11 Random facts, Questions, Answers and ELT Bloggers:Reply to Eva Buyksimkeyan

11 Random facts, Questions, Answers and ELT Bloggers

This is my very first  blog challenge and a dear colleague who I first met in Paris, Eva Buyuksimkesyan, tagged me for a very personal  blog challenge. Having served for many years as an officer for a teachers' association meant avoiding talking about myself so I have kind of forgotten what it is like... but  I’ll try to do my best.

 The task includes:
Acknowledge the nominating blogger.
Share 11 random facts about yourself.
Answer the 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you.
List 11 bloggers.
Post 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate to answer, and let all the bloggers know they have been nominated. Don’t nominate a blogger who has nominated you.

11 random facts about me
1. I’m a single parent raising two daughters
2. I grew up in a neighborhood with Greek refugees from Izmir and Asia Minor. Even though they had lost their homes and all their belongings, they managed to build their life from scratch. Their forward thinking has always been an inspiration.
3. As a child, I spent unique summers on Aegina, an island off the Athenian coast, playing with my friends on the beach and in the fields all day long.
Aegina, the island of my summers

4. I love chocolate and coffee.
5. My favorite books are the "Animal Farm" by George Orwell and " Christ recrucified" by Nikos Kazantzakis. They both show the bright and dark sides of human nature in a unique way each.
6. I love reading history books and watching documentaries.
7. My cooking skills leave a lot to be desired especially when it comes to dishes like "Moussaka" or "Pastitsio".
8. I adore discovering off the beaten track places when travelling in Greece and abroad.
9. I am often described as cosmopolitan and open to different cultures.
10. If I didn't live in Athens, I'd like to live on a Greek island.
11. Enjoying discussions with friends during a meal on a sunny day with a view of the Acropolis or the sea is bliss that no money can ever buy.
12. (Bending the rule but I think I need to add it) I consider myself a front line teacher. Dealing with issues arising in class helps you being a pragmatist and dreamer at the same time!

My answers to Eva's questions:

1. Do you remember the first class you entered as a teacher?
 A class of elementary level kids at the language school I had learned English. Having a male teacher - they usually have female teachers- must have been a challenge to them but soon they dropped their initial inhibitions and we all  had fun learning.

2. What is your favorite social media platform? Why?
Facebook because it combines picture, text, video and audio. It started as a pretty superficial social medium hosting gossip, fights and games but over the years it has evolved into a useful tool to create PLNs, share ideas and news and get in touch with people from all over the world.

3. How do you think blogging helps your teaching?
Working at a school that is at the forefront of educational practices, requires constant updating, sharing experience and learning from the experience of others . Writing blogposts allows me to reflect on practices and methodology I have applied. Reading blogposts allows me to broaden horizons by reading what front line teachers and innovators from all over the world are currently working on.

4. Tea or Coffee?
Coffee for ever!!! <3

5. Who is your favorite singer, band, musician?
Hard to pick only one. My favorite composers are Hadjidakis and Theodorakis. My favorite singer is Andrea Bocelli. 

6. Do you attend conferences? Why? / why not?
I attend conferences cause apart from the presentations, they allow for interaction with participants. I often find myself learning far more interesting stuff from chatting with other colleagues than listening to ELT "stars". It also helps me realize that educators face more or less the same problems everywhere and that there is no "ideal class". At least  not in planet Earth :)

7. Who were the most helpful tweeters or bloggers for you when you started blogging or tweeting?
Vicky Loras, Eva Buyuksimkesyan and Roseli Serra have been supportive and acted as role models. Posts are a different genre and it took me a while to adjust my writing.

8. What will be the first goal in your New Year’s resolutions list this year?
Focusing more on quality rather than quantity at work and spending more time with my daughters.

9. Where would you like to travel in 2014?
I know for sure I'm going to Harrogate this year but I would also like to go to Crete - a sun drenched Greek island in the south- and the dream of a lifetime, Brazil!

10. How long does it take to write a blog post for you and how often do you update your blog?
Once I realize what I need to express - usualy an experience or discuss a specific issue - it usually  takes me a few days and then after a week or so I edit it and if I am happy I upload it. Very often, I ask feedback from colleagues I esteem before posting it. In 2013, it's been a blogpost a month but it will be more frequent in the foreseeable future.

11. What is your favorite food?
Mediterranean food, especially in the summer.

Most of the bloggers I know have already been tagged more than once, but I would like to tag two exceptional colleagues whose posts are always a pleasure to read and most helpful in my daily teaching.
Christina Martidou
Chryssanthe Sotiriou

Here are my 11 questions:
1.       1.  How long have you been blogging?
2. What made you start blogging?
3. What advice would you give a new blogger?
4. How do you spend your free time?
5. If you were not involved in ELT, what would you do?
6. Do you speak any other foreign languages?
7. What is the ideal class for you?
8. What is the biggest challenge for educators at the moment?
9. What do you imagine yourself doing in ten years time?
10. Who is your favorite author?
11. Is learning technology a fad or a trend that will play a key role in education  in  the years to come?

Thanks you Eva for tagging me and including me in the game!
Looking forward to reading your next blogpost :)


Boosting PBL with the aid of technology

Boosting PBL with the aid of technology
Project Based Learning (em)powered by technology!

Feeling your Project Based Learning approach is stuck in stagnant waters? Making use of learning technology can give a boost to the projects assigned in class and motivate learners.

Why use technology?
No matter how much most of us dread technology and despite the horror stories we often hear, technology can:

 1.Motivate learners
Technology is part and parcel of their daily routine and the majority of them feel confident using it. If you know that you are good at technology, you are more likely to try something new with technology rather than by using books.

2. Facilitate search (webquests)
Given the recent economic crisis, access to hard copies of reference material is becoming more and more difficult. Such material is available, free-of-charge on the Internet and gives students the opportunity to survey, select relevant material in an ocean of data and based on  that, at a later stage prioritize, evaluate and synthesize.

3. Facilitate communication and collaboration
Whether using synchronous (Skype, Lync meetings) or  asynchronous (mail, replies to blogs) means of communication on learning platforms or even social media such as Edmodo and Twitter, technology encourages communication between different communities and countries and promotes collaboration among learners from different backgrounds and cultures.

4. Enhance creativity
The outcome can be extremely impressive with web 2.0 tools such as wordclouds. Even less artistic students can be motivated to give it a try and then provide a blurb or a passage to accompany it.

5. Facilitate exciting presentations
Public speaking can be challenging even for the most experienced teacher – let alone a learner. Yet, powerful tools like PowerPoint, keynote, Prezi – among others - stimulate learners’ interest and creativity. At primary school, they always start with adding impressive photos or videos but it is a good opportunity for the teacher to explain the process of creating a presentation. It is a real life skill that they will have to resort to quite often as adults.

6. Simulate real life working environments
Communication and collaboration using technology are an indispensable part of many jobs and employers take it for granted that these skills have been acquired and developed by the employee before they pursue a career.

Most of the above are
21st Century Skills that most of us have been struggling  to integrate into our syllabus…

Tools to use
There are new tools and applications released practically every day. It is very difficult to keep track of all of them and you don’t have to use the latest one, the most expensive or  trendy app. Your goal is to help your students do some basic research and produce and at the same time ensure they feel creative and confident they can deal with the task they are assigned.  Below you can find some programmes and web 2.0 tools that I have used with my students for their projects. Most of them are free or the cost is affordable by any school. Some of them allow the user to write text, record and add video. It all depends on what you want your students to focus on: written, oral production or combine both.

Text: Ms Word, OneNote, lino.it
Word clouds: tugxedo, wordle
Audio: Vocaroo
Video: movie maker, animoto, mailvu
Animation /Cartoons: dvolver, British Council for kids website (

Click below to watch an animated video made by 3rd graders
A project by 3rd graders using a web 2.0 tool 

Problems you may encounter
1. Compatibility
Files sometimes cannot be read by users of a different operating system or files saved in older software versions look weird in the latest ones.

2. Learner's age
Pupils may not have email accounts –required by some web 2.0 tools - or parental consent to use the Internet

3. Not everybody is a digital native
Kids are usually adept at technology but it is not safe to assume that they are all computer whiz kids. Some basic instructions or training is necessary to ensure  that  everybody can follow.

4. Digital citizenship issues arising
Students may mistake learning technology for another internet or video game. There can be cases of malpractice, bullying or simply students being distracted by games or irrelevant videos and photos. Setting clear rules from the beginning of the year will reduce these problems to the minimum. (See tips and hints below)

5. Ads displayed on free web 2.0 tools
The ads displayed on the screen maybe offensive or in some cases promote sexism. Check before introducing it in class and at the start of the year raise awareness about the potential dangers arising from clicking indiscriminately on whatever attracts our attention.

Tips and hints
1. Narrow down the number of tools or software you intend to use
It takes time and sometimes effort to make the most of each tool. Don’t hesitate to give yourself and your students the opportunity to explore its full potential. The outcome is usually rewarding beyond expectations.

2. Set clear rules from day 1!
Learners need to have a clear framework from early on and you need to ensure that their learning and working environment is safe without any threats that may inhibit learning. An example of such a contract between learners and teachers can be read on this blog http://differentefl.blogspot.gr/2012/10/classroom-rules-for-11-classes.html

3. Encourage good academic habits like mentioning sources

4. Discourage learners from copy-paste practices by raising awareness and asking the class to assess each project in terms of originality.

5. Encourage pairwork and groupwork. Learners are highly likely to benefit from peer teaching

Technology can bring back to life project work and encourage students who have kept their distance from more traditional learning approaches, to be actively involved, combining fun and learning!

Dimitris Primalis