Saturday, 25 September 2010

Post-War days

I'm reading "La cripta de los Capuchinos" by Joseph Roth and it's giving me a much clearer and personal picture of a regime change than I used it have.

I grew up reading Empress Sissi's stories, and I never thought of Austria in a different way except for the current Austria. In SL I live in post-war Berlin (1929) and I get that picture, but I'd never put things together as I'm doing now by reading this novel.

It must have been such a big change, so confusing to live after WWI...that now I get why it's called world war.

Sunday, 22 August 2010


What moves us? I think as I walk the UWA Winthrop displays in Second Life. The entries for the contest need to fulfill only one condition: to take our breath away.

It seems simple enough as a concept, and yet as I look at the various entries I wonder why some skilfully created pieces don't make me feel much (while I appreciate their design and excellent craftmanship) while others just do take my breath away...

I don't have the answer. But I suppose all art is like that. Why do I like the abstract pieces by Kandinsky better than Miro's? What's different? Well, a lot but that's not it...there's something inside that tickles when I see one and not the other...

Just things I ponder on.

Saturday, 3 July 2010


I've been in Second Life for a little over two months now and I'm enjoying it terribly.
I explore, take photos, build, learn and I've recently started to moderate a conversation class in English.

One thing that really strikes me is the strong presence of Italian-speaking sims and groups, especially when it comes to the arts, and how passionate they are. I like that a lot.

Another gem is the 1920s Berlin project, conducted single-handedly by an amazing woman/female avatar.

And the immense potential for teaching and meeting interesting people. Some friends have told me their experiences in SL have not been all that good and I believe them, but fortunately it's not my case. I think getting involved in activities is one of the key factors to enjoying SL. So far I've had only one nasty situation, with someone inviting me to participate in an orgy -I made it clear I wasn't into that, and when he insisted I just left. I know that's not what SL is about and I've found really nice people with whom I enjoy spending time frequently.

Meanwhile I continue teaching in real life (first life), face to face, and getting ready to teach online. I'm learning to speak Dutch, I plurk....but I'm not reading as much as I'd like to. I miss being engrossed in a good novel. I am, however, listening to music a lot, especially jazz and classical, which is what I like best. 

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Monday, 14 June 2010

Today's quote

Apathy is the glove into which evil slips its hand
                                                                                                     Bodie Thoene

Friday, 28 May 2010

Informal learning

I've been wanting to write about this topic for a while now...

I remember reading about informal learning during my training, and not really grasping the concept; I'd find it difficult to envisage the shape it would take, especially.
I'm now listening to an interview (well, listening and watching...attending) in Second Life and it finally prompted me to come here and express my thoughts and feelings...Because it is in Second life (SL) that I've finally understood the value and the concept of informal language learning.

In SL there are informal learning programs (yes...bordering on oxymoron, I know!); for example, Virtlantis holds tea-time sessions from Monday to Friday where you can speak in English and there are no preset topics. There's also a "teach me -teach you" program where people interested in learning and/or practising other languages can pair up with someone interested in their language (for example: I'd like to practise my German and a German speaker would like to learn English or Spanish -then we can pair up).

But SL offers cultural and linguistic informal learning opportunities with no previous organisation as well ,and that's one of the things I love the most about it. I visited a Japanese tea house and spent about two hours speaking in English with a geisha apprentice; during the conversation I learned some Japanese words...I wanted to thank her in her own language and so I asked, then I started using it -she also named the different stages in her learning in Japanese and explained what they consisted in. I saved the chat log and now can consult it if I don't remember. All the words came up out of curiosity...just like when I meet one of my seconda lingua group mates: he's Italian and so we speak in Italian but when I don't know how to say something I ask (first I guess!! If he understands sometimes I let it be some other times I want to know and ask). Italianiamo is the project we both belong to and where we met, and it's also a space for informal learning. Our coordinator is a teacher, but the activities involve creating and filming a story in SL in Italian. Group members are both native speakers and non-native speakers with an intermediate level of proficiency as the threshold. We discuss plot, characters, scenery, create the dialogs....all in Italian.

I love all these opportunities -what I notice after reading my own post here is that informal learning seems to require a high degree of involvement, you need to take an active role (or at least that's the way I'm doing it). I could probably count the number of times I've said "I asked" and get quite a high number!!!

Saturday, 22 May 2010


I'm reading about Edupunk and it's very interesting..."Introducing Edupunk" by Leslie Madsen Brooks and "The Glass Bees" post by Reverend on May 25,2008 at bavatuesdays.

J.L. De Diego's column continues to interest me like the first day. His Sunday piece touches on old-school teachers in Argentina after his memory of a mentor that passed away earlier this year.

And here's a quote related to what I'm reading:

"There is no such thing as a neutral education process. Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate the integration of generations into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity to it, or it becomes the "practice of freedom", the means by which men and women deal critically with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world." (Jane Thompson following up on Paulo Freire)

In the teaching of English, it's easy to forget the wider educational process, or so it seems to me...sometimes, if we're not teaching at school but at language schools or having private students, it is all too easy to leave bullying and integration and segregation issues aside or undealt with. I think of myself as an educator first and a teacher of English then. Raising awareness in our students as to the socio-cultural forces shaping their lives and cultures and helping them to become active agents in the process is very important to me.

Monday, 17 May 2010

A month in Second Life

Certainly a lot is taking place...I've been trained to start teaching online at Myngle (I already love the idea and the atmosphere) and I've been learning more about Second Life and how to make things there. Sometimes silly things come to mind: I wanted to make a ring and necklace the other day; I managed to make objects that resembled them...and then I wanted to wear them.

But how? There was no opening in the necklace and the ring and fingers are very small to aim well in order to slide the ring into the finger. Later that same day I took a class on nanoprims and we made jewellery. I got lost somewhere so I only finished some rings, a diamond, a ruby, and an unadorned necklace.

Last night I wanted to finish my work -when the necklace was done it hit me: another teacher had said it's not really 3D but 2D can place items through your body. Voilà!!! I fitted the necklace (now attached to a diamond) and of course sent copies to some friends.

We're still working on the machinima project in italianiamo -we had a dress rehearsal/impro last week and it was fun! It was in Alice in Wonderland.

Just to show the variety...Alice in Wonderland's lands hosts the WDT group and on 15th a new exhibition opened in one of the caves. My!!! Very raw, very appealing and shocking! "The Dark side of the Avatar" is not an easy exhibition -it goes deep into the artists soul to search for their "internal monster". I saw it unfinished just the day before it opened and then yesterday and it was so different!! My word for it is RAW.

I'm still amazed at how much there is available in SL...

Monday, 10 May 2010

Many lives

Here's a preview of a PicLit I made last month (you can click and see the full text version and the site, which is very nice).

PicLit from
See the full PicLit at

And just like with PicLits, and as it was in January and February...busy days learning. I joined Second Life in order to attend the IATEFL LT-SIG's Pre Conference event (PCE) and I'm addicted to it now! Or curious, mesmerized, full of glee...I used to think places like SL were designed for you to spend money and gossip. It turns out there's a lot you can do socially and educationally, too.

Some female friends have told me that they had uncomfortable experiences with male users, but fortunately it wasn't my case (probably because I joined for a specific event attended by people with similar interests to mine). So far I've joined a Medieval role-play (I'm not a villager yet so I think I might use the character for my journey Journal blog for a while...the poor lady travelled from Aquitaine to Artstonia all by herself!!!

I'm now learning to build and create things (apart from the tutorials available I've met really nice people who've explained to me lots of useful things for my SL. My belt had rotated and today I finally managed to place it back in its proper position (if you think it's silly...have a go at it!).

I've also joined italianiamo , a group to practise Italian through drama: we discussed characters and a plot line first, and last time we started trying out costumes and getting props ready. Then our coordinator will make a machinima (a sort of mini-film) but we still need to work on the dialogues. I get to be Medusa; here's a tentative look:

The plot requires her to have a magic snake egg (we're hoping to manage to turn her hair into snakes...), so I thought that was a perfect opportunity for me to try out what I'd learned (even with keyboard shortcuts!). Here's an egg from scratch:

And some others I edited
There's so much to do and so much to learn!! I'd love to create choreographies for avatars in SL...but it'll come in good time; in the meantime I continue teaching, meeting my friends in Plurk, meeting great people every week, exploring, learning...(origami's a bit neglected, true...).

I love teaching, and I love the way I'm teaching now -seeing my 7-year-old learner progress with such enthusiasm is exhilarating.

I'm also taking care of the Cross-cultural ELT Ning (we make a good team), soon to be Cross-cultural LT, as not all the teachers teach English (some don't even teach a language). But we all want to connect and share with other cultures, and we'd like to give our students that opportunity as well. Fantastic people there too.

In RL -or life away from the screen...good things are happening too. But my head is spinning and buzzing with all the new ideas and excitement that life is at the moment...I'll be able to reflect and analyze later.

For now I just enjoy it :-)

Thursday, 29 April 2010

A month full of events and exciting things

I haven't written much this month -but I hope I'll be able to articulate some thoughts arising from this busy month soon -my head's buzzing and spinning at the moment with all the new things I've started to have a go at and take part in (for example in Second Life).

Today I missed the first day of the Problem Solving with Smithsonian experts Part 2 -I hope they'll make some of the recordings available...

Last week I attended the 2nd Virtual Round Table Conference -completely online and completely amazing!!!! Day 1 started at 6am for me and day 2 at 4am and I didn't even care. All the sessions were fantastic (I missed some because they were concurrent but they will be available at the VRT).

I'm full of exclamations!! Reflections and descriptions will have to wait, I'm afraid...

In the meantime, if you can read Spanish or have an accurate translating tool, please consider reading the latest article in J.L. de Diego's column: "¿Para qué sirve? 
It's an interesting opinion article on education, technology and the "how-to" mentality, motivation and the role of abstract problems, the arts and humanities (as opposed to more practical, instrumental knowledge).

And to give you just an idea of the places I've been to these days, here's a couple of photos (they'll probably have more to do in my other blog -Journey journal, though). Hope you enjoy them:

Medieval Wanderer on the grounds of a Roman Castle (amazing place!) and, above this second photo,
Medieval Wanderer in Alaska (great view and really cozy inside!)

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Online Learning

After the exciting IATEFL LT-SIG PCE in Second Life, here's some more exciting sessions to look forward to:

Welcome to Day 1: Understanding the American Experience (online conference "Problem Solving with Smithsonian Experts")

And some photos from the SL PCE event -left to right, top to bottom: Scott Thornbury's session x2 (the second one with a Mermaid that stayed with us for a mysterious few minutes), Mark Pegrum's session and Stephen Bax's session. My mind's still buzzing to talk about the experience (just building my avatar was thrilling!) so this time I'll let the images speak...

Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Yesterday's thought

I was walking down the street thinking about my upcoming dance class and McLuhan crossed my mind -I wonder how he'd describe the Web 2.0 world in terms of human's extensions (I should add I was feeling lazy and had begun wondering whether I'd actually make it to class or if I could find a nice program to replicate dancing).

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Skating, dancing, learning about culture

It's been a while since I last wrote here, and my last post was different. I think I needed to take some distance from all the reflections about learning -this summer was pretty intense in terms of learning and thinking, and just enjoy another aspect of my life. I love dancing and music, and the Winter Olympics had just finished. I love to watch figure skating but I'm seldom able to -and, as if by fate, on the closing day of Vancouver 2010, I turned on the TV and caught the two wonderful performances you can see featured in my Glogster.

I've just finished watching a video about the Lakota way of life that one of the members of the Crosscultural ELT Ning Network  (which I help to manage) uploaded and found it very interesting and wondered why I hadn't heard of them before. I also wondered about my own culture, and the aboriginal cultures of what politically is now my country and why I know so little about them (basically names and where they settled originally). I'm sure my own culture must have its positive side -all things do, but I doubt it'll be as rich and simple at the same time as that of communities like the Lakotas.

Values and virtues like generosity, fortitude, generosity, bravery, wisdom, balance...does the culture I belong to value those as much as the Lakotas? Probably not -but why? And what values does my culture uphold really? I'm tempted to point towards an Argentina movie called "Nueve Reinas" (Nine Queens) and say that it embodies all the more salient features of my culture.

But wait!

The movie is about two conmen, and it certainly feels very Argentinian (there was an American version of it of which I only managed to watch the first 15 minutes) so there is some essence captured there. But surely we're not all conmen? Nicholas Cage's Matchstick men comes to mind -it's also about conmen but they are different.

Fine, then, so each culture perhaps has conmen with very particular styles -but how do the rest of the members feel about that kind of life? Do they accept it because they don't think there's anything they can do to change it? Do they reject it actively? Do they live and let live?

Cultural issues are never one-layered in my view. They have lots of angles and nooks and crannies and they're flexible and changing, they overlap with those of other cultures sometimes...and I find it difficult to step aside and be a non-judgemental observer; probably because culture is a part of me, of everyone. culture is beliefs and values but also how we live our everyday lives, all the little things we do each day, like washing the  dishes or greeting people or...

Friday, 12 March 2010

An aside...

After a busy summer with courses and reflections, I thought it would be nice to have here another aspect of my life that makes me happy, and that is dancing. I danced for a number of years (always as an amateur) and over a year ago I stopped and didn't think I'd be able to dance again. But I can, and I have, so I made this Glogster to share my joy -and if you missed the gala at the end of the winter olympics, here's your chance to watch some amazing figure skating!!!   If you prefer to see it in full, please click here

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Thoughts after listening to L. Lessig on fair use, copyright and online video

On Thursday 25, thanks to OpenVideoAlliance, I watched live a very interesting conference that Lawrence Lessig was giving at Harvard School on "Fair use, politics and online video".

After having attended a few webinars an other online presentations, I've taken to taking down notes pretty much in the same way as when I'm in the same room as the presenter. My comments here will come from what I remember and what I wrote down during the talk and will have, of course, been sifted through the filter of my own interpretation.

The first thing that caught my attention was the word PASSIVITY.

I've been so immersed in learning about the possibilities of the Web 2.0 that I no longer associate as easily as before the concept of technology with passivity. So the question that ensued was "who took it away?". Now we're talking; there was passivity, now there isn't so much -there's been a change. But how did that passivity come to be? Well, partly because creativity was being consumed (the Web has some great sites), but consuming ends there -it doesn't create. And so a context of [online] CULTURAL CONSUMPTION began to take shape.

Around 2004 this cultural passivity that technology had created and maintained for so long suffered a change because of -according to Lessig- a revival of the Reading and Writing (R/W) culture. Technology was now making it possible to REMIX content. One of the examples shown was mixing Anime with audio; another one, a video featuring political leaders mixed with a love song in the background. Lessig considers another big change took place in 2006 with YouTube. Of course. YouTube increased participation: now anyone could make a video and upload it, comment on other people's videos, email their friends with links to those videos...

And a REMIX CULTURE emerged as a new kind of amateur culture.

Now, the topic of the talk was not participation in itself but discussing fair use and politics in relation to online video -amateur and professional. Lessig took us to the early Disney productions, which made use of works in the Public domain...PD was fine for Disney...that is, until Disney saw what could happen to their own  productions and a Copyright Act was passed so now "no one can do to Disney what Disney did to the Grimm brothers". And yet Disney's "Little Einsteins" today are taking classical music and remixing.

Lessig's talk opened up my eyes and mind to the concept of remixing. Until listening to him I hadn't considered remixing as creating; it was using other people's works and putting them together. Period. Legally and ethically, they were part of plagiarism or just plain copying to me.

Now I see it isn't. When I use Animoto, for example, and take some of my photos (or someone else's photos in the PD), select PD/CC licensed  music to go with them and choose the order in which I want to use them, as well as whether I want a particular image or piece of a video clip to have more prominence, let the program manipulate the images and then  I give that video a title -I'm creating. The key for understanding this to me is the fact that I want to give my clip a title -if it were just putting together different works that someone else did and trying to make them pass as my own, why do I feel that choosing a title is so important? A title, as a category, is at the highest level of the superstructure of a work (text, video, anything) -most titles are not final until the whole work is finished. A title is mine, it embodies the synthesis of what I want to convey with my work. Semantically, and borrowing Van Dijk's terms, it is at the highest level of a text's macrostructure.

When I'm asked to write essays and I'm not allowed to choose a title for it, I  feel something's missing.

Lessig sees amateur remixing as celebrating freedom and reincorporating it. He stresses, however, the importance of the existence and enforcement of a copyright law -for professionals, for those who profit financially from their remixes using other people's works. He sees progress in this direction coming from the Court (in the US) but not from Congress.

Then he moves on to the issue of responsibility; who's responsible for making this change -from passivity back (or forward) to creating? Immediately after this Lessig cites the (real) example of a captain that was too drunk to run his ship to make the point that if you are there and do nothing, you are responsible too. The "good people" need to step up and do something -let go of the passivity and improper dependencies that destroy.

He encourages amateurs to use their talent and technology to see and change the dynamics by which creativity is being stifled. According to Lessig, copyright does no good when it limits amateur creativity and exhorts to create and enforce a copyright law that focuses on commercial entities that are using and profiting from amateur creativity.

He looks at 2 ways of remixing: (1) the one used by (for example) G.Lucas for Star Wars: he reserves all rights for himself even if you created, for example, the music that went into your remix. That, Lessig says, is treating people not as creators but as "people doing stuff for you".

Remix way #2 gives the copyright to the remixers, thus treating them as creators and promoting more amateur creativity.

Now as I write this I ask myself: why is it so important to have amateur creativity? Isn't it enough to pick and choose from commercially available creations?

And I think of teaching. I can go into my classroom and follow recipes time and time again, with different groups. Or I can see my students as individuals who, together with myself, form a particular group, with particular needs and interests, with feelings that change over the semester or the school year or even a week. I can remix the coursebook with them, I can ask them to think which part they want to change and why -what's useful, what could be tweaked to make it more interesting, what's fine as it is, what they'd like to bring in...

I could go into the classroom and set myself onto autopilot.

Or I can go into the classroom and help students grow, think for themselves, and express their ideas and emotions, and prepare them to continue learning when I'm not around anymore, to become independent thinkers and interpret the world in their own way and be aware that they're doing so.

Prepare them to collaborate with others and appreciate the good in other people's artifacts.

To contribute to a more tolerant and inclusive culture and society.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

On reading again

I was feeling a little out of sorts this morning and stayed in bed. Officially, the EVO-TESOL courses finished on Sunday, but of course our minds don't stop there -nor have the meeting places disappeared.

And so, just like yesterday I was finally able to read a whole article from the Financial Times and a blog post response to it and a blog post on who made the best ESP teachers -professionals gone into teaching or teachers going into specialisation (I'm being reductionist here, the post went deeper than that) as well as a printed column by J.L. de Diego on cynicism...Just like yesterday I was able to read all that (something I hadn't been able to do on the past 6 weeks because I was more focused on doing things and then reflecting rather than on reading or listening to reflections and opinions and processing them) -today, it seems, I was ready to start reading the Keen vs Weinberger text debate from the online version of the Wall Street Journal (July 18, 2007) my fellow participants on the Multiliteracies course have been discussing these weeks.

I only got to page two before I wanted to come and write about it, which (I think) already says something about human nature.

So far Keen has explained his position -the topic being Web 2.0, and Weinberger has started to respond. Keen's argument seems to be taking an "either / or approach" so far: "Is Web 2.0 a dream or a nightmare?" "Is it a remix of Disney's Cinderella or of Kafka's Metamorphosis?" -I finally understood what "flattened"comes to mean in a context like this. Keen reminds us that there are arguments of great democratization in relation to Web 2.0. So flattened comes to mean "we are all equal in this new stage of the Web" (my emphasis), hence the democratization reference. I'd heard flat, flattened, and other derivations before in similar contexts but had never connected them to equality or democratic forces at work (granted, Keen uses it in a somewhat ironic way in my opinion, but that doesn't change the connection I've made in my mind).

And yet, if I go back to my childhood, I realize I should have connected it at once: I recall a local (Argentine) comic strip by Quino called Mafalda. Mafalda is a precocious girl interested in political issues (she "lived" in the 60s and or 70s). She has a group of friends and one of them is called Liberty (well, Libertad). Liberty is an advocate of class and social struggle. In one strip she's explaining to Mafalda what her father's explained to her: that today (I'm quoting and translating rather freely both in language and interpretation, but trying to be true to the original); "Today", she says as she points to a wall in the street, "we're like these bricks -one on top of the other, the ones on top pressing on the others. But one day,"she goes on,"we'll be like this", and she gestures towards the cobbles on the road, "all at the same level, without anyone above us or oppressing us".

In the next frame we see a luxurious car drive by.

Monday, 15 February 2010


Brainstorming, originally uploaded by Msbea3.
Last week was an interesting one as we worked with audio on the digital materials preparation techniques course (I recorded myself reading one of Shakespeare's sonnets -I'm awful at reading poetry...). It was fun to choose some music tracks and mix it all down and the music helped to cover my flawed performance (trimming also helped!).

I enjoyed listening to the recordings made by the other participants -quite different in tone: a nonsense poem that I loved, a poem written by the participant herself -powerful and passionately read...

I also had a go at creating digital stories and that was a lot of fun too (my first script was lousy but I liked the voices I chose for the characters). The second story didn't have voices; it was a cartoon with speech bubbles and background music. Fun to choose as well. And it was lovely to read and watch other people's stories...I especially liked the feel of those created at Mixbook, but the Flickr 4-6-frame stories with no words were also nice. Simple is good too -and they may appear simple but some (if not all) demanded quite a lot of preparation. I remember two with more than one version where family members posed specifically for the various scenes. Storytelling has that brings people together at various stages and in various ways.

I'm also quite involved in a crosscultural project and thrilled at the positive feedback and interest we've been getting from the people we're inviting to join. It's very exciting.

Last but not least, I've joined the Flickr group that Plurkers have and it's a real treat to get into Flickr and see everyone's photos. I like building galleries there too.

And I love having a PLN that's not only growing but getting stronger, more fun and affectionate each day.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

I was listening and a white rabbit ran past me...

This week the Images4Education course centres around the world of  "digital storytelling". I love stories in any from: from the well-told anecdote to the printed and bound thick saga.

Some years ago I was studying Italian, and on our 5th year we'd start studying art&literature as well as language. The syllabus was structured chronollogically for arts&lit and so the texts we'd discuss were very old -for some we had modern Italian translations available, or a glossary. this happened mostly with short poems. With longer pieces, we had extracts in our coursebook. Now the extracts were not always the beginning of the stories, so some context was needed. Our teacher (who also had lovely anecdotes from her growing- up days in Italy) would then tell us what these stories were about. I was mesmerized; I'd forget about everything and go (internally!) "awww" when she'd finish. Dante's Inferno was never so appealing, I'm sure, as when she told it; Orlando Furioso and Orlando Innamorato were incredibly long poems and could have been terribly tedious, but Adriana made them gems -the gems they must have been to have endured the passing of time. She'd bring out all the internal suffering, the love, the violence...just with her voice standing in a classroom of 15 seated adult students.

That is the power of storytelling.

A few years ago I attended a session of storytelling by A.W., artist, EFL teacher and author of EFL books. The stories were not terribly elaborate, his telling made them wonderful.

Finally, in 2008, I attended (twice) a storytelling session by a Hugh Lupton, "professional storyteller". What a treat!! The stories were mostly folk tales and he must have told between 5-10 with only a break in between (leaving us expectant with only part 1 of a story having been told). Some of the stories were repeated in the second session. It didn't matter at all. I was as enthralled as the first time -if not even more, because I anticipated my favourite bits.

And now for a more recent approach (I think): that same year I also saw Francesca Beard perform her poems in her one-woman show "Chinese Whispers" . What an experience!! She used to have her Tesco poem up in her website but I can't see it now. You can still listen to some others, though. Her "how would you rather die" compatibility survey is coming to mind...

And there are other poets who perform their poems -and it makes the experience so much richer: Tony Harrison performing "Them and [us]" (it requires phonetic script between brackets). Benjamin Zephaniah...

Telling and listening to stories is a much richer experience than reading them or watching them on TV. It's not an everyday thing, though. I'd like to keep it special by indulging in it only when the right atmosphere has a chance to be established.

Now, the digital world is offering new possibilities -we can all tell stories to people far and near, in the way that suits us best.

Sunday, 31 January 2010

Here's the Animoto I created

2009: A fantastic year with Valen

My first year teaching English to Valen. Lots of dancing,singing and arts and crafts.Lots of fun!!!

End of Week 3

How to summarise this week?

A lot was done, yet not necessarily what the tasks instructed to. I used quite a few sites related to drawing, images and making things with them. I stayed up all of last night making a 30-second Animoto and a slideshow with photos I'd already taken. But I watched most of my classmates' videos and slideshows and I feasted on them. They were really good and interesting.

Now someone wasn't seeing much point in using Animoto for teaching and learning; I think it may be one of those tools you use occasionally, when the time is just right. It's not a tool that will save you time, or that you can keep under your sleeve an whisk off a lesson plan in a few minutes. Mine tried to be a wrapping off of 2009 with one particular student. I think it works that way.

I missed my Plurk friends this week because I wasn't able to spend much time with them...But from the time we did spend together my other blog (see my blogroll on the sidebar) Journey Journal began to take shape.

I'm still woking on a cool project with a colleague in Brazil, and this week was also positive in establishing human connections. And I don't mean "contacts". I mean finding rapport with people I perhaps hadn't had the chance to interact with previously.

I missed Mark Pegrum's talk -my heart was in the right place, but I was only deluding myself thinking I'd be able to get up on a Sunday for a 10 am talk, no matter how interesting it could be (and I'm sure it was). Especially since I stayed up all night working on other things -and trying to draw a cute secene for the Cute App in Sketchfu. What do you think? It's called: Can you see the giraffes yet?

I also stayed up most of Friday night designing my own avatar and characters for a comic strip, including a first strip. It was lots of fun and time flew by -later I noticed I'd spent 3 hours on it!

I also did some free writing to get some things out of my system; not because they were negative but, as my PC will often say I was having "low virtual memory capacity". I fed the text into Wordle and here's what came out:
Wordle: Free writing 1

For this version I chose not to leave out common English words. Apparently there was a lot of adding in my week!!! There was also a lot of misspelling and I decided to leave it in the Wordle because lately when I'm typing I have to delete and retype even the commonest of words -I tell myself it's because my typing speed's increasing. :)
Here's the other version, leaving out common English words:

Wordle: Free Writing2

Seeing, waiting, tweeting...(tagging would have appeared but I leftnospaceslikeI'm doing now so it looked like one word. It's interesting to see how what we can see changes if we tweak certain parameters/variables.
I'm just beginning Pegrum's first chapter From Blogs to Bombs, but I think this post, as I write it, brings home to me his concept of "lenses" -as I read his text the story of the blind men and the elphant also came to mind...

So this could perhaps be a beginning into the Multiliteracies course for me. I have to admit I've monitored the activity in it, but haven't got fully engaged yet.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Online presentations

It's just after 10.30 AM and I've just attended my very first Elluminate live presentation -it was great! Michael Coghlan discussed different features of Flickr, possible uses in the classroom, what "visual literacy" means in the context of language teaching as a subterm of multiliteracy or digital literacy and why it might be a good idea to use media like these in the classroom.

The highlights for me were:

  • The wonderful possibilities brought about through Tagging and Geotagging; their potential not only for searching and organizing but also for joining people up
  • Annotations -beyond the cute and into a richer visual experience
  • The possibilities of creating "mazes" or stories through annotating
  • CC Licensing as a teaching resource
  • The various possibilities all this offers to teaching and learning
Mike took us through a step-by-step journey of his experience using Flickr, which was very interesting, and made me think of something I posted a few days ago: how unplanned this experience is; you start using something without realising all of its potential at first but discover it as you use it. There lies, in my opinion, the value of experiencing things and not just being told. Something I hope to be doing in my classes.

Last week I attended another excellent Webinar, organised this time by English Central. Jeremy Harmer discussed teaching Advanced Learners. The highlights of this presentation for me had to do with putting the emphasis on the Learner and what s/he needs/wants to learn.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

FOAF project: making human connections

Uploaded by calmansi.
FOAF = Friend Of A Friend

Just made me thought of what we're learning on these courses -dmpt101, evomlit, images4education, participating in Nings, wikis, blogs, microblogging...

And the potential of all that.

blogging3 by etutoria

blogging3, originally uploaded by etutoria.
I found this on Flickr by etutoria.

We're discussing multiliteracies, images, digital materials...Teens are living all that.
I do feel a bit sad for that discarded paper diary, though...

Visual Creativity

Today I played with images as part of the Images4education course I'm taking and it was great fun. I tried a collage that couldn't save but made me re-think some issues. I discovered the fun potential of Flickr Toys, BigHugeLabs.

I thought about my origins, which was very hard, but in the end managed to write a simple poem and select a picture that represents these. Task two looked to the future, and that was much easier. And i enjoyed reading and browsing my coursemates' photos and poems.

Yesterday I drew on sketchfu, and coloured one of the templates that some members create. I love to see the creation of the sketchfu drawings. I was coy at first and my first pictures were two black telephones. Yesterday I drew a sunburned pig (site's suggestion), a sleepy red frog (lost in cyberspace), a beach for one of my students and, with the template, I began to experiment with shades of colours and light. And had what felt an epiphany when I realised how to get the effect of erasing something -if the canvas is white and you paint it with the same shade of white, you can't see it. If you use white on top of other colours on a white canvas, you erase it. Simple -it took me at least a week to figure it out, though...

Saturday, 23 January 2010


This past week I learned.

This past week I lagged behind with assignments.

I stressed out fretting over assignments.

And I put 2 and 2 together. I experienced something I hardly ever experienced as a student in formal education. The need to complete the task no matter what.

In other words, I put product before progress (Freudian slip -meant process). A notion completely against my teaching beliefs. I don't intend to analyze why at the moment, but I did it. And it sucked -forgive the explicitness.

Especially because I was enjoying all the things that made me get behind. I engaged in different levels of communication and connection with various people;
                          I tried out new things and felt that cherished desire to improve for pleasure. I asked questions I'd  have never let myself ask -in the words of J.R (wonderful NLP Master Practitioner): I asked for my fried egg.

I received a few comments not intended to cheer me up, even though they did -simply a coincidence, serendipity, that brought me back to focus. From a team partner, from a tutor, from my inner voice, from someone in a website team, from my PLN, from some who will perhaps be part of my PLN (perhaps they already are).

I like process. I like pacing - wandering off - losing data that makes you revise and edit without intending to.

I like continuity and constancy in progress. I like fun. I like people.

                                                  And I could never enumerate all the things I learned this week.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Week 2

Twitter's up and running in my life, so is Plurk, and I'm almost there with the knowing what tasks I need to perform for each course this week. The only bit of this rollercoaster ride I need to sort out yet is the calendar, and remembering to pay more attention to Twibes.

So now I can sit back and relax for a while admiring all the photos we uploaded in the "Window view" discussion and start connecting to people more comfortable. I'm not very good with introductions. I recognise their value, but it feels like being on a rollercoaster ride within a tornado to me.

So now I can also pay attention to other activities (I hope to go to the pool and the gym soon), try out cool digital tools, and participate in other discussions. A fellow Ning educator set up a wiki to discuss new texts on education and I'm looking forward to taking part in it.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Reaching inside out

Another busy day, but in a different way. It started with a live chat about Instructional Design. There weren't as many rooms as in TappedIn, but again I got lost. The chat was being streamed on two sites and I was early so I wasn't able to see any familiar names for a while. Then there were some sound issues (the main speakers' speech came out too low) so that added to my difficulty to follow what was going on. Still: I learned the rudiments of two streaming sites, learned about weekly scheduled chats, and got my apetite whetted for the topic of Instructional Design.

Yesterday I spent a lot of time sorting out my emails into their appropriate boxes; today I began to do that and, as it happens, I got an update on a site I like and clicked on it. That's how I discovered Tumblr (the streaming sites were ustream and edtechtalk). I saw that it was a blogging space and thought-well, nothing really special there, right? It's mostly a matter of taste and technological sophistication. So I went on to see the blog for Storybird on Tumblr. I love their illustrations, and I've tried to write a story in their site (actually wrote a terrible one but enjoyed reading other people's). I saw a "follow" button -by then I'd already registered in the site so I was able to follow. The process in order to get there was long: I kept being prompted to write my first post, to set up my profile, choose a title, a theme and whatnot. I don't know why I went along. But after having set up all that, I decided to do some browsing and see where I'd opened yet another account. I liked it. It's relatively low-key, but you can use it to share all kinds of things. Many people upload their photos and art; you can simply add quotes, or text and video and I think it's the only site that allows you to add audio on its own. So I have another blog, called Musings .There's not much there yet, but from the theme you'll see it belongs to a different side of myself. Just like Journey Journal here on Blogger.

And that's what I've noticed about the means I use to communicate with my PLN: I use Twitter, which I enjoy, but it's very different from the kind of feeling and interaction I get in Plurk. I like belonging to both, and it was actually a person I follow on Twitter that was kind enough to introduce me to her group of plurkers -just like a teacher I'd met through the Ning network was very kind to guide me step by step into the world of Twitter, both technically and socially.

In microblogging, I've also joined two Twibes groups. That was new. Another thing I tried yesterday was Diigo. At first I didn't know why (I mean, it's all part of the course so I give things a try) but as I was filling in my profile with the reasons (and this goes to any of my students that happen to read this: free writing helps) I realised I wanted to use Diigo; I wanted to share with other people the websites I like. I wanted to be able to interact with like-minded people like that. And discover new sites through them.

So that was new as well. But familiar, because I always end up enriching my PLN, which in turn makes me happier in lots of ways.

The penny dropped when I read earlier today a comment from one of my fellow teachers on the Multiliteracies group. She'd managed to share her links through Google Reader, inspired by the Evomlit Bundle of blogs the course made (of which this blog is a part). I've been using Google Reader for a while now and just a few days ago Istarted clicking the share option in posts I really liked. I tweeted some of them but it became a bit of a hassle. I kept wondering where those shared links were going. So I visited this teacher's shared links page. And I realised that my links had probably ended up on a similar page. I was already more than half-way over what I wanted to do! So I set up my profile and read some guidelines and now you can see my shared links on Google Reader .So where does the penny come in? When I started mumbling about Diigo and what a waste of time that had been given that I already had a tool that did the job and I was familiar with. Well, not so much...

I won't get now into the things you can do with one that you can't do with the other; suffice it to say that, just like my various blogs, they all have something special. Just like Twibes are not the same as Twitter lists.

Just like I don't always behave and feel the same way. There is a core and I think it's quite safe to call it wanting to connect.

That's what I like about being here; not having read yet any of the assigned texts I'd like to put forward a working definition of multiliteracies, and I think this post begins to explain it -what multiliteracies mean to me.

Friday, 15 January 2010

Getting to grips with Multiliteracies (with a capital m?)

Once again, it's late and I wasn't going to blog today...but after supper I started to explain to my mum how I felt about the courses I'm taking. Yesterday I picniked my first photo (it's already uploaded in Flickr) and was thrilled about it and I also took part for the first time in a chat at TappedIn. I like the idea of moving from the old chat rooms into offices on different floors of a building (and I got lost, just like in a real building!). On the way out I stumbled upon other offices and joined an Arts group.

That's more or less how my multiliteracy's been being built, I think. Very unplanned yet following a discernable path.

Back to supper and my mum -I said I was feeling a bit overwhelmed by the course on Multiliteracy because it seemed to be happenning everywhere and I didn't know where to start. And as I was sayig that I realised that one of the reasons I've been a bit reluctant to read the suggested bibliography and to get more involved has to do with the concept of multiliteracies. I can picture and feel a concept like that in English, but in my mother tongue (Spanish) it just loses all flexibility. I was trying to define what I understand by multiliteracies at the moment and at the same time looking for a word in Spanish that my mum would understand. And all I could come up with was "multialfabetización", which is the sum of multi- (so far so good) + literacy (alfabetización). But it just doesn't add up. In Spanish, both to me and my mum, the concept is too firmly tied up to having basic reading and writing skills. I can reason that that is definitely not the whole picture -and it hasn't been for a while- but deep down inside -in whatever nooks and crannies of the body one feels language, I cannot.

Perhaps after this post I'll be able to unlock my nooks and crannies and begin to absorb what multiliteracies are about.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Learning, learning everywhere

It's rather late and I wasn't going to blog today, but I've just had a look at the "practice wiki" we use on the course I'm taking (Digital Materials Preparation Techniques) and a smile flashed across my face. We started on Saturday/Sunday, and Tuesday's just gone but I've already achieved a lot! There's lots more to learn, of course, but it amazed me how different it felt to read the introductions this time. There were already a number of them the first time I saw it, when I wrote mine, and I remember feeling a bit daunted. Now I felt at ease and from the Voicethread introductions I was able to put some faces and voices to some names...

I'm also taking Images4Education, which is what I devoted the most time to today -that can be seen in the fact that I now have a Flickr account -with photos!

I still need to get to grips with the third course on Multiliteracy (I'm supposed to tag a post evomlit by the end of this week...this one would be cheating, right?). I'll tag it but not make it count.

It's all actually very exciting. And today I also had a mini exchange in Russian again! (I had to frantically look up words and go back to check which character comes first, but my interlocutors were patient. I hope to meet them again). That's another tool I found on the Web this week: Russian keyboard online . I've been searching for Cyrillic fonts on and off for years now and just this week I find a much simpler way to use the characters and people to use them with!

Let's end it with one of the photos I took today:

Monday, 11 January 2010

Busy Beek (I know it's a lame pun!)

A New Year's begun and with it, new courses...It's summer and I've joined 3 online courses that link technology and education. It's no surprise to anyone who knows me that I enjoy learning new things, and the last few months have had quite a lot of it.

Courses were supposed to start officially today (Monday) but the tasks and meeting areas were available at least since the weekend, which is when I joined and after nomore thana few seconds freaked out. I actually had to draw a plan with the names of the courses and what kinds of tools and resources and spaces would each be using! I think that was Saturday evening -when I also applied for membership where it was required. On Sunday, plan in my hands, I started taking care of my profiles and printed out the syllabuses and tasks for week 1. I caught the freaking out phase just in time and reminded myself that I had the whole week to carry out the tasks. Anxiety began to subside. My PLN also helped a lot. I'm not used to having a solid one, and the one I'm building now seems to be going that way, which makes me terribly happy.

Today things actually began to be fun. I feel a lot better with printouts. I commented, greeted, introduced myself, bookmarked like crazy, took some photos...And even ran into someone I met at a conference in September. That was very nice.

So now I'm tired, but happy (and for more of this, if you're in your 30s like me, you'll remember Alanis).

And I almost forgot the highlight (well there were many) -the language highlight of the day: I introduced myself to a Russian plurker, in Russian and using the Cyrillic alphabet. How's that for a Monday?

And let me add a photo of today at dusk (not great, but not too bad either, I think). Let's hope to get better ones in days to come

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

While I was gone

It's been a while since I last wrote here. I've been enjoying and strengthening my PLN and also trying to process some of the situations I went through this (well, last) year.

A couple of months ago I couldn't picture what a PLN was. Now I'm happy I'm aware of mine. I've met many wonderful people online and we're gradually building up relationships, and I've also strengthened bonds with people I already knew. I suppose we all live and experience our PLN's in different ways, but probably the core is the same: it's composed by those you care for, that are there for you and care for you, those you can share a good laugh about something trivial and also discuss more serious issues with. Some of the people in my PLN have very different day-to-day activities and responsibilities, but I feel it's our identity and feeling for others, our beliefs and values that bring us closer. I'm happy even just knowing they're out there.

So I've been tweeting, and plurking, and exchanging ecards and emails, participating in other kinds of online social networking, and building projects.