Literacy Visually


There are times that I really worry about my sense of literacy.  I read so much on line and there’s no guarantee that any of it is going to be properly written or constructed.  Liberties seem to be taken with the language regularly and there are some that just don’t appear to care.  It irks me to see signs outside of stores or on the street with “there” where “their” should be.  Or, gasp! the inappropriate use of the apostrophe.  I’ve even been known to go to into a store to help the cause of literacy and report mistakes.  It’s always to the embarrassment of my wife “You’re such a teacher”.

Of course, there’s spelling, but grammar also figures high on the scale as well.  Even as a computer science teacher, I required my students to submit a written description of their projects.  After all, not every computer science graduate will end up being a coder.  Someone has to write the documentation or work the support desk and communication is key to the best of supports.

Visual.ly had a fabulous blog post recently.  Titled “11 Infographics That Will Help You Improve Your Grammar and Spelling“.  I thoroughly enjoyed the post and found myself nodding at many of the tips and reminders in the infographics.

Now, I had been chastised once for supporting great efforts like this.  “So and so says that you’re supporting the company that created them.”  To that end, my response was a question as to what “so and so” has done recently except complain.  To me, anyone that supports the literacy cause in an LOL world can’t be all bad!

As I was taking a look at the infographics in the article, I was checking the source.  One of the sources caught my eye.

It was to the web resource Grammar.net.

Wow!

Talk about hitting the literacy infographic jackpot.

It’s infographic after infographic about all kinds of use of the English language like this little snippet from the graphic about adjectives and adverbs.

Adverbs

You name a literacy lesson and I’ll bet there’s an infographic at the site to support it!

Each of the infographic comes with code to embed it into your class wiki or you could just send your students to the graphic being discussed during today’s lesson.

Language teachers, and we all should be one, should immediately check out the wealth of resources here.  Your going to love it.

(I can’t believe I just did that.)

An Interview with Gust MEES


Gust MEES and I have followed each other for some time now.  I’m not sure how we “met” but I’ll let him recall it shortly.  He’s an intriguing individual – lives in Luxembourg (Europe) http://www.scoop.it/t/luxembourg-europe, a country with ONLY 502,000 inhabitants and is a regular on Twitter.  You can find him very active there as @knolinfos.

Doug: Thank you for agreeing to be interviewed, Gust.  First, the million dollar, euro question – how did we meet?

Gust:  Hi Doug, it was on Twitter, and I think that it had to do something with Critical Thinking where I explained to You that I am a very hard critical thinking person. But I can’t remember anymore why it happened, anyway very glad to have meat You!

Doug:  That’s amazing.  I am glad that we made the connection.

I’m sitting here in Canada speaking English and reading a bit of French.  Your online presence is more multi-lingual.  What languages do you speak?

Gust:  I am speaking: Luxembourgish, my mother tongue; French, German, English, a bit Portuguese, Dutch and I understand and can read some other languages too…

Doug: Of real interest – in what languages do you blog?

Gust:  I am blogging actually in English and in French. If I would have more time I would blog also in German, one day probably I will do so… That’s the languages where I feel comfortable to write, other languages which I know are for talking and/or reading only…

Doug: I find it a challenge to keep my one blog going.  You blog in more than one place.  Where are your blogs?

Gust:  That’s a good question where? I have to think to find it out myself as I am online since 1998 already and that I have published a lot since… Let’s try, I will show also my websites, as I think that readers could learn also something from those (if wished so). BTW: You are right to say that it is a challenge, also for me.

I should also explain the reason why I created different blogs: As learners learn differently, one course and blog doesn’t fit for ALL, I decided to create different blogs with also differently presented content, some more visual and with comics, others different again. More than ten (10) years of giving courses to adults, seniors, youth, primary classrooms and teachers, have shown me that it is necessary and that it works also (better understanding for the learners), so here we go:

Doug:  I think our regular interactions are spurred by You taking a post from me and saving it to your Scoopit! pages.  How many of these Scoopit! pages do you have?

Gust:  YES, there are some of your blog posts and also your from “Zite” shared posts that I include in my daily curation on Scoopit!! As I curate ONLY (what I think is) the BEST, I am very selective, there are a lot of your posts present 😉 I curate also a lot from my PLN (Personal Learning Network). For the readers who would learn about a PLN, please check here:

How many of Scoopit! pages I have You ask, well there are twenty (20) with different Topics (as I have a lot of interests) and they are also multilingual (EN, FR, DE). Topics are, check them out please:

Doug: So much of your focus appears to be on Education and Security.  You have a huge curation of materials.  Why the interest in these topics?

Gust:  You are right, I have a lot of interests (I am curious for Learning more). Well, I should divide it also in the two topics, let’s start with IT-Security, the beginning. I am online since 1998 and I read also a lot, books and magazines. I got my first knowledge of IT-Security in 1999 by reading PC-Magazines and I applied it also on my PC and of course, as I am not selfish and having the will to share it with others, I published it also on my website(s).

A certain moment come, my websites had a big success. In private life people told me that I am crazy to talk about security, virus and more of those strange beasts problems at that time. So now my website has more than 2 million visits, see pic

I started so to learn more about and also to share my knowledge with others and even that my Security courses got accepted by the Ministry of Education in Luxembourg (Europe), my country. Check here, please (in French):

Once started, one must continue when there is a demand for it 😉 Looks like people love my way of explaining and teaching. I became also a member (Advisory Board) of:

And that’s why I started also to make the curation about IT-Security, Cyber-Security.

Sharing my acquired knowledge with others is priority and a pleasure also!

A pleasure!? Am I kidding? NO, it’s something who makes me happy, check here:

When I do something for other people, I feel good, “says Peterson“. When you do something voluntarily for others, not only for its own interests, it is rewarded. In some mysterious way, serve as an “altruistic” (the opposite of selfishness) gives his own life more important. It seems that nature have put it in our genes, or that people are happy when they have the spirit of sharing, community spirit.

So, dear readers, make yourself feeling good and share 😉

Concerning now Education, that’s a bit a different story. I was a manager with Electronics background  and worked for different companies when later I got unemployed with 45 years old (2000). I was looking for a new job and I saw that the Government was looking for ICT instructors, proposing to give people pedagogical courses to be able to do this job. I applied and I passed the tests, later I was studying for 4 months pedagogy, tailored for ICT. Very hard to study pedagogy at that age, but I got IT. One is never too old to learn new stuff, when the will is there.

I became months later an ICT course instructor on an eight (8) hour base work and on 5 days per week work, very hard… I gave courses to adults, seniors (even 70+…), primary classrooms and primary school teachers… I was getting nearly obsessed by learning, I found my destination, I found my vocation, I love it to teach…

My knowledge (professional development) was updated by following different other courses and by reading a lot of books, where here below my selection:

Doug: Do you find educators more or less concerned about security than the average online citizen?

Gust:  YES, I do, sorry! Educators are less motivated to learn about the basics of Cyber-Security, IT-Security and have ALSO less knowledge about it, my point of view resulting by practice. Meaning that Educators I know (friends) and also by analyzing the stream of tweets on Twitter shows me that!

Doug: Why do you think this is that way?

Gust:  That’s a real million dollar, euro question 😉 Well, as most of Educators are using NOT a PC but most a Mac and some a computer with Linux OS, they feel too secure! But thinking that these OS (Operating Systems) are secure, that’s NOT the reality, sorry. NOBODY is perfect, NO OS is perfect, reality shows us that when one is analyzing the attacks and vulnerabilities worldwide!

Doug: Do you find that Macintosh or Linux users have this over confidence that their platform is immune to problems?

Gust:  YES, I do! You are right with the word “Over Confidence” as it is exactly that! I don’t make a war of different OS, but one must be aware today that Nobody Is Perfect, attacks and vulnerabilities are showing us that, see here please:

Don’t forget also about mobile phones, Android is also based on Linux as OS! Check here:

Doug: What can be done to turn this around?

Gust:  Seriously and convinced, I think that there is a MUST to teach the basics of Cyber-Security by Education in any schools around in the world, and this up from early age! The kids will understand it very quickly, they are more intelligent as most adults think as their computers and smartphones are the (nearly) most important to them! I have worked together with teens (11 years old and +) and showed them How To protect their computers and how to stay informed about new threats, that was a piece of cake for them, I even didn’t think that it could be that easy, I was surprised! Convincing adults is (???) more (very) hard!

So, how could that be in practice? That was the question I asked myself (oh yes, I thought a lot…) and here are my propositions and advice:

Apart from teaching the basics of Cyber-Security in schools by traditional learning, one should try ALSO to involve and engage youth in that process of learning, learning by doing and learning to have responsibility! IT’s ALL about responsibility anyway when working and using ICT (BYOD included)! This could be realized with a piece of theater (it took me a year of development) where they could be involved as actors (players) and also by giving them the feeling of being an IT-Hero by becoming Security-Scouts. Sounds strange? Check the links below to learn more:

Doug: You call yourself an ICT Course Instructor.  What courses have you instructed or are currently instructing?

Gust:  Lots of my courses are present (in French) on the server of the Ministry of Education in Luxembourg (Europe):

They are for domestic security, the basic knowledge which anybody should have in 21st Century… Created with the less possible technical expressions…

Actually I am preparing blogs where I want to share my 10 years lived practice on How To I used the knowledge where most are only starting now to learn it and/or using it. Coming soon and hoping that it will help others and giving them some new ideas (perhaps) also… It’s all about sharing experience and knowledge…

Doug: You have created a number of resources and placed them online.  Can you tell the readers where they are and how they can use them?

Gust:  Readers could find the resources inside this interview and should read the copyright information for any proposed link(s) in the article(s) and/or blog(s) to avoid mistakes!

Readers can learn more about Copyright here:

and about Twitter here:

My private blog about some of my hobbies:

Doug: Do you have any restrictions on their use?  i.e. could a teacher use them with her/his students?

Gust:  Of course anybody could use my articles and courses present on my blogs  for non-commercial use, and should do so, please. My blogs (mostly courses) are created on a way that when displaying them with a beamer and/or on a white-board have ALL the necessary resources included to teach on a quality way! Teachers, Educators only need to bring in their own mentality and pedagogical knowledge when speaking to the students, learners to make the course(s) even better… Students also will find the necessary resources to learn on their own pace, especially through the curated articles…

Some more help could be found here:

BTW: all my publications are FREE as I am an advocate for FREE Education, anybody should have the possibility to learn for (nearly) no costs…

Doug: Lately, I seem to get a sense that you’re focusing on Critical Thinking.  This is a big issue in education.  Can you elaborate on your curations of this topic and point readers to your resources?

Gust:  You are right, Critical Thinking is a MUST in 21st Century Education, especially because one needs to filter out the big data present on the Internet! NOT everything found by searching on the Internet is TRUE, nor valuable! Even that some content (and images) will infect computers when NOT protected!

One needs to learn Critical Thinking to be able to make the difference between quality content, fake content (that’s existing also…) and between trustful websites and websites with infecting content, as well for security.Here my selection of BEST articles to it:

 

Doug: You have a very big footprint online.  Have you created any other content that would be of interest to my readers?

Gust:  Haha, looks like You googled me! You are right I did a lot and I will still create a lot, there is still a lot in my brain (the filter situated between the two ears) which needs to get on cold print for sharing with others…

Not sure if people like this, it is my testimonial about arthritis and a Total Knee Replacement by a prosthesis (in French):

and here a new way to use images, ThingLink. I used only one interactive image to display my security courses in it! Check it out please:

And here my curation about it to find out how it works and how other people use it:

As I try out a lot of new stuff, so I did also with Calameo:

and with Paper.li, a daily newspaper created from tweets :

and another  service, which You know as well, Rebelmouse:

Very long time ago, in 2002 I created MAUSI, the mascotte of my working place. I did it for the pleasure of the kids who visited my courses together with their teacher(s). The idea came as I explained a whole primary class (3d year, 9 years old) what a computer is and what one could do with a PC. It was the beginning of the computer era and at that time most people didn’t know how to work with it. So I decided to use Windows Paint to draw, a creative action. I first explained the kids what the computer mouse is fore and asked them what they wanted me to draw. They wanted a mouse, as I showed them the computer mouse their answer was logical…

As I have some talent for drawing and painting, so I switched on the beamer and they saw how I created MAUSI in real time, by explaining them and their teacher any taken step also on how I did it. They were all fascinated and me happy that I was able to create it, here is the result:

Later I created an animated gif as shown in above website and showed it to the teachers and to the kids, they became later all addicted to the computer, I was awaken the desire to learn to work with a computer, I felt happy! Primary school classes visited twice a week my working place to work with the computers and also to learn about how to work with them; at that time the school didn’t have yet computers in the classrooms, that came very more late because of budget.

I created different other projects, but I will not show them here now, as there is already so much. Just google me and you will find out 😉

The most important to me anyway is that my learners understand what I teach them and I do anything to reach that goal…

You originally posted your content on Google Knol.  Now that it’s gone away, you’ve migrated to WordPress and Scoopit!  Do you miss Google Knol?  Was it more appropriate for what you were doing?

Gust:  YES, You are right concerning Google Knol, who is NOW on the Google GraveYard, as many other services from Google, check below please:

I really miss Google Knol as a platform, true! I helped building it up with my ideas (lots of them were integrated…) and the most important what I miss is the ===> collaborative publishing ⇐=== with different authors from different countries and with different cultures! It was a great experience for me, I really miss them…

For example, here are some migrated knols to WordPress which I created together with multicultural authors:

I became also one of the TOP 10 English language authors on Google Knol with on the end +/- 1.4 million views, see pic please:

I was also honored as “Author of the week”, check pic please:

I am looking now to: first publishing about what is priority for my readers and me, priorities found out by analyzing the stream of my PLN (Personal Learning Network) and later (???) trying to make propositions for BETTER (as I did on Knol) to get the same conditions on WordPress, who knows, maybe they are ALSO listening to me for BETTER 😉 Let me dream a bit :)))

Final word, I was a pioneer in lots of online adventures and I am also an autodidact, a self-learner who loves creativity…

Doug: Thank you so much for taking the time for this interview.  On behalf of my readers, thank you so much for sharing.  After all, that’s what it’s all about!

Gust:  Hi Doug, I thank You and You said it again, THE most important: ===> SHARING ⇐= is the magic word! Have a great day and keep up the good work!

 

An Interview with Vicky Loras


I’ll start out by acknowledging that I’ve never met Vicky and yet through the power of social media, she shares so much of her life.  Native to Toronto, Vicky now lives in Zug, Switzerland where she enjoys all kinds of learning adventures.

Having interactions with her serve as a daily reminder that we live in a big connected world. While I’m accused of always being “on” because I’m an early riser, Vicky is always online and active hours before I am.


Doug:  Thanks for agreeing to the interview, Vicky.  

Vicky: My pleasure, Doug – thank you so much for asking me! I am very happy to be on your blog, which I love reading and learning from.

Doug:  First – living in Switzerland begs this question.  You’re an English teacher – what other languages do you speak?  

Vicky: Well, I am also fluent in Greek, as my parents are of Greek origin and my mom insisted we learn perfect Greek – that went with going to Greek school every Saturday when we still lived in Canada (later on we eventually moved to Greece). I have been living in Switzerland for three years and even though I haven’t actually ever had proper language lessons, my German is good enough for me to communicate on an everyday level. I do tend to speak Swiss German more than High German (the German of Germany). I also speak a little bit of French (but I understand much more than I speak). I am currently on another language learning adventure!

Doug:  What is the language of choice that gets you through the day in Zug?

Vicky: Swiss German – but because I live in Zug, which is a tax haven here in Switzerland, it is rather international, as lots of multinational companies have their headquarters here – so a lot of people also speak English. The problem is I carry my English accent into German, so people are so kind that they immediately switch to English, without my even asking them to! I have lately started asking them to stick to German, because then I will never learn!

Doug:  You work as an ELL teacher in Business.  How important is it to your clients that they can speak in English?

Vicky: The last two years, a lot of English-speaking companies have been moving here to Zug, because of the lowest taxes in the country, as I mentioned earlier. My students are mainly bankers or businessmen, who need English to communicate with their foreign clients.

Doug:  Is the goal to make them completely fluent in English?

Vicky: Most of the times, they need to speak and write in English at a really high level, often learning the respective terminology in English (I have learned a great deal in banking and business terms from them too!).

Doug:  What is your philosophy about teaching English to your clients?

Vicky: That every minute of their time is worth their coming to our classes and that they leave our lessons feeling that they have learned something important. I know that a lot of them sacrifice their lunch breaks or time away from their families during their long days at work. I want them to feel that their time has been invested well.

Doug:  What role does technology play in your teaching?  

Vicky: It plays quite a big role – a lot of my students come to class with their smartphones, tablets and laptop computers. We use them as much as is needed – they use technology to look up words, they bring in articles, they search for things during the lesson that they want to share with the rest of the class. There they take ownership of the lesson, as they start talking (which is exactly what is wanted – I need to be heard as little as possible! They need to do the talking).

Doug:  One of the “funny” things that people with smartphones have is suggestive spelling.  Indeed, there are many websites devoted to images of this.  How does the ELL learner deal with that?

Vicky: Sometimes it can be very confusing for them, sometimes it serves as a clarification or reassurance that they know the correct answer and not the one that comes up in suggestive spelling. Sometimes it also helps them with their spelling, as English can be tricky!

Doug:  Before Christmas, there were many commercials for computer language tutor programs as products that people could buy to learn a second language.  What is your opinion of software like that?

Vicky: Well, the truth is that sometimes software can help them tremendously. I still believe that their learning needs the teacher to be more well-rounded – there are far too many learn-it-yourself, learn-it-perfectly-in-six-weeks methods out there, which rather confuse them than help them and they end up feeling frustrated. If they use them on the side, complementary with their classes and other resources, then I think they can find them useful up to a point.

Doug:  Recently, you attended a conference in Turkey and you shared some beautiful photos from there.  Do you see more visits to Turkey in your future?  Do you speak Turkish?  If not how did you communicate?

Vicky: It was my first time in Turkey, in Istanbul more specifically. Even though I stayed there for only four days and was there for a conference, I managed to get around and see places. I felt a very strong connection to the place. The architecture is amazing and the people just captured my heart. They are constantly smiling and always so willing to help you out! I don’t speak Turkish at all, apart from hello, good morning and so on. I was with other fellow educators and friends there, so they served as translators when help was needed! Overall though, most of the people spoke English – and a couple even spoke to me in perfect Greek, after I shared my origins with them! That is the new language adventure I have embarked on: I am currently learning Turkish with an online program, but will soon start having lessons as well, with a teacher! I am so excited and I am really enjoying it so far.

If all goes well, this year I will be there again twice for conferences again, once in May and then in December most probably. I hope I have many opportunities in the future to see other places too!

Doug:  Sitting here in Canada, it’s easy to see that English is the language to learn and our school system requires a certain amount of French.  Do you have a different perspective living in Europe?  How many languages would you recommend that parents encourage their children to learn?

Vicky: Well, here in Europe it depends on the country. In Greece, for instance, parents insist that their children learn English as a foreign language and then it is usually German or French. Switzerland is a little bit more complicated, due to the fact that it is a country that has four official languages. Here in the German part, English and French are obligatory in school, but Italian is optional. A tiny percentage speaks the fourth language, Rhaeto-Romanisch.

As an educator, I try not to encourage this latest language craze that has taken over some parts of Europe. I believe that one or two more languages on top of the native language are enough. And I always insist that they never learn two at the same time.

Doug:  If you only could speak one language, would you be disadvantaged in Europe?

Vicky: Well, if it were English, no – it is the most widely spoken and learned language here. The most popular ones in Europe, let’s say, are English, German, French, Italian and Spanish.

Doug:  Do you find that students who know more than one language excel in school?

Vicky: It definitely helps them, especially in higher education, as they can branch out their bibliography even more and read more extensively on the topics they are studying. But I also believe that languages help them in expressing themselves in general, both in writing and in speaking, regardless of the grade they are in.  

Doug:  There must be some things about Canada and Toronto that you miss.  I know I’d have difficulty without my Tim Horton’s coffee!  What do you miss?

Vicky: First of all, I miss my family – a huge part of my dad’s family still live there. I have a lot of uncles, aunts and cousins that I terribly miss. Friends too.

Since you mentioned Tim Horton’s…I absolutely love Timbits and miss them so much! I also love chocolate glazed donuts and honey crullers there! Another thing I miss is the vanilla ice cream at Dairy Queen.

But I don’t miss my favourite newspaper – I read the Globe and Mail on my iPhone every day!

Doug: If you were to open a Swiss newspaper, what would the top educational stories be about?

Vicky: I would emphasize a lot on learning difficulties, such as dyslexia, dysgraphia and so on, as I believe they need more delving into. I would also like to mention the benefits of technology in education, when used properly and effectively and not for the medium itself.

Doug:  How far do you have to go from your home to see the mountains that Switzerland is famous for?

Vicky: Not too far. The closest one is about twenty minutes by train. There are such beautiful places in this small country – I feel as though I still haven’t seen a lot!

Thank you for the time for the interview.  It’s greatly appreciated.

You can follow Vicky’s Swiss adventures on her blog at:  http://vickyloras.wordpress.com/ and on Twitter at @vickyloras

Hug an English Teacher


My mom had a plaque that was hung on the wall that said “Too late we grow smart”.  Growing up, I always thought it was something cool that she bought at a flea market but when I think now, it’s advice that makes so much sense.

In high school, I was a math nerd.  In Grade 13, I took three Mathematics, three Sciences, and grudgingly and under duress, one English.  I don’t have the report card but I do recall marks in the 80s and 90s in mathematics and science and a low 60 in English.  I’m pretty sure that, if I had the report card, there would have been an English comment to the effect “Could do so much better if he’d get off his ass and apply himself”.

It wasn’t that I didn’t take part in class – I think that I was like most normal kids – I got the impression English books were only important if they had been written by some dead guy.  Writing was important to get marks.  Every writing assignment generated the same questions….

  • how long does it have to be?
  • single or double spaced?

Good times.

At least I had the other subjects to keep my marks up.  After all, it was important to be an Ontario Scholar and get some money for university.

I got an education and life goes on.  Later, I started writing software just for the enjoyment.  They were “doors” for PCBoard software.  A friend of mine, definitely not a computer type, tried to install one on his system and failed.  His complaint to me was the lack of clear, coherent documentation.  He was right.  Writing is important so I spent some time remembering English classes and skills from the past, proofread/revised and ended up creating instructions that made sense.

I started teaching and made writing documentation a part of every computer science assignment that my students had.  I would have arguments with other computer science teachers who thought that this practice was a waste of student time.  After all, we were teaching programming.  Even the students didn’t agree with me.  I recall many times the comments “Siiir, this isn’t English class”.  (pretend it’s a diphthong to get the full effect)  I’d be forever pointing out that the actual programming isn’t the only job a computer science graduate might get.

What’s all this got to do with English teachers?

I do remember my English classes as being ones of drudgery.  But, I managed to retain at least 60% of what we were assessed.  Yesterday’s post about “Tips for Bloggers” and Edna Sackton’s 10 Tips for Reticent Bloggers“ brought back many memories.  I spent some time reflecting on what I had actually recalled.  Not bad for a math nerd.

I think of today’s English teachers and the sorts of things that they’re doing:

  • They read the classics and they read blogs – all for meaning;
  • They take Shakespeare to Twitter – and the world;
  • They teach how to do and interpret real research – not just the first page of Google;
  • They encourage editing – not some contrived exercise but via wikipedia;
  • They do group work – not just in small groups within the classrooms but with students around the world;
  • They encourage writing – not just for the teacher audience, but a larger audience through blogging;
  • They teach media appreciation – not just by watching a VCR tape from the media centre but by creating and assessing original content in the classroom.

Now, this is a subject I could really get in to.

Bless the modern English teacher.  They’re embracing a subject discipline that’s a moving target.  Go ahead – hug an English teacher.  They’re doing the things that will take our students to where they need to be.

…Doug (just another 60% blogger)