A blog for teachers and learners who love technology

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Massively Multi-player online Role-playing Games - Learn English and play at the same time

Massively Multi-player on-line Role-playing Games

An alliance battling a boss monster in Guild Wars 2

Some initial thoughts

Throughout this journey of talking about different ICT tools that are capable of promoting ELT in their own unique ways, I wanted to express my thoughts on this video-game genre. During the last decade, the academic community have expressed various views on MMORPGs. But why would academics care about a video game that much? In 2004 an MMORPG called World of Warcraft emerged. At its peak this game had more than 10 million active players. Its popularity and the capabilities that some people identify made this game a controversial topic. Some exalted this genre and acknowledged its affordances for language learning while others argued that the possible dangers coming with those games like the fact that it promotes violence, cannot make it qualify as a game that fosters language learning. In this post, I will briefly explain those games' mechanics in order to move on an activity that could be used in an English language course and finally identify its advantages and limitations.

What are the MMORPGs?

For this part I will borrow Steinkuehler definition of Massively multi-player online games: 

Massively multiplayer online games (MMOGs) are highly graphical 2- or 3-D video games played online, allowing individuals, through their self-created digital characters or “avatars”, to interact not only with the gaming software (the designed environment of the game and the computer-controlled characters within it) but with other players’ avatars as well. These virtual worlds are persistent social and material worlds, loosely structured by open-ended (fantasy) narratives, where players are largely free to do as they please-slay ogres, siege castles, barter good in town, or shake the fruit of tree (2004:2).

A typical start of an MMORPG involves creating a character> arming yourself with a weapon> killing some monsters> scavenge them> sell the material that you scavenged> upgrade your weapons and armor etc. What is more, players can carry out tasks also known as quests in order to make their avatars stronger, casually communicate with other people, as well cooperate with them in order to achieve higher difficulty quests. 

Example activity

This activity can take place either inside a classroom or from the students's homes. It consists of a series of goal oriented tasks which gradually lead to learners using higher order skills in order to carry out the tasks. Last but not least, the tasks' can be done in every MMORPGs. This is because, the basic mechanics as explained above are common to every MMORPGs. Therefore I will not use real places and the tasks are meant to be changed depending on the MMORPG that each teacher will use

To begin with, the teacher and students need to have their characters placed in the same area of the virtual world. Then the teacher can either hand in a or e-mail depending on where this takes place, a handout with different tasks that students need to carry out in-game.

Some tasks could be the following (this is just an example of tasks, there are thousands of things that can be done in MMORPGs):

  • Go to X area and kill a dozen boars
  • scavenge their fur
  • try to sell the fur to other players
  • Get into a group and travel to the X area
  • In this area there is a wooden hut. You need to find it and search for a potion.
  • Give the potion to player with the least health.
  • Now as a group you need to hunt the wild boar that terrorized the people who live in this hut
  • Share the loot according to your needs
After finishing this quest, students can be asked to evaluate this quest based on how interesting or helpful for their character's progress was. After doing this for a few weeks students should be able to recognize some of the target language that is used in those quests. Therefore, after a while they should be start composing their own quests which after being reviewed by the teacher, could be the next quest for the classroom. After completing them students could peer-review them and so on.

The teacher's job during the quest is to monitor the students so as to be sure that they follow the tasks. We could also provide help in case students have any difficulty in understanding any of the tasks. Also language help in tasks that learners will have to other players that do not belong in our classroom and finally to make sure that students' in-game behaviour is appropriate.

Pedagogical value

The level of accomplishment in those games largely depend on working within a group as opposed to playing individually. In order to be able to work within a group you need to be able to communicate with your group. Considering the fact that the dominant language in MMORPGs is English, players, in order to progress within the game, need to become competent in using English. To achieve communication between players, the game provides chat channels.

Looking at the tasks I created one can say that the element of group work is quite prominent. In a number of occasion learners will have to communicate in order complete the tasks. For example, during the task which asks learners to find the hut, I would expect that some of the students will give directions to the others either because they follow their intuition or because the have been in this area before. In the last three tasks group work is unavoidable. The reason for that is that the wild boar will be way stronger their characters. Therefore they will need follow some strategy which they will have to negotiate it beforehand,  in order to ensure that every player knows his role in the team.

I also suggested some tasks that can happen outside the game. This idea is not new at all. Asda Story which is another MMORPG  gives players the privilege to write their own quest. This could be far more complex than my quest. It could include a story and various objectives along with directions and maybe rewards for completing it. Then after other players finish this quest Asda story ask those players to evaluate the quest and give their suggestions. Therefore, if you are using Asda story there is no need to prepare this exercise as it is already implemented into the game. In other games though this could be done as a separate exercise.

I believe that this series of tasks move smoothly from the lower order thinking skills to higher. At first learners need to experience the game, understand and memorise its mechanics until the build a level of familiarity with it. Then when they are ready they will move to evaluation where they can evaluate my quests in order move to the highest order skill which is to create their own quests.

At this end of this activity, learners will have practised their writing skills, their ability to negotiate meaning and find solutions in issues that they may face all as a part of a group.

Issues and Limitations

First of all, in order to be able to run the game a laptop/desktop is needed. In case this is happening in a class students will need to have a laptop if the institution cannot provide them. What is more, an internet connection is essential. Concerning the game, there are free MMORPGs like the Asda story I mentioned earlier; therefore learners are not obliged to buy a game.

A limitation often found in those games originates from the absence of any oral communication. From my experience, I have not encountered a MMORPG that features voice communication technology. Therefore communication only happens through chat channels. This issue can be easily tackled if the game session takes place in a classroom. However, if students play from their homes, it will be more challenging to have students speak to each other apart from writing. This can be done with various software, but it takes time to set them up money to use them.


Steinkuehler, C. A. (2004) ‘Learning in massively multiplayer online games’. In Kafai, Y., B., Sandoval, W., A., Enyedy, N., Nixon, A., S., Herrera, F., (ed.), Proceedings of the Sixth International Conference of the Learning Sciences, ‘International Society of the Learning Sciences’. Mahwah: Erlbaum, 521-528

Monday, 23 March 2015

Wordle - Discover new words by creating Word Clouds


What is Wordle?

Wordle is a free on-line tool that allows you to create word clouds, like the one in the picture above. This can be done by either copy-pasting a whole text or by copying the URL of a web page, including a blog. Depending on how frequent the same words appear on the texts those words will appear larger on the word cloud. There are also some options for modifying the word cloud, like changing the words' colours and the background's colour, changing the fonts, as well as an option that allows you to remove very frequent words from the word cloud, such as the articles.

Example activity

I believe that wordle holds the potential to aid learning in enriching their vocabulary. Learning a language is not a process that happens solely inside a classroom, In countries where English is not used outside the classroom, by the time learners leave the class, the will stop thinking in English, because English does not have any uses in their everyday life.

To deal with that, we could urge our learners to start making connections between what's happening inside the class and outside of that. This would only be possible if our lessons dealt with topic that are universally appealing, In other words, topics should be culturally provoking in the sense that they are culturally specific but, at the same time they are present in all cultures' (Saraceni 2013:58).  For instance, we could ask our learners to create word clouds with words that belong to the same meaning-based families. So, if we having a lesson about literature, we could ask our learners to create a list of words they encounter that are linked to books. Then, they could also sort the words depending on how frequent they encounter them. So, in the end they will have a list of words that are linked to books and with some of them appearing more than once in the list. Then they could copy paste this list in wordle in order to create the word clouds. The result might look like that.

Pedagogical value

As I have already mentioned, the lack of domains in which English are used in Greece and many other countries where English is perceived as a foreign language, significantly decreases the opportunities for language practice. Therefore, the point of this activity is to have learners think in English outside the classroom.

Another potential advantage of this activity originates from the learners sense of discovery. What I mean is that a lesson cannot cover all the vocabulary items linked to a certain topic. Too much new vocabulary will hinder the learning process. Therefore, it is normal that learners will encounter vocabulary items connected to books that were not introduced in the lesson. As a result, it is likely that they will use a dictionary to find the English equivalent words. I believe that learners know better than any teacher in the world their own zone of proximal development. As long as their motivated to carry out the task. they will try to identify as many words as they can learn. However, teachers should not put pressure on their learners to include words that they have not encountered during the lesson. It is them who they would put pressure on themselves to find more words for their word clouds. And even if they stick to the words presented in the lesson, they would have still carried out the task and spend extra time using the Target language.

Target Audience

Connecting things you encounter in your every day life with a given word (book) constitutes a logical process; therefore I believe that this would benefit sequential learners, who enjoy identifying those connections compared to global learners who often tend to learn in large jumps and more randomly. Those type of learners will enjoy categorising information. And this what this activity is trying to achieve. So, by creating  those different groups of words, hopefully, those type of learners will be able to recall the words when they need them.


Saraceni, C. (2013). Adapting material: A Personal View. In Developing Materials for Language Teaching (1st ed., p. 58). London: Bloomsbury.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Present.me - An online presentation tool for reflecting our students' speaking tasks


What is Present.me

Present.me is an online tool that enables students as well as teachers to create presentations. What makes this tool special, is the fact that its users can upload or record a video of them doing a presentation, while at the same time they can upload some power-point slides to go with the recording. This results in one video split into two parts. As a result, when you record yourself presenting, you can control the slides so that they would be synchronized with the video.

How does it work?

After you have successfully registered an account you can start creating your presentations by clicking create at the top of the screen. At this point, you can choose what you want to include in your presentation. It could be from slides along with a video or a voice recording to just slides or just video or voice. It is also important to highlight that Present.me also supports Prezi presentations in case someone wants to make his presentations more creative. Apart from that it also supports power-point presentations, pdf files and Google docs.

Another interesting feature of Present.me is the fact that it allows you to delete bits of the presentation that you either do not like or because you made a mistake and keep the recording going from where you left off.

Finally, it allows you to embed the presentation into your website, share them by e-mail or even upload them to YouTube.

Example activity

Even though Present.me identifies itself as a tool for creating presentations, I can see this to be useful with speaking activities as well. In other words, teachers along with their students can imitate the speaking part of various examinations, including those to acquire the Cambridge English First (FCE) and the Cambridge English: Proficiency (CPE) as well as the IELTS examination.

Teachers can create handouts similar to those that are given during the examination and place them as slides. Then a video recording can be made with both the teacher and the student appearing on the screen. The teachers ask the student the questions appearing on the slides and then the student responds accordingly. 

Pedagogical value

The most important of the reasons that Greek students choose to learner English is to pass the Cambridge examinations, either the CPE or the FCE examinations. From my experience, English language teachers in Greece will often neglect practising speaking with their students. This often originates from students' unwillingness to communicate in the Target Language (TL). Either because students do not feel confident to speak or because teachers don't promote the use of TL, students' unwillingness is a fact.

Probably the use of technology, in this case, might help students change their attitude towards practising speaking. It is to be said, though, that this will not 'simply happen'. Greek teachers of English should encourage their students to speak. This should constitute a long process in which, learners should be aware of the importance of communicating, in order to be able to use the aforementioned tool in order to prepare for the examinations.

What is great about that is the fact that teachers after recording the speaking practice, they can re-watch and send it to the students to reflect on it. After that, teachers can also make some corrections on the students' language, as well as on their approach to the answers and the different tasks that might be particularly challenging, especially the FCE's speaking task.

Difficulties with using this tool

English language teachers in Greece are often intimidated by the use of technology and prefer to stick to more traditional teaching methods. They will often say that our sole purpose is to prepare our students for the Cambridge examinations.Therefore, according to them if we put the advantages and the disadvantages into a scale, the disadvantages outweigh the advantages. However, I believe that this is because many of those teachers are not aware of the ICT tools that can be used in education.

I can see this tool be used inside a classroom without hindering the language learning process. It would only be used as a replacement to the speaking tasks that are similar to the ones that appear in the aforementioned examinations. Therefore instead of sitting in front of your teacher and answering his questions, you would be sitting alongside him/her and answering his questions while being recorded by the computer's/laptop's camera. It might be possible that the process of recording might feel intimidating for the first few times. But after that, the advantages of being able to self-reflect on your performance by re-watching it would definitely help students improve their speaking skill in the long run.

Target Learners

There is a type of learner that will find this tool particularly helpful. Those are the reflective learners. Boyd and Fales (1983) identify reflective learning as "the process of internally examining and exploring an issue of concern triggered by an experience, which creates and clarifies meaning in terms of self, and which results in a changed conceptual perspective". In other words, reflective learners are able to identify their strengths and weaknesses, in order to become better.

However, reflective learning is not an easy task in a language class. Students might want to go back home and write about their experiences in order to reflect. This is not an easy task, considering the fact that, reflective writing becomes more difficult as time passes mainly because it is most likely that you will not remember everything that happened. For the above reason, it is wise to do the reflective writing right after experiencing the event/incident  you want to reflect on. However, as I already said this in might not be possible right after the class. For that reason present.me holds great potential for reflective learners.


Boyd, E. M., & Fales, A. W. (1983). Reflective Learning: Key to Learning from Experience. Journal of Humanistic Psychology. doi:10.1177/0022167883232011

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Quizlet - A free tool for both learners and teacher who want to learn and teach vocabulary respectively


What is quizlet?

Quizlet is a free website dedicated to both learners and teachers. Students can use this learning tool to enrich their vocabulary as well as to improve their spelling by creating flashcards, study and play games such as the space race! Teachers, on the other hand, can create virtual classrooms and then create flashcards which students can study, share, and comment on. In this post, I will focus on the students' account considering the fact that it is free compared to the teachers and because what the student's account provides is enough to make this tool worth using.

To begin in, order to gain access to the website a registration is needed, This can be done either be registering an e-mail or by linking you Google+ or Facebook account with Quizlet. When you successfully log in,  by clicking "create a set" you can start creating materials.

How does Quizlet work?

First you chose the language you want and the you type the words that will constitute the set. Having said that. Quizlet works perfectly with words that belong to a specific group. Either distinguished by grammatical terms such as the prepositions of place or by the situations in which they are used such as words related to auctions this tool can really help managing and learning those vocabulary items.

A great thing about Quizlet is that there are audio files for 18 languages. Therefore, learners can create a set of words and then practise the pronunciation of those words. Due to the fact that my native language is Greek, I was interested to listen to the quality of the audio files. I have to say that the pronunciation was perfect. It sounded like the recording were taken from actual native speakers rather than a computer generated voice.

Quizlet has 6 different activities which calls them study modes that learners can engage with. Those include flashcards which give learners the opportunity to listen to the pronunciation of the target language as wells as connecting the TL with images that represent the TL. The next study mode is called 'learn' . Learners need to write/type what the picture represents in order to get the answer correct. The nex one is called 'speller' and it is quite similar to 'learn'. However in 'speller' learners can also listen to the words' pronunciation. After learners practise using the aforementioned study modes, the can start the 'test' study mode which is what its' name suggests. Learners need to respond to 5 written questions, 5 multiple choice questions and 5 true/false questions. Finally, if they feeling confident enough with the TL, they can try the 'space race' and 'scatter'. Both of them are games, which learners can play in order to practise TL in an enjoyable way. In the 'space race,' learners need to write/type the word on the picture before the picture disappears from the screen. In 'scatter' learners need to match the words with the pictures that represent those words.

Example Activity

First of all, I would like to highlight how powerful and user-friendly the embedded study set is. By embedding a study set learners can use all the different study modes that are available in quizlet. In other words, they provide the same experience without having to visit the website. What is more, teachers and learners can embed their study sets into various websites, like Edmodo, Google+, blogger etc.

The study set I created, deals with the fruits. I included 15 fruits each of them having a picture which represents every one of them. All the features I mentioned in the previous paragraph also appear in this study set.

Theoretical background

What I see in Quizlet is its potential to help learners and teachers understand and explain meaning respectively in a very explicit way. Jeremy Harmer (2007) highlights the importance of a visual representation of the target language. He defines this practice as the "clearest way of explaining the meaning of something" (Harmer 2007).  Translation in L1 is always a possible practice depending on the nature of the lexical set. On the one hand, could be translated into L1 to make learners understand the meaning of the words. On the other hand, idiom phrases would be more difficult for teachers to translate them into L1 and in many cases the translation might not make sense in learners L1. However, I still believe that visual representation are way more engaging than translation and possibly if we examine this from a psycholinguistic point of view, the process of retrieving the correct word just by looking at the picture could be faster than directly translating from the L1.

If I had to identify Quizlet's approach on language teaching I would compare it with the PPP (presentation practice production) approach. Flashcards resemble the presentation stage in which learners are presented with the TL's meaning and pronunciation. Then in 'learn' and 'speller' learners practise using the TL in a very controlled manner in which feedback is given instantly. Learners are able to compare their spelling of the word with the correct spelling and then are urged to rewrite it with the correct spelling. Production is missing from Quizlet and in each place learners are urged to try the two games which can provide them with more practice on the TL in a fun and enjoyable way.

Target Audience

Quizlet is quite easy to use. From registering an account to creating your first study set, potential users will not find it difficult to use this tool. Therefore, basic digital literacy skills are all that quizlet asks users to possess. 

What is more, visual and auditory learners will find this tool quite suitable. This tools is based on the power of visual representations and by implementing audio files with the correct pronunciation makes this a very useful tool for those type of learners. 

Last but not least, in the case of the teacher's account, learners can compete in the "space race" and the "scatter". Depending on their speed and accuracy, learners can score points which can be seen among the group. Therefore, this basic gamification element can be motivated for learners who enjoy a bit of challenge and competition.


One of things limitations that I can identify in this tool is the fact that no much cognitive work is happening while learners engage with the different study modes. For instance, when a learners is using the speller and he/she misspells a word, Quizlet will just correct the mistake, propose the correct spelling and ask students to rewrite the word. I found this way very ineffective and boring at the same time. Even if the learners spells the word correctly right after the correction, I am not sure if this would be the case in the long term. 

What is more, I would like to see some language production except for the typing involved in the spelling and learn study mode. For example, the use of cue-response drills even though they are out of fashion might be beneficial for them if used in moderate.

Last but not least, as I already highlighted this tool will be suitable for learners who enjoy watching and listening. However, kinaesthetic learners's needs are once again overlooked. The reason, I am saying this, is because throughout this journey of writing about those different tools I have found myself saying over and over again how limited are the chances for physical activity/movement. However, the difficulties of implementing those features that would suit kinaesthetic learners, must be acknowledged. 


Harmer, J, (2007) How to teach English. Essex: Pearson Longman

Sunday, 1 March 2015

MoPad - Collaborative writing inside the classroom


What is MoPad?

MoPad is a public pad in which users can collaboratively write a document. What is great about this technology is the fact that the text is synchronized as you type. Therefore, everyone who collaboratively work in this document can view the progress of the text at any time throughout the whole procedure.

Before starting typing, each of the users is able to write his name and chose a colour for his/her text in order to distinguish between who is writing what. Mopad allows some basic modifications of the text. You can choose between different styles of text such as bold, italics, underline your text or change its size, It also gives the ability to toggle bullet lists which can be proved very helpful depending on the nature of the text you want to produce. However, the most important of the features that MoPad incorporates is the ability to export the constructed text into different file formats. For instance, depending on your needs it can export the pad into HTML, Microsoft word file, PDF, OpenDocument, Bookmark File as well as a plain text. In addition, it enables with the help of a time slider to monitor the progress of the text from the beginning to the end. Last but not least, a chat box exists, which users who co-construct the text can communicate without affecting the actual text.

Example activity

Due to the nature of this tool, I will try to highlight situations where MoPad could possibly be used both inside and outside an English language classroom. To begin with, MoPad's ability to enhance collaboration in order to work towards a specific goal, makes this tool great for teachers who enjoy a TBL approach to their lessons. I will try to propose an example of TBL activity in order to see how and where MoPads fits into TBL.

Context: Last week our class went to the local theatre to watch 'As you like it' which is a Shakespearean play. This particular adaptation of the classic play has sparked a lot of controversy due to its revolutionised approach on a number of themes.  Your job is to produce a review of the play for people who will want to watch this play in the future.

Materials: Stationery, MoPad

Group Size: Any (divide into working groups of  4) 

Level: above B1


  • Learners silently recall the key features that make this play controversial. 
  • They share, compare, negotiate, their ideas  which had the larger impact on the play.
  • They decide which concepts/themes are the most important to be included in the review (up to four)

Task Realisation:

  • Learners use their devices (laptop/tablet/mobile phone) to create a new public pad with the help of MoPad.
  • Through the built-in chat box, they decide who is going to write what in order to deliver the review. Every review should include an introduction, 2-3 critically expressed opinion on the play's themes and some closing thoughts)
  • Learners co-construct the review


  • The groups are divided into pairs in which half of the students present their review and the other half listen to another pair presenting their work.
  • Then the two pairs are engaged into a conversation and critically comment on each other views about the play.
  • Then the presenters become the listeners and vice versa.

Linking MoPad with research into ELT

In the above example, I tried to present a situation in which MoPad fulfils a very specific role in a TBL activity. Learners are engaged into collaborative writing activity in which they need to construct a piece of writing in groups. Generally collaborative work is considered to be essential in an English language classroom. This type of pair/group work is promoted by Vygotsky's (1978 in Shehadeh 2011) social constructivist approach in learning which expresses the idea that activities which promote social interaction are connected to human development.

Shahadeh in his study (2011) about the effects of collaborative writing found learners who engaged in this type of collaborative writing produced superior texts but also their content organization and vocabulary competence will increase.

However, collaborative writing is not an activity which was inconceivable in the past. In other words, this type of activity can be present in a task even without the use of MoPad. As a result, someone might suggest that the benefits of this technology might not be enough to cover the disadvantages of using technology in the classroom, I believe that this is not true for this particular technology. I believe that this technology not only can substitute the traditional method but also the functional benefits are of great importance in the activity's outcome. Learners can see the text's progress at any time; communicate and make suggestions relevant to the text without having to move around and lose time from the actual task. Therefore, according to Hockley's SAMR model, this activity along with this technology belong to the category of augmentation. 


It can be said that during the writing process if learners had to use pen and paper, because of the absence of the chat box that MoPad has, the only way to communicate would be to speak. Therefore, this phase might have generated some language use, which would probably be relevant to the task. For example, vocabulary relevant to reviews, theatrical plays etc. As a result, learners will miss this opportunity to practise their speaking skills even though the focus of the activity is on writing.

One of the disadvantages which appears throughout the ICT tools which involves writing is the presence of a spellchecker. Similar to other pieces of software which can be used to produce a document, misspelled words will appear highlighted. As a result, learners by right-clicking the misspelled words can find the correct spelling. I strongly believe that this tools can only hide the learners' difficulties. Therefore, no learning happens during this process and learners spelling skills will not progress.


Shehadeh, A. (2011). Effects and student perceptions of collaborative writing in L2. Journal of Second Language Writing, 20(4), 286–305. doi:10.1016/j.jslw.2011.05.010

Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Mind in Society The Development of Higher Psychological Processes (Vol. Mind in So, p. 159). doi:10.1007/978-3-540-92784-6

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Aurasma - Can ELT textbooks come to life with this app?


What is Aurasma?

To begin with Aurasma is a free to use mobile application which is compatible with both Android as well as IOS mobile devices. It enables users to experience augmented reality by aiming the mobile's camera at different images, objects or even places. For example, a car magazine editor is writing an article about a new car but he wants to make the article more engaging. What Aurasma enables him to do, is to link a picture of the car inside the article, with a video/3D product model showing this new car. As a result, when the reader points his camera to the picture while using Aurasma , the preselected video/ 3D model of the car will appear. In order to better explain Aurasma I will present one of the uses I am very fascinated about.

Example Activity

Before presenting the examples I prepared, I would like to briefly explain how I came up with those examples. A significant number of teachers who teach English using a textbook will probably agree that textbooks have some flaws. For those examples, I would like to focus on two specific flaws. Sheldon (1988) in his article "Evaluating ELT textbooks and materials" describes textbooks as  static and at the same time he highlights the fact that they become outdated quite fast due to the long process of writing and publishing. Even though the article is quite old, textbooks have not changed dramatically. Both of those drawbacks still exist in many English language textbooks. Supplementing materials either in the form of CDs or computer software have considerably helped to improve the reputation of textbooks. However, the problem is still there. In other words, the actual textbooks will remain static even though most of the material those material refer to the book content.

How is Aurasma relevant to that? Before answering this question, I will present my examples and then I will try to explain how these are relevant to what I have said about the textbooks.  For those examples, I have used a very popular ELT textbook called New Headway Elementary written by Liz and John Soars and published by the Oxford University Press. I have made three examples. In the first two, students need to carry out a reading task, in which they need to read about two famous women, a singer and an actor/politician. When students point their camera at the pictures 1,2 a video of the singer performing and the biography of the actor/politician will appear on the screen respectively.

You can download the app on your mobile phone if you want to test the examples I created. Android - IOS (In order to be able to use my Auras you need to follow my Aurasma profile - username: Antonopa)

When students point their camera at these extracts the following webpages will open:

Shirley Temple Black IMDb Profile

The third example is a bit different. It comprises of a recording I created in which I demonstrate the correct pronunciation of four words that appear in a box. This box presents the words know, talk, girl and thought, all written in phonetic symbols.

Linking this to theory

During my practical teaching modules, I recall my groups' tutor highlighting the importance of activating schemata. Teachers should be able to help learners relate their previous knowledge so as to engage with the material.
Schemata theory proves that reading texts enable learners to construct their own understandings by taking part into an interactive process between the learner and the text (Carrell, Eisterhold 1983). Learners bring the own experiences, and background knowledge into the classroom which will be activated by the time a learner receives the input by reading the text (Carrell, Eisterhold 1983). However, what happens when learners background knowledge is not enough to engage with the text? Carrell and Eisterhold (1983) highlight the importance of a balance to exist between the learners' background knowledge and the knowledge that the text require learners to possess.

Example 1

I believe that Aurasma can play an important role at this problem which exists with outdated or irrelevant to the learners material. Namely, in the first example not everyone in the class might know Joss Stone. Considering the fact that she is a contemporary singer, watching a video clip of her will help learners engage with the material because they now have some exposure to her. Depending on the learners' age the song can be also changed to increase engagement. For instance, I choose a live performance of the song 'here comes the rain again' which was originally sung by  Eurythmics, an 80s band. As a result, in a class of adults who might not be familiar with Joss Stone, this song which they will probably know, will help them to engage with the material.

And this is how textbooks can actually become alive for the first time and within the boundaries of the pre-selected content can possibly change according to the learners' needs.

As I mentioned before teachers need to be able to engage learners with the topic. However, I have witnessed a significant number of trainee teachers and found it challenging to start and then handle a conversation which would activate learners schemata. Therefore the use of Aurasma, can possibly help those teachers who find it difficult to grab their students attention and engage them with the topic.

Example 2

The idea behind the second example is the same with the idea behind example 1. Shirley Temple Black was not a name I was familiar with when I was reading through this book for the first time. Therefore depending on my learners' age I assume that they would probably not know her, which in the worst case scenario may result in a lack of engagement.

However,  Aurasma's benefits are not limited to helping with students' engagement. In example 2, a webpage of a famous site will open which keeps record of all the actors in the world. This page includes Shirley Temple Blacks biography, filmography as well as famous quotes of her, trivia and strange facts. The possibilities for extra activities are significantly increased with this new piece of material. For instance, learners can scan the texts for particular information about some of he movies or they can create a group project about the different aspects of her life. Of course, the same can happen with example 1. Extra activities can be built around Joss Stone's live performance such as gap-filling activity based on the song's lyrics.

It must be acknowledge though, that the activities that I proposed are not innovative at all. Perhaps Aurasma can help with creating activities that were previously infeasible due to the lack of such technology, but this is not what I am examining in this post.

Example 3

Example 3 is significantly different to the other two. To begin with, while example 1,2 are designed to take place within the classroom environment, example 3 is designed to help learners while studying at home. In this example I have linked the image from a box which highlights the correct pronunciation of four words with a recording I created with Vocaroo (an on-line voice recorder). In the recording, I read the instructions of above the box as well as the actual words.

In my opinion, there is a lot of potential for publishers to improve their textbooks by implementing small sound clips or video clips depending on the Target language. In other words, learners, especially those who live in countries where English is not used for everyday situations, have limited exposure to English. Fours hours of teaching are not enough to receive an adequate amount of input, What if textbooks publishers would include sound clips modelling the correct pronunciation? Or small video clips in which teachers would explain some grammatical points? Or even some hints on how to finish a specific activity? The opportunities are endless. As long as those extra materials are carefully designed to help learners and avoid confusing or spoon-feeding them, textbooks will be considerably improved.

Target Audience

Regarding the use of Aurasma as in the third example, learners can be exposed and experiment with the material stored in an on-line repository as they would do in self-access centres. Assuming that there is at least one extra material (Aura) for every activity, rule etc. in the book, learners are able to choose which of those extra materials would experiment with. Therefore, we can describe this as self-directed learning. Either because of personal interest or because they identify their weaknesses, learners will be able to focus on different materials. What is more,  there is an element of programmed learning through this. Namely, learners would be able to work individually on their own pace, in pre-determined by the teachers or publisher, chunks of language (Benson 2011). Having said the above, I believe there is high chance that autonomous learners will be positively benefited by the use of Aurasma.

Concerning examples one and two, it can be generally said that, learners who enjoy using their mobile phone would like this new technology. I also believe that there is a strong element of active learning in those examples. In other words, teachers who implement Aurasma in their lessons, will give them the chance to discover on their own what comes next. This is utterly unpredictable considering the fact that learners will not have access to the Auras until teachers decide it. Therefore, there is high chance that high risk-takers, as well as active learners, would embrace Aurasma.


One of the limitations, or to put it more correctly, disadvantages of this technology is the probability of distracting learners from learning. The fact that learners, need to open and use their mobile phones during the class-time can be a good reason for them to check their Facebook profile's news feed, In a big class monitoring what learners do with their mobile phones is a very difficult task. However, I believe that similar to example 2 (Shirley Temple Black), if learners use the App to access new piece of information which will enhance their understanding and maybe be a part of another task, under the correct management learners will not have the time to be distracted. In other words, if this becomes a vital part of the lesson which is necessary in order to progress into the next activity, task etc. , I strongly feel that learners will maintain their interest.

A tutorial video 

This is a tutorial video that I created and gives a good introduction on how to use Aurasma studio.


Benson, P. (2011). Teaching and researching: Autonomy in language learning. Routledge.

Carrell, P. L., & Eisterhold, J. C. (1983). Schema theory and ESL reading pedagogy. TESOL quarterly, 17(4), 553-573.

Sheldon, L. E. (1988). Evaluating ELT textbooks and materials. ELT journal,42(4), 237-246.

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Soft Chalk - Creating web based lessons

Soft Chalk

What is soft chalk?

Soft Chalk is a web lesson builder. In other it is a tool that enables teachers to create digital lessons. Teachers can make use of their own material or they can search through the built-in search engine for materials and put them together to create the lessons. What is more you can share and borrow your lessons and other people lessons respectively by uploading them to the soft chalk online repository.

Free to use?

Soft chalk is free to try for 30 days but after that it requires you to pay the amount of 495$ which is considerably high. However, the 30 days trial gives the chance to decide whether this tool is worth your money or not.

Example material

I created an example lesson in which I deal with the prepositions. The lesson will be suitable for a group of either adults or teenagers learners at an elementary level/ A1-A2. For this lesson, I tried to follow an inductive approach. Learners, after a very brief introduction which explains what prepositions are, are given a text which I wrote for this activity. Learners need to scan through the text in order to locate the prepositions. The purpose of this task is to give them the opportunity to "notice" the prepositions inside the text. At this stage, mistakes are expected, therefore, a low score in the activity would be normal. However, learners through activity two would hopefully be able to figure out what the prepositions are and not confuse them with the articles. The reason I chose the articles a, an and the to be the wrong answers is the fact that the learners should be familiar with the indefinite and definite article therefore they should be able to figure out that the rest constitute a different group of words. Then learners move to activity 3 in which they are given a picture (picture 1) with different colour boxes and a tree. Learners should scan through the text once again and locate the prepositions in order to be able to distinguish between the different places that are mentioned in the text. Then they need to move the labels (bus stop, convenient store etc.) into the correct boxes.

By the time, they finish with the labelling activity learners should be familiar with the prepositions and figure which words consist them. Then one the same text but without the prepositions, learners need to choose the correct prepositions. Learners are urged to recall the picture in which the label the different place in order to finish this task. Finally, now that they have been presented with the target language and have practised it they are asked to create their own paragraphs in which they will describe what is around their own home as in the text.

Target Audience

Softchalk is a tool that gives teachers the opportunity to decide on their target audience. As long as, learners have basic IT skills they can experience a soft chalk lesson. The reason why there is not a particular target audience is mainly because soft chalk can be described as a tabula rasa. What I mean by that is that soft chalk is just the platform in which teachers will create their lessons. By lessons, I refer to complete lessons similar to those taking place in a classroom. Therefore both activities and theory can be included. As a result, depending on the context of the lesson the target audience may vary in terms of proficiency. Concerning multi-modality, soft chalk will be particularly appealing to visual learners. Auditory learners will also find soft chalk interesting depending on the teachers' approach when creating the lessons. For example, a lesson that asks learners to watch a series of videos and do some activities based on them would be motivating for that type of learners. On the other hand, kinaesthetic learners will find softchalk monotonous and demotivating considering the fact that the only movement that takes place is limited to moving the mouse and typing on the keyboard. Last but not least, analytic learners will be benefited by softchalk. The company who created softchalk are rewarding teachers for excellent lessons every year. All the lesson had one thing in common. They were given small chunks of knowledge followed by activities. As a result, information and instructions were given in an explicit manner. What is more, each of those chunks which include theory and activities had very clear goals and objectives. What is more , the range of activities the softchalk offers are particularly relevant to the analytical learner's taste. Those include matching, labelling and jigsaw activities. Finally, due to the fact that softchalk promotes those small chunks of activities and theory, learners who get easily distracted and find it difficult to concentrate would be particularly benefited by this approach that softchalk promotes.

Does it meet our pedagogical goals?

In terms of feedback, softchalk records learners scores for the teacher to identify the learners' weaknesses. It gives real-time feedback, as a result learners are given the chance for self-correction. Concerning writing tasks such as essays in which the answers are very long, those will be store in order for the teacher to read them later give them appropriate feedback. 

Concerning the four language skills, writing and especially reading can be sufficiently practised. Again, however, the affordances for language learning depend on the teachers' correct use of this particular technology. Normally, each lesson will include a reading task followed by an activity, based on the task , which will lead to activities that require higher-order thinking skills. At that point, learners will need to reflect on the learning process or create an authentic piece of work such as an essay which is similar to what I did in my lesson with the writing activity.


While creating a lesson, I realised that what I was creating was a web equivalent of my normal lessons that would take place in a traditional English classroom. However, when I tried to include a speaking activity I came to realize that this is not possible. What is more, listening is not provided in the possible activities. Finally. groupwork is also missing from softchalk. However, at some point in this presentation I said that softchalk is a platform which can enrich with material from another source as well. For example in my first post, I talked about Voki, a tool that lets you create speaking Avatars. Voki avatars can be embedded in a softchalk lesson to provide learners with some spoken language input. Similar to that, learners might be prompted to write a collaborative essay by embedding a Google doc link. Finally about speaking, learners could be given a speaking task along with a link of Vocaroo which is an on-line tool capable of recording one's voice. After that, learners could post the link of the recording in a space created by the teacher similar to the one I created for the writing task. To conclude, as long as we have knowledge of the various ICT tools, we can embed them in our lessons to provide our learners with ample practice of the different language skills.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Classcraft - Managing the class or playing World of Warcraft?


So what is classcraft?

This week I am going to present you classcraft. When I visited classcraft's website for the first time, I knew what to expect from this multi-purpose tool. To begin with, classcrafts is a tool that is expected to be used during the class. It is classroom management tool that helps with rewarding, motivating the learners The reason behind this is the fact that, it was created while having in mind World of Warcraft and other famous on-line role-playing games (RPGs). It borrows some core elements that made RPGs so popular like creating a character, questing (finishing in-game tasks), leveling up your character by gaining experience points so as to make him stronger and cope with more difficult quests. Another important feature of the game is the fact that it promotes groupwork. The way has been implemented in classcraft completely nullifies every argument which supports that those games promote antagonism between the learners.

Do I have to pay to use it?

Teachers can choose between three versions of classcraft, the free version, the freemium version and the premium Version. The differences between those versions are hardly noticeable. The free version includes access to the full gameplay, support from the community and the developers, as well as different localizations including English, French, Spanish, German and Chinese. The Freemium version is a free version which enables learners to make in-App purchases. The in-game currency (gold) only affects the customization of each learners' character and they are not exclusive to only those who purchase them as the can be obtained by leveling up your character. It is important to highlight that the in-App purchases are capped at 5 dollars Apart from that, it includes the aforementioned features of the free version as well as the interactive class forums, the student analytics, the ability to obtain pets and finally iOS support through an application. Finally, the premium model will add nothing to the game experience other than granting teacher's the ability to distribute the in-game currency in order to reward learners, which means that they can no longer purchase gold themselves.

How classcraft works? Example class

I created an example class so I can explain classcraft's different aspects and capabilities. To begin with the game starts with the teacher creating the class and then allocates students into different teams in order create their in-game characters.

Classroom setup screen

Each learner can choose between the three available classes (mage, healer, warrior) which greatly affects their role in the game.  After creating their characters, players have access to a unique screen when logging in with their accounts in which can see their abilities. In this learners can see their HP health points), AP (Action points), EXP (Experience points), as well as their GP (in-game currency gold). When learners do a rightful action or give a correct answer in an question, they are granted with some experience points by the teacher.

Allocating Experience points according to what learners managed to do.

And vice versa, if the students have showed bad behaviour in the classroom they can be penalised and lose health points.

Penalising learners for bad behaviour

However, due to the fact that penalising someone also affects the team, team mates will often use their AP to help students who are in trouble. For example, a warrior may use his 'Protect' ability to share and reduce the amount of HP that will be losed. Similarly to the warriors, each character class has different skill trees. As Learners gain experience they can unlock new skills. For instance, mages later in the year after when they would have collected many experience points will have the ability to postpone an exam by 8 minutes for his team. This is an example of an academic power.

Mage's skill tree

Other interesting features

Those constitute classcrafts main features. However. the game implements a variety of mechanisms that can help with the classrooms management as well as motivation. Teachers can initiate a random event in which learners take part. Those may negatively or positively impact the whole classroom or a team or even one individual learner. For instance, one random event may result in all players losing some HP or carry out a task.

example of random event

Another interesting feature is the presence of a dynamic forum in which teachers can initiate conversations in which learners can give their opinion and argue with the other students. For example in I have created an example of a topic that might be discussed in an English language classroom.

In this particular example learners of this English class has to read the same graded reader every month.
Learners can share their views on the book and hopefully argue in a constructive manner in order to acquire a better understanding of the book. Having said that, someone may say this is something that can be done with a standard forum. However, the game being loyal to the mechanism of a role-playing game allows the teacher to allocate experience points for excellent posts.

Lastly, classcraft gives teachers the ability to monitor their learners performance. This can be done through analytics which through graphs shows how learners have been doing in a specific time period.

Ok, but how is this going to help me and my students?

Probably what makes classcraft such an interesting tool its the fact that every aspect of it promotes collaborative work. Jeremy Harmer (2007 43-44) identifies several advantages of groupwork into English language teaching such as more active participation and, therefore, more opportunities for language practice. However, someone might suggest that the games that lend all those features to classcraft are based in violence and antagonism between the players. Instead, in classcraft no-one plays against each other. Namely, it implements strong elements of collaboration between the learners, considering the fact that someone's good behaviour will positevely affect the whole team and vice versa. This is where classcraft biggest advantage and possibly disadvantage lies depending on the teachers' ability to handle classcraft. Considering the fact that any good or bad actions will always affect the team, there is strong pressure come from within the teams to every individual to act properly and improve its performance. As a result, the pressure for becoming better is no longer coming from the teachers but from the group members. In an ideal world, this would be perfect considering the fact that learners will be keener to accept the pressure from the group mates rather than their teacher. However, this may be the reason from creating conflicts between them and therefore learners may miss their language learning goals. Therefore good managing skills, as well as knowledge and familiarity with the game, are essential for teachers who want to implement this to their classes.

In addition, I believe that classcraft can aid teachers and learners with receiving and giving feedback respectively. The fact that classcraft promotes teachers giving feedback and assessing learners' performance on the spot by rewarding the with experience points can greatly motivate our learners. Good language practice will result in our learners gaining more experience points. Similarly with homework, learners who did their homework can receive experience points and depending on the excellence more points can be given. The whole process resembles the rewarding system that teachers utilize with Young learners in which the give them stickers but in an adults/teenagers world. What is more, classcraft can help with long term feedback as well. What I mean with long term feedback is that it gives teachers the ability to have individualized graphs and notes for a specific time period or even for certain dates. Therefore, it allows us to reflect both on ourselves and our learners. For instance, if learners did no have so many correct answers in one lesson this is something that might be telling us something about our approach on this particular lesson. Maybe we failed on giving our learners the chance to come up with correct answers and therefore we monopolized the lesson or our lesson's topic  failed to catch their attention which led to not being actively participating. On the other hand, the fact that we can see our learners' performance over a specific amount of time, allows us to better understand our learners difficulties and tailor our lessons according to their needs. For example if we noticed a performance drop at the second half of term one in which we introduced simple past tense this might be a hint that we should revise simple past and probably hold a lesson in which we clarify learners question regarding simple past.

To conclude, I would like to highlight the fact that if learners manage to identify themselves with their in-game characters that would significantly motivate them. Research has shown that a connection exists between intrinsic motivation and game's characters (Susaeta et al. 2010). Therefore if learners can identify with their characters they would feel the need to improve them because that would mean that they would also improve themselves.


As I have already mentioned, to be able to use classcraft at its full potential and without hindering language learnering, it requires teachers to devote time in order to become familiar with it. The developers of the game suggest that the time teachers need to devote on classcraft during a class is less than five minutes. They also quote other teachers experience who are actually supporting this claim. Considering the fact that I have not use this tool and therefore I have no hands-on experience, I cannot argue whether this is true or not. However, having examined the tool a lot I assume that if teachers are extremely familiar with the game's mechanics then the five minutes pledge might be realistic. 

Considering the fact that classcraft was created after a niche game genre, a fact that I will like to put forward, is that when we are using a tool like this which heavy relies on our learners preference. In other words some of our learners might not find any interest in this game. The developers suggest that in this case those who are reluctant might not participate at the beginning of the year but they can join later if they believe that the game is interesting after all. However, this exclusion of the learners from such an important aspect of the lesson (considering that your using this tool properly and for a significant amount of time), is something I cannot consider as an English language teacher even for a limited period of time.

To conclude I would like to highlight something that Russell Stannard mentioned in one his lectures in my own words. We often get too carried away by our love for technology and the capabilities of a tool that we forgot to achieve one of our greatest goals which is the need to meet our pedagogical goals. (Stannard


Stannard, Russell. "Skills Development - Fluency." Professional Practice ELT (ICT & Multimedia). University of Warwick, Coventry. 10 Feb. 2015. Lecture.

Susaeta, H., Jimenez, F., Nussbaum, M., Gajardo, I., Andreu, J. J., & Villalta, M. (2010). From mmorpg to a classroom multiplayer presential role playing game. Educational Technology and Society, 13, 257–269.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Voki - Speaking Avatars as a learning tool

Voki - Speaking Avatars

What is Voki?

Voki is a simple to use tool, which can be accessed through your internet browser. It enables you to create speaking avatars and use them as an effective learning tool. To be able to start using Voki, you need to create a new account. Its main feature, which is the ability to create avatars comes free with the registration. However, to fully access Voki, a subscription is required. Those enable you to use 'Voki classroom' as well as 'Voki presenter'. You can either choose to buy a subscription which allows you to use one of them or a one that features both tools for a greater price.

Creating avatars it's pretty much straightforward. Students, as well as teachers, are able to create speaking avatars and choose from a wide range of different customisation options for the avatars. Concerning 'Voki classroom' and 'Voki presenter', even though I wasn't able to explore them because of the subscription need, I will try to briefly explain them using all the information I've got from reading the website. Regarding the former, it enables teachers to add their students into Voki classroom. By doing that, students do not need to register with a username and a password because those are automatically assigned when you add them into your Voki class. It gives teachers the ability to individually assign homework to the students which can be then reviewed by the teacher. As far as  'Voki presenter' is concerned, it is a tool which enables teachers to create presentations using a Voki avatar. What is interesting about this feature is the fact if students miss a lesson they van access it later as all the lesson are saved in a cloud storage.

Example activity

I have created an example activity for you to see the potential of this tool. In this example, the teacher as a part of the homework has created an avatar to deliver the instructions for a speaking activity. The teacher points back to an activity they've done in the class about a man telling a story in which he described what happened to him. Then a student responds, by recording his story and assigning it to his avatar.



While examining Voki and thinking  about its possible uses, I came to the conclusion that it can considerably help to increase student's willingness to communicate. It is an undeniable fact. that one of the teachers' greatest responsibility is to increase the meaningful as well as authentic language that their students' produce. However, that raises the inevitable question ' How Voki can do that with just an Avatar, The answer is that If we look back at traditional teaching and learning activities we can see that role-play activities work almost in a similar way with Voki.

In general, students' anxiety while speaking in front of a group may negatively affect their performance (Kongme et al. 2011) Therefore, as Harmer (2007:183) suggests, students who don't feel very comfortable to speak in front of a classroom, will be keener to speak when they take part in a role-play activity. The reason why this happens is the fact that in role-play activities students need to play a role and abandon their identity while the activity takes place. Similarly, Voki gives students as well as teachers the opportunity to abandon their identities and adopt a new one. What is more,  when teachers assigned a speaking activity for homework it is difficult for them to review the outcomes of the activity. Students might need to demonstrate in the next class how they cope with the speaking activity. However, by using Voki teachers are able to review speaking activities and consequently increase the actual time of the lesson considering the fact that there is no need to check the outcomes in the class.

So, who is Voki's target audience?

As far as the target audience of this learning tool is concerned, it can be appealing to a wide range of learning groups. In terms of age, I believe that young learners would find Voki very motivating because of the customisation options that exist. On the other hand. for older learners the fact that they have the ability to produce more output which can be reviewed by their teachers can be very motivating considering the fact that older students always look for more opportunities for language practice. Students who love technology will happily embrace a chance to use technology for language learning while at the same time students who find it difficult to keep track with the technology around them will be happy to know how simple Voki is in its use. Concerning the three main types of learning styles, it can be said that Voki could be appealing to both visual as well as auditory learners. Both, due to the fact that they enjoy watching or listening for example presentations, will be positively motivated by a teacher using Voki presenter. Last but not least, as it was mentioned earlier quiet student will also enjoy Voki because of its role-play characteristics.


However, Voki is not perfect. In my opinion, it lacks some key features that would make me use the tool on a regular basis . For instance, the fact that it lacks features of gamification found in other tools. In other words, I believe the lack of progression of the students' avatar might reduce learners will to use Voki. Progression of the avatar might include from new customisation options to the presence of 'Achievement' badges' which student would win when achieving particular goals. What is more, due to the fact that learners' avatars do not progress through continuous engagement with this tool, learners will not be able to establish a 'projective identity'. Gee (2007) identifies 'projective identity' as the ideal identity which learners want to identify with in this virtual environment. I believe that this is a well-established idea among gaming literacy and the benefits coming from this practise are numerous and therefore should not be overlooked. At this point, I would like to highlight that even though Voki is not a game, that does not mean that characteristics which are commonly found in video games should not appear in other on-line tools.  With Video games of all kinds becoming increasingly popular in our day and age, I believe that education and English language teaching can learn a lot from Video games.

What is more, if we go back to the example, even though I tried to imitate a language learner student by doing some mistakes in pronunciation, grammar etc. it is clear that there were no pauses in my speech. The reason for that is because I wrote down what I wanted to see beforehand and therefore reading from my notebook. This is something student might do even if we as teachers advice them not to. However, that doesn't change the fact that students will do mistakes even if they prepare they speech beforehand. Therefore, even though students might not be effectively practising their ability to produce spontaneous language, they will be still practising their ability to correctly produce the correct form of the structures as well as their pronunciation.


Gee, J., P. (2007) What Video Games Have to Teach us About Learning and Literacy. New York: Palgrave Macmillan

Harmer, J. (2007). How to teach English. Essex: Pearson Education Limited

Kongmee, IsaraStrachan, RebeccaMontgomery, Catherine and Pickard, Alison (2011) Using massively multiplayer online role playing games (MMORPGs) to support second language learning: Action research in the real and virtual world. In: 2nd Annual IVERG Conference: Immersive technologies for Learning: virtual implementation, real outcomes, 27-28 June 2011, Middlesborough, UK.