Category Archives: Learning Technologies

Feedback and the Digital World | TeachingEnglish | British Council | BBC

This is the link to my latest (August 2016) TeachingEnglish blog post:

Tools to give feedback

feedback copy
taken from P. 79 of ‘An A-Z of ELT’

Check the Magazine to read more interesting posts by TeachingEnglish bloggers and associates:



#DigELT2015 ‘Deep Learning Skills in a Teacher Training Programme’

I attended the IATEFL Learning Technologies SIG event ‘Digital ELT Ireland 2015’ in Dublin on the 31st October and 1st November this year. A two-day series of talks, presentations and workshops organised by the IATEFL LT SIG.

Digital ELT Ireland was born in 2012 and became an international ELT Tech event very quickly! This year’s conference was an interesting combination of thought-provoking plenaries by Russell Stannard and Huw Jarvis, international speakers, Halloween and the beautiful Irish autumn!

This post is an explanation on and a summary of my talk on ‘Digital Deep Learning Skills in Teacher Training Programmes’ with the links to my talk Prezi and the conference photos:


Last year I worked with four groups of Malaysian teachers on a project with the British Council. The project’s main priorities were to improve Malaysian primary and secondary school teachers’ language proficiency and to give them enough tools (methodology-wise) to use in the classroom. I was responsible for the face-to-face part of the training in my cluster (140 km off Kuala Lumpur with lovely people). They also had an e-moderator, training and supporting them on Moodle with one of TeachingEnglish English for Teaching courses.

Now that the project has finished, it’s high time I reflected on a couple of tools I have managed to successfully trial and implement in my training sessions.

As a trainer who cares about the environment, I decided not to print off tens of worksheets everyday to save a couple of trees on this planet. The first thing which comes to mind, in such instances, is to e-mail worksheets to everyone in the room! So this was what I did for a couple of days:

  • Ask everyone’s e-mail address.
  • Create mailing lists in my gmail contacts for each group.
  • Attach PDFs. (to avoid other formats and their problems)
  • Send them to the intended people.
  • Wait for them to log-in, open my e-mail, download the file and work on it.
  • Wait for them to save their answers in another document and send it back to me.

These steps might look quite straight-forward but catastrophes can happen and things can even get out of control! Here is a list of things which happened:

  • The learners didn’t remember their passwords so couldn’t reach their mailbox on school computers.
  • They were using school computers so couldn’t save the file on them (admin settings didn’t allow them to do so).
  • Reading a PDF file and copying answers to a Word document can be really difficult.
  • Some learners didn’t know how to do all these things and the activities took much longer than planned.
  • Many people had chosen fancy names for their mailboxes and I had to work out who the incoming files belong to.
  • Pairwork and groupwork activities were hard to arrange as they couldn’t take their notes somewhere else!
  • Activity files were lost in their mailboxes and they couldn’t keep a a list of files they had worked on.

And a lot more! To the list, add the fact that training was delivered in an area where it was hard to find a stable internet connection and I myself had a wifi dongle, my mobile phone 3G internet access and my iPad’s LTE connection and still had to worry!

A quick search on the internet about digital classrooms, deep learning skills and competencies and higher-order thinking skills give you a lot of food for thought if you are into going digital and paper-free.

Fullan and Langworthy (2013) identified eight Deep Learning skills: Global Citizenship, Collaboration, Character, Communication, Creativity and Imagination, Real-World Problem Solving, Critical Thinking, and Use of ICT for Learning. Focusing on ICT for Learning can cover some of the other skills as well and a more systematic use of technology can replace the e-mailing process and can give you more features to make your training fun and productive.

The following options are the most popular platforms ELT people seem to be using around the globe:

Edmodo is the most popular option and provides you with a lot of tools and training and I have used it for many different purposes but this time, I needed something simpler and lighter which was suitable for my specific purpose in that specific part of the world!

I spent almost 2 months working on these platforms and I came to this conclusion that Chalkup is both simple and productive and gives me the tools I am in serious need of! Its integration with Google Apps and Google Drive, their rubric feature, the mobile and iPad app, the annotation feature and the chat box were all what I needed to go entirely digital! (My favourite feature is the way it integrates your task rubric to writing tasks so that the learners can check their marked assignments against the rubric. Watch this video to learn how it performs this.)


During the first couple of weeks, I was getting demotivated as not everyone seemed interested in what I had added to their life! But things changed gradually and after 6 months, not only did they respond to my posts but shared and posted useful things on the platform and I managed to be completely green during the second half of the project.

Chalkup might still not be the online platform which provides you with all available features in this ever-changing world of online collaborative service providers but it is definitely one of the best and it was obviously the best choice for my case. Moreover, the team’s commitment to develop the platform makes me certain that they are going to gain more popularity in near future.

The following links will take you to my talk in which I have tried to show what we went through and what level of online participation I experienced with Chalkup and a collection of other online platforms.

Digital ELT Ireland 2015 (IATEFL LT SIG event- Dublin)

P.S. Well done Sabak Bernam teachers for making this happen!

Digital ELT Ireland Links:

See on Tackk


IT & ICT Tips for an Easy Teaching Life (4)

Technology has undoubtedly brought us a lot of interesting solutions to most of our teaching needs but at the same time, it has probably made it harder to be in control of what happens to and around us.

The main aim of these weekly posts is to give three quick tips -in no particular order- (in each post) to teachers to make their tech teaching lives a bit easier to manage. I choose the topics based on what my friends and colleagues ask me each week. You will find them practical especially if you have just decided to integrate technology into your teaching life and you find everything complicated and daunting!

Quick ICT posts4

Have you ever wondered what those square code boxes are that people scan? Have you ever wanted to create one for a classroom activity? Have you ever worried about the way you use Google services and wondered if there is a way to control your Google account? Have you ever wanted to quickly edit writing tasks on your computer and send them to your students? Or have you looked for the same ‘editing’ features on your Mac?  If yes, read on:

1. How to create QR codes:

For various reasons, QR codes are of everyone’s interest! There are a lot of platforms you can use to create these small mysterious boxes with links, texts, contacts, etc. and I have found the following two easy to work with:

  • Note 1: Static QR codes are free but dynamic ones are usually not. I think static ones do what we need them to do, so make sure you tick the box for static ones on these websites.
  • Note 2: If you don’t know what QR codes are, they are Quick Response Codes which are two-dimensional barcodes initially used in Japan but found everywhere now! They contain bits of data and you need to scan them with your smart phone to see what information they carry. They are usually used to direct you to websites or to help you save contact details quickly on your mobile device. You might need to install apps to scan these codes. If you need apps, these are my recommendations:
  • Note 3: On some phones, you don’t even need an app! Just scan the code with your camera while connected to the internet and you phone does the rest of it!
  • Note 4: You can also add a QR Code to your Chrome browser and generate codes with just a single click. Click here in your Chrome Browser to add it. You can add logos to your codes there as well.
  • Note 5: If you want to know how to use these in the classroom, these are some interesting posts to read:


2. How to control Google services:

Google provides us with a lot of interesting services. If you are like me and sign up for all services that Google introduces and check how things work and might stop using them after a short while and forget all about them, then Google Dashboard is the right place for you to go to.

In Google Dashboard you can control all Google services and get to their setting pages quickly and manage how you use Google services. You can see the number of messages in your Gmail, conversations you have been a part of, services you have connected to each other, devices you have used to connect to Google, suspicious activities and a lot of more valuable things!

Just log in to your account, click on the services from the menu and be in control of your Google activities:

Google Dashboard

3. How to mark writing tasks easily on your computer:

I have already gone through giving feedback using different technologies in more detail here but to cover this very quickly, this is what you should do when your students send you their writing assignments:

  • On Windows devices:

    • Open the document in Microsoft Office Word.
    • Click on the ‘review’ tab in the top menu bar.
    • Find ‘track changes’ in the ‘tracking’ section.
    • (optional) Click on the drop-down menu next to ‘track changes’ and click on ‘track changes options’ to customise the colour coding and other settings and click ‘ok’.
    • Click on ‘track changes’ to activate it. (You can also do this by Ctrl + Shift + E.)
    • Now go through the document and edit it! Delete text, replace words just like you would do with any texts in Word and all changes will be colour coded and highlighted.


  • On Apple Macs:

    • Open the document in Pages.
    • Click on ‘Edit’ in the bar at the top of your screen where the Apple logo is (not the top of the page).
    • Click on ‘Track Changes’.
    • Edit your text and enjoy the same Microsoft Office Word features.
    • Once done, click on ‘Edit’ again and click on ‘Turn Off Tracking’.

Watch this space for the next posts if you found this one useful and comment on this post if you have any particular issues with this week’s ideas.

Link to previous posts:

IT & ICT Tips for an Easy Teaching Life (3)

Technology has undoubtedly brought us a lot of interesting solutions to most of our teaching needs but at the same time, it has probably made it harder to be in control of what happens to and around us.

The main aim of these weekly posts is to give three quick tips -in no particular order- (in each post) to teachers to make their tech teaching lives a bit easier to manage. I choose the topics based on what my friends and colleagues ask me each week. You will find them practical especially if you have just decided to integrate technology into your teaching life and you find everything complicated and daunting!

Quick ICT posts

Have you ever wanted to quickly add an image or a screenshot from an object on your desktop to a presentation or a Word document? Have you ever wanted to connect your Dropbox to your Google Drive, add your Instagram class photos to a Google Drive folder to share with colleagues and friends or save your favourite Tweets in an Evernote notebook ‘automatically’? Have you ever received two versions of the same document and didn’t know how to find the changes quickly? If yes, read on:

1. How to take screenshots:

For various reasons teachers might need to take screenshots of certain parts of their screen as this is usually the quickest way to copy something and add it to a presentation or a lesson plan. There are different ways to do so but the easiest are:

    • On a Windows system:

      • In the ‘search’ menu of your version of Windows look for ‘Snipping Tool’.
      • Once opened, click on ‘new’ and select the part of the screen you want a shot from by dragging your cursor around it to form a rectangular.
      • Click on ‘save’ on the screenshot page and save it on your machine.
      • Drag and drop it to your task bar to create a shortcut to access it if you use it a lot.
      • Need to know more about ‘Snipping Tool’ on Windows? Click here.
    • On a Mac

      • If you need a shot from the whole page (your entire screen): Command+Shift+3
      • If you need a shot from a certain part of the screen: Command+Shift+4 and move the cursor round the object on the screen. You can do this by moving three fingers on the track pad and lifting your fingers all together for the screenshot to be taken. (You need to have activated your trackpad features for this.)
      • The screenshots will appear on your desktop.

2. How to connect different services and apps to Google Drive:

This, in fact, is not just about connecting services to Google Drive but is about connecting all services to each other. If you want to add your Dropbox files to your Google Drive automatically or add the names of the new students to a Google Sheet automatically, or save your favourite Tweets on Twitter to an Evernote notebook or a Google Sheet or even save your Instagram photos to a Google Drive folder without even having to worry about anything, then IFTTT is the right tool for you!

if recipe

    • Go to
    • There are 231 (as of today) already thought about routes betweens apps and services and most of them are useful for teachers. Just click on the app you want to connect your other apps to and ‘connect’ to the channel. I’d rather not explain the details here because you just need to follow the on-screen steps to get things done and they are easy to follow!
    • Note: The IF THIS THEN THAT website is an online productivity tool which helps you design your own online commands so that certain online tasks between your favourite apps and services will be done without you wasting any extra minutes switching between your apps and devices. If the route you want is not among the 231 items already there, you can create your own route and share it with everyone using IFTTT.

3. How to compare two versions of a document in Microsoft Word

If you have two versions of a document or if you have sent a document to a colleague and they have made changes to it and have sent it back to you and now it’s hard to see which parts of the document they have changed, then Microsoft Word gives you an option to easily and quickly find those differences between your version and that of your colleague’s.

    • Open one of the files (any versions of Microsoft Word).
    • Click on ‘review’ in the ribbon on the top.
    • Click on ‘compare’.
    • Choose the two documents you want word to compare as the ‘original document’ and the ‘revised document’.
    • Click ‘OK’.
    • You can also click on ‘more’ and decide which particular items you want Word to compare in the two files and then click ‘OK’.
    • Done! Enjoy the comparison!

Watch this space for the next posts if you found this one useful and comment on this post if you have any particular issues with this week’s post.

Link to previous posts:

IT & ICT Tips for an Easy Teaching Life (2)

Technology has undoubtedly brought us a lot of interesting solutions to most of our teaching needs but at the same time, it has probably made it harder to be in control of what happens to and around us.

The main aim of these weekly posts is to give three quick tips (in each post) to teachers to make their tech teaching lives a bit easier to manage. You will find them practical especially if you have just decided to integrate technology into your teaching life.

Tech Tips for Teachers 02

Have you ever forgotten to take your activity dice to the classroom and had an internet connection? Have you ever wanted to show a full-screen timer to the participants without worrying about finding a good clock app? Do you need to insert an image into a document and the file type fails to load in the application? Do you want to send an audio file to someone and they can’t open the type you are sending them? Are you on a Mac and use Pages to create worksheets but need to send them to your office PC which runs Windows to print them or do you just want to share them with a colleague who uses Microsoft Word? If yes, read on:

  1. How to replace the plastic dice with a digital one:

Don’t worry if you have forgotten to take your dice to the classroom for a board game. All you need is an active internet connection or an app which you have already installed on your mobile device:

  • Need it on the browser? Click here.
  • Want it on your iPhone or iPad? Click here.
  • Want it on an Android device? Click here.
  1. How to show an activity timer to everyone in the room:

There are many ways to broadcast an activity timer from any device to an overhead projector but if you are connected to the internet and need something quick and handy, Google has it for you.

  • In the search bar on Google type ‘timer … minutes’ e.g. ‘timer 5 minutes’ and the timer appears right below the box and starts the ticking!
  • Click on the box in front of the timer for a full-screen view. The timer beeps at the end.
  • (An active internet connection is only necessary for the timer to show up on your screen. If you lose your connection, the timer will still work.)
  1. How to change a file extension:

  • Over the internet (when there is no sensitive information in the file, your internet is fast and stable and you don’t feel like exploring your computer’s capabilities):

    • Go to (You can also do it here but I personally find the first link a lot easier to work with.)
    • Choose the file from your computer or give the website a link to download the file from.
    • Choose the input and output format.
    • Click on ‘convert’!
  • On a Windows computer:

    • If you can’t see the file extension at the end of the file name after a dot, e.g. blogpost3.rtf or blogpost3.pdf, you need to follow these steps first:
      • Click on ‘control panel’.
      • Click on ‘Appearance and Personalisation’.
      • Click on ‘Folder Options’.
      • When the ‘folder options’ box pops up, click on ‘view’. (In Windows 8, this can be reached from top of the folder page next to the ‘computer’ tab.)
      • Un-tick the box next to ‘hide extensions for known file types’.
      • Click on ‘apply’ and then ‘ok’.
      • The file types must be visible now.
    • If you can see the file extension at the end of the file name after a dot on your computer, follow the following steps:
      • Right click on the file and select ‘rename’.
      • Change the part after the dot (which is the file extension and shows the file type) to something you want, e.g. picno1.PNG to picno1.JPEG.
      • Hit enter!
    • Note 1: This windows function only works when changing file types to something of the same nature, for example .PNG to .JPEG or .docx to .rtf and doesn’t work for changing a .docx file to a .pdf file or vice versa and the new file will look messy and unusable. Don’t worry if this has happened! You can still restore the file to its original version easily.
    • Note 2: Sometimes changing the file type can be done in a much easier way from within the application. Just click on ‘file’ menu and choose ‘save as’. Then choose a destination and/or a new name for the new file. Then below the box for the file name click on the drop-down menu for ‘save as type’. You can see a list of file types you can easily change your original file to. Then click on ‘save’!
  • On a Mac:

    • If you can’t see the file extension at the end of the file name after a dot, e.g. blogpost3.key or blogpost3.pdf, you need to follow these steps first:
      • Click somewhere on your desktop for the ‘finder’ menu to appear on the top bar.
      • Click the ‘finder’ menu and then click on ‘preferences’.
      • Click on ‘advanced’ in the ‘preferences’ box.
      • Put a tick next to ‘show all filename extensions’.
      • Close the box.
      • The file types must be permanently visible for all files now.
    • If you can see the file extension at the end of the file name after a dot on your mac, follow the following steps:
      • Click on the file but don’t open it!
      • Hold the ‘command’ key and press ‘I’. This will open the information box for that file which can also be reached by right clicking on the file and clicking on ‘get info’.
      • You can see all the information about your file, including its name in an editable box.
      • (You can uncheck the ‘hide extension’ option here as well if you want the file extension to be seen.)
      • Click in the editable box where you see the file name and change the extension which is after the dot.
      • Close the box.
    • Note 1: This function only works when changing file types to something of the same nature, for example .PNG to .JPEG and doesn’t work for changing a .txt file to a .key file or vice versa and the new file will look messy and unusable. Don’t worry if this has happened! You can still restore the file to its original version easily.
    • Note 2: Changing the file type can be done in a much easier way from within the application on a Mac and the Preview function can change most graphic file types to each other very easily. Just click on ‘file’ menu and choose ‘export’. Then choose a destination and/or a new name for the new file. You will see a list of options there to choose from. Choose your file type and export it.
    • Note 3: This can even export the file you have created with Pages (the Mac equivalent for Office Word) to a Word document if you are sending it to someone who is on a Windows PC. You can do this file export even if you don’t have Microsoft Office Word on your Mac at all!

Watch this space for the next posts if you found this one useful and comment on this post if you have any particular  issues or questions for the next-week post.

Link to previous posts:

IT & ICT Tips for an Easy Teaching Life (1)

Tech Tips for Teachers

Technology has undoubtedly brought us a lot of interesting solutions to most of our teaching needs but at the same time, it has probably made it harder to be in control of what happens to and around us.

The main aim of these weekly posts is to give three quick tips (in each post) to teachers to make their tech teaching lives a bit easier to manage. You will find them practical especially if you have just decided to integrate technology into your teaching life.

Do you have to check a particular webpage regularly and want to reach it with just a click? Do your naughty or accidental YouTube searches appear on your YouTube homepage and you receive naughty video recommendations in your mailbox and don’t know how to get rid of them? Do you use WhatsApp to keep in touch with your students and you need it on your desktop to handle it easily and share docs from your computer? Read the following lines for some quick solutions:

  1. How to add a webpage to the task bar (or the Dock in a Mac) for easy access:

    • Internet Explorer on Windows

      • Open the tab!
      • Just drag and drop the tab to the task bar as you would do with any other softwares. it will be added to the task bar for your future easy access.
    • Chrome on Windows

      • Open the tab!
      • Click on the setting icon in the top right-hand corner of the page.
      • Click on ‘more tools’.
      • Click on ‘create application shortcuts’. [The tab can be added to the ‘desktop’, ‘start menu’ or the ‘task bar’]
      • Tick the box next to ‘Pin to task bar’.
      • Click on ‘create’.
      • Done!
    • Safari (or other explorers) on Macs

      • Open the page that you want to add to the Dock (=Mac version of the task bar).
      • Click the small icon (which is the website icon) on the left side of the URL and drag it from your browser’s address field to the Dock near the trash.
      • Remember you have to pin it near the trash as there is a Dock Separator there which doesn’t allow you to pin a tab between two apps. The Dock Separator is the line that appears near the Trash icon. The side of the Dock above or to the left of the separator is for applications. The side below or to the right is for URLs, files, and folders.
      • If these steps don’t work on your Mac OX, open your browser’s list of bookmarked URLs and drag the icon from there into the Dock.
  2. How to get rid of your YouTube watch and search history:

    • Log in to your Google Account.
    • Go to
    • Click on ‘history’ in the left-side panel.
    • Click on ‘watch history’ or ‘search history’ in the main panel on top of the page.
    • Click on ‘clear all watch history’ or ‘clear all search history’.
    • Done! If you don’t want Google to keep track of watch you watch or search in the future, there is one more step to take!
    • Click on ‘stop watch history’ or ‘stop search history’.
    • Done for ever!
  3. How to get WhatsApp running on your laptop

    • Note: You can’t do this on Internet Explorer or Microsoft Edge (at least at this time that I am writing this post) so use any other updated browsers you can find!
    • On your laptop go to You should be able to see a QR Code there.
    • Now open the app on your mobile device and do one of the following:
      • iOS: tap the Settings tab, then tap “WhatsApp Web”.
      • Android: tap the Menu button, then tap “WhatsApp Web”.
      • Windows Phone: tap the Menu button, then tap “WhatsApp Web”.
      • Blackberry 10: Swipe down from the top of the main screen and tap “WhatsApp Web”.
    • Your phone will open a screen with a camera window (so your phone must have a camera!)
    • Point your phone’s camera  to the QR Code on your laptop screen and centre the QR code.
    • Done! You’ll now see your contacts on your laptop.
    • Just under your profile photo you can see ‘get notified of new notifications’. Click on it and follow the instructions if you want to receive desktop notifications even when the tab is not the active one on your desktop.

Watch this space for the next posts if you found this one useful and comment on this post if you have any particular Learning Technologies/e-Learning issues or questions for the next-week post.

“synchronous e-moderation” | Reflection Notes- 2

Building on my first reflective note on ‘synchronous e-moderation’, I am going to share some tips to guarantee a better experience while doing an online session.

Top Tips in delivering online sessions:

  1. Use the right tool! Learn about internet connectivity where the participants are (if they are all in one country/region) and choose the most practical online tool.
  2. Plan your online lesson just as you would do for a F2F session. (Adapting F2F materials does not necessarily work!)
  3. Check your equipment before the session even if you had your last session the day before. Internet tools change and update regularly and one tool which worked fine yesterday might need a heavy update to work today!
  4. If your camera is off, your voice will represent who you are! Get a good USB head-set and test it before the session. Keep the mic. at a good distance from your mouth and mute it when you are not talking.
  5. Don’t be on time! Join the session before the scheduled start time to check if everything works fine on your side.
  6. If the group is large, ask someone to join as a moderator to follow the chat lines and collect questions or provide technical help in the chat box when necessary.
  7. Don’t take basic IT knowledge for granted. First time participants need a lot of support to take their part under control. If necessary, prepare worksheets and send them out before the session.
  8. Establish ground rules if you are planning to have several synchronous sessions with the same group of participants. Even some basic conventions can be very helpful, e.g.
    • Ask the participants to put * at the end of their final sentence when they have finished or put … at the end of a sentence they wish to continue.
    • Ask the participants to write the name of the person they are writing to (in the chat box) at the beginning of their sentences with an @ sign.
    • Ask them to use emoticons as they are usually much better and faster in transferring feelings than short sentences.
    • Ask the participants to use special characters for off-topic sentences. ( ), [ ], etc.
    • Ask them to use # hashtags for trendy topics if your platform provides some sort of tagging system for future reference.
  9. Start from known and move to the unknown in tech tools available in your chosen platform. Start with the most basic feature for the participants to find and try. This will boost their confidence.
  10. Relax! Things can easily go wrong online but there is always a logical reason behind them.
  11. Have back-up plans for ‘anticipated problems’ just like you would do for a F2F session.
  12. Pay attention to different learning styles. Participants have their own individual online learning styles (not necessarily any similar to their learning style in the classroom) and you need to have a variety of tasks and activities to keep everyone interested.
  13. Don’t write everything on your slides and you wouldn’t do so in a F2F presentation.
  14. Set a time limit for everything you or the participants do. Online sessions and discussions can go very fast as the environment is different so don’t forget to keep track of time.
  15. If you are recording the session, do let the participants know at the very beginning. You can do this with a single simple sentence like ‘This session is being recorded.’ or ‘The recording will now begin.’
  16. If possible, post a short summary of the ‘audio’ discussion in the ‘chat’ box for those who get disconnected and come back on board after a short while.
  17. Limit the software features for first-timers. In most online environments the participants have to read, follow and type at the same time. Managing all these can be demanding. You can ask participants to only focus on the slides or turn their videos/cameras off to keep them focused on one thing at a time until they learn the basics of online sessions.
  18. Engage your participants at least every 3 to 5 minutes if you don’t want them to start checking their Facebook pages during the session. Do your best to motivate everyone to participate, even with one single sentence.
  19. Use break-out rooms if your platform has them to encourage pair/group work. Remember to monitor and help the rooms.
  20. Remember to ask for feedback at the end of the session or soon after it.
  21. Reflect on your performance and continuously learn! 

Any ideas to add to the list?

Scheduling the session:

Scheduling an online session can be a disaster, especially when people live in different time zones and have several commitments! We can always be a bit autocratic and don’t think about anyone else but if you do really want to make everyone feel happy with the timing, take these steps:

  1. Create an online poll on a website like EasyPoll and propose some dates for the meeting.
  2. Once the date is determined, create an event on one of the following websites and ask the participants to choose the time which suits them best:
  3. Now that everything is determined, check the exact time and date again on and with the ‘add more cities’ feature of the website add the time zones for all participants and click on ‘covert time’.

scheduling 1

scheduling 2

4.  Now click on the ‘copy & paste’ option.

Scheduling 3

5.  Copy and paste the box into an e-mail and send it to all the participants.

6.  Enjoy your perfect scheduling!

Top YouTube Videos:

  • Webinars: Technology Tips
  • Webinars: Engaging Your Audience
  • Tips for Online Trainers

I am currently (April 2015) doing a top-up online module on ‘synchronous e-moderating’ with the British Council and I am going to post my reflection notes here. This was the second one! Read the first post here.


“synchronous e-moderation” | Reflection Notes- 1

What is it?

It is hard to be involved in modern online teaching/training of any sort and not have heard about ‘synchronous‘ and ‘asynchronous‘ training sessions. Synchronous online sessions are those that the learners and the trainer have to be online at the same time while asynchronous online sessions use other platforms which don’t require real-time learner-trainer interaction.

Asynchronous learning which was once just called distance learning and only meant lessons sent to the learner using postal services at the end of the 19th century is now one of the most popular learning modes in the 21st century with hundreds of tools to bring people to the educational fold.

What is the importance?

Asynchronous online learning is gaining more popularity because people usually find it a better and more efficient way of learning in our modern busy life. It is really hard to physically attend a course and take some development steps which might take several months when you have a lot of other never-ending personal and professional commitments.

However, to make this online distance learning experience feel more natural and make some physical and emotional relationship among the participants, the idea of mixing asynchronous online sessions with some synchronous ones sounds practical and even necessary in some cases.

Stefan Hrastinski in Educause Quarterly (number 4, 2008) discusses the importance of these two different learning modes and the fact that each supports different purposes. The following two tables are from his study:

Screen Shot 2015-04-23 at 09.09.41

Screen Shot 2015-04-23 at 09.09.58

In a forum discussion with some other colleagues while we were doing an e-moderation course with the British Council in August 2014, we came to the following conclusions:

Summary written by 'Mark Uribe'
Summary written by ‘Mark Uribe’
Summary written by 'Mark Uribe'
Summary written by ‘Mark Uribe’

What are the available tools?

Synchronous online sessions at different stages of a course can be done for various reasons using various tools. These tools can be as basic as instant messaging services and real-time fast e-mails and can get as complicated as Second Life interactive sessions depending on the technical feasibilities. Out of the very long list of all these tools and services, video and web conferencing seem to be the most practical ones that all online educators are interested in.

Video conferencing is simply a video session in which all participants can see each other and has almost all features of an in-person session except that of ‘direct physical cues’, while web conferencing usually refers to more interactive sessions and platforms where the participant can take part in polls, chats and break-out sessions. They can also share files, screens and presentations and even an interactive Q&A session can be added to the end.

Video conferencing tools are easy to use. They are the ones we use everyday to talk to our family and friends on the other side of the planet! I am taking about apps like Skype, Apple’s Facetime, Oovoo, etc.

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The tools to conduct web conferencing sessions are numerous but the following list shows the ones I have worked with. They have provided me with the best options and features I needed for an online synchronous meeting:

Adobe Connect

  • Adobe Connect: The most popular and comprehensive platform but hard to work with in slow internet areas. It also has a smartphone app. which makes it much easier to attend online sessions on a tablet or a mobile phone but some functions won’t be easy to work with while on the go!


  • Blackboard: Formerly known as Elluminate Live provides similar services and is as pricey as Adobe Connect. Cambridge English Teachers use this platform for their webinars. Blackboard, too, has a smart-device app.


  • WebEx: A professional Cisco product with all the features the above two have.


  • Saba: This seems to be the most well-known platform after Adobe Connect. Pearson Education use this platform for their webinars. I haven’t noticed any differences between this and adobe connect except that it might be able to work better in some countries with Bandwidth problems and it is a bit less expensive than the previous choices.


  • SambaOnsync is the name of their product. Less expensive than Adobe Connect and the Whiteboard section has a lot more features than Adobe Connect. It supports more file types and the video quality is a lot better.


  • CUmeeting: This is easier to use as it uses a very basic platform but you still get the same sort of similar services and is even less expensive than the above options!


  • BBB: This is a free service! It can be a good alternative to Adobe Connect but you should consider a couple of issues:
    • Their platform is flash-based and unlike the other alternatives mentioned earlier, Big Blue Button doesn’t have a mobile application so participants have to use their computers.
    • The service has to be set up on your own server (the main reason it is free because you will have to pay for a server if you haven’t got one already.)
    • They don’t provide a ‘recording’ option so you can’t watch the webinar again later. However, there are several solutions for this specific issue and the most popular one is Camtasia.


  • On24: It has a free section which can be easily used if you are not worried about certain features. It doesn’t have a smart-device app but works well on tablets. Some features like polls and questionnaires might not work properly on mobile devices.

But if you are looking for something we are all familiar with, Google has one of the best choices:


I have discussed the benefits of Google Hang-outs in a separate blog post where a PDF tutorial and some screenshots can be found on conducting live Hangout sessions where the world can see you on Youtube. Probably the interactive Q&A feature of Google Hangout is the one a lot of online educators are interested in:

Google Hang-outs for Synchronous Online Sessions

Check the tutorial PDF on Slideshare:
Check the tutorial PDF on Slideshare:

Any innovative new platforms?

There are new platforms which might make these online meetings simpler for smaller groups. I will be updating this list as I learn more about these new platforms:

As the image says, it is free for up to 8 people and no one needs to log in! You simply create the room and share the link with those you want to talk to! If you really need to have that room and use it in the future, you can register it on the system. It has an iOS app and works fine on Chrome, Opera and Firefox.


This is not an online meeting platform but it is only a shared whiteboard on which you and the participants can write. You can set questions and see the learners develop their answers. Many of the applications mentioned in this post have whiteboard features which can help participants to collaborate in the meeting. But such functions do not always work well if you don’t have a stable internet connection. Pear Deck can be a helpful tool to use instead.

Top 5 Tools for Web Seminars6

I am currently (April 2015) doing a top-up online module on ‘synchronous e-moderating’ with the British Council and I am going to post my reflection notes here. This was the first one! Check this space for more soon! 


#IATEFL2015 | Plenary Talk | Day 2 | Joy Egbert

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Joy Egbert; Professor of ESL and Education Technology; Washington State University (Pullman, Washington)

The second IATEFL day plenary talk was delivered by Joy Egbert who is a professor of ESL and Education Technology from Washington State University in Pullman in the USA’s Pacific Northwest.


Engagement Principles and Practice in Classroom Learning, Language and Technology

Main Point: 

While it’s unclear whether atheoretical uses of technology actually provide barriers to learning, it is clear from the research that principled uses can lead to student achievement. But what principles? This plenary proposed that principles of task engagement can serve the educators and learners in technology-enhanced environments.


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  • Task engagement principles include the following:
    • Authenticity
    • Connection
    • Interaction
    • Feedback
    • Challenge/Skills Balance
  • Why are we worried? Joy spend 6 years at high school and university learning Spanish but didn’t learn anything until she went to Mexico! She also spent some years learning Russian using PLATO, which was an automatic computer programme for teaching instructions, but she can’t speak a word! The system doesn’t give the learner any feedback and you have to sit in front of the computer and find the correct answer! She also spent some time before the conference to learn British as a Foreign Language with ‘Doctor Who’ but because there was no social interaction and no feedback or support was provided, she finally lost her interest! So what can/should educators do to avoid such things? What can teachers really do to facilitate learning?
  • What are the teaching goals?
    • To Provide a learning Environment that will maximise the potential for student success.
    • To teach effectively and efficiently.
  • But how is the language learnt?Screen Shot 2015-04-12 at 16.24.25
  • And the only factor which is under the teacher’s control is the ‘opportunity’. It is the teacher’s responsibility to provide the best opportunity for the learners to maximise learning. Student participation can grown if the opportunity the teacher creates is engaging.
  • Learners usually lose their interest and become dis-engaged when the activities don’t make any sense to them.
  • Engagement happens in opportunities with the following features:
    • authentic materials and tasks (authenticity)
    • some sort of connection with the learners’ lives (connection)
    • deep individual focus or modern social interaction (interaction)
    • proper feedback based on the learner’s individual learning style (feedback)
    • the right balance of difficulty and skills to keep learners focused and interested in the lesson (Challenge/Skills Balance)
  • What is the role of technology in these principles? Technology use can help teachers achieve these principles by:
    • Facilitating needs and other authentic assessments.
    • Providing resources at the right level.
    • Supporting accessibility.
    • Presenting opportunities to interact.
    • Offering connections to authentic audiences and materials.
  • So what are the issues with technology use? The issue might be:
    • No use of technology
    • No change in pedagogy to use the affordances of technology for student gain
    • Unprincipled uses of technology
  • Brief overview of engagement principles:
    • Principle 1- Authenticity:
      • Different materials can be found and developed for different learners.
      • An article from the internet suits one learner best while a song is the most interesting task for a different learner with a different personality type.
    • Principle 2- Connection:
      • Three kinds of connection can be made between the activity and the learner’s life:
        • Academic: “Yesterday we …, today we will … .”
        • Instructional: “You have said you like to learn by …, so we are going to try that today.”
        • Personal: “This makes a difference in your life. / This connects to your life outside of class in this way … .”
      • Social media can be helpful to make such connections.
    • Principle 3- Social Interaction:
      • How can we create a deep personal focus on the tasks in groupwork activities?
        • Encourage collaboration and cooperation.
        • Give roles to all learners e.g. typist, artist, content director, reader, searchers, etc.
        • Let learners answer their own and others’ questions.
        • Give learners a reason to listen!
      • These through-tech applications can be helpful to achieve this principle: Chat, Twitter, Facebook, E-mail, Wiki, Instagram, Voxopop, etc.
    • Principle 4- Feedback and Support:
      • Feedback and support can be given in various ways, through:
        • Extra resources: practice sites, relevant videos
        • Answers: class web pages, group wikis
        • Models: shared Google Docs, Dropbox, Google Drive
        • Previous examples
        • Clear rubrics
        • Extended feedback: MS Word comments, Voxopop
        • Just-in-time feedback: Twitter, Poll Everywhere, Texting
        • Native speaker/Experts: Voxopop, E-mail, Facebook
    • Principle 5- Challenge/Skills Balance
      • Learners should be in the ‘flow channel’.
      • ‘Flow channel’ is where the learners don’t feel anxious because the task is too demanding and don’t feel bored because the task is easy!
  • Guidelines and important notes on technology use:
    • No technology is inherently effective (or not); it’s good use that makes it effective. You need to understand what that specific technology can bring to your specific learning context!
    • Multiple technologies can help meet principles and objectives.
    • It’s hard to follow all tech tools available on the internet and basic tools can be very effective. For instance, e-mails can be very helpful in many ways:Screen Shot 2015-04-12 at 16.50.07
    • Technology use has to be evaluated:Screen Shot 2015-04-12 at 16.50.39
    • If technology helps you create engaging tasks, then use it; if not, don’t!

Need more? Contact Joy:

“Different ways to skin a cat” or “how to make feedback on ‘writing’ more effective”

There are different reasons why we teach writing and there should be different methods how we mark them to address those different reasons; but in the general sense of dealing with writing tasks in and outside the classroom, there is a lot of controversy regarding our attitude towards feedback and correction. Let’s start by having a quick look at what normally happens in a writing session.

This is what usually happens:

  1. The teacher selects the topic and gives it to the learners.
  2. The learners spend some time either in the classroom or at home to write about the topic.
  3. The learners give their ‘final product’ to the teacher for ‘final marking’.

But this doesn’t look right, does it? The main purpose of teaching is to facilitate learning but I don’t see any ‘learning to write’ points, as Christopher Tribble (Tribble 1996) mentions in his writing book, in any of the above steps and a lot seems to be missing between stages 1 and 2. Raimes (1983) gives the following stages to make the writing process more productive:

  1. Teacher or students select the topic.
  2. Pre-writing activities e.g. note taking, brainstorming, creating spider-grams, etc.
  3. Teacher comments on the notes and makes suggestions.
  4. Student writes draft 1.
  5. Teacher and students read drafts and comment on the content.
  6. Student writes draft 2.
  7. Student reads draft 2 with guidelines and makes changes.
  8. Teacher reads draft 2 and indicates good points and areas for improvement.
  9. Student writes draft 3.
  10. Student edits and proofreads.
  11. Teacher evaluates progress.
  12. Teacher assigns follow-up tasks to help in weak areas.

In what usually happens in the classroom, the focus is more on the end product, so the learners focus on creating something and giving it to the teacher and the moment they hand their end product in, they feel they have no responsibility towards their writing any longer and it’s the teacher’s job now to work on it. In fact, even when the teacher spends a lot of time correcting and commenting, not all learners go back and learn from those valuable notes and comments. On the contrary, the second 12-step process focuses on the ‘path’ rather than the ‘destination’ and the students will learn during the writing process and by the time they produce the final version, they will have learnt a lot. Completing all these steps might not be possible but incorporating some editing stages before the learners hand in the final version can help create this productive writing atmosphere in the classroom.

There are different ways to edit, comment and provide feedback and just like any other form of correction, these can be done in forms of ‘self-‘, ‘peer-‘ or ‘teacher-‘ correction and editing codes can be taught at the beginning of the course to create ground rules to stick to till the end. Tricia Hedge, in her book ‘Writing’ (Hedge, 2005: 140) mentions the following most common codes language teachers can use to mark writing tasks:

editing codes

Much has been said about editing codes and the way we can teach them in writing lessons and I am not going to spend time on this now but I am going to write about ‘techie’ methods to incorporate editing stages to writing lessons.

The following platforms are the ones I have tried and tested several times. They make editing and commenting easy, fun, tech-based, green and more productive.

Audacity– the audio feedback platform


Audio feedback can actually help learners improve their listening skills as well and a lot of research has been conducted to prove their higher rate of productivity in comparison with ordinary written feedback. Audacity is a free open-source software which gives you the ability to create audio files and edit them easily. There is a straightforward tutorial on how to create audio podcasts using Audacity here. Teachers can ask their learners to send their first and second drafts to them to receive quick audio feedback before they start writing the final version. While audio feedback can be a productive way to help our learners, there are a couple of tips we should keep in mind:

  • Remain positive and keep a motivating tone.
  • Sequence your feedback and signpost the feedback stages.
  • Be clear and speak with a clear voice.
  • Limit your comments and prioritise errors (just as you would do in written feedback).
  • Begin with positive feedback, be specific and descriptive while giving constructive (negative) feedback and end with positive overall feedback. (sandwich the negative points).

Audio feedback can be given in many different ways. You can even record your voice with Windows voice recorder and send it to your students, too.

If you really hate all these applications and want something hassle-free and entirely web-based, then try Online Voice Recorder or Vocaroo.

Jing– the video feedback platform


Jing is a free TechSmith product which can help you create screencasts and share them easily on the internet. Your casts will also be available on your profile. TechSmith gives you 2GB free storage on Screencast and you can go Pro if this is not enough for your purposes. After you install Jing, the software’s toolbar appears on top of your desktop and can be accessed right from there while you are doing anything in any other softwares. So you can open a word document, start editing it and video the whole process for the learner to watch at a later time.

Screenr– the video feedback platform


If you don’t want to install anything on your computer but still enjoy the screen recording feedback and can finish the feedback in less than 5 minutes, then this is the right choice. Just create an account and click on ‘launch screen recorder’! (service retired in 2015- you can still download your videos from their platform.)

QuickTime Player– the video feedback platform


Several other similar programmes exist which have less or more the same features as Jing, e.g. Camtasia, Wink, Sganit, AutoScreenRecorder, etc. and there are other web-based programmes similar to Screenr like MailVu and Screencast-O-matic which have free and pro editions; but Apple’s QuickTime Player which is also available on PC as well has some new and unique features which have made life easy for Mac users. Just launch QuickTime, double-finger tap the icon in the dock and click on ‘new screen recording’ (you can slo create ordinary voice or video recordings using your Mac camera.) and the application starts recording your screen. You can also talk on the recording at the same time to create a high-resolution video feedback. When you are done, click on ‘stop screen recording’ and choose the quality you need and the file is ready!

Screen Shot 2015-03-23 at 23.36.45 Screen Shot 2015-03-23 at 23.36.59

If you don’t like QuickTime but need the same features, I recommend you add the Screencastify extension to your Chrome and enjoy the same features right from your browser.

Knovio– the video feedback platform


If you have some time and want to create something really impressive, this is where you should look for it. Create a presentation of the feedback, play the presentation and use a camera to add your own video to the feedback. So your learners have the chance to see the online edition of their work being corrected while they can watch their teacher talking about it at the same time. Knovio has an iPad app which gives you the same functions there as well. It is primarily an application to help you add your video to your presentations which is a very useful tool for flipped classes but can also be used to provide extraordinary feedback video files!

Kaizena– the ultimate feedback platform


Kaizen means ‘good change’ in Japanese and is some sort of philosophy towards continuous improvement. This innovative online tool works seamlessly with Google Drive and Google Docs. If your learners send you first drafts through Google Drive, then this is the tool you shouldn’t miss. You can work on the documents on their website or you can add their add-on to your Google Drive and work on documents right within Google Docs. In Kaizena you can highlight parts of the document and record your voice in small segments. Kaizena has even taken a step forward and creates unique teacher URLs and this means the learners can request feedback on a specific part of their document and an e-mail is sent to the teacher to come back to the file and give the feedback the student needs. This is a two-way platform which means the students can listen to the audio feedback and record their own voice and reply to the teacher’s comment.

Google Drive has already given us a lot of features to help with teacher’s feedback. You can now edit Word documents directly from your mailbox without having to convert anything.

google docs

But tracking, rating, adding audio and marking at the same time with Kaizena is actually a lot more interesting!

Not interested in any of the above? Let’s go Microsoft Office!

Microsoft Office Word feedback features

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The Word’s ‘track changes’ and ‘compare documents’ features are fantastic tools for language teachers when it comes to error correction and feedback. ‘Track changes’ has several customisable features including colour-coding. Click on the ‘review’ tab in a Word document and you will see this in the middle. ‘Compare documents’ gives the learners the opportunity to compare the text they have written with a model text in a writing lesson or to compare their answers to an activity with the answer key. This feature can also be found in the ‘review’ tab in a Word document. The usual ‘comment’ feature can also help add notes to the text just like what we do on a piece of paper. Don’t forget that the whole process in a Word document can be recorded using any of the methods we have talked about here.


All teachers agree that effective feedback is time-consuming but no one can deny their value to our learners. We are very lucky to have all these ‘tech’ tools which make effective feedback easier than it used to be in the past (but most probably still more difficult than in the future!). So why not take the risk and leave our comfort paper zone and help save the planet while improving our feedback effectiveness in writing lessons?

What other writing feedback tools have you applied to your writing sessions? Do you think they have been effective?

  • Hedge, T. (2005) ‘Writing’ Second Edition, Oxford University Press
  • Raimes, A. (1983) ‘Techniques in Teaching Writing’, Oxford University Press
  • Thornbury, S. (2006) ‘An A-Z of ELT’, Macmillan Books for Teachers, Macmillan
  • Tribble, C. (1996) ‘Writing’, Oxford University Press