Saturday, February 28, 2009

EFL/ESL mash ups

No, its not time for us to chow down but rather use existing media and programs to make something new. This could mean using our own videos and photos along with stuff we find on the internet.

So what has this got to do with teaching English? Recently, I have been working with my students on different projects in which they use video as an extension of their writing assignmments. We work on traditional skills such as writing a discursive essay or story telling then use turn these formats into something more visual such as a mini - documentary.

In every such case I've tried to adhere to these rules.

1 - The project has to be connected with some more traditional language learning skill and/or be useful in getting them ready for external exams (e.g. essay writing, interview skills, debating etc).

2 - The technology has to be easy to learn and use.

3 - All programs have to either free and/or open source. Nobody is going to pay me hundreds of euros to buy software.

4 - Personalise the project in order to suit the students' interests and level of competence in English.

My most recent venture has involved using video taking off the internet from sites such as YouTube so that students have footage to use in their projects. This forms background to their narratives which are either recorded using a microphone or done straight - to - camera.

This doesn't require specialised equipment just access to a PC, a microphone and a video camera/webcam or cell phone. The software used was Real Player (which allows you to download videos off the net), Winff which converts .flv video files (that is the format used on sites such as Youtube) to AVI or WMV format (which can be edited). Finally, we used Windows Movie Maker which comes as standard with every copy of Windows.

Taken all togther this sound like an imposing list however the programs are easy to use and I think that an hour ir two is all you need to invest in getting the hang of them. It's time worth investing as the skills you pick up can used endlessly in lessons.

I would love to show you some of my student's work but they choose not to put their videos on the net. For more of my teaching ideas using video, internet etc. click here.

Prisoners in Greek jails pay the price for dramatic escape

Greek prison

Greek prison

see larger image

uploaded by Teacher Dude

The dramatic escape by helicopter from Athens maximum security Korydallos jail by two prisoners for the second time last week turned convicted kidnappers, Vasilis Paleokostas and Alket Razai into folk heros for many ordinary Greeks. Betting sites are offering odds on if the two will be recaptured whilst on Facebook the Paleokostas Airlines group has already 51,000 members.

However, for the 12,000 other prisoners behind bars in Greece's grim jails conditions are set to deteriorate still further as the new minister for Justice, Nikos Dendias has annouced a series of measures designed to clamp down on "lax practices" by prison officers. In many cases the concessions won by prisoners after last November's mass hunger strike (see here for full story) have been revoked or will not be implemented.

As Ioanna Drosou, a prisoners' rights activist said in an interview with Greek net - based news service the government has reneged on their promises to improve the conditions in the country's jails despite have been repeatedly condemned by organisations such as Amnesty and the Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture.

Arbitary violence by prison officers, widespread drug use, overcrowding and primitive health care facilities have all been cited as areas that need to be tackled in order to bring Greek jails in line with European standards.

However, last week's prison break out which has severely embarrased the ruling New Democracy government has lead instead to a tightening of security, a move which prisoners rights organisations such as the Initiative for the Rights of Prisoners argue will futher isolate inmates from wider society and add to ths problems inherent in the prison system.

Tags: | | | | | | | | |


RYANAIR MAG, originally uploaded by Teacher Dude's BBQ.

LONDON, England (CNN) -- The ever budget-conscious boss of Ryanair has suggested the discount airline may start charging passengers for using the toilet on board its flights.

Michael O'Leary said the airline had revived inquiries into whether the airline could install coin-operated toilets on its fleet.

"People might actually have to spend a pound to spend a penny in future," he said in a BBC interview, adding "We're always in Ryanair looking at the ways of constantly lowering the costs of air travel and making it more affordable and easier for passengers to fly with us."

See here from the logical next step in this process ;

Friday, February 27, 2009

RyanAir - Spending your pennies wisely

This morning while nursing a head cold from hell I came across this story at BBC News;

"Irish budget airline Ryanair has said it is considering charging passengers for using the toilet while flying.

Chief executive Michael O'Leary told the BBC that the Dublin-based carrier was looking at maybe installing a "coin slot on the toilet door". See here for the rest of the article.

So with some time on my hands and wanting to try out some video editing tools I made this satirical video making fun of RyanAir's ridiculous policy.

It seems that the satire bug is contagious. Check out Claesm's brilliant parody on Flickr.

Sci-fi Friday - Them!!!!

A horror horde of crawl-and-crush giants clawing out of the earth from mile-deep catacombs!

"Nuclear tests in the desert result in the growth of gigantic mutant ants who menace cities in the American south-west as a team of investigators and the army search for a way to control their spread in this Cold War-era monster film."


Thessaloniki, originally uploaded by Teacher Dude's BBQ.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Rothko sunsets

Rothko sunsets, originally uploaded by Teacher Dude's BBQ.

Mark Rothko

Drowned world

Drowned world, originally uploaded by Teacher Dude's BBQ.

"As the cutter moved off across the lagoon he went back to his chair. For a few minutes the two men stared across the table at each other, the insects outside bouncing off the wire mesh as the sun lifted into the sky. At last Kerens spoke.

'Alan, I'm not sure whether I shall be leaving.'

Without replying, Bodkin took out his cigarettes. He lit one carefully, then sat back smoking it calmly. 'Do you know where we are?' he asked after a pause. 'The name of this city?' When Kerens shook his head he said: 'Part of it used to be called London; not that it matters. Curiously enough, though, I was born here. Yesterday I rowed over to the old University quarter, a mass of little creeks, actually found the laboratory where my father used to teach. We left here when I was six, but I can just remember being taken to meet him one day. A few hundred yards away there was a planetarium, I saw a performance once - that was before they had to re-align the projector. The big dome is still there, about twenty feet below water. It looks like an enormous shell, fucus growing all over it, straight out of The Water Babies. Curiously, looking down at the dome seemed to bring my childhood much nearer. To tell the truth, I'd more or less forgotten it - at my age all you have are the memories of memories. After we left here our existence became completely nomadic, and in a sense this city is the only home I've ever known –' He broke off abruptly, his face suddenly tired.

'Go on,' Kerens said evenly."

Drowned World by JG Ballard

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


Well, what are the oodds on that? To place a bet on whether Paleokostas and Razai will be recaptured by the Greek police go to I kid you not. They have laid 4/1 odds on the pair being captured by February 2009.

Cape Korydallos

Third time lucky, originally uploaded by Teacher Dude's BBQ.

This NASA Houston calling Cape Korydallos. Ground control to Major Bill.

A Paleokostas Airlines group has been set up on Facebook which currently has 47,100 members. As you can see the country doesn't know whether to laugh or cry over the guy's escape.

No check - in desks for Paleokostas Airlines

ATHENS - European budget airline Paleokostas Airlines wants to do away with prison check-in desks by the end of the year, saying most of its customers already check in online.

Passengers would still be able to leave their weapons at a safe house but everything else could be done over the Web, Paleokostas - Razia AE said on Saturday.

'Ultimately, we want just one in five people to check in armed,' PA chief executive Nikos Paleokostas was quoted as saying in The Kathimerini newspaper.

Paleokostas Airlines spokesman A. Rzai said the airline saw the move as the 'logical next step' in its effort to slash costs.

Europe's newest discount carrier, Paleokostas Airlines has pioneered the use of Web-based sales to cut costs and attract Net-savvy customers.

On Thursday PA began offering a cell phone service for calls, text messaging and e-mails in some of its cells - becoming the first budget carrier in Europe to test the use of cell phones while incarcerated. -- AP

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


Athens International Airport Korydallou (ATK)

Exclusive picture of escaped convict, Vasilis Paleokostas's last interrogation

-Ti papoutsia foraei o Palaiokostas..?

-Super Puma!!

Τι είπε ο φρουρός στον παλαιοκωστα μόλις είδε το ελικόπτερο ????

Κύριου …. Κύριου … ήρθε το επισκέπτη με το ελικόπτερο !!!

Poio einai to agaphmeno drink toy pallaiokwsta???

red bull dinei fteraaaaaaa

Τι προβλέπει το πρώτο νομοσχέδιο του υπουργείου Δικαιοσύνης, μετά την

απόδραση Παλαιοκώστα; Ελικοδρόμιο στον Κορυδαλλό!

Γιατί ο Παλαιοκώστας δραπέτευσε πάλι με ελικόπτερο?
Είχε κερδίσει τη 1 ώρα πτήσης από το Allou! Fun park … γιατί να πάει χαμένη?

Welcome to Athens International Airport Korydallou (ATK)

Η επιχειρηματική δραστηριότητα του Διεθνούς Αερολιμένα Κορυδαλλου (ATK) καλύπτει ένα ευρύτατο φάσμα λειτουργιών που σχετίζονται τόσο με το κύριο αερομεταφορικό έργο του, όσο και με επιμέρους τομείς που αναπτύσσονται παράλληλα.

Στο πλαίσιο αυτό, η πολιτική του ΓΑΔΑ στον τομέα των αερομεταφορών επιδιώκει τη διαρκή ανάπτυξη του δικτύου αερομεταφορών, και την αύξηση της εμπορευματικής κίνησης, με την επιτυχημένη εφαρμογή ενός ισχυρού και αποδοτικού προγράμματος κινήτρων, που ενημερώνεται και ενισχύεται συνεχώς, εκμεταλλεύεται τα σημαντικά ανταγωνιστικά πλεονεκτήματα του αεροδρομίου και μεγιστοποιεί τα οφέλη των αεροπορικών εταιρειών και του σωφρονιστικού συστήματος.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Interjet - Smart escapes

Time is precious, so why waste your time at congested prisons, overcrowded correctional facilites or on jammed court rooms. With just a simple call, you can travel from Korydallo and be: Dining at sunset on beautiful Paros in only 40 minutes, Enjoying life and atmosphere at Mykonos in 45 minutes, Taking in the stunning views from the volcanic island of Santorini in only 65 minutes, or fly in 75 minutes to the beautiful island of Patmos, and avoid spending 11 hours in a police cell. The choice is yours. All you need to do is skim through a map, pick out any point and we will do the rest.

Ein volk, ein reich, ein kinito mono me syndesi

Επί πλέον ο υπουργός Δικαιοσύνης δήλωσε πως η κυβέρνηση αποφάσισε να λάβει τα εξής μέτρα:

1.- Ειδική νομοθετική ρύθμιση για την κατάργηση ανωνυμίας του κατόχου καρτοκινητών τηλεφώνων.

Thank you for choosing Paleokostas Airlines

"Ladies and gentlemen, welcome onboard Flight 4B7 with service from Korydallo.

We ask that you please fasten your seatbelts at this time and secure all explosive devices underneath your seat or in the overhead compartments. We also ask that weapons are in the upright position for take-off. Please turn off all personal electronic devices, including tazors and IEDs. Shooting is prohibited for the duration of the flight.

Thank you for choosing Paleokostas Airlines. Enjoy your flight."

Come fly with me, come fly, fly away

If you put this story in a movie nobody would believe you.

Prison Break - take two

Prison Break - Escape from Athena (2009)

Whenever I hear the authorities express shock or outrage about some police gaff or prison foul up like the one we say yesterday in which the same two prisoners escaped the the same jail in exactly the same way then I can't but be reminded of Casablanca, the scene in which Captain Renault the corrupt Vichy French official suddenly "discovers" that Rick's Cafe is also a casino and has it closed down.

Rick: How can you close me up? On what grounds?
Captain Renault: I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!
[a croupier hands Renault a pile of money]
Croupier: Your winnings, sir.
Captain Renault: [sotto voce] Oh, thank you very much.
Captain Renault: Everybody out at once!

Or in the case of the Greek Minister for Justice, Nikos Dendias, quoted in CNN;

"I will not tolerate this embarrassment and all necessary measures will be taken, no matter how stringent they may be."

The problem is that the government said exactly the same thing in 2006 when the Paleokostas and Razai escaped by helicopter for the first time, then promptly ignored all problems once the media spotlight went somewhere else.

In the meantime the prison system has been widely condemned by outsiders for its violence, corruption and lack of oversight by a number of organisations such as the CPT (European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment)in 2005 and 2007. Yet the government has done virtually nothing to address the problems, hoping that spin is always much cheaper and effective than policy

Once you turn a blind eye to such behaviour you are just asking for trouble as those involved in a rotten system start to believe that have been given carte blanche to act in any way they see fit.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Prisoners escape Greek jail by copter for second time

For the second time in three years the same convicted bank robbers, Vasilis Paleokostas and Alket Razai have escaped from Greece's largest prison, Korydallos in exactly the same manner. Little after 4pm a helicopter took the inmates from the prison yard so repeating their previous escape attempt in 2006 from the same jail when the pair used a hi-jacked copter.

Despite government promises in 2006 that steps would be taken to avoid a repetition of the previous prison attempt local media report say that no additional measures had been taken to prevent another airbourne escape.

Prison guards inside the prison shot at the helicopter as it was leaving as did a platoon of riot police positioned outside the main entrance resulting in the injury of one officer whose weapon went off as he was taking it out of his holster.

Questions still remain over how exactly the two prisoners who were being held in isolation at the time managed to get out into the prison yard. However, the Greek prison system has been severely criticised in a series of Human rights and European Union reports for lack of supervision and oversight.

In its 2007 report the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhumanor Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) noted that just one officer was on duty during their visit supervising 446 prisoners on the facility's C Wing and that in other wings no more than three officers were present.

In addition severe overcrowding, violence, rampant drug use and primitive health care facilities are some of the problems facing the country's prison system.

Timo Behrendt, a 31 German national who was arrested during a demonstration outside the university of Thessaloniki in 2008 and held for more than four months before being released also spoke of random violence meted out to inmates by gaurds, organised gangs and the pervasive drugs trade that goes on under the noses of the authorities in an interview today in the local Macedonia newspaper.

Both Paleokostas and Razai were both due to appear in court tomorrow to face charges connected with their previous escape.

Little devil.

Little devil., originally uploaded by Teacher Dude's BBQ.

Saturday, February 21, 2009


Sci - Fi Friday (delayed)

A little late, I know but yesterday was quite hectic, what between writing articles, editing videos, processing photos, having an interview and teaching. But without further ado is this week's addition to Sci-Fi Friday, Howard Hawk's 1951 classic The Thing from Another World. As IMDB puts it;

"Scientist at an Arctic research station discover a spacecraft buried in the ice. Upon closer examination, they discover the frozen pilot. All hell breaks loose when they take him back to their station and he is accidentally thawed out!"

What makes this movie stand out from its "guy in a monster suit" contemporaries is the witty dialogue and interesting ideas.

For other classics such as Santa Claus Conquers the Martians and The Brain That Wouldn't Die check out Classic Cinema Online.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Tsiknopempti - Τσικνοπεμπτη

"Tsikna is the smell of charred meat, and the word pempti means "Thursday" so the whole word Tsiknopempti loosely translates to "Barbecue Thursday," and is similar to Fat Thursday in other countries. This year, Tsiknopempti falls on Thursday, February 19th.

In the Greek tradition, Tsiknopempti (say: tseek-no-PEMP-tee) is a day celebrated with great gusto. City and town governments set up grills in central squares, musicians stroll around playing traditional instruments, and great quantities of roasted meats are consumed in the midst of the Carnival atmosphere. And it isn't only central squares in cities and towns that will be filled with the smell of fabulous meats cooking over hot coals - our backyard grills and fireplaces will be fired up as well and the countryside fills with wonderful aromas. "

Riot police sent in to quell Greek carnival disturbances

Teenager block Mitropoleos St on Tsiknopempti

Greek riot police were deployed against teenagers who had blocked roads in the centre of Greece's second city, Thessaloniki last night during Carnivali celebrations, the Greek Orthodox equivalent of Mardi Gras.

Hundreds of teenagers burned garbage bins, let off fireworks and hurled objects at the platoons of riot police on duty in the centre of the port city. The officers accompanied fire engines which quickly doused the fires in Mitropoleos St.

Traditionally, Tsiknopempti or "Burnt Thursday" marks the countdown to the start of Lent for Greek Orthodox Christians and is celebrated by fancy dress parties and carnivals across the country. However, the usually raucous atmosphere was more charged than previous years, a reflection that the effects of the riots and protests that swept Greece in December and January following the police shooting of a 15 year old are still being felt.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Afghanistan surge ? Sir, No Sir.

With the US about to send another 17,000 more ground troops to Afghanistan to add to the 36,000 already there it seems appropriate to remind ourselves that in the past ordinary people fought against such foreign adventures and brought them to a halt by just saying no.

David Ziegler's 2005 documentary, Sir, No Sir traces the grass root movement amongst GIs to stop the war in Vietnam. As they say themselves

"Sir, No Sir tells the long suppressed story of the GI movement to end the war in Vietnam. This is the story of one of the most vibrant and widespread upheavals of the 1960’s- one that had a profound impact on American society yet has been virtually obliterated from the collective memory of that time."

To see the whole film click on the image below.

And to find out about a similar movement in the Greek military check out the Diktios Spartakos network. It's in Greek but you can translate this into English using Google translation tools.

Mad, bad and nowhere to be seen

The temperature is rising in Greece as over the last 48 hours there has been a machine gun attack on TV station in the capital, a massive car bomb defused, a professor beaten while giving a talk at the university of Athens. Not to mention yesterday passers by beat a mugger to death here in Thessaloniki and yet another asylum seeker committed suicide while in police custody near Athens airport.

And where are the police during all this? Your guess is as good as mine considering there are far more per head of population here than in most European countries. If they are as successful in dealing with the latest terrorist groups and they were with 17th November revolutionary organisation then we can expect arrests some time around 2038.

Mad, bad and nowhere to be seen.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


Star child

Goodbye love
Didn't know what time it was the lights were low oh how
I leaned back on my radio oh oh
Some cat was layin' down some rock n roll lotta soul, he said
Then the loud sound did seem to fade a ade
Came back like a slow voice on a wave of phase ha hase
That weren't no d.j. that was hazy cosmic jive

There's a starman waiting in the sky
He'd like to come and meet us
But he thinks hed blow our minds
There's a starman waiting in the sky
Hes told us not to blow it
Cause he knows its all worthwhile
He told me:
Let the children lose it
Let the children use it
Let all the children boogie

I had to phone someone so I picked on you ho ho
Hey, that's far out so you heard him too! o o
Switch on the tv we may pick him up on channel two
Look out your window I can see his light a light
If we can sparkle he may land tonight a light
Dont tell your poppa or hell get us locked up in fright

Theres a starman waiting in the sky
He'd like to come and meet us
But he thinks hed blow our minds
There's a starman waiting in the sky
Hes told us not to blow it
Cause he knows its all worthwhile
He told me:
Let the children lose it
Let the children use it
Let all the children boogie

Starman waiting in the sky
He'd like to come and meet us
But he thinks he'd blow our minds
There's a starman waiting in the sky
Hes told us not to blow it
Cause he knows its all worthwhile
He told me:
Let the children lose it
Let the children use it
Let all the children boogie

La, la, la, la, la, la, la, la
La, la, la, la, la, la, la, la
La, la, la, la, la, la, la, la
La, la, la, la, la, la, la, la
La, la, la, la, la, la, la, la
La, la, la, la, la, la, la, la
La, la, la, la, la, la, la, la
La, la, la, la, la, la, la, la
La, la, la, la, la, la, la, la
La, la, la, la, la, la, la, la
La, la, la, la, la, la, la, la
La, la, la, la, la, la, la, la

Monday, February 16, 2009



I was looking through some photos when I came across this one taken at a recent exhibition at the museum of Photography here in Thessaloniki called "Currents".

"At the Thessaloniki Museum of Photography, Warehouse A’, 1st floor, Port of Thessaloniki.

The Greeks wondered: the rivers never stop flowing in the sea. And yet, the level of the sea never rises. The Greeks reflect and cannot find any other enlightening explanation for this mystery, just one unavoidable reasoning: it is the sea which creates the rivers. This is where their sources are! And it is the internal fire of the Earth, which through distillation will alleviate the salt from the salt water. In this manner the sea receives what it gives."

Further food price rises hit Greek consumers hard

Supermarket junkie - Greece

While the rest of the economy may be in freefall many of the large national and multi-national companies that dominate the Greek food and drinks industry have raised the price of a range of basic goods far in excess of the official rate of inflation.

This is the third time in twelve months that such increases have been announced further squeezing family budgets already under strain due to the ongoing economic crisis.

Consumer organisations have been quick to call for a boycott of companies considered to be profitering, however the reality remains that the retail cost of food and other everyday essentials remains stubbornly high. Many Greeks of all political persuasions argue that the reason the average consumer pays over the odds is the presence of cartels that choke competition throughout the country.

This week the Greek competition commission imposed a fine of 29.9 million euros on the Swiss food conglomerate Nestle for using its dominant position in the Greek market to shoulder out competitors in supermarkets and other distribution points.

Similarly, energy giants Shell and BP Hellas were fined 50 million Euros for price fixing in November 2008.

Despite such penalties, the right of appeal combined with Greece’s slow moving legal system mean that there is doubt over how much will finally be paid out and when it will be paid.

In addition Greece’s competition commission is itself still embroiled in ongoing scandal following the revelation that some members of the commission allegedly asked for a 2.5 million Euros bribe from Greek diary companies in 2007 in order to reduce 25 million in fines fines imposed upon them for price fixing.

Even before the latest price hikes Greek consumers were paying 66% more than German and Dutch shoppers for basic supermarket items. As a result last year Greek food sales saw their first decline since 1974, a further indication that even before the global financial crisis many of the country’s poorest were cutting down on basics.

As the global slowdown starts to affect Greece’s most important economic sectors; tourism, shipping and construction doubts have been voiced about how much more lower income Greeks can cut from their family budgets

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Battle of Algiers (1966)

Click on the picture above to see the whole movie with English Subtitles.

The Battle of Algiers (Italian: La battaglia di Algeri) is a 1966 black-and-white film by Gillo Pontecorvo based on events during the 1954-1962 Algerian War against French rule.

The film depicts an episode in the war of independence in then-French Algeria, in the capital city of Algiers. It reconstructs the events of November 1954 to December 1960 in Algiers during the Algerian War of Independence, beginning with the organization of revolutionary cells in the Casbah. From there, it depicts the conflict between native Algerians and European settlers (pied-noirs) in which the two sides exchange acts of increasing violence, leading to the introduction of French paratroopers, under the direction of General Massu and then Colonel Bigeard, to root out the National Liberation Front (FLN). The paratroopers are depicted as "winning" the battle by neutralizing the whole FLN leadership through assassination or capture. However, the film ends with a coda, depicting demonstrations and rioting by native Algerians for independence, in which it is suggested that though the French have won the Battle of Algiers, they have lost the war.

Battle of Algiers - Ennio Morricone

Greek government fights for its political life

Latest opinion poll results show that nearly half of Greek voters believe that neither of the country’s two major political parties is capable of governing. The ruling right - wing New Democracy was given an approval rating of just 16% whilst the opposition centre left PASOK party polled just 17%.

The results underline the massive lack of trust in the present political system which has been exacerbated by the recent economic downturn, a series of high profile corruption scandals and the wave of violent confontations which swept Greece In December and January.

This week doctors and other health care officials took industrial action for 48 hours in order to protest the chronic staff and equipment shortages that have plagued the public health care system for years.

A senior doctor at a hospital in Thessaloniki, Greece’s second city, speaking on condition of anonymity said that his department had just a third of the nurses required. In addition lack of staff means that Greek hospitals are regularly demanding doctors work more than the European Union mandated limit of 48 hours a week.

There have also been complaints over shortages of basic supplies such as bandages and medicine in many hospitals caused by cuts in funding by the Ministry of Health and massive delays in paying medical suppliers for previous orders.

The death of a 58 year old man this week in a ambulance taking him to hospital in Thessaloniki sparked off a political row when it came out that the man died as paramedics were unable to revive him following a heart attack as their resuscitator was missing parts. Although a coroner's report said that the death was unrelated to the heart attack, doctors who treated the man are adamant he could have been saved if the ambulance's equipment had been in working order.

The strike action is just one of a series of protests which has seen the government pitched against students, farmers, cleaners and even police officers.

Whilst the riots and street clashes that were sparked off by the killing of a teenager in December have faded from the world’s TV screens violent confrontations have continued albeit on a smaller scale.

Last week Thessaloniki saw riots in which 500 - 1000 demonstrators attacked the city’s central police station and take part in running street battles for hours. In addition there were 17 arson attacks on Friday by a revolutionary organisation calling itself the Conspiracy of the Cores of Fire.

Even more violent have been the armed attacks on police stations in Athens which left one police officer seriously injured after being shot while standing guard outside the Ministry of Culture signalling a rekindling of terrorism in the country.

Political and economic woes have added to calls for national elections by many unhappy with the government’s handling of a wide range of everyday issues such as employment, education and law enforcement.

Currently, Prime minister Kostas Karamanlis has just a slim one seat majority in parliament and is facing a series of clashes within his own cabinet as ministers manouever to position themselves for the possibility of national elections and a subsequent leadership battle.

Sin City Salonika

Sin City Salonika

"Ποινή φυλάκισης 12 μηνών με τριετή αναστολή επέβαλε το Τριμελές Εφετείο Θεσσαλονίκης στο νομάρχη Παναγιώτη Ψωμιάδη, κρίνοντάς τον ένοχο για το αδίκημα της παράβασης καθήκοντος.

Η υπόθεση αφορούσε μείωση προστίμου σε πρατήριο υγρών καυσίμων -πρόστιμο το οποίο είχε επιβάλει προκάτοχος του κ. Ψωμιάδη."

Panagiotis Psomiadis, leader of the Thessaloniki county council (prefecture) has been found guilty of neglect of duty and sentenced to a suspended sentence of 12 months. The conviction came after Psomiadis was accused of reducing a 89,000 euro fine imposed on a gas station owner for adulterating fuel to 5000.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Sci-fi Friday

I thought that I would start a new idea. Every Friday I will post a full length sci-fi movie or TV episode. They will be the kind of things that you don't usually come across in your local video club or perhaps haven't been shown for years on TV channels, so don't expect Star Wars or anything else so mainstream.

To start off with here is Quatermass and the Pit (1967) which I saw when I was young and remember scaring the living daylights out of me.

"While digging a new subway line in London, a construction crew discovers first: a skeleton, then what they think is an old World War II German missle. Upon closer examination the "missile" appears to be not of this earth!"

If you have any suggestions or know of sites which stream such movies online, let me know.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The bird is the word

Bird is the word

A Matter of Life and Death

A Matter of Life and Death

"A Matter of Life and Death (1946) is a romantic fantasy film set in the Second World War by the British writer-director-producer team of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. It was originally released in U.S. under the title Stairway to Heaven, which was derived from the film's most prominent special effect: a broad escalator linking the Other World and Earth. Reversing the convention of The Wizard of Oz, the supernatural scenes are in black-and-white, while the ones on Earth are in Technicolor."

Kicking the essay in the 21st century

I have a student who is a classic example of a brilliant learner who is ill served by traditional teaching methods. A mercurial but easily distracted mind capable of absorbing huge amounts of information but at the same time one which finds it hard to stick to the determinedly linear classroom process.

Of course, we are all bound by the system we are part of and this means that we have to prepare people for exams, teach skills which as essay writing and the like. However, this doesn't mean we don't have some say in the way we do this and I think that the following idea is a good example of how we can twist the demands of the curriculum into a different shape.

Basically, the idea is that we work on our essay writing skills in a more conventional way and then use the essay as the basis for something more meaningful i.e present our ideas and arguments in the form of a video. On the most unimaginative level this could involvs just reading it to camera (yawn, yawn) but I think that using clips from Youtube, pictures off the internet and editing applications such as Windows Movie Maker (if you own a PC you already have it) to turn it into a mini - documentary complete with voice over, quotes and text.

As you can imagine the possibilities are endless. I have already done this with my students and was pleasantly surprised by the imagination and sophistication employed to convey his message. Best of all, the exercise combines the intellectual rigour involved in discursive writing with opportunities for creativity and self - expression.

The future is already here

This year I decided that I wasn't going to work anymore in language schools (or frontisterio as they are called in Greek). It wasn't just the low wages or lack of job security that prompted the decision but also the fact that nothing seems to change.

Actually, that is a lie there has been lots of change but none of it forward. Responding to the growth in choice in exams students can take most schools have a curriculum that amounts to little more than doing old test papers for years on end. I just couldn't face doing that for another year as it would amount to undergoing a voluntary lobotomy.

Instead I decided that I would do just private lessons not simply because the pay is better and people treat you with more respect but also I can teach in a manner that recognises that we are in fact living in the 21st century and not recycling the 19th.

Today I will be teaching the difference between how much and how many in English and the various grammatical rules that these words represents. If I was doing that in a school this would probably mean wading through a chapter of turgid explanations that are dull and difficult for many to understand.

Afterwards, there would be the obligatory pages full of exercise designed to supposedly reinforce the alleged learning that had taken place. Of course, there are students that thrive on such an approach but they are a minority. The majority either find such explanations incomprehensible or mind numbingly boring.

The beauty of computer technology and especially the internet is that it allows us to vary our teaching approach and find alternatives that fit in with how they learn. A case in point would be teaching how much/how many.

One way would be to find a picture of a street, room, fridge etc and then use Flickr notes (click here to see a explanation) to label the image with the correct term. e.g How many apples are there in the fridge? and then get their partners to answer. The picture could then be used to teach the others in the class each person taking turns to use it to teach the rule to the rest of their group or class. Also it could be added to a class/personal blog as part of an electronic portfolio.

Alternatively, you could get students to video (using their cell phones) a classroom, road, home etc and them use Windows Movie Maker (which comes as standard with every copy of Windows) to make a presentation in which the students ask questions such as, how much snow can you see? etc.

See video below on how to use the programme.

As you can see there are just a few of the ways we can use computers and the internet as something more than a glorified course book and allow our students to learn in other ways which fit in with own style.

I've found that when students have access to the internet during a lesson teaching possibilities expand exponentially. Occasionally, this is not possible and I feel that I've gone back, something akin to being forced to use chalk and a slate.