Thursday, December 27, 2007

EVO 08 Coming

I’m copying below Dafne’s invitation to join this year’s TESOL Electronic Village Online, a series of free 6-week online workshops. I first heard about EVO sessions about two, three years ago after just missing the 05 event. I joined one of the sessions despite being too late for the main action, explored resources a bit, and decided to definitely return in time for the next round. In 06 I took part in ‘Becoming a Webhead’ and this year in ‘Becoming a Webhead’, ‘Blogging for Beginners’, and ‘ESP Potpourri’. I very much enjoyed them all. Learning collaboratively with and from other educators from all over the globe is simply great (especially for couch potatoes like me ;-)). It importantly influenced my view of teaching and learning and I’m definitely coming back for more this January again. :-) Here's Dafne's invite:
Dear all,
The CALL Interest Section of the international TESOL professional association is pleased to offer the opportunity to participate in the Electronic Village Online (EVO) 2008 season. This is a professional development project and virtual extension of the TESOL 2008 Convention in New York. The intended audience for this project includes both TESOL 2008 participants
and those who can participate only virtually.

You do not need to be a TESOL member to participate in a free , six-week , wholly online session of the EVO, Jan 14 - Feb 24, 2008. Please visit our Announcement Page to select one or two among the various offerings.

Feel free to distribute this annoucement.

Looking forward to having you in the EVO 2008 sessions,

Yours in TESOL ,

Dafne Gonzalez
On behalf of the EVO coordination team

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

K12 Online

It started with David Warlick’s keynote, his video started at the airport and then took us along the paths David treads upon. I liked his ‘not afraid’ example.I also watched Clarence Fisch’s video, also taking us to places he likes, and a wonderful presentation about cellphones and how these can be used in class by Liz Kolb. She presented numerous useful applications and examples how to use them - I only use my cell phone for phoning. I liked the Bubbleshare option to post photos directly by sending them via phone to address they give you - different people can thus post photos to the same account via their phones, which is neat.I also watched an inspiring travel to China - a story of physical travelling and cyber connecting. And a great presentation by Alan Levine - I knew most of the applications he talked about, liked a lot how he connected everything together by pointing out the very important features which make them so usable - interconnectedness of e.g. Flickr, Blogger, etc. , social perspective (tagging for personal organization and to learn more about the field we are interested in), the embed option letting us make mashups of different resources. I loved his commenting on the learning objects movement from awhile ago - I think I attended a seminar last year on that, where we participants were encouraged to start working on creating such contents, which could then be shared and used like lego bricks - I liked the idea, but the way to carry it out seemed very complicated … I somehow could not force myself to start working seriously on that. These embeddable options are much more user friendly, anyone can use them. I also liked Alan’s comment that we should get used to living in the construction zone - things change so quickly we cannot count on perfection, but have to get used to constant improvement instead. So true.
Tuesday was the writingmatrix day.

I was very excited about it. Wesley Fryer posted a very appreciative feedback about our presentation
Now I’m looking forward to today’s fireside chat with all week 1 presenters. Our team isn’t likely to be complete, unfortunately, with Vance and Rita in the air and on the road, and Doris behind a mercyless University firewall, but Nelba and I should make it.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Another school year begins

Corridors in colleges and universities will soon be lively and crowded with students again - the buzz, the ringing of the school bell, the excitement of a new beginning... new faces trying to find their ways around the labyrinth of corridors, old students gathering together sharing their summer adventures.
I'm starting my 3-month EFL course with a new group on October the 1st. Wonder what it will be like.Wonder how big the group will be. Wonder how they will respond to our online experiments.
This will be a full-time group consisting of students of informatics engineering, mechatronics and countryside management aged 19+. Unfortunately every year there are many students who enrol just to spend another care free year or two as students, not having to work or look for a job. The reason for this phenomenon is that full time study at state universities and colleges is free of charge. The most popular programmes at state universities get the most serious students. Small, local colleges like ours, have hard time competing with them.
Most full-time students in Slovenia have occasional part-time jobs but are generally not employed. They are financially supported by their families. Few lucky ones have scolarships.
Part-time students, on the other hand, have to pay tuition fee, are usually employed, more experienced and, although they have less free time, are usually more active and motivated to complete course requirements - at least at our college I've been noticing this year after year.
My new full-time group will have 8 classes per week, 4 hours of plenary classes (up to 60 students) and 3-4 hours of smaller classes (of up to 30 students). The smaller classes will be mostly carried out in a computer lab. Instead of taking the traditional final written exam, students will be invited to:
- perform weekly tasks and keep record of their activities using a Google doc or a wiki,
- develop their blog and join the writingmatrix and dekita exchange,
- start using Google Reader or other aggregator to subscribe to blogs of interest.
I like these Google applications because they can all be accessed from a single account, which is neat, especially for students new to these tools. I know this shouldn't be too complicated for my informatics students, but feel a bit uneasy about the mechatronics and countryside management students...

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

A Webhead meeting in Slovenia

Cris Costa and her Portuguese friends Sara, Magda, and Bruno spent part of her vacations in our neck of the woods :-). Miha and I met them in Koper and spend the evening with them in Izola, a nice old fishing town on the Slovene coast. There was a street feast going on and we had a fishy dinner by the sea, some calamari, shells, and sardines. Cris and I talked and talked and talked – the few hours we managed to steal for ourselves flew with the speed of light. It is indeed a very special experience to meet an online friend for the first time. Cris is so young, so involved, has so many wonderful ideas. For every doubt and problem I mention regarding teaching and motivationg students she has a thousand suggestions and examples to show - a webhead in the truest sense of the word :-). I wonder what I would be working on today had I not come across this community in 2005. Being part of it has changed my teaching and view of teaching. I'm learning to teach and learning to learn.
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Saturday, August 11, 2007

Bee in action at Merlot Conference

I've been a Webhead for about 2 years now. Webheads in Action is a CoP bringing together educators across the globe, who are interested in experimenting with various web tools, exploring their use in class, collaborating on various projects, taking part in various online events – as presenters or participants. Educators coach each other, virtually visit each other's classes, and sometimes even meet F2F. :) For newbie teachers, the community is a jump board into the world of available web tools. There is passion, enthusiasm, friendship, sense of belonging, pride. A community spirit in its truest sense. Cris Costa explores it in her dissertation. Bee showed it in practice. Yesterday, she had an inspiring keynote at Merlot conference in New Orleans 'Jazzing it up with Merlot'. Of course, many webheads were there with her. She was wonderful – she always is. And her team. The team we heard speaking and the team making sure things ran smoothly. She delivered the keynote to audience in the conference room and brought in virtual audience from Alado and Second life. All the while the session was being broadcast live via Worldbridges skypecast. She opened the door of the cyber worlds she roams and let the Merlot audience have a glimpse of the starry skies, friendly people, beautiful sunsets, and inspiring stories.
The thoughts still echoing in my mind today are: Do we push contents on our students or do we pull their creations from them? (Bee), There are no teachers, just facilitators. (Vance), Let's tear down the classroom walls. (from one of Bee's earlier presentations).
We’ve heard Vance's cat herding view of the webheads - 'cats herd themselves, they don't need a cat herder’; membership is free and open to anyone - like a virtual hippie community – you know a hippie when you see one and you are one if you feel like one. I liked this. :-) The result of this freedom is a vibrant, creative, constructive, inspirational and often chaotic atmosphere. I think Chris commented in the chat area that chaos is WiA middle name, something like that. This chaos is a nice and friendly one though - the one which lets you see the forest and help s you find trees. ;-) There is always somebody out there to show the way.‘There are two arms,' Michael said, 'the technological and the human nature’.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Trying Audacity

I haven't posted again for quite a while here, because I've been involved in another blogging project called writingmatrix. This deserves a post of its own though.

I have been listening and reading about what a wonderful tool Audacity is for a long time. Now I finally took some time to download and test it. It worked.

I created a simple mp3 file with my gibberish and some background music. I tried to use a demo music file on my pc for background music but these files could not be read in Audacity. So I imported an mp3 from my husband's PC and ended up with another track next to the recording of my text. I then edited both tracks; deleted the silences, decreased the volume of the background music, moved my text a bit forward, so that the recording starts with some intro music first; and exported the file as my first mp3.

I followed these instructions to make the mp3 recording of my voice, and these for adding the background music.
Now I need to learn how to embed something like this in a blog.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Threading Week 5 in BaW

This is kind of report on my BaW 07 threading experience – it might be of interest to other BaW threaders.

It is a tradition to create weekly threads in BaW EVO workshops, i.e. to sort the numerous weekly messages into groups for easier reference later, creating a valuable resource for everyone involved.

My threading voyage was pretty smooth due to info shared by my 07 threading predecessors (thank you Nina Liakos and Gladys Baya) and due to invaluable help of my private techie (thank you Miha). :-)

This is how it went.

  • I opened up a PB wiki on Sunday and tried playing around using Gladys and Nina's recipe, i.e. copying messages from our YG into the wiki using the new point-and-click –editor... I spent an hour or two exploring the wiki editors, tried copy pasting directly from YG, then from my Outlook's reader's digest; was not to happy with my efficiency – it took me ages for this copy-paste-edit stuff...
  • I started anew on Monday morning using MS Web Expression; created the threads page outline (table of contents, headings, tables, return to top links, etc.) and copy pasted day 1 messages from our YG (about 40) – took me about 4 hours (was also learning how to use the program from scratch)– a much more user friendly and efficient way for me than the previous one – but all in all, still quite time consuming ...

Meanwhile, watching me toil the whole Monday morning, my husband Miha created a 'threading' program over at his desk and talked me into trying it out, starting again.

  • I started anew for the 3rd time using Miha's threader – this took about an hour to re-do all the before mentioned work. It proved to be the most effective so I decided to stick to it. Using the program, it took about 15 minutes per digest (i.e. 25 messages), all in all an hour to two a day.

What does the program do?

  • extracts all the necessary information from my Outlook's digests (message No., author, contents),
  • allows to easily sort and group these messages (into groups and within the group),
  • allows to easily clean the messages (automatic removal of line breaks within the selected paragraph and automatic marking of hyperlinks) ,
  • allows to easily add links to photos (database of authors is generated automatically so I only need to add the link once per author - this is then linked to all the posts posted by the same person),
  • allows to easily adapt the width of columns,
  • and - last but not least – the program generates the code which can then be simply pasted into the wiki using classic editor.

What you see posted in the BaW wiki under week 5 threads has been generated using Miha’s program, slightly edited using MS Web Expression (I added the first table with threads related info, and corrected long links in messages which distorted tables) and then pasted into this wiki using classic editor.

Where to check the program?

How it works?

Threader works with reader's digests from 'sent items' folder in MS Outlook. Copying digests directly from inbox doesn't work (at least not on my computer) - it only works with copies from 'sent items' folder.

If you use MS Outlook, you can try it out.

  1. Install and run the program
  2. Copy the contents of reader's digest to be threaded and click 'parse' in the menu (remember to first forward the reader's digest to be threaded to an address, and copy its contents from 'sent items' folder (Ctrl+A, Ctrl+C)).
  3. Now you should see all the digest's messages in the top window ( if you don't see them, that's a problem :-( ).
  4. Select a message in top window, determine its level 1 and 2 groups (in the two textboxes by writing/selecting the name there - e.g. 'Week 3 Tools' and 'Blogs' ) and click 'add' buton; (group names can be later edited by clicking 'groups' button and editing the name; a message, which has already been sorted can also later be assigned a different group by clicking the group name at the bottom of the bottom right window),
  5. Threader fills all the required cells itself – the added message is visible in the bottom left window – message #, reply to #, date, author, contents, group) (if you've added the message to the wrong group, you can remove it using 'remove' button or change its group as described before in pt. 3).
  6. Once the message is added, find it and select it in the bottom left window - it's contents should now appear in the bottom right window. Clean the text using 'break' button for cleaning line breaks and 'hyperlink' button for marking hyperlinks appropriately.
  7. If necessary, move the selected message (bottom left window) up or down the group using 'up' and 'down' buttons.
  8. When all the messages are done this way, click 'tables' in the menu, choose 'groups' button and determine the desired order of groups/tables using 'up' and 'down' buttons. You can also edit the group names here if necessary. When happy with this, click 'close'.
  9. Click again 'tables' in the menu, choose 'authors' button and add links to photos to the authors database and correct display names if necessary (authors might sometimes not be recognized as the same persons, which means that you will have to add the photo link more times). When happy with this, click 'close'.
  10. Save.
  11. Click export, check the results, if happy with them, click 'copy' button, go to wiki / other HTML editor and paste the code. You should get the table of contents and the tables with messages and back-to-top links. All cells should be filled in appropriately. If not happy, return to threader and correct whatever bothers you (e.g. columns' width is adjustable after clicking 'settings' button in threader menu...) and repeat the export procedure.
  12. The threading part is thus done - what is yet missing is the introductory table with info about the weekly threads – copy it from one of the previous weekly threads pages and insert the code where it fits – I did this final editing using MS Web Expression and then copy pasted the code in the wiki. I found MS WE much more user-friendly than wiki editors, plus it's more comfortable to work on such ‘big’ files locally.


  • threader has only been tested using reader's digests copied from MS Outlook,
  • if you want threader to recognize a digest, you need to copy it from 'sent items' folder; (Outlook does something to digests when forwarded , which makes them readable),
  • authors are sometimes not recognized as the same persons and appear mentioned more times in the database (it is not a problem - you just have to add the photo link more times).

Can I use it?

YES. I think the program is worth checking if you volunteer for threading – it has done the tedious part for me letting me concentrate on contents without worrying about the format. You need to keep in mind though that it only works with Outlook digests since it has been designed for this purpose. If it works for you – feel free to use it. If it doesn't, I would go for a good HTML editor for doing the job and then copying the code into wiki.


Doing week 5 threading was an interesting experience – it's nice to play with the right tool for the job (THANK YOU Miha again, I'm not sure I could do this without you) - and it is a very rewarding feeling to be able to contribute at least a little to our wonderful community from which I have received so much. Thank you BaWers and 'ancient' webheads, it feels good to be part of you. I guess it would be a good idea to upgrade this BaW Threader to extract messages directly from our YG. This should then make life for BaW 08 threaders a bit more comfortable. What do you think?

Sasha - the wife of the king of threads ;-)

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Hugs and huggers

Today I'm inserting a YouTube video for the first time. I'm trying Michael Stein's instructions as suggested by Jenny in our B4B YG.
The first video is Free Hugs Campaign. Inspiring story!; I found the link to it some months ago in Garr Reynold's Presentation Zen (a blog worth checking if you're interested in presenting) under Inspiring visual presentations.

I then saw this video mentioned again in the webheads mailing list sometimes last year, together with the Australian news report about it below.

Anyway, the hugging spirit happened to briefly touch Slovenia in December; the music from the video was rolling on Slovenian channels as part of an advertising campaign for our mobile telephony provider and there were some individual huggers in Ljubljana, Maribor and Nova Gorica (the town I live in) – reports mentioned two boys and a girl I think, most likely students. They received a little attention in the news but went pretty much unnoticed by the public.
I showed the video to my students - they (male, aged 20+) would generally not stop for such hug. They find it weird. :-(
And now let's see if this works.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Trying Blogger

I've followed Erika Cruvinel's advice and opened this Cyberkitchen to be able to explore Blogger together with my EVO B4B group. I've temporarily moved here from my good old Cyberattic.