Sunday, 26 January 2014

Project 52 Week 4

Project 52 Week 4

Well, here we are again- twice in one week:-) This week was very much confined to the house, partly because the weather was cold and miserable, partly because I wanted to get everything straight for going back to work, and partly because my new computer needed so many programs added to it that I had to sit for hours in front of it.

Sunday was miserable. It was a trial to go out and get my flowers- but there were some Alstromeria, as well as the usual spring flowers, so it was worth going to buy them. I dropped my daughter off on the way. She has taken up Roller Derby, which sounds like good exercise, but a bit rough. Luckily she got the skates, helmets and pads for Christmas, so she started the season all freshly kitted-out.

Monday, nice start to the week- washing, ironing..... bleh! Well it had to be done :-) I did  some of the Evo tasks and caught up with all the TV programmes which have been waiting for me in the planner. Cass was complaining that there wasn't much storage left for things that others might like to watch. I don't often have enough patience to watch programmes and do nothing else, so I often check facebook, read emails or something at the same time :-( 

#ELTpics was collecting pictures of bookshelves, of which we have a few in our house. Thank goodness we all have Kindles too, or we would be overrun with books. On the left, is a little overspill bookcase at the foot of the stairs. The pictures on top were taken in the summer when my musician friends played for Amnesty International's fundraiser. The other one is the bookcase in my office, full of great reference books for work.

I had been looking forward to Wednesday, as #ELTchat was ready to start up again. If you haven't taken part before, it is a weekly CPD discussion on twitter, for ELT teachers around the world. One week we meet at 12 noon GMT and the next we meet at 9pm GMT. Maisie, who doesn't often come into my office during the day,  decide to help- or hinder! This time we discussed the rise of pre-packaged language courses, with their own textbooks and adherence to a particular style. I am looking forward to reading the summary.

On Thursday I offered to join the Parish crew who were clearing the growth in a local woodland. They do this a couple of times a year and use the land for wildlife to live in. Unfortunately, the bracken and other wild plants have a habit of taking over, so they need to be kept under control. The volunteers had a great time in the fresh air, and for once, it was dry!.

We went to the pub to play music on Friday, but I forgot to take my camera with me.Earlier, we went down to the Yacht Club to check on the organisation for Saturday's Burn's Night. There must have been another function on, because we had to park on the other side of the harbour and walk across. As luck would have it, it was low tide so we didn't get our feet wet.

Finally, Saturday arrived. I really enjoy Burns' Night, and although there aren't many Scots in the yacht club, the people are always enthusiastic and numerous. We had a great evening and the band were tucked into a corner by the window, where we could see the tide as it raced in. The music was crisp, and we had people on the dance floor until they asked us to stop at 1.00 am.  When I got home, my cat was delighted to see me. I read somewhere that cats become stressed when we fuss over them- but in my house it is the cats who solicit cuddles. Ebony always climbs up on her back legs to rub her face against mine when I come in. This picture was taken by Cairis at 1.30 am. She was still up- chatting to her friends on the other side of the world.

Well. onwards and upwards! I wonder what next week will bring. I'm back at work tomorrow, with a group of French catering students.They don't arrive until the afternoon, so they must be coming in on the ferry. That means that tomorrow will be a gentle reintroduction- and a time for planning and preparation, which doesn't happen often :-)

Friday, 24 January 2014

Creating an E-book

E-Book EVO so far

This month I have been working with many wonderful educators around the world to think about the way textbooks are going and how to deal with the changes this will bring to the classroom, or even outside the classroom:-)


My trainees have a bitty programme:
  1. Read the chapter of the book ( after waiting ages for it to arrive in the post)
  2. Answer the questions in the distance learning pack (paper-based)
  3. Check your answers in the key provided
  4. Go to the group wiki to look at a video, listen to a podcast....
  5. Back to the paper to complete a task
  6. Email a tutor part to me for marking.
For a while now, I have been wondering how to make the experience easier and more interactive. My chance came when the American organisation TESOL put out the list of topics for their yearly EVO (Electronic Village Online) sessions. These are free and run for a period of 5 weeks in January and February and always have great moderators. 
The session on creating an e-book is moderated by some of my favourite people: Shelly Terrell, Sylvia Guignan,Janet Bianchini, Chuck Sandy,Lindsey Clandfield and many more, 15 in total, with an astounding record of knowledge and experience between them.


The sessions started with 3-2-1 introductions. These were presented using a variety of tools, some of which I quickly bookmarked, as I had never used them before and was amazed at what they could produce. For these alone my online toolbox is richer.  I used the glogster which is embedded below. This allowed us to explain the content and target users of our e-books, and to find others which whom we could collaborate if they shared similar goals. This was also a godsend in making sense of the hundreds of participants on the course, as it separated us into smaller, more workable, peer groups. 

 CC Licences

We moved on to looking at creative commons licences, and had to determine which one would suit our publication.This took a lot of thought: 
  • Is collaboration a good idea?-Yes
  • Do I want others to be able to make money from my ideas? No
  • Do I wish to share freely? Maybe
  • What if others want to alter my work? Mmn
Having deliberated long and hard I chose a licence which will allow others to share, but not rip-off the ideas for personal profit, which I think seems fair at this point.

Design and Contents

Next we started to consider the design. First, the elements to be included in our book, and then the contents themselves.  I produced my ideal using the Prezi platform, which allowed me to do a very Maslow-looking pyramid design My E-book Design

 to analyse what I expected in the way of content. I am already excited by the idea, but seeing it starting to evolve, in a rational and concrete way is super cool.


Next we attempted to find an ideal meeting point for the group. Oh my word, it isn't easy, when we are all a world away from each other and have to take time zones into consideration. We finally fixed on a time when everyone is able to come together online, so that will be the next stage. Collaboration will benefit all of us, as we can get too close to our projects and need the eyes of the others to improve what we will finally produce.

We have also had some very interesting Google Hangouts, where the week's moderators have given us sterling advice, or just helped make sense of the progress made during the week. Not to forget the twitter account #EbookEVO :-)


I only have one regret, which is personal and not a dig at anyone. I have done, and am doing, different sessions with EVO. Normally they open the week's tasks at the beginning of the week, and archive them in order to make room for the following week's work. This keeps the group on target, and more or less in the same place. The latecomers can catch up, but no-one can  really race ahead. With this group, many people had finished the first week's tasks before the official start date and are now so far ahead that other people, who are just joining, might be overwhelmed.
When everyone is on the same page it helps the others to reflect on the task at hand. I know the rationale is that people will be doing this around their work schedule, so will be doing as much as they can, when they can, but.......
It might be worth thinking about for another time?

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Project 52 Week 3

This was an interesting - and ultimately expensive week.
Things started out well- I bought my usual flowers- and this time there were some tulips on offer as well. It is such a lovely thing to have flowers in the house- I am absolutely hopeless with plants, but I enjoy the colour of cut flowers at the different times of the year.

On Monday I decided that I was now feeling well enough to venture back to the gym. I would like everyone to see a difference when I catch up with them at IATEFL, but it's hard work:-(
I asked Father Christmas for some new kit, and he gave me a voucher for Marks and Spencer, so I must go shopping one day soon. The stuff I was wearing today has definitely seen better days.

Cairis was at home for a couple of days so I asked her to accompany me to the supermarket. Will I never learn! I'm sure that the bill is at least a third longer than it needs to be when I go shopping with one of my family. There is always something sneaked into the trolley. My students are always amused by my receipts- and as it is a word they often confuse, I like to have one in my handbag at all times.

On Wednesday I did some work on my two EVO sessions, and invited a neighbour for Coffee. She is a Quaker and we often have interesting discussions about differing religious dogma. Cairis was interested in our conversation too, and had points to make from her experiences in China. In the evening my artist friend Carl rang up in a panic because he couldn't get his computer to do something. It was too late to go out so I offered to visit the next day.

from front window
from side window
I was ages at Carl's house trying to fix his machine. The fact that he has a Mac and I am more comfortable with windows didn't help. We did get it sorted to his satisfaction in the end. His recent upgrade had messed with his other hardware and I had to re-download lots of things and reinstall some programs. I like going to his house during the day as the views from his windows are fantastic. His house is upside down, with the bedrooms on the ground floor, to take advantage of the surroundings.
But, as you can see, it was very windy.

Friday-Yippee- the end of the week. Everyone was at work, so I did the housework, and settled down to work on the EVO sessions again. In the evening we went out to the pub to play some music in a jam session. We chose an old inn on the North Coast. It has lots of atmosphere- and very importantly as far as the menfolk are concerned,- it sells Real Ale. There were quite a few of us and the music sounded good. It is a fun way to learn new tunes from each other too.

Saturday dawned bright and early- It was Wassailing day and I had to deliver my Morris man to the meeting place to pick up the mini bus for the day. They were planning to serenade the apple orchards of the island, to wish them a strong crop.The day started out clear and sunny, but deteriorated somewhat as the day went on. M said later that it was at its worst when they were in a local hostellerie having their lunch, so they just stayed inside longer, and had another beer:-)

Pride always comes before a fall!
The new and the old
Oops, will it fit?
On returning to the house I was horrified to have the 'blue screen of death' from my computer. Okay, It was old. And it had been playing up for a few weeks. Luckily for me, I am very careful about backups, and had an external hard-drive with some of my stuff on it, and lots of material on dropbox. Still, I hadn't been planning on spending much money as it was earmarked for my trip to IATEFL.
Cairis and I went shopping. We found a reasonably cheap PC, three times  faster, more memory, and smaller in size. The monitor went the other way. It is bigger than the old one, up from a 17" to a 25". In fact, we nearly couldn't fit it in the space on my desk. I have spent the whole of the weekend re-installing my software, updating everything, and getting to grips with Windows 8.
 Here's hoping next week will be a little easier :-)

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Project 52- Week 2

you can see the tree outside!
An interesting week, which really started on Sunday.
As the Christmas tree had been taken out into the front for collection, the house looked rather bare. It was time to fill the house with flowers. I don't normally have any during the festive period- I can't keep Poinsettias alive for more than 5 minutes, but the moment the tree is down- I'm ready.We drove to the little farmer who has an honesty box next to his flowers and bought an armful of daffodils. They are so bright and cheery.

We finished the day with a Mexican meal which was shared with our friend Miles.He comes for dinner every Sunday- and when he sits down he is targetted by Maisie, who loves to cover his trousers in fur:-) As you can see here, the room looks a bit stark by the window.

The next day was worse- I felt like I was living in a goldfish bowl. The hotel on the corner is renowned for its French tourists. Unfortunately, they stop and take pictures through my window, muttering things like 'how English' or 'aren't those cats cute', which was easier to avoid with a massive eight-foot tree in the way. I decided to move the furniture around to give me a modicum of privacy. I then spent some time enrolling in the EVO sessions which interested me.They look like there will be lots of other things and people to get to know- which is always fun.

Tuesday dawned wet- and stayed like that for most of the day. Ebony found a tiny puddle of sunlight, which lasted for all of ten minutes.
Cats are amazing creatures- they really like their home comforts. Ebony was upstairs, in my office, keeping me company as usual.

 This is a 'selfie' taken for fun while I was sitting at the computer. I don't usually take pictures of myself! I was making a glogster as my introduction to one of the courses and trying to sort out some music files.
I spent a large part of Wednesday answering emails, checking facebook, edmodo, google+ and generally faffing. No-one else was at home, and I had nowhere I needed to be so, why not? The daft thing was- for a change the sun was shining- and I stayed in!

Thursday wasn't very different. I had a few things to finish off for work, and then a couple of my colleagues came for coffee. I convinced them to sign up for some EVO sessions, so was feeling pleased that I was able to help them with some CPD. In the evening I lit the candles on the mantle-piece, put some coal on the fire and curled up with a good book on my kindle.
On Friday I had to go to the college for my annual appraisal, which went well. The school is changing for the better all the time, and this year the staffroom is going to be developed, so the teachers' views are being sought. When I got home, the Organic Shop had delivered my weekly box of vegetables. I never know what will be in there, so it is an adventure. This week there were lots of purple things: carrots, beetroot,onions- as well as the normal squash, potatoes, cabbage,swede. Some interesting soups and stews coming up methinks. I spent an hour in the early evening catching up with some of the course participants on twitter.

Saturday started well when my neighbour brought me a gift of 3 ceramic cats, which nestle against each other , for my collection. Aren't they cute? I then needed to buy cat litter and was horrified at the price of this one. It might be the 'World's Best' but I'm sure that it is also the most expensive. The Hospice Collection team came to take away the tree. For a small donation, they will collect and dispose of the tree for you. It gets turned into soil improver- and then it is sold back to you Very entrepreneurial !
Just a few needles to remind you...
Hope you enjoyed my trawl through my week. I didn't do anything major- but then I never do at this time of year. I'm looking forward to the sessions getting under way next week- and then I'll be back to work :-)

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Saturday, 4 January 2014

New Challenge- Project 52- Week 1

Janet Bianchini and I were just thinking about the fact that last year was a bit flat on the blog front. I actually used it for lots of #ELTchat summaries, but the previous year was fun as we picture-diaried our lives. We decided to start a new challenge: Project 52, one post each Sunday with accompanying pictures- so here goes.
Week One was a bit dull. I had a lurgy which kept me confined to the house. It wasn't really a hardship as I curled up by the fire for a couple of days and then did a bit of decorating in my study.

more mess
Unfortunately, the furniture is so heavy that everything had to be emptied out before it could be moved. I had forgotten how much rubbish/ stationery I have to find a home for.

Nearly finished

 The cats weren't too impressed. Neither of them really likes change and they spent the time prowling around and getting underfoot. This is Maisie watching with interest. She didn't sit there for long, as we had a thunder and hailstorm and she was next to the window.

I finished the week by taking the Christmas decorations down. This greatly pleased Ebony who thinks that trees in the house are there as climbing frames for her amusement.  It took ages, as there were lots of things on the tree. It always seems to take longer to take the tree down. All the decorations were packed into bags according to type- my daughter was laughing at me- OCD much? Finally I packed them into the cupboard under the television until next year :-)