by Natasa.

My blogging adventure started four years ago.  Since then, I have written and published over 400 posts, on a wide range of subjects.  These include teaching English to students and teachers, thoughts on educational technology matters, experiments with many Web 2.0 tools, and my own lesson ideas and materials. In addition, I have posted my opinions of the beautiful region of Abruzzo, where I am currently living.

I would like to say a very big thank you to all my readers and viewers. I feel incredibly honoured and humbled that viewers from 171 countries from around the world have at one time or another taken the time to read one of my posts. Below are screenshots taken just now of the different countries.  The first shows the top countries from the Clustrs list that is in my dashboard.

The second shows the countries where readers have visited occasionally:

Here you have a current view of the world map:

...and another view:

The most popular posts being viewed today include some which are over two years old!

Fun at the Lake is one of my most recent posts, and outlines some of the activties and lessons that I taught recently at the Lake School of English, Oxford.

Why do I blog? There are many reasons, but the most important ones are as follows:

  • to share my teaching ideas
  • to share my presentations and webinars
  • to share my experiments with using new tools
  • to reflect on my teaching
  • to reflect on my experience of online courses
  • to have a repository for my thoughts on teaching
  • to connect with teachers and educators from all over the world
  • to connect with my PLN
  • to write my personal reflections on conferences I attend
  • to write book reviews
  • to write about my life in Abruzzo
  • to connect with other bloggers via my sidebar
Once again I would like to say a very big .......

......... for reading my blog!! 

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Memories of Professor Salvador de Madariaga and A Very Special House

I read an article earlier this year about the house where Salvador de Madariaga lived for many years in Oxford. I have been inside that house on several occasions. It was awarded a coveted Blue Plaque  The article below evoked a lot of memories from the past.

The connection is that my father used to be the gardener for Don Salvador de Madariaga while he lived in this house. I sometimes accompanied my father while he was carrying out his duties in the garden, and so I met and spoke with the owners, Professor Salvador de Madariaga and his wife, Emilia Madariaga.

They were a lovely couple and were very kind and friendly towards me and my sisters. They even came round to our house once for homemade Italian food, cooked by my mother. I wish I could remember more about that event!!

I have a personal signed copy of one of his novels called "Sir Bob" dated 1969.  Sir Bob is "A Tall (Though Not Grown-Up) Story for Children from Nine to Ninety". I enjoyed reading it immensely.

The garden was kept beautifully neat and tidy by my father, and I remember there was a fabulous miniature doll's house in a corner. Sometimes I was invited to look inside it by Mrs Madariaga and it fascinated me as it was so incredibly detailed.

In their later years after they left Oxford, the couple stayed in a beautiful hotel in Locarno, Switzerland. It was "Hotel La Palma au Lac".

 I and Mrs Madariaga became very good penfriends. We wrote letters and postcards to each other in Italian, Spanish, French and German, as we both loved languages.  She gave me a lot of encouragment when I was younger, and she was thrilled to read about my adventures abroad.

I remember when my sisters and I were very young, she used to call us " Le mie tre principesse".

Although there was a big age gap between myself and Mrs Madariaga, it didn't matter at all, because we both had so many things in common. A love of languages, a love of the Classics, a love of travelling, a love of translating. Mrs Madariaga was a professional translator, interpreter and editor. I know that I have a collection of her letters somewhere hidden away, and I am determined to find them one day and reread them all. They are a link to my forgotten childhood and youth. She was very encouraging towards me. I loved receiving her letters from Hotel La Palma au Lac in Locarno, Switzerland. The address is etched in my mind forever.

 One of the many lovely postcards I received from Locarno from Mrs Madariaga.

The highlight was when my family and my uncle's family all descended in Locarno one day to say hello to the Professor and Mrs Madariaga. The look on the faces of the diners in the very elegant restaurant as we all traipsed in, was priceless. We were invited to sit down and join them and a few pleasant hours were spent in their company. The views of the lake from the terrace was stunning. I wish we had taken a photo of that scene for me to be able to recount what happened more vividly!! All I know is we were tired after having travelled in a Morris Oxford (6 of us) from Oxford, on our way to a holiday in Italy and to be welcomed so enthusiastically by the Professor and his wife, is one of those classic unforgettable moments in my whole life.


My father was able to communicate with people from all walks of life, and so he made friends with the Professor, and they had a mutual respect for each other, despite coming from hugely different social and cultural backgrounds. My father had no pretence to be anyone other than himself. He was down to earth and called a spade a spade.  I believe this is what endeared him to the Professor.  My father has many fond memories of his days spent working for Professor and Mrs Madariaga.

My sister used to play the classical guitar. She was incredibly excited when Professor Madariaga very kindly arranged a meeting with Andres Segovia, the world famous Spanish classical guitarist, who was visiting his home in Oxford. She was presented with a ticket to watch his classical guitar recital at the Sheldonian Theatre Oxford, and has a programme signed by the grand master himself.

 Below you can see a photo I took of St Andrew's Church a few months ago. The tombstones in the cemetery are just about visible. This is very near to the house and garden which holds so many happy memories for me.

To read more about a very pleasant stroll down Memory Lane whilst I was in Old Headington, you can view this post from my Project 366 blog, called Day 47:A Walk Down Memory Lane.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Fun at the Lake

Jumping back into the Lake School of English, Oxford,  after a period of time away is always a refreshing change.  Face to face teaching is still such a thrill for me personally, after all these years, and I enjoy the experience enormously.  The three directors, Susan, Carmel and Lilly are wonderfully supportive, and the dedicated group of  friendly teachers and staff are a real joy to work with.

The Lake School of English has been featured in the EL Gazette in 2010, 2011 and 2012 as a Centre of Excellence.

This time round in September, I taught two General English courses, Elementary and Pre-Intermediate level - my favourites!  The students were a fabulous mixed bunch from Poland, Turkey, The Ivory Coast, Spain, Angola and Italy.

Having taught complete beginners for a whole year in Dresden, I have a particular soft spot for teaching lower levels.  The reponsibility of establishing a solid foundation right from the beginning, is quite vital.  If a teacher does not oversee a student's development at this critical stage it could lead to a lifetime of fossilized errors taking hold.  I enjoy being the lead teacher of an elementary group, so I can set up a strict focus on accuracy right from the beginning.  Trying to undo errors which have become fossilized at a much later stage can be a nightmare..

I decided I wanted to introduce a Blended learning element into this itineration of sessions and therefore any homework I set also had the option of being sent back to me by email.  A few of the students welcomed this opportunity and I was delighted to receive regular online tasks submitted.  I was able to give immediate feedback and  a good working relationship was established from the outset.  Mixing an online element with the f2f element gave me the chance to experiment with various tools to send to the students as feedback encouragement as follows:

Once again I used my Project366 blog for and in my lessons, and it was a useful place to keep materials and resources in one site.

Below you can see a word cloud I used as a warmer for students to guess my likes and dislikes connected to food and drink.  Can you guess what I like / dislike eating & drinking?

 I created an Animoto "Around Town" which was used in my lessons to teach vocabulary of places.

Try our video maker at Animoto.

We studied some make and do expressions and I had fun creating a new lesson.  You can see some of the lesson activities embedded in a Youblisher e-booklet format below.

Make and Do Expressions

I showed the class my weekend in the shape of a TagxedoWord Cloud flower, and then got them to create one for themselves, if they wished as homework to show to the class.

To get us in the mood for the weekend ahead, we listened to Rebecca Black's (in)famous Friday song.  Before the all-important singing stage, the students had to predict what the song was going to be about by viewing the words below:

My final message on my blog to the lovely students I taught. This cartoon was created with ToonDo. Picture frame by Tuxpi.

Now I am back in Abruzzo, I can keep up to date with Lake School news by checking into the Lake School of English Facebook page.

The Lake School is also on Twitter and you can follow regular updates from @EnglishinOxford.

Thanks to everyone at the Lake School for making it such a memorable teaching experience for me!
See you all again very soon :-))

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Celebrating the Mexican Day of the Dead at Oxford Brookes University, Oxford!

Teaching pupils about cultural differences and making them aware of cultural diversity is an important part of the curriculum in British schools.  I would like to showcase an event which took place on November 5th at Oxford Brookes University, Oxford, to celebrate and honour The Mexican Day of the Dead festival.  60 lucky pupils from six local Oxfordshire schools were invited to take part in the celebrations.

You can read more about this special event in the dedicated Oxford Brookes website page.
More information in the local Oxford Mail.

Thanks to my sister Giulietta for sending me this information today.  She was part of the Oxford University Brookes team who organised this hugely successful event. Well done to everyone!!
Below a fabulous and very colourful flickr slide show showing scenes from the Mexican Day of the Dead at Oxford Brookes.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Fluffy - A 21st Century Feline Techie!

Fluffy has at last finished his first major Slideshare web presentation, which I am delighted to share with you. It was great fun to help Fluffy with this particular project, based  on a few tools which can visually enhance your lessons and presentations..

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Teach Meet International 2012 Rocked!

The 3rd Teach Meet International conference held on Saturday September 29th was a hugely successful event and I was thrilled to take part in it as a presenter.  The organizers Arjana, Bart and Sonja ensured that everything went off like a dream.

The excitement during the two-hour or so online meeting was visibly, physically and emotionally palpable!!  I felt as if I was there in person.  It was so exciting to see the names of the presenters and attendees in the Chat Box, quite a few of whom I recognised and "knew" via Twitter primarily, and other online social networking groups.

What I liked about this meeting, as in all Teachmeets, was that each presentation had to be succinct, to the point, and relevant.  No room for waffle or beating about the bush!! You can view information about all the wonderful presenters from the Teachmeet wiki here.

I learned so much in the space of a few hours from educators around the globe on really interesting topics. You can see sections of the talks on Inspired, motivated, enthused.

As a presenter, my preparation for my talk on Muzy, the fairly new visual blogging platform, took me quite a long time, as I had far too much to say!!  I had to cut out a lot of things, and keep it on target. This in itself was an exciting challenge for me.

How to condense what could easily be a 45 minute presentation into a 3 minute whirlwind introduction to the topic??

As usual I created mind maps, lists, bullet points and lots of notes.  I pulled these together and managed to get it down to just 16 slides...


 I believe it is a special skill, and I am not sure if I was able to convey everything in the brief time I had.  I was pleased that in the end after a LOT of practising with a 3-minute timer, I did manage to deliver my message in under 3 minutes!!  Bart's famous "Monster" Bell didn't rear its head on the screen and I escaped hearing its sound!!

I was glued to my seat for the whole event and in the end I even danced along to some lovely music with all the other presenters.  This was a first for me, and it felt very good.  In fact, I absolutely loved it!!

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Packt Publishing Celebrates Its 1,000th IT Titles!


I am very happy to repost an announcement from Packt Publishing which is delighted to be celebrating its 1,000th IT titles!  Many congratulations to all the team for reaching this amazing amount of titles.

In the past I have had the great pleasure of  writing a number of Packtpub Moodle Book Reviews.

Below the message in full,  as posted on the Packtpub site:

Birmingham-based IT publisher Packt Publishing is about to publish its 1000th title. Packt books are renowned among developers for being uniquely practical and focused.  Packt books cover highly specific tools and technologies which IT professionals might not expect to see a high quality book on.
Packt would like you to join them in celebrating this milestone with a surprise gift – to get involved you just need to have already registered, or sign up for a free Packt account before 30th September 2012. 

Packt published their first book in April 2004. One of the most prolific and fastest growing tech book publishers in the world, they now have books on everything from web development to web graphics, e-learning to e-commerce, IT architecture to games, and app development.

Packt supports many of the Open Source projects covered by its books through a project royalty donation, which has contributed over £300,000 to Open Source projects up to now. As part of the celebration Packt is allocating $30,000 to share between projects and authors in a genuinely unique way, soon to be disclosed on their website.

Dave Maclean, founder of Packt Publishing explains, “At Packt we set out 8 years ago to bring practical, up to date and easy to use technical books to the specialist tools and technologies that had been largely overlooked by IT publishers. Today, I am really proud that with our authors and partners we have been able to make useful books available on over 1000 topics and make our contribution to the development community.”

For more information about Packt, the kind of books they publish, and to sign-up for a free account before the 30th of September, 2012, please visit their website:

The link to sign up is here.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Far From The Madding Crowd in Civitella Casanova

A moment of quiet reflection and contemplation is always a good activity, especially when your life is at times dominated by a computer screen of some sort.  In this age of constant distraction that we live in, it is of vital importance to take some quality time out.  To have a glimpse of the past,  can be quite therapeutic and re-energising.

A Chance Encounter
Earlier yesterday I visited a small village in Abruzzo, very near to my home, Civitella Casanova, located less than 10 minutes away by car.  We chanced upon an old pathway as we were walking into the centre towards the market.  I said to K, "Come on, let's see where this leads!"  The thrill of not knowing where this path would take us, was like stepping into a mini adventure.

There was no signpost at the top to indicate what we would find at the bottom of the steps.

 We descended into a quiet haven, a world dating back to the 18th century, leading to two historic fountains, which had been renovated.  We were both amazed that this veritable piece of history was tucked away in a hidden corner of the village. 

 Once there, we spent some time reading the poster board which revealed facts of the renovation work carried out on the fountains by the village authorities.

Flashback to the Past
The image of my grandmother as a young girl walking 10 kilometres from her village to the nearest fountain to collect water for the family, flashed through my mind. She would do so on a regular basis, carrying a big traditional copper water pot called a "conca" on her head.

Below is a detail from a free picture which came with a recent copy of Il Centro, the local Pescara newspaper.  It shows the Fontana Caruso in Roseto degli Abruzzi, in the early 1900s, with the women at the fountain waiting to collect their water.  You can see two of the "concas".

Here is another detail from the same free picture of a woman with a conca on her head.  This could easily have been my grandmother, or my mother and other female relatives..

Below the complete picture given away for free from Il Centro.  I will be putting it in a special frame, as it is a wonderful memory of the past tradition of the "conca" at the fountain.

Formidible Abruzzese Women
 My grandmother's life was hard and she lacked a proper education, but she was a very intelligent woman. She is one of my all-time great heroines in life, and is one of the Formidable Abruzzese Women that I have written about on this blog.

Losing Oneself
The silence in this little area today touched me, and made me realise that quiet contemplation nowadays is not something I do regularly.  I should do this more often.  Lose myself in the past, remember how life used to be, "far from the madding crowd"....

Sunday, 2 September 2012

3rd Teach Meet International Online

Icon by
I am very excited to be presenting again for the 3rd Teach Meet International Online e-conference on Saturday 29th September!

My presentation is called "Visual Blogging with Muzy".  If you would like to find out more about what this is, please do attend!  More details about times of presentations will be forthcoming from the TeachMeetInt'l wiki site.

Proposals for a 3-minute presentation on a subject of your choice are being  accepted until September 23rd and the Presenters' sign up sheet is in this Google Docs link, so please DO consider taking part, either as a presenter, or definitely as an attendee!

 Each session only lasts three minutes, so I am sure you will be able to spare at least three minutes of your time to watch a presentation, or even more, in your spare time on a Saturday.  I know everyone is busy at a weekend, maybe with family and children, furkids, housework, gardening, going away, shopping and a million and one other things that people generally do over the weekend, but the benefits to your CPD would be highly advantageous.  I can promise you that you would go back to your classroom on a Monday morning with some new, fresh and exciting ideas to inspire yourself, and most importantly of all, your pupils!

I last wrote about the 2nd Teach Meet International in this blog post here.
You can read what other presenters said about it in this feedback.
It was indeed a fabulous event and the topics were very inspiring.  You can see an overview of the 26 topics covered on the Presenters TM2 site.  Thanks to the fabulous event co-organisers Arjana Blazic and Bart Verswijel .

You can view the list of 17 international presenters currently scheduled to give a short 3-minute presentation on 29th September in this link here.

Arjana has just written a wonderful guest post on Teaching Village blog, entitled "The floor is ours!".

Image created with Muzy.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

A Fable of Sorts on

I have revisited my very first Powerpoint presentation created in 2010. A Fable of Sorts was a project undertaken for the enjoyable EVO Images4Education session.

 I have used for the first time. I like its simplicity of use. For a free account, you can create one private audio and three public presentations a month. There is more information about this easy to use web 2.0. tool here.

Pre-recording an audio or video presentation on would be an excellent back-up strategy before delivering a major webinar.  This would give you piece of mind and possibly save the day!

I hope you enjoy my story which contains images taken by myself, and a plot loosely based on reality......
I wouldn't usually read the text straight from the slides, but in this case, my story could be used as an audio book, whereby a student could listen to and read the story at the same time.

You can click here if you wish to view the presentation on a large screen via the site.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Repost: #ELTchat: the loss of – Plan B

The news that had sadly demised during my recent absence from the Internet came as a complete shock.  However, its imminent and hopefully swift rebirth as is fantastic to hear.  Although I have recently dropped a little bit off the radar on a Wednesday, it does not mean that I have forgotten all about it.  In fact, eltchat remains very dear to my heart and I am so glad that it has found a way to overcome this unexpected situation.
I wish Marisa and Shaun and all the wonderful eltchat moderators and volunteers who make it such a valuable and outstanding site all the very best for the future.  Thank you for everything yuo all do for the EFL community!
As requested by Marisa on her TEFL Matters blog, I have reposted the article in full below:
For the last – well, almost two years now, since September 15 2010, #ELTchat has kept us on our toes and forged hundreds of professional and personal relationships amongst its followers who turn up on Twitter every Wednesday to talk about topics they have suggested and voted on – a community of peers which was created by a small group of colleagues – which grew and grew some more and became something that counts as an important part of our continuous professional development.
Like many great ideas, it didn’t hit just one person but several.
And that is how #ELTchat was created.    ELTChat for educators in English Language Teaching
The website to keep up the communication of its members, a base and repository of our ideas was one of the first things we all thought of creating – the wiki came later.

Andy Chaplin was keen to join the moderation team and help with podcasts and technical stuff; he was quick to buy and announced the good news to us after the fact.
A few months later, right after TESOL France 2011,  he suddenly disappeared – some say for reasons of health.
We never found out for sure.

We never received a single word of response to our emails. was and still is registered in his name.

And yesterday we lost it

On August 8 the domain expired and we have no way of taking over unless it goes up for sale again; it was very sad that Andy Chaplin did not find it appropriate to renew.
The news is really upsetting.
The work we have put in on this website cannot be told in a few simple words – but it has been a labour of love and we have got so much out of it that we have never regretted one single moment
We are pretty upset at the behaviour of this individual – disappointment is one big understatement.
But we trust that our community of #ELTchatters, our PLN for short, will again gather round the new domain which we have purchased –

It will take us a few days to put the website back on its feet
And all will be as it was before – all the posts in place all your thoughts and comments, all the polls and great summaries which got us on the shortlist of the ELTon Awards nominations
We will be back with a vengeance
We are not just a website – we did not get on the ELTon awards shortlist as just another website!!!

We are a great community of teachers and we have a Plan B!

See you all in September!!!
Marisa Constantinides – Shaun Wilden
P.S. We would greatly appreciate it if any of you belonging to this great community of teachers,  teacher educators, bloggers, #ELTchat followers,  reposted this on your blog
If you decide to do this, please add your name to the post under ours.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Using Wallwisher

Brainstorming new words and expressions that the teachers have come across is being done via a Wallwisher.  This is always great fun.

You can also use Linoit to create an online collaborative notice board.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

A Few of My Favourite Abruzzo Things

If you would like to read the full guest post, please go to the fabulous Life in Abruzzo blog.

I hope you enjoy the interview, and that you will learn some new things about this wonderful region of Italy, which is still relatively unspoilt.

Thanks very much to Life in Abruzzo for organising the interview!

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Welcome to a New Website!

Has anyone seen this amazing puppeteer on YouTube?

His name is Stephen Mottram and his website is

Image reproduced with kind permission from Stephen Mottram

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Abruzzo by Motorbike

Touring Abruzzo by motorbike is an unbeatable experience.  To be at one with nature viewing the countryside, listening to the gentle purr of the engine, immersing oneself in awesome scenery to die for, is something I would highly recommend for a Grand Day Out.

Yesterday I travelled to a part of Abruzzo I had never been to before.  It was to celebrate a very special day - our 20th wedding anniversary!  We went to Lake Campotosta in one of the Abruzzo National Parks called Gran Sasso e Monti della Laga. 

I was able to relax in the abundant nature and natural beauty of the mountains and the lake.

Abruzzo is a hidden GEM.  It is still relatively unspoilt, wild and breathtakingly beautiful!

I hope you enjoy my Animoto show, which was created very quickly, and easily!  I took a lot of photos with my digital camera whilst on the back of the motorbike. I loved every moment of our Grand Day Out!

Make a video of your own at Animoto.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Happy 60th Diamond Jubilee, Your Majesty!

June 2012 marks the Diamond Jubilee celebrations of Queen Elizabeth 2nd being on the throne of England. With the utmost respect for this truly amazing woman, I would like to pay homage to Queen Elizabeth's 60 years of unstinting devotion to her country and its people.  Most of Britain is celebrating her incredible and enduring reign with street parties up and down the land.   How I so wish I could be there as well!!

The Mail Online  has some fantastic images of the celebrations, and of people enjoying themselves against a backdrop of red, white and blue.

You can also view some spectacular images of the Royal Jubilee Pageant held along the Thames River here.

She is undoubtedly one of the most famous women on this planet, instantly recognisable with her trademark tiara.
 Image source and article here.

The image of the tiara below is part of a set of tiaras on a tea towel that I bought in England as a Jubilee souvenir.  It cost a modest £1.20 from Primark and I haven't wanted to use it yet, as it is so special.

Below you can view a Youtube video of a giant portrait of the Queen made entirely out of cupcakes. It's absolutely incredible! You can view the whole article from Anglotopia.

For more information and some fabulous lesson plans, you can visit The British Royal Family - Online Lessons and Worksheets by