San Antonio, Texas

For a conference that hasn’t even officially begun, ISTE2017 is already packed.  For those of you that don’t know, ISTE (International Society for Technology in Education) is a massive, global organization dedicated to improving digital citizenry and integrating relevant, purposeful technology into the classroom. At the conference here in San Antonio, over 10,000 attendees are expected to participate, and over 500 companies are represented.

It’s big.

I’ve been wanting to come for over four years now.  Last year, as I was eagerly following ISTE2016 in Colorado, I promised myself that I would somehow make it happen this year.

My first workshop is today – a pre-conference experience with the Global Education Network.  It starts at 2, but I’ve been told to get there early just in case.  So I’m early, and spending some time in the “Blogger’s Cafe”, a space set up for attendees to do some writing, charge some batteries, and network.  Within minutes, I met two digital education specialists from Louisiana and a podcast producer from Oklahoma.   There’s a group here now discussing how to redesign their classroom spaces for next year.

The Global Education Network conference has over 300 attendees already registered, and the wait list was at 50, last I checked.  They’ve got a google classroom set up.  The workshop is set up to be a collection of digital round table discussions focusing on digital tools and diversity in the classroom.

Who’s Here?

The vast majority of attendees represent the K-12 sector; higher education is also well-represented.  I’d hazard a guess that I am in a small minority of adult non-credit ELT.  Regardless, I’m here, and my goal is to discover what is happening in educational technology that is relevant and meaningful for ELT.

I plan to talk with digital education specialists, edutech companies, other educators, and anyone else, basically, that I’m sitting near.  I also plan to connect with members who would be willing, potentially, to deliver webinars for TESL Ontario.

Like I said, the conference hasn’t even really begun yet; this is the pre-conference.  Three more packed days of workshops and presentations to experience!

MOOC – Keeping Motivation Levels Up (or Someone Notice Me, Please!)

I have to be honest; the first MOOC  I tried, I didn’t finish.  Started off well.  Read the required articles.  Watched the Rick Mercer-like instructor videos.  Eagerly participated in the online discussions.  And then tuned out.  I think I know at least 4 reasons why.

1. The material was basic.

I knew it already, for the most part, but thought I would try the MOOC regardless, figuring I could always learn something new.  The MOOC was offered thru Canvas.  The course I was in was called “Learning to Learn Online”.  My objectives were to gain some insight into how my learners feel about online learning, especially those encountering the technology for the first time.

2. Pat on the head

I hadn’t realized prior to this MOOC that I need recognition.  I admit it, I am a bit of a Lisa Simpson in that I want to be assessed and then receive the double gold star…  With a MOOC, that’s impossible.  There are too many learners, so attracting individual attention from the instructor is rare.  The “M” does means “massive”, by the way.

So I’d put in extra time and effort, and when I thought, ha! This answer will surely get a nod!  And nothing happened.  A virtual speck in the online galaxy.

Maybe I’m not as brilliant as I thought I was… I know about effective feedback, and I know that, as instructors,  we ought to avoid mindless “good job” responses on their own. But to get no feedback at all made me feel like I was writing in a vacuum.   You know what MOOCs are missing?  That “like” button from social media sites like Facebook.  Even getting a virtual atta girl would have kept my motivation up.

3. iPad app misfunctioning

I was doing the entire MOOC on my iPad.  There was an app for that.  However, the Canvas app froze out and went non responsive half the time.  I would have then had to find an alternate online resource.  It was too much effort to figure out.

4. Time

Like any adult learner, time is always going to be a factor.  I did not plan my MOOC into my weekly schedule like I should have, so I began falling behind.  Plus, the app was unreliable, and no one ever noticed my outstanding class work so, gradually, I let the course get away from me.

I’ve since gone back and have viewed the videos, and reviewed the discussions.  I think I got out of that particular MOOC what I wanted.  I’m now in another MOOC through Coursera, Foundations of Virtual Instruction.  I have MOOC time twice a week, for 2 hours each time.  I’m already more invested in FVI than my first MOOC.  More intrinsic motivation.  I’m not behind, and I’ve aced the quizzes.  The discussion groups are a little more active.  They even offer a way to receive recognition badges…however, you need to pay for them.

MOOCs are a way to keep on top of recent innovations in your field, whatever that field may be.  It’s a way to connect with MOOC users worldwide, and start building a network.  MOOCs are self directed, and learner focused, and are really just beginning to connect users globally.  I think I will be taking advantage of MOOCs, even though it’s highly unlikely the instructor will ever give me a virtual fist bump.

Man, some students are so needy, eh?

Padlet and San Antonio

Updates – All the Way to San Antonio…

I haven’t updated this blog in some time, but I have been active in Twitter and elsewhere. I’ve developed a collaborative tool in Padlet that outlines various educational technology tools and apps that I’ve come across. In addition, I’ve a year now into my Masters of Education program at UOIT. Two courses so far have been about how to use technology, both with different course objectives; one was how to use digital tools for the construction of knowledge, and the other specifically hones in on digital tool in adult education.

Here is the padlet link I’ve been working on. Updates to follow.

I am attending ISTE2017 in a week from today – wow, a week already. So much to do to prepare. I am also at the end of my course in the school board and am buried in the marking that comes with a cumulative final project.

Screen Shot 2017-06-17 at 12.48.20 PM.png

Into the GAFE

Google-Apps-vs.-Office-365-change-1024x372 One of my summer goals was to become fluent in GAFE, which, as I learned, is pronounced with a long “a” sound.  (Thus it is less of a gaffe…)  I stumbled onto some board training and managed to get one of the last spots in an all day GAFE workshop.  GAFE information is also freely available online; I started going through “GAFE” courses earlier in the summer, but got sidetracked.   My plan is still to become Level 1 GAFE certified before school starts.

One of my first challenges occurred when I set up my Google Classroom site; I needed my IT support to enable some features for me.  The site is easy enough to figure out; however, but it took some playing around before I could figure out how to add adult ESL learners.


So my guiding question was – will accessing Google Apps effectively be able to replace my Moodle site?  Moodle offers everything in one place, but students don’t have access once the course has finished.   Also, I know my Moodle site well; I’m comfortable with the design and layout, but the students often complain about getting lost in the site.  With Google Apps, the learners keep all of their tasks, sites, etc. All files/folders can be shared with the instructor, and copied for records.   And is this fundamentally better than, say, Edmodo?

Now, as you know, I tried using OneNote with my learners last year.  Personally, I love my OneNote, but it was problematic for the students.  I still plan to use OneNote but won’t lead my students down that path again this year, even though it brilliantly displayed e-portfolios.

Google Sites can be set up in much the same manner; I’ve been playing with the creation of a skeleton file for the past few weeks.  I’ve finally got a good Google Sites outline complete, and have uploaded the template so the learners can download it.  I had a brief look at Svetlana Lupasco’s Google site template a few months ago, and also came across Bonnie Jean Nicholas’ PBLA template in the world-wide gallery.

I added a Needs Assessment Google form, embedded the Language Companion and added two Calendar pages (one for Class news, one for Student).  So far, I’m happy with how it looks.

Screen Shot 2016-08-30 at 9.14.55 PM

So, because my Google Classroom site will suit my, and my learners’ needs, I doubt I will open up an Edmodo LMS; that would be more tech than necessary.  After all, it’s not about the tech, right?  It’s what the students can do with it, how the tech can help drive their learning forward.

Thus, for the first time in about 5 years, I’m stepping outside of my Moodle comfort zone, and into the GAFE.

Edmodo- I think It’s Time


I recently attended an online Edmodo conference (#EdmodoCon16).  It was my second time.  I created an Edmodo account a couple of years ago to see what it was all about; at the time, I was juggling between two learning  management systems – Desire2Learn, and Moodle (packaged and maintained by LearnIT2Teach).  I figured that my learners’ needs could be met with either of the two that were already available to me.

I’ve written about this before; in fact, it was my impetus for starting this blog.  I ended up dropping D2L for LIT2T, and have been adequately satisfied with the results.  For a LINC ESL instructor in Canada, LIT2T sets up a Moodle platform for you, and it comes preloaded with SCORMS and activities per CLB stage.  Plus support, which is invaluable for a LINC instructor just starting out.

The SCORMs are hit and miss; they aren’t HTML5.  That’s about as technical as I can get.  Or, I could tell you, you click on the thing to do the thing, and nothing happens, or you get an error message.  I started using OneNote (regular not for education) with my adult learners in conjunction with the Moodle platform.  Because we have what’s called “Active Directory”, this meant I could access learners’ electronic files for feedback and assessment fairly easily, so long as I was at school when I was doing it.  Some learners opened a OneNote account from their homes, and were successful at being able to access their files, share, etc.  That was before OneDrive changed its amount of space available.

Learners will still be able to access their OneNote accounts while in the school lab; they may even be able to upload to a thumb drive and then work on files at home.  But they won’t be able to use OneDrive as easily as they could before, as the space available does limit what they can put in their e-portfolios.

That was the subject of my last blog.  I take ownership of not being on top of the OneDrive space decrease.  Mea copa.  So while I will still try to use OneNote in class, and personally, I’m not so sure about continuing with LIT2T.

Hence my interest in Edmodo.  The conference participants in 2015 were inspiring, as they were again this year. Indeed, I ended up following about a dozen from last year, and almost the same number this year.  I’ve got some ideas about Professional Development, and using Edmodo’s cool new features for my Adult ESL workplace course.  In particular, I was interested in how Edmodo connects with Google Apps for Education (GAFE – which to me is a bit of an unfortunate acronym, too close to the noun “gaffe” which generally means a mistake or blunder).


I am also working towards becoming “google certified”, and then eventually “edmodo certified”.   Many of the teachers who demonstrated how they use Edmodo showed brilliantly how well Edmodo plays with others.  Use Edmodo + Padlet, or with any of your classroom Google docs.


I think that Edmodo offers the flexibility that Moodle can’t, especially since it can link with OneDrive.  I’ve already tried to link Edmodo with my OneDrive education account, but it looks like I will need to connect with my IT department as I’m still having issues…  I’m looking forward to using Edmodo with my group, and plan to write about the experience here.

Lament for OneNote

My husband is in the process of applying for the RCMP; to say that it is a rigorous and document-heavy process is an understatement.  One of the pdf forms is 21 pages long.  The pdf from the RCMP site is not fillable; print it and fill it out by hand.  Then scan. Thinking that there has got to be a fillable pdf out there somewhere, I did a quick search.  Lo and behold, a fillable pdf form was easy enough to find.  We went through the whole document, and then pressed print.  Not so fast, did I really think it would be that easy? I was directed to register and pay for the privilege of using the fillable pdf form.

At this point, I felt like a sucker.  If the organization was going to get my business, it would be under duress.  No, forget it.  I’d rather fill it out by hand and then scan it.

That leads me to OneNote.  I’ve been putting off writing about OneNote for a few weeks to gather my thoughts, and to take a breather.  My relationship with OneNote began slowly.  Over two years, I got to know its functions.  I always thought the layout was visually appealing.  When I stumbled onto its multi-user collaboration functions, that was it for me.  I had been searching for a planning tool for so long, and finally I found one that would work.

Using OneDrive to store OneNote notebooks, users can share and edit entire documents. Within my circle, I like to think I was at the helm in bringing awareness to this robust tool.  OneNote organized my work lessons. OneNote organized my Masters program. OneNote organized my committees.  OneNote organized my life.

I was the first in my school board to use OneNote with adult ESL learners as an e-portfolio. I presented no fewer than three workshops on OneNote.  I tweeted with enthusiasm about my OneNote experience.  I convinced others to explore OneNote.   OneNote, for me, was the planning, organizing, and sharing tool bar none.  Give me the purple cape.  I was firmly on board.

Then they pulled the plug.

If you want to make use of the multi-user collaboration functions, or if you need to use OneNote on several devices at different locations, you need to use OneDrive.  About two weeks ago, Microsoft decreased the space available in OneDrive by two-thirds.  Because my notebooks are so dense, this meant that I could no longer access my notebooks across devices.  The e-portfolio notebooks contain lots of data, rubrics, documents, photos, and voice-recordings.  5GB (edited – I had said MB, which is nothing; it is actually GB) is all that remains in your personal OneDrive.  Unless, of course, you want to pay.

I get that Microsoft is not a charitable organization; they are a business.  I don’t feel entitled to free stuff.  I do, however, feel entitled to know what I’m getting myself into.  I guess eventually you have to pay for the milk, or the cow walks off, bovinely, into the sunset.  Now the question is, do I commit to the OneNote/OneDrive cow?  What happens if a newer, better app is released?  (Wait – wait, oh, I didn’t see *that* one!!).

What this means for me is that my committee members won’t want to pay to use OneNote.  Thus, I can’t share and use the committee OneNote notebooks.  My adult learners can still use OneNote in the classroom, but won’t be able to share and save on the cloud because the data is too large.  I can’t ask my learners or committee members to pay for the space.  It simply won’t happen.

To be fair, after I realized that my space was gone, I did some research.  As it turns out, Microsoft had been telling users since December that they were planning to decrease the free space on OneDrive.  I’m just not that much of a techie that I would know that, or be attuned to the news until the carpet was yanked from under my feet.

You know that old adage, that if something looks too good to be true, it probably is?  I may ante up and buy more space for myself, but now I feel like I’ve been duped, and that I’ve played a part in duping colleagues about OneNote’s potential.

UPDATED: Like I said in here, sure I would consider paying for the product if it had been more apparent that this would be happening.  As for the email messages that Microsoft had sent, the only reason I have hotmail is for OneNote.  It is so full of spam and junk that it has been rendered virtually useless as email (and I have played with the junk mail filters, etc.  It just doesn’t seem to work.)

I think I also said that I’m not that much of a techie.  I have been using OneNote with OneDrive since 2014 and had no idea that it would be changing.  Sure, that’s my fault.  I also probably couldn’t tell you whether or not any other app that I use will start charging.  My point here is that the way I have been using OneNote/OneDrive in my classroom can no longer continue the same way because the files my students have created are larger than 5GB, and for the students to access their files across devices, collaborate etc, they would have to pay.  Many of my learners don’t have credit cards, so they couldn’t have access even if they wanted to.

Let me also say here that what has happened with OneDrive, and my subsequent loss of a major teaching tool in OneNote, is *exactly* why many of my colleagues are anti-tech in the classroom.  Why bother investing in a tool that will go obsolete, or will start charging for usage that was once free?  I know that when I return, these are the comments I will be hearing.

That hasn’t turned me against tech in the classroom; it is a lesson learned.  That’s it.  That’s the message of this blog post.  There is a responsibility for any teacher using tech to investigate it, and to stay on top of updates, or come up against what I have.  You can’t get too comfortable with any educational technology.  There’s always got to be a Plan B.




Adapting texts for use in the English language classroom

Nathan Hall


The other day, Jen Artan was asking me about finding authentic reading material for my class that wasn’t too difficult. The comment was from a blog post I had written about Frequency Level Checker and so I thought it might be a good time to go through my steps in adapting material for my classroom. I know there is a lot of debate about adapting authentic material for the language classroom, but I feel there is a balance here that needs to be maintained between giving texts that are too difficult for students and needing students to be exposed to authentic language in use. I don’t believe that adapting a text has to take away from the authenticity and will make it better for students.

Step one: Copying the text

There are a few options here. If you already have the text in a document, there’s nothing more to do than just…

View original post 1,855 more words