Saturday, March 10, 2007

Adding knobs and whistles

Once you are comfortable with blogging and podcasting,
you can start to experiment and branch out

Add a feed (I mentioned these earlier in Keeping track).
You can do this with FeedBurner.

Insert the URL of your blog. Choose Publicize.

Add a Chicklet.

Copy the html code provided.

Go to
your blog's Template and click on Add a Page Element.
Select HTML/Java script.

And in the window that opens up,
paste the html code you copied earlier.

Now you have a feed on your blog that visitors can easily subscribe to.

Add a link to an audio channel using

Or Vaestro

Add a map using CommunityWalk or MapKit

your photos and add them using flickr

When you've accumulated a number of blogs,
stick them together with Suprglu

Now you're ready to take on the world. So why not try these?


and FlashMeeting

And if you've got as far as this, consider yourself a
fully-participating member of the world of open web publishing!

Friday, March 9, 2007

You're not alone

Starting out with blogs and podcast might seem daunting but there's lots of help at hand. You'll find online communities and networks that can give you support.

Webheads meet online regularly to explore the latest synchronous and non-synchronous communications technologies, including video and voice, to adapt and demonstrate new innovative ideas for e-learning and classroom curriculum.

TappedIn where there are forums and regular organised chats for teachers using online resources.

EVO The Electric Village Online (that's part of TESOL) provides a set of online courses that takes place every year for six weeks, January-February. Sessions range from simple discussions to hands-on workshops.

Dekita advocates participatory uses of Web applications in EFL/ESL teaching and provides a network you can link to with your blogs.

There are also individual blogs that provide a wealth of ideas and useful information:
Joe Dale's blog (which I mentioned earlier)
Graham Stanley's blog (this is one of his blogs but he has quite a lot more)
Ewan McIntosh's blog

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Using blogs and podcasts to encourage learner autonomy

After looking at the technical side of things -
let’s get down to the nuts and bolts.

Why go to all this time and bother of
setting up blogs and podcasts,
how can we use them in our classes?

You can start out as simply as you like. Blogs go down well, even with young

Here is an example from a Junior Elementary group
talking about what they've done and learnt in class.

Why not create tasks that liven up the course book you're using?

The unit we were looking at with this class was Storytelling

and here is the blog task they did.

And here is what one student posted in response.

Another task the same group did was to test out their language level
using the CEF grid and it's can do skills.

Here is one posting in response.

And another.

I've also given the same, but more guided task, to higher level students.

These examples, I hope, paint a convincing picture of how blogs and podcasts encourage learner autonomy and more than compensate for the time spent in setting them up.
  • They encourage students to find their own resources
  • and enable them to pursue subjects that interest them.
  • Once the ball gets rolling, students generate their own class material
  • and can work at their own pace, writing posts and comments when they see fit.
  • They enjoy operating with media that's in tune with their generation
  • and have the gratifying experience of expressing themselves in English within an authentic environment.
Creating a blog with your students can change class dynamics, making the relationship between you and your students more of a dialogue.
  • For example, if you comment on the content of your students’ postings between classes, you can then use the time in class, when they are working on the next task, to talk to them individually about their language problems.
  • Both you and your students will find this a far more rewarding and productive experience than setting activities in the course book for language practice. Here your role becomes more one of a collaborator: giving students a helping hand to express what they really want to say.
  • You can use students’ postings as a natural springboard to practise their speaking skills. Ask them to present their blog findings to the rest of the group. Or make the material they’ve researched for their postings the starting point for a group discussion.
Blogs can help give a sense of continuity to your classes.
  • Put what you plan to do in the next class or what you covered in the last on the blog. This provides students with a point of reference, giving them the opportunity to reflect on what they’ve learnt. It also allows students who’ve been absent from classes to catch up on what they’ve missed.
These things add up. Students become more conscious of the progress they are making and begin to reflect on how they learn best. Gradually, they begin to build up their own learning strategies. This results in a shift of focus in the learning process: the student becoming the centre of attention rather than the teacher.

I've talked here of some of my ideas of how blogs can be used in class, but you can find suggestions for far more at, for example:
Even if you don't want to set up a blog or podcast yourself, you can still use ones that other people have set up as learning resources for your students:
  • The Daily English Show an Internet show for learners of English. Each episode has a video and the blog publishes the transcript of it.
  • Absolutely cultural looks at all intercultural aspects of human intercultural communication. Every week there's a new podcast and the blog post summarises what's been said in them.
  • Storynory presents audio stories for kids with both a summary and the full text available.

Producing a podcast

Again you have a choice of resources...

The steps are very similar to setting up a blog..

...except that you have to record or upload an
audio file.

You can record directly into Podomatic or Swtichpod
using a mike attached to
your computer.

If you want to record your sound first using a sound recorder, make sure to compress the sound file to MP3.

You can do this by downloading a free program called Audacity
the LAME MP3 encoder. (Here is some useful information on how to configure Audacity and create an MP3 file for your podcast.)

and Swtchpod allow you to upload your file to their site. (Here is a step-by-step guide on creating a podomatic podcast.)

Odeo, however, requires that the file
is already on a web site.

This is how your finished podcast will look on Podomatic.

... which you can now embed on your blog.

The players look slightly different, but the result is the same.
Here's mine using Odeo on the We are the best blog.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Setting up a blog

There are many free Internet resources to choose from.
Here are 3 of the most
well known.

Encouraging learner autonomy
is in Blogger but the steps
to set a blog up are more or less the same in all 3.

Once you have created an account and given a name to your blog,
you are offered a choice of templates.

You can edit and add different page elements.

And decide who can see your blog by setting its permissions.

Or comment on your posts.

Now you’re ready to make your first posting which is as simple as writing an email.

Download a step-by-step guide for setting up a class blog, instructions for your students on how to become a blog author and getting your students to generate their own class material.

And now for podcasts

“A podcast is a media file that is distributed over the Internet using syndication feeds, for playback on portable media players and personal computers.” Wikipedia

“A podcast is a digital audio file (usually MP3 or AAC) made available for download on the internet through an RSS 2.0 feed.” How to Podcast - Technical definition

The term podcast comes from the use that early podcasters made of Apple
MacIntosh's popular MP3 player the iPod. But...

You subscribe to them using an application such as iTunes,
Podomatic or Odeo.

Or they can be used for putting oral postings on your blog.

Monday, March 5, 2007

... and keeping track of it

If you want to keep track of what's happening on a blog,
look for this icon.

if you have a browser like Firefox,
click on Bookmarks > Subscribe to this page and
select the name of the blog.

Or use a special news aggregator like NetNewsWire,
and drag the icon onto its sidebar.

This will subscribe you to the blog (or podcast) and by clicking
on the blog's name you will see a list of it's recent posts and a summary.

In doing this you have subscribed to a web feed using a process
called RSS (Really Simple Syndication).

English with the Finglies

The web site for my CD-ROM designed for primary children learning English

The British Council in Bilbao

The web site gives you information, amongst other things, about our Talks for teachers