Saturday, December 30, 2006

Lydia's photos

Pictures my daughter took yesterday and today.


I thought long and hard before I decided to post this on my blog. However, it represents what I truly believe. Although I'm not American, I have family who emigrated there and who have prospered, however, I cannot in all good conscious support this war. The final straw was seeing masked thugs hang a man on TV today.Not even a monster as awful as Saddam deserves such as fate. Today I feel a great deal of shame about being a citizen of a nation, in my case, Britain that has allowed this situation to come to pass.

An hour in the life of a city

I made this using Photo Story 3 and pictures I took over the last couple of weeks. They come from Ano Poli, Ladadika, Langada St and Egnatia St in Thessaloniki.

The music is by The Crystal Method.

My Top 10 of 2006

Photo by Teacher Dude

In keeping with the spirit of this time of year I’ve decided to compile my own top ten sites on the internet for 2007. They are in no particular order and represent no more than my own personal preference. They are all ones I’ve visited or used regularly over the last 12 months.

1 - YouTube. Whether it’s looking for an obscure music video or finding a forum to display your latest mini - epic then this is the place. For me the site has given my two great opportunities; as a teacher it allows me to show students a way to share their own videos and so gives them an incentive to get to grips with the often complicated technology involved. As a budding film maker (hey, stop giggling there at the back!) it has meant that I can try out ideas that I’ve had floating around for years and see what people think.

2 - Flickr - Since I got broadband my use of Flickr has really taken off. It has reawakened my love of photography that has lain dormant for nearly 20 years. I’m now starting to use the site in my teaching practice, both as a means of getting student reaction and a way for them to reach out to the outside world by sharing their photos. See here and here to see some examples.

3 -In Our Time - This BBC podcast, hosted by Melvyn Bragg has been a source of joy for me over the last year. Every week Bragg hosts a discussion on different topics, which range from the role Indian mathematics to the fall of Constantinople. Philosophy, science, art, history and politics are all discussed in way that neither excludes the non - expert nor patronises them.

4 -Ted Talks - I can’t remember where exactly I came across the link to this site, but I do remember the blog saying if you listen to two or three of these ( you can either see them as video or listen to them as a podcast) in a row then it will change the way you see the world. A big claim but one I feel is true. Every year TED holds a conference and ask people with new and innovative ideas to talk for just 20 minutes. The results are amazing. What to recommend first? Check out Bono’s acceptance speech (he won a Ted award in 2006) or Negroponte on the 100 dollar laptop. Do yourself a favour and set aside time to see two or three talks - you won’t regret it.

5 - Cool Cat Teacher’s Blog - Whenever I want to know what I would like to do in the future as far as the web and teaching goes then all I have to do is go to this wonderful blog full of inspiring and practical ideas. It shows what “ordinary” teachers can do if they have drive, enthusiasm and imagination. If anyone is pushing the envelope in education then it is Vicki Davis. I wonder if her students realise how lucky they are?

6 - This school site, or to be more accurate collection of blogs cobbled together to look like a unified site is another inspiring story. Originally set up by the headmaster of the Georgia middle school it gets more than 1,5 million visits per month. It is a great example of how a few dedicated people using limited resources can produce a fabulous place for their students to express themselves. It has really opened my eyes to what I could do with blogs.

7 - Sitemeter - This addictive site is everything a narcassistic blogger could want for. Find out everything about people visiting your site from what screen resolution they’re using to how they found you on Google.

8 - Skype video - I still find this technology as amazing as if they’d brought out a tractor beam or matter transporter.Chatting with my family In England on their video service is an awesome experience, epecially when you consider that it costs nothing!!!!!!!!! Also try out Skypecasting as a way of getting in touch with other people across the globe.

9 - is a site dedicated to allowing student bloggers to get in touch with one another wherever they are in the world. I have just started to exploit the possibilities this offers with my students. Next year is going to see some really exciting possibilities as far as my own student bloggers are concerned as they start to get feedback on their class and individual blogs.

10 Technorati is to blogging what Google is to search engines and so has been one of my favourite destinations on the web. It’s a wonderful way to see into thousands of disparate lives, to flit across the face of the planet in a matter of minutes or truly discover what it is to be a different person for hours.

What about you? What's your top ten for 2006?

Looking back at 2006

At long last, my lonely struggle as Greece’s premier - (read only) edublogger has paid off. Yep, I’ve been awarded Time magazine’s person of the year award. I know, it came as a shock to me as well, I didn’t even know I was even in the running.

Just kidding, It seems “you”, faithful blog reader have also been given the same honour, so let’s congratulate you on this unexpected recognition of your valiant efforts.

Actually, this has been my year as far as the internet is concerned. Even though I’ve been using the web on and off for nearly a decade, it has only been over the last year or so that I’ve really felt that it is a tool I can use actively, an area in which I can express myself and contribute.

Blogging is the most obvious expression of this new found confidence, however, I have also been posting things on YouTube, Flickr and Wiki. All in all, I feel that the claims I have heard repeated so many times over the last decades about the potential of computers has finally come true. Finally, science fiction is becoming everyday reality.

For me the most amazing thing about all this for me, personally is the fact that that blogs, videos and photos and wikispaces I’ve posted have had 30,000 visits during 2006. Not a large number for those who regularly get those kinds of visits in a week or a day, but for me it is a mind blowing number as I never in my wildest dreams thought that so many people would be interested in what I had to say or show.

This year I think I’ve learnt more than at any other time in the last ten years, not since I finished my masters in teaching have I been exposed to so many new ideas. As far as teaching is concerned I’ve seen an acceleration in my application of new ideas and approaches in the classroom.

I feel that this just the beginning and that in the next couple of years I’ll throw off the shackles of my old style teaching practice in order to really make the web 2.0 tools available really work to their best advantage. That means seeing the internet tools such as blogging, vlogging, podcasts, wiki and the like not merely as away of enriching course books but a way of completely changing our teaching approaches.

I haven’t got there yet as I’m still learning - it’s a pretty steep learning curve- but also because I’m waiting for Greece’s internet infrastructure to catch up with my ambitions. Broadband still remains a novelty and prices for simple dial - up connections high. Hopefully, that will change in the next couple of years and so I’ll be able to rely on students having access to fast connections at home. Who knows, the school may even buy some PCs so enabling me to show students in more detail how to use the internet more effectively.

So here’s looking forward to a great 2007.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Adding to your blog

Here are something useful things you can put on your blog to liven it up.

Video - The easiest way is to go to YouTube, choose a video and copy the box that says "embed". Paste it in your blog post. Also check out if you want to create your own movies online.

Photos - You can put photos from Flickr directly if you sign up, just click the "blog this" link.

Presentations - SlideShare allows you to post your Power Point, Open Office and Keynote presentations on your blog.

Slide shows - allows you to create your own slide show, using photos from your PC, Flickr page, other blogs or basically anything on the net.

Music/audio - Add's playtagger and you can listen to mp3's on the web directly on your blog.

Site meters - To find out who's looking at your site then there are lots of choices. Clustermap offers you a small map which shows the location of your visitors. Geovisitors gives you more detail and if you have Google Earth then you can zoom in on people's location. Finally, Google Anayltics and Sitemeter give you all the stats you could ever want for.

Chat - Meebo allows you to chat directly with your visitors. Skype also allows you do the same if you have it installed.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Photos from Thessaloniki

For more photos click here.

Using Flickr for teaching

For second language teachers, Flickr can be an endless source of ideas for lessons and projects. I'm using Andrew Wright's Pictures for Language Learning as a template for many of my English lessons. Originally written in 1989, it is a great source ideas for using images as teaching tools, almost as if it was awaiting for the advent of the internet and photo sharing services.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Learning from your mistakes

I'm not sure quite how this happened, but by pure chance (read - my ignorance) instead of posting about Slide, a site that allows you to post your photos in the form of a slide show, I ended up writing about SlideShare which allows you post presentations. Inadvertently, I learnt how to do a presentation using Open office Impress (I don't have Power Point on the laptop - too expensive) in order to put some photos on the blog. Oh well, καθε εμποδιο σε καλο (every cloud has a silver lining).

By the way, I took these photos a couple of hours ago.

New stuff

I keep on seeing SlideShare on blogs I read so I thought I'd try it out for myself. It allows you to share your Power Point, Keynote and Open Office presentations with others on the net.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Happy Holidays

I hope everyone who was celebrating today and yesterday had a great time. Greeting from Thessaloniki. Here's looking forward to a wonderful New Year!!!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Tonight's photos

Which Christmas movie are you?

My first reaction was Jaws, considering how much we're going to eat in the next few days but apparently it is;

Your Christmas is Most Like: How the Grinch Stole Christmas

You can't really get into the Christmas spirit...
But it usually gets to you by the end of the holiday.

Thanks to Theodora P for putting me onto this site. Now I'm off to do some last minute, i.e all my shopping.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Today's video

Something I've been working on over the last few days. Today I had the chance to finish it.


I can't remember the last time I wanted to see a movie so much. I saw this trailer and freaked out. Boy's own stuff indeed!!!!

"A thousand nations of the Persian empire descend upon you. Our arrows will blot out the sun.

Then we will fight in the shade."

Carl Sagan

I guess when I was growing I lucked out as far as teachers were concerned. Although I had some awful ones (who hasn't?) I was fortunate to be taught by people who cared enough to share their passion for learning with others. However, as well as my teachers in school, I had teachers on TV, that medium we so like to deride for its supposed stupidity. Carl Sagan, who died 10 years ago on the 20th December was, perhaps the most brilliant of those TV sages. His series, Cosmos changed my life forever, implanting in me a sense of curiosity about how the world works that has yet to be extinguished. Because of his series I continued with my science education at school - although, it must be added that it is not my strongest suit.

I still flip through my copy of the book of the series, which I bought 25 years ago. I've never stopped being awed by the breadth of the knowledge it contains and the humanistic values it champions.

Submitted to the Carl Sagan blog-a-thon

In Our Time - The siege of Constantinople


When Sultan Mehmet the Second rode into the city of Constantinople on a white horse in 1453, it marked the end of a thousand years of the Byzantine Empire. After holding out for 53 days, the city had fallen. And as one contemporary witness described it: “The blood flowed in the city like rainwater in the gutters after a sudden storm”. It was the end of the classical world and the crowning of an Ottoman Empire that would last until 1922."

For more click here. The programme will be available as a podcast after the 28th December.

Here's my take on the subject.

Looking for videos

I came across Blinkx while checking out The Guardian's 100 most useful web sites article. It's a search engine which specialises in finding videos and a cool feature is that it shows the results in the form of a video wall. Click here to see what you get if you put "ESL".

Friday, December 22, 2006

How did that happen?

That can't be right! If you put "protest email" in the Google search engine, I'm either first or second on their list. I'm now officially freaked out.

Photo came from Ian Richardson's Flickr page. See here.

Teaching young EFL/ESL learners

For the last three months Ive been doing private lessons with young learners, ten year olds with just one year of English. To tell you the truth, it's not something that I really wanted to do as teaching this age group requires a completely different approach and as I'm used to working with teens and adults I wasn't sure I could do it properly.However, my friends insisted and I felt that not to do so would mean letting them down.

Now, here is the strangest thing, I really love doing this. It's incredibly hard work and I have to work twice as hard as I usually do, but the pay off is the great deal of enthusiasm that my younger learners bring to the lessons. It's a real buzz. I'm lucky in that I have a course book that really is a joy to teach. The Chatterbox series embodies all the teaching ideas that I think are vital to language learning, irrespective of age; fun, engagement, use and action.

However, I thought I'd add my own hi-tech twist by using my digital camera in the lessons in order to record them doing the various songs and comic strips that the book has. I, then put them on my ibook and let them see them. If they are not happy with their performance then we do it all over again. It's great feedback

In contrast with older learners, my younger students love seeing and hearing themselves.

Was that the fat lady I heard warming up?

After 5.30pm I'm officially on holiday!!!!! I can't wait to do nothing, as these last few weeks have been exhausting.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


Teaching using Flickr

Instead of wading through through yet another page of boring grammar exercise to "help" my students understand the various uses of modal verbs, I decided to use Flickr instead. The basic ideas is that you use the images from the site in order to make guesses about what you can see. For example, use pictures from various parts of the world to practice making deductions about where the photo was taken.

"The picture must be from somewhere cold as all the things are made of ice.

It can't be from Greece as we don't have such shows."

When talking about deductions in the past Flickr provides a wealth of learning possibilities. Choose a dramatic image and ask you student what they think might have happened just before the photo was taken.

"The driver of the car must have been seriously injured.

The lorry driver may have been drunk."

Last night's wine and cheese party at the school

Well, I don't know about the rest of you but I had a great time. For more photos check out my Flickr page here.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The classroom of the future?

While getting my daily dose of news at the BBC site I came across this story about the Broadclyst community primary school in England that claims to have on of the most technologically advanced classrooms in the country. While you have to applaud any educational authority that invests so heavily in technology for learning I'm not sure if this my idea of the perfect classroom.

For me it's layout betrays a very old fashioned idea of what a classroom is all about as everything is focused on the teacher and the positions are fixed. This means that group work is made more difficult and movement between places is hampered. If you keep in mind that the school if for 7 to 11 year olds it seems to expect a high degree of regimentation from learners so young.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Over the last week or so I've been asking my students to check out the site, which plays host to EFL/ESL student blogs from all over the world. Already many students from Brazil have started commenting on our class blogs and I'm hoping that my students reciprocate.

What I want to do next is set up a site or YouTube groups where students can post videos that show some aspect of their lives. In our last lesson I introduced the Proficiency 2c class to the idea of using photos to make a video. The idea is that they use a program such as Microsoft's Photo Story 3 or Windows Movie Maker to make a video about Thessaloniki, to give people from outside Greece a sense of what the city is like in two minutes or less. Think of it as a cross between a pop video and a TV ad. Also what I want to do is then invite students from other places to add theirs.


Saturday, December 16, 2006


A few weeks ago I talked about a story that had shocked Greece (see here). A Cypriot student, arrested for supposedly taking part in a violent November 17th demonstration in Thessaloniki was publicly beaten to a bloody pulp by plain clothes police officers in full view of their uniformed superiors and the nations' cameras (see here for the video).

It now seems that the officers involved will not face any serious charges and in all probability will not even lose their jobs. Now, these events may sound unimportant, the actions of a few misguided individuals, however, you have to see these actions in the light of modern Greek history. State sanctioned torture, "disappearances" and the like are not things you read about in the history books here, they're things you uncle tells you about, stories that are passed on by your parents. When the police are able to act with impunity, even in the full light of publicity then you can understand the worries many people have.

"What they really mean is that it will only be over till the next time."

Imagining Argentina

Tonights' photos

Friday, December 15, 2006

Student blogs

This week I realised that the blogs I and my students set up this year had closed comments, i.e. only people registered with Blogger could comment on them. As I'm usually logged into my Blogger account when I look at our blogs this hadn't been apparent. So, sorry to anyone who has wanted to get in contact (they are now all open to comment from anyone).

Class blogs

Dp1 class are all junior high school students, preparing for the PET exams in English in May 2007 (i.e intermediate level.

LC1 is a class of 13 to 16 years olds who are going to take the FCE in May, 2007 i.e. upper intermediate level English learners.

Proficiency 1E
is a class of adult, mainly university students who are preparing for the ECPE or CPE in 2007/8. i.e. advanced level learners of English.

Proficiency 2C is a class of adult, mainly university students who are going to do the CPE/ECPE exams next summer. i.e. advanced level learners.

Individual student blogs

Retziki Girl Strikes Back - Pheobe, who is in junior high school, is preparing for the CPE in 2008, she passed FCE last summer.

Skywalker Greece
is a junior high school student who is going to take the FCE exams next summer.

Eos Forever is a high school student who is going to do the PET exams next summer.

Morpheas in Greece
is a fifth grader who has just started lesson with me this year.

Digital storytelling

I should have guessed it. I've been working on producing videos without video cameras over the last few weeks. The idea is that students use still photographs, either their own or images taken off the internet to create a video which can be posted on their blogs. A quick delve into the web has revealed that there are loads of educators doing the same thing. I came across a particular good site called Educational Uses of Digital Storytelling at the University of Houston that has lots of information on using Microsoft's Photo Story 3 (check out their tutorial pages) and great examples of projects that students can use for inspiration.

In addition, courtesy of a blogger writing in Romania (see here) I came across Comic Life a program that allows you to create comics using your photos. I know of at least one student who is going to love that idea. The only problem is that it is only for Mac OSX. If anyone knows of a similar program for Windows, please contact me.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

An Ending - Ascent by Brian Eno

Inspired by Brian Eno's 77 million paintings I decided to make this video using An Ending, also by Eno. All photographs used were taken in Thessaloniki over the last week or so. You can check out the originals at my Flickr page.

All this was done using Microsoft's Photo Story 3, which you can download free from their site. The only problem is that you need Windows Media Player 10 (but you can also download that as well, free from here).

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Learning Greek in Russia

I came across this video on YouTube and it's interesting to see how language learning goes on in different places.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Sarah McLachlan - World on Fire

This video (click here) made me stop and think on so many levels; humanitarian, technological, educational. We're on the verge of a new paradigm in communication. One in which high quality forms of content can be made, and more radically, distributed all over the planet. In a sense we're once again entering the world of the popular printing press, in which small groups or individuals can compete with large media corporations for people's attention.

Thanks to Teacher In Development for posting it on his blog, otherwise I probably would never have heard about it.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

"And suddenly there was another voice."

At long last I've come across another Greek student of English blogging. It's just a beginning, but as they say, "from small acorns....."

Click here to check out Theodora's blog.

Student vlogging

I've been doing some video interviews with my students over the last week. The idea is that we then put them on their blogs (via YouTube). Usually, we both write a list of unusual questions that are going to be asked and then the students decides which ones they'll answer in the interview. We rehearse the interview once or twice and then record it.

Just remember to tell the student that we'll only post the video when they're absolutely happy with their performance. So here is Skywalker's interview.

In Our Time

One of my favourite sites on the net is the BBC's In Our Time podcast which is a weekly radio programme in which Melvin Bragg talks about various historical, philosophical and artistic topics. For example;

If you want a work out for those dying brain cells then this is the place. Each week's episode can be downloaded as a podcast for a week after transmission. After that you can listen to them on your PC but not download them. Just one thing, you'll need to download Real Player (it's about 10mb) to listen to the programmes in the archive.

Also they are great listening practice for my students.

Teaching using film music

Here is an activity that I tried a few times over the last week with a lot of success. It can be done by all levels above intermediate. You'll need music from three different movies, preferably ones that your students haven't seen.

Lesson Plan

1 Tell your students that they are going to hear three pieces of music that come from a movie. What they have to do is think of;


2 Make sure that they understand what genre means, if necessary, give examples or elicit different ones from the class.

3 Also make sure that where it says scene the students should write down what they think is happening at this point in the film, e.g. the hero is fighting with a two -headed alien at the top of the Empire State Building.

4 Play one to two minutes from the soundtrack.

5 Students compare their answers which each other. Elicit answers from the class. If a student knows the film then ask them to be the teacher and talk about the film.

6 Repeat these steps twice more.

7 Write on the board;

who where when which why how what

Now ask students to write down questions to ask you about the films from which you took the music.

8 Answer the questions.

Getting the word out

Edublogging in Thessaloniki is spreading. Theodora P has set up a blog for her German language class. She says that the boys have really been taken to the idea and are now producing much more language as a result. So why not check it out.

Just one more image

We did this as an experiment.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Abstract art for seven year olds

Tonight it was photography evening for Nasia, Lydia and me. Here are the results;

We all had a lot of fun. To see some more click here.