Saturday, November 28, 2009

10 Digital Writing Opportunities You Probably Know and 10 You Probably Don't

St. Augustine writing, revising, and re-writin...Image via Wikipedia
How can technology best and most effectively support the writing process and improve outcomes? ESL or emerging writers can use the10 literacy/writing tools the linked list below to practice writing. Likewise teachers should be aware of them. Many are basic yet still powerful tools to support writing in the classroom. They are in no particular order.

In addition, the list includes 10 alternative tools that either offer a different perspective on digital writing or are a little known tool with huge potential in the classroom.

Not everything is free nor is it online – but the lists should be a source of ideas for self-paced writers looking for writing projects as well as for teachers developing lesson plans for non-fiction or narrative lessons.

10 Digital Writing Opportunities You Probably Know and 10 You Probably Don't

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Different Way to Think About Teaching English Language Learners

Linguistic proficiencies are very complicated. Some students who are monolingual in English may speak heavily accented English. This often results in their being characterized as English-language learners. Some students who speak both English and their home language may still exhibit some limitations in listening, speaking, reading and writing English. Other students are clearly English language learners who are in the process of acquiring the language.

 The following interview is from TOMORROW'S PROFESSOR(sm) eMAIL NEWSLETTER, sponsored by the Stanford Center for Teaching and Learning. comments at

The posting below looks at the challenges of teaching English language learners.. It is #46 in the monthly series called Carnegie Foundation Perspectives and is a interview with Professor of Education at Stanford University, Stanford, California. The Foundation invites your response at:

"A Different Way to Think About Teaching English Language Learners" is by Guadalupe Valdes, a senior partner in the Carnegie Network advising the Foundation in its new work, especially on issues around students who are English language learners. She has written that "as American educators we have a choice, we can isolate English-language learners in our educational institutions or we can choose to develop the full intellectual potential of all our citizens and future citizens."

FYI: TCC 2010 (Apr 20-22): Call for Papers & Presentations

TCC 2010  (Apr 20-22): Call for Papers & Presentations

15th Annual
April 20-22, 2010
Pre-conference dates: April 7-8, 2010

Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow
~ Communication, Community, Ubiquitous Learning, Mobility and Best Choices ~

Submission deadline: January 15, 2010



TCC 2010 invites faculty, support staff, librarians, counselors, student affairs professionals, students, administrators, and educational consultants to submit proposals for papers and general sessions.

Since the first TCC Online Conference, the Internet has evolved into a global workspace for communication, collaboration, and community. People, technologies, services, and perspectives have converged on a single platform.

  • The Internet has changed the teaching profession. How do faculty communicate, collaborate, innovate to produce useful student learning outcomes that differ from past outcomes?
  • College students place high priority on using mobile smart phones and engaging online social communities daily. What can we learn from our students? How do we build on our students' expertise in digital media, personal publishing, and social networking?
  • Web 2.0 will continue to evolve. What effective practices have emerged in online learning? How do we assess student learning? How will smart mobile devices be adapted for learning? What is the institutional affect of virtual worlds such as Second Life?


TCC invites papers and general sessions on the continuing progress of distance learning, virtual communities, collaborative learning, social networking, and best choices for instructional technologies such as:

  • Retrospectives and personal experiences with the evolution of learning technologies
  • Perspectives and applications of Web 2.0 tools for teaching and learning
  • Technology applications that facilitate communication, collaboration, sharing, and social networking
  • Building and sustaining learning communities
  • Instructional applications in virtual worlds (Second Life, etc.)
  • Distance learning including mobile learning
  • Ubiquitous and lifelong learning
  • Open content and open source
  • E-portfolios and other assessment tools
  • Student orientation and preparation
  • Student success and assessment strategies in online learning
  • Student services online (tutoring, advising, mentoring, career planning, technology support, help desk, etc.)
  • Online learning resources (library, learning centers, etc.)
  • Online, hybrid, blended or other modes of technology enhanced learning
  • Professional development for faculty and staff
  • Accessibility for seniors and persons with disabilities
  • Gender equity, digital divide, intercultural understanding, and open access
  • Managing information technology and change in educational institutions
  • Institutional planning and pedagogy catalyzed by technology advances
  • Global learning, ubiquitous learning, and intercultural communication
  • The status of educational technology around the world
  • Other topics related to online learning and the application of educational technologies

This conference accepts proposals in two formats: papers and general sessions. Submissions will be accepted online.

For submission details, see:

To submit a proposal, go to:

The coordinators are especially interested in receiving proposals that involve student collaborators. Fees for student presenters will be waived.

The submission deadline is January 15, 2010.


  • Conduct a 45-minute informal, interactive online session for your paper or general session.
  • Upload a photo and brief professional bio to the conference web site.
  • Respond to questions and comments from conference participants.
  • Participate in a wrap-up session on the day of your presentation.
  • Verify descriptions that will be posted to registered participants before the conference.
  • Respond to email, as appropriate, from the conference and presenters mailing lists.

All presenters are required to register online and pay the conference fee ($99 USD; $149 USD after March 31). Group registration rates for faculty and students are available. Contact Sharon Fowler for details <>.

This conference is held entirely online using a web browser on a computer equipped with a headphones and a microphone. Broadband Internet access is highly recommended.

Organizations or companies interested in becoming a sponsor of this event may contact John Walber of LearningTimes <>.

For additional information, see <>. For further inquiry, contact Bert Kimura <> or Curtis Ho <>.

Technology support and services for this event is provided by our partners at

@VanessaVaileMountainair Arts & Mountainair Announcements

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Now This Sounds Like An Essential Quality A Teacher Should Have…

and then some... very difficult hat trick, probably next to impossible for monolingual native speakers teaching ESL, Composition and literature teacher have a hard time here too because they can't imagine what it is like to freeze in terror at the prospect of writing and find reading too exhausting to find pleasure in it.


Sent to you by none via Google Reader:


via Larry Ferlazzo's Websites of the Day... by Larry Ferlazzo on 11/21/09

The New York Times Book Review printed a very short interview with author Steven Pinker a week last week. It was same issue in which Pinker had written a review of Malcolm Gladwell's newest book.

Here's an excerpt from that interview:

"…Pinker, the author of "How the Mind Works" and "The Blank Slate," acknowledges that academic explainers have their own faults. "Academics lack perspective. In a debate on whether the world is round, they would argue 'no,' because it's an oblate spheroid," he said. "They suffer from 'the curse of knowledge': the inability to imagine what it's like not to know something that they know. That makes them underestimate the sophistication of readers and write in motherese rather than explaining concepts from the ground up."

That sounds like a great quality a teacher should have:

The ability to imagine what it's like not to know something that they know.


Things you can do from here:


Thursday, November 19, 2009

The World’s 50 Best Open Courseware Collections

The list linked represents a handful of hundreds of open courseware initiatives that now exist. The following fifty collections are from English-speaking universities and colleges, located across the U.S. to England, Canada and Australia. Additionally, the list points to open courseware projects such as directories and primary source projects offered by various universities and colleges.

The list is divided into categories and each link is listed in alphabetical order within those categories. This method shows our readers that we do not favor one collection over another.

The World’s 50 Best Open Courseware Collections

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Best Websites For English Language Learner Students — 2009

I recently rediscovered Larry Ferlazzo's wesbsite & all its "bests".... and not for the 1st time. But this time I added it to my feed reader to keep track of it. Expect to see more of it here.


Sent to you by none via Google Reader:


via Larry Ferlazzo's Websites of the Day... by Larry Ferlazzo on 11/17/09

It's time for another year-end "The Best…" list. This one will be sharing my choices for the best eighteen sites to use with English Language Learner students.

Some of these sites may have been around prior to this year, but since I didn't discover them until now, I'm including them on the list.

Please vote in the poll at the bottom of this post and pick your top five. I'm having my students participate in the voting too, so you might want to consider using it as a lesson with your own students.

Here are my choices for The Best Websites For English Language Learner Students – 2009:

Number eighteen: Town Me is a brand-new "Yelp"-like site where users can write reviews of restaurants, stores, tourist attractions, etc.  I'm adding it to The Best Places Where Students Can Write For An "Authentic Audience".  You can read more about the site at TechCrunch.

Number seventeen:  Bluewalks lets you easily create a "walking tour" with text you write and images you can grab off the web.  It's another addition to the "authentic audience" list.

Number sixteen:  BBC Memoryshare is a "place to share and explore memories." The site has a cool-looking timeline where you can access memories that people have written — on just about anything. In addition, and most importantly for this post, you can contribute a memory (after quickly registering at the BBC). Each memory is accessible through the timeline, through a keyword, or through an individual url address.

Number fifteen:  Google expanded their Google Translator Toolkit. It builds on their great Google Translate tool, which is on The Best Reference Websites For English Language Learners — 2008 list.  I'd encourage you to read the post at The English Blog, which gives an excellent explanation of the new application.

Number fourteen: Grapevine is an audio "chatboard" that I'm adding to The Best Sites To Practice Speaking English. It's super-simple to set-up a private forum where students can listen and respond to others and don't have to be online at the same time.  English Language Learners can communicate with other classes around the world, like in our International Sister Classes Project or just be given a simple speaking assignment to complete.  I love its simplicity and ease of use.

Number thirteen: I've posted in the past about how the ability to make easy screencasts — with audio– could be an excellent learning opportunity for English Language Learners (you might want to take a look at that post).  There's now a great tool called Screentoaster that couldn't be more simple to use, and they've just added both the ability to record audio and add subtitles. All you do after you log-in is click on a button, open up the window on your screen that you want to record, and it starts recording your screen.  After that's been recorded, you can provide audio or subtitles.  And it's free.

Number twelve:  Users can create online animations at DoInk. I especially like what sounds like a strict and pro-active policy at ensure classroom appropriate content on the site.

Number eleven: Google also expanded its Google Books service. You can read about all the new additions at TechCrunch. The one that I really like is the feature that lets you embed previews of books into your own blog or website. I'm hoping to use this with students this year. We're going to be doing some work with other classes, and I can see them writing about their books, embedding the preview, and then having other students respond not only to their writing, but to the preview of the book that they will be able to read.

Number ten:  English teacher Renee Manfroid has created many excellent activities for Beginning English Language Learners, including Colors In English. You can see all of her interactives on her main site.

Number nine: English Raven, a site begun by Jason Renshaw, has just gotten even better with a new feature called World News For Kids. Several stories with images and accessible audio are shown each week, and students can participate in an audio forum, too. All that is free. If you are an English Raven member (and it's one of only a very few sites on The Best Educational Web Resources Worth Paying For… list — it only costs $20 per year, but also has a ton of materials that are available without paying), additional great materials are provided.

Number eight: Shahi is a dictionary that combines simple definitions with quite a few Flickr photos. The combination of the two makes it pretty accessible to English Language Learners.

Number seven: Nearly two years ago I posted about an excellent site for Beginning English Language Learners called Kindersay. Then it went off-line. It recently came back online again, so I'm including it in this year's list.

Number six:  Many English Language Learner teachers and students are familiar with Randall's ESL Cyber Listening Lab. It's provided high-quality listening exercises on the web for a longtime. It's now gotten even better with the addition of videos. Video Snapshots for ESL/EFL Students show short video clips along with comprehension quizzes for students to take.

Number five: Pinky Dinky Doo is a new site with a bunch of resources.  I'd encourage you to read a post by Kevin Jarrett that gives a good overview of what it offers.  I'd like to highlight one area of the site that I'm adding to The Best Websites For K-12 Writing Instruction/Reinforcement. It's called Your Story Box, and is basically a simple cloze (gap-fill) activity where users fill-in the blanks with images that are converted into words. Audio support is also provided to the text.

Number four: Speakaboos provides excellent quality "talking stories" on video with closed-captioning — often read by "celebrities."   They say they are also going to add the ability to record stories, as well as offering other online activities.  You can watch the stories without registering, though it appears like you will have to sign-up (for free) in order to record stories.

Number three: Welcome To The Web is really quite an exceptional site that acts as a guide for students to learn how to use the Internet. Audio support is provided for the text and users can save their progress in the tutorial. It's super-accessible.

Number two: BITS Interactive Resources is another one of those sites that was around, then disappeared, and then returned.  It has nineteen "sets" of five different excellent reading activities focusing on "signs, details, matching, gist, and gap."  It's also on The Best Websites For Intermediate Readers.

And now, the number one website for ELL's this year is…a tie between two new applications.

One is Vocabsushi. It's s a neat new — and free — vocabulary learning site. It includes assessments, audio, learning words in context, and games. The only thing it's missing are photos and/or videos, but I guess you can't always have everything. Joyce Valenza has written a post that describes the site in much greater detail. I'd encourage you to read that, and then try out Vocabsushi…

The other number one site is called English Central. David Deubelbeiss has posted a very thorough post about the site titled English Central – Bringing "voice" and output to learning English. I'd strongly encourage you to read it — I don't feel any need to "reinvent the wheel." A quick description is that it's a free video site for English Language Learners, lets users listen to parts of the video, then lets them repeat what the characters says and compares it to the original. You get graded on how well you do. It has even more features, but you can read David's post or check out the site directly. The other great thing about it is that the videos are all appropriate for the classroom, unlike several other ESL video sites that have come online recently.

Below you'll see the poll. Remember, people can only vote once, and I'm asking that you vote for no more than five of them. English Central is a late-comer to the list, so even though it's tied for first, you'll find it last on the actual poll.

Feel free to leave a comment about other sites you think should have been included on this list.

You might also want to look at the other three hundred plus "The Best…" lists.

If you found this post useful, you might want to consider subscribing to this blog for free.


Things you can do from here:


Monday, November 16, 2009

20 Free Resources to Learn English from Home

Not everyone can afford classes or expensive English language learning software. Fortunately, there are many free resources available online that anyone can use to learn English on their own. From free online courses to language learning communities, knowledge can be found with just a click of the mouse. Here are 20 free English language learning resources to explore from the comfort of your own home: 20 Free Resources to Learn English from Home

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Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Best Places Where Students Can Write Online

From Larry Ferlazzo's edublog, Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…  for Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

This “The Best…” list requires a bit of an explanation.

I’ve already posted The Best Websites For K-12 Writing Instruction/Reinforcement.  That list primarily contains links to sites that provide direct writing instruction.  And I’ve also posted several lists of Web 2.0 tools where writing is a key feature to using them, including The Best Ways To Create Online Slideshows, The Best Ways For Students To Create Online Animations, and The Best Ways To Make Comic Strips Online.

I thought, though, that it would be useful to create another list of the best places where the primary purpose is just to write, and which make it interesting and easy for English Language Learners and other students to do so.  I don’t think that’s an artificial distinction and, if it is, so be it!

Here are my choices for The Best Places Where Students Can Write Online | Larry Ferlazzo's Websites of the Day...

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