Nives' endeavours as an English Teacher

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#MM9 – A reflection

The end of MM9 arrived Sunday December 11, 2016 and for the graduating alumni it was a wonderful ending after a month long [50 hours] professional development using Moodle for Teaching. The whole course designed, created by Dr Nellie Deutsch and managed on Integrating Technology -Moodle for Teachers site was an amazing experience. Not just for me but for all the participants in the Moodle course.

The Moodle has it’s own fascinating story which will not be dealt with here, but visit this page for more. Suffices to mention the acronym for Moodle – “modular object-oriented dynamic learning environment”. Whereupon we notice the all important word ‘learning’ and that is in essence the Moodle for use in today’s society and more importantly in Training and Education – more simply Facilitating Learning. Because that’s  what the moodle platform enhances without any doubt. An environment that facilitates learning be it professional training or simple courses for education, such as are English Grammar courses.

Let me get back to the very important topic at hand … MM9 – in my own experience it was a turning point in that it culminated into the finality of obtaining almost all the badges and final certificates that would be possible in any such course online. Including a special Presenter Certificate and Badge! The main presentation titled “Teaching Online with Moodle” was in conjunction with Thomas Hodgers (a constant colleague in online presentations during any Moodle Mooc with Dr Nellie Deutsch). The almost being for moderator … in my honest opinion and from past experience – being a moderator and teacher in training cannot possibly be carried out to its full potential if you have any normal existence. The hours involved are many and do not preclude time for dilly-dallying if the weekly tasks and activities and responding to ALL the participants need to get done in time. Sometimes those participants reach the thousands!

The whole course unfolded over five intense weeks of online work to complete set activities and tasks within a weekly time frame. Most of the tasks in this MM9 were ‘easier’ as it required making a video of one’s exercise in carrying out the tasks. Easier because it cut down time on preparing slides which then needed to be turned into audio visual presentations, as was the case in previous Moodle courses. The 3rd and 4th week were carried out in collaboration with set teams (set by the system but with the ability to change and join another team) this though proved to be as difficult as it is easy to fathom.

Well firstly because creating a Team may not seem difficult, but getting that team to communicate within a set time frame and complete activities with (in our Group B team) three diverse time zones. Add to that personal and professional work commitments outside the moodle. In fact the Moodle 3.1 site offers many advantages of setting up teams and working separately to other teams, that is each team has the possibility to communicate in a common forum without ‘seeing’ the other groups or teams working within the same moodle and access to the exact same forum. This is an amazing tool for a Teacher that does not need to go far when keeping an eye on all students in groups in one unique forum area. Also the amazing tracking system of the moodle enhances the Teacher’s own control of the students within a moodle for education.

Rounding up the Team experience brought about many conclusions and highlighted some areas which need to be ‘polished’ for teachers to work well and co-ordinate their online collaboration. Areas which can well be adapted to Teachers understanding the needs of their students in their own future moodle courses. We must succumb to the idea that online teaching and learning can only be carried out effectively with Teachers themselves understanding the mechanics of the rudimentary elements of working online and within a group. It will only ensure that when a teacher has had to go through the same motions that the student will eventually have to process then it can only benefit both Teacher and Students. After all most Teachers that have been teaching for at least 10 years have not had any experience with fast forward moving (& mobile) technology or LMS [Learning Management Systems] in their own learning. Most likely their learning involved very little use of technology at best a computer (for preparing essays, reports, etc.) overhead projector in lecture theatres, computer assisted library research and perhaps some online digital experience. This is only a generalization and it is sure that some were much luckier and had access to more modern technology for the year 2000. Also the use of emails and search engines did already exist, but how many of those at University in the late 1990’s actually relied upon the internet….? Not many I’ll bet.

The outline of the Moodle Mooc 9 course:
Overview of the Syllabus; Live Online classes (weekly webinars plus opening and closing webinars)
Week 1 – Introduction (learning about each other) & Video Tutorials
Week 2 – Course Design with Resources and Activities
Week 3 – Blocks available to a Moodle Course Manager
Week 4 & 5 – Collaborative Course Design
Bonus tasks – Manager of a Moodle 3.1 site (activities over and above the usual completion for certificate – resulting in a Bonus certificate for those that were able to complete the extra activities).
Badges for every week and final Certificate for Teacher & Manager of a Moodle Course.
All the work carried out in the tasks and set activities was exported into files within an Exabis folder which every participant has the possibility of exporting onto their own computer or external drive.
The final week saw the presentation of each Group Team Showcasing their work in an online live event.

This amazing experience has fulfilled my own desire to complete and attain a more in depth understanding of using the Moodle for online Teaching. It is the next step in my curriculum to prepare a self paced language learning course within a Moodle site.

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Final Presentation slides on SlideShare


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AutoCrat on Google Sheets

Creating a Certificate using AutoCrat add-on in Google Sheets

How to use Autocrat in Google Sheets using Google Forms

The use of AutoCrat to create automated mail-merge templates (eg. a certificate) within Google Drive is a great tool for Teachers.

Mail Merge templates can be used for:

  • Creating individual Certificates and having them emailed out to participants
  • Updating participants for a roster / schedule or agenda
  • Sending out test results
  • Sending out promotional letters / emails to many people

The important thing is that the Source Data Fields are created and matched when creating the Autocrat job.

To make all of this work you will need the “Source Data” which can come from a simple table in Google Sheets, or it can also be obtained using Google Forms where participants respond to a survey and the data is sent to the Google sheet automatically.

This will become your ‘source data’ and will be used to create your merged documents. Remember you can create more than one template for the same data.

The creation of a recent job allowed the collation of screen shots and the consequent creation of a Google Slides presentation which will be the basis for making a video Tutorial as well. The Google Slides will be shared publicly on SlideShare and the Video Tutorial will be added to the YouTube video tutorials playlist in my channel.

The whole procedure of taking screenshots in a step-by-step procedure in AutoCrat was also made possible with the online collaboration of my brother Marco Torresi. Working from Australia online connecting to me in Italy. That is one of the amazing things about Google Drive – the possibility to share the editing of the same documents simultaneously.

Sometimes even the use of a Screen share program assists in shortening the distance and making online collaboration even more fulfilling professionally. In our case we frequently use Skype. Obviously at the basis of all online live collaboration is the availability of a good or excellent internet connection – without which we would be delving into the dark ages!

Let’s take a look at the slides…please note that following the slides are the notes for the slides in relation to the procedure for using and setting up a new job in AutoCrat. 

Notes for the Slides to understand the process:

Slide 5
In this example I will be using AUTOCRAT to create a THANK YOU Note that will be automatically sent to the respondents of a specific Google form created, in this case, for an Online Live Webinar. Please note that Step 1 and 2 are interchangeable!
Slide 6
NB* Remember to add the AUTOCRAT app to Google sheets before starting!
Slide 7
Firstly I am going to create a Google document with the source data merge fields – here I have chosen Your Name and Timestamp.
Slide 8
Obviously the information for my source data merge will be gleaned from the information requested in the Google form.
In my form I am requesting an email for auto sending BUT in some cases you may want to collate and print the Certificate to hand out by hand, for example at the end of a conference.
Slide 9
The reason I am using a Google form is that the Google Form automatically creates a Google Sheets Document which is the basis I need for AutoCrat to work.
Slide 10
Once you have installed AutoCrat from the GET ADD-ONS tab then it will show up in your Add-ons tab. Select AUTOCRAT then click on OPEN.
Slide 11
At this point there are NO merge jobs so I will create a NEW JOB
Slide 12
Next give the Merge Job a name then click on next…
Slide 13
At this point the TEMPLATE will be the GOOGLE Document created at the beginning of this slide presentation.
Slide 14
Autocrat will ask me to select the file from my Google drive once selected it will show up in the step 2 of Autocrat.
Slide 15
At this point I will need to assign the Source data (from Google Sheets) into the document template.
Slide 16
At any time you can open the sidebar on the AutoCrat window and see the ‘source data fields’ available in your Google Sheets created from Google Form.
Slide 17
At this point AUTOCRAT needs to know how you want to save the document, that is the FILENAME you want to assign to each individual file…
1: I have selected the name of the Survey + Name of the respondent + Email of the respondent … You can choose what ever filename you want to match your Source Data criteria.
2: Then select the TYPE of document you want to ‘print’ in other words send out to the respondents (in my case it will occur automatically – but this is not necessary). You can choose Google doc or PDF … I selected pdf.
3: Multiple documents – means that each source data merge will actually produce one document for each respondent. I chose MULTIPLE as I want to automatically send each respondent their own individual document.
However if you want to collate all the documents in one SINGLE document – then you will get one document with X amount of pages (as many as respondents or recipients as are in the source data). This could be handy when you do not have the respondent’s email such as for students in your classroom.
Slide 18
Select the folder you want to save all the documents from YOUR OWN GOOGLE DRIVE folders or create new folder in Google Drive.
Slide 19
I will skip this step in AUTOCRAT – as it is not needed for the current exercise.
Slide 20
I will skip this step in AUTOCRAT – as it is not needed for the current exercise.
Slide 21
In this step 8 of AUTOCRAT you will need to tell the system what to do with the docs and whether to send the emails…I have chosen YES for my example.
Slide 22
Continuing in Step 8 of Autocrat, further down you can customize the email message (arrow 6) and send BCC or CC to the main collaborators (arrow 5) – in this case myself and Tom. Remember to add the source data field <> (arrow 4) where the respondent’s email will appear.
Slide 23
AUTOCRAT message is telling me to create TRIGGERS – that is to let Autocrat know when to carry out the job.
Slide 24
In this case the trigger is the Google form – after making the selection click on SAVE.
Slide 25
The job is now being saved.
Slide 26
AutoCrat has saved the job and now we can look at the icons that have appeared next to my job description and what they mean…
Slide 27
Each icon tells you what it represents when you hover over it with your mouse…The RED TAG is letting me know that I have an ‘unmapped tag’ in the job. One of my source data fields has not been assigned…clicking on the RED Tag will take me to the missing source data and ask me to assign the merge field. Once that is done – the AUTOCRAT job is complete and I can run the job.
Slide 28
… Now all we need is for the form to do it’s job!
Note the green arrows – The Help Guide is a great tool and the Manage Triggers link will allow you to change the triggers whenever you want.
Slide 29
Send out the form link and wait for the Respondents to reply…
Slide 30
Once the respondents have completed the survey on the Google Form – the trigger previously set will ensure that as soon as the respondent closes the Google form after filling in the required MERGE FIELDS then the Document will be EMAILED immediately.
At the same time GOOGLE DRIVE will collate a copy of all the emailed documents in the previously selected folder.
That’s it all the hard work is done automatically using AUTOCRAT in Google Sheets.

Please remember that if you find my instructions a little too confusing then do make reference to the AUTOCRAT pdf available within the Add-on or please leave a comment below and I will endeavour to assist. 

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20161123_Oxford Conference – Ancona


Poster for the Conference

The conference held in a most beautiful locale within the port of Ancona in the Marche region, central north of Italy was a held on a beautiful day with a multitude of English language teachers representing their schools. It was an opportunity to learn something new via the Oxford Presenters all the while catching up with like minded colleagues exchanging ideas and obviously opinions.

The conference in the morning began at just after 9:30am and finished around 2pm with a rush to pick up certificates in time for the train, car park or bus ride back home or for some back to school for afternoon meetings.

The first presenter with a hot topic was Clare Maxwell with a good knowledge of Italian customs and language having previously lived in this beautiful country. Her presentation on CLIL not only clarified the meaning and use of CLIL for the English language teacher but also enhanced the many varied approaches to enhancing the language via the Content approach.

Clare Maxwell got everyone straight into interactivity by stepping down from the platform and walking among the teachers, inviting us all into giving a quick vote on our view of CLIL with 5 questions provided in a hand-out … basically giving a value on a scale of 1-5. This questionnaire would be viewed again at the end of her presentation with marked changes in most of our views on CLIL.

The approach to understanding or getting our minds around the CLIL method can quite easily be looked at via a Mind Map – Clare Maxwell showed us her diagram and guided us to eventually prepare our own. Some items to include in the mind map are as follows: 21st Century skills; Authentic content; communication; HOTS (higher order thinking skills); group/team work; benefits for the student; engagement; motivation; etc. She said “CLIL is an opportunity for the SS to see their learning in another approach” by actually doing the learning. Nowadays the students have the capacity to evaluate their learning through the internet, they are constantly interacting with a wider reality than a mere textbook. Hence if the didactic material is in a ‘learn by doing’ approach the students are more likely to be motivated. This is just a tip of the iceberg in the approach to using CLIL in the classroom. Especially in the language classroom which is an area that probably until Clare mentioned it … for me anyway … was the subject Teacher’s role and not the language teacher!

During the coffee and tea break the opportunity arose to physically catch up with so many past and present colleagues that the time just flew … so nice to hear so many chatting away in English.

Straight up after the break was Ben Wetz with a fresh approach at understanding the use of learning poetry and learning the language through Life Skills. This is an area of which I have been using in my language projects for the past 10 years or so hence it was a topic that being more familiar with left me to sit back and listen. Taking notes is often times ruined by not watching and listening.

Ben Wetz had us all busy with interactive tasks by watching YouTube videos then answering a few questions on each and coming up with a nice grid approach to using the same method in the classroom.

The video on 21st Century skills that Ben Wetz introduced at the beginning was an amazing video which I want to share here with my readers.

What is 21st century education?

All in all it was a grand morning and thank you to Oxford University Press, Italy for organizing the event. 



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2016-11-16 Oxford Webinar

“Managing Classroom Dynamics” by Martyn Clarke – the title and presenter of the Oxford OUP ELT events webinar online live on Wednesday 16 November 2016 at around 10am GMT.

A reflection of the webinar…

The webinar began with the simple question of “What are Classroom Dynamics?” although as Teachers we know and understand the simplicity of answering the question we also understand how not simple those dynamics are! Martyn’s clear and concise quoted definition “Classroom dynamics are the ways the members of a class interact with each other, how they show their emotions and feelings, and how they behave as a group.” As there was a rush in the Chat box while many Teachers present at the webinar (reaching over 200 participants!) to write down a word or two about how we view our own class dynamics. Especially in the ELT classroom, with Teens or Adults – there are times when the ‘speaking’ activity can become a focus on creating that ‘dynamic’ feeling where all participants – including the Teacher – become a central body of communication.

In my own personal experience Classroom Dynamics are not always palpable in fact sometimes the atmosphere is tainted by prior situations. It’s not easy for any Teacher to walk into a new school with new students and expect perfect dynamics. I have been teaching in the EFL classroom for over 15 years and still sometimes find difficult situations especially with Language Projects. However there are some important rules I lay out for myself … firstly getting to know the students names, secondly using technology in the classroom – like getting them to use their smartphones. Thirdly understanding (or trying to perceive) the basic communication that already exists – what I mean is – are there sectioned off groups, individuals sitting on their own – whether these students are open to communication. The root of any classroom dynamics is communication. When the EFL classroom consists of ‘speaking’ the L2 language then all sorts of factors appear – the main is always embarassment at speaking another language. There are many activities we Teachers can use to overcome these communication barriers.

Martyn said that “dynamics is just that – dynamic” a situation that occurs spontaneously, so as Teachers our role is sometimes to create an environment where the classroom dynamics can occur ‘naturally’. Sometimes it can lead the class lesson plan astray and that’s when the role of the Teacher is to stear them back on course. Other times can we just forego the lesson plan and allow them to be open and communicate freely? Well that depends, but sometimes when that learning environment becomes a flurry of excitement and chatter with smiles, laughter (why not) and general good communication then yes I definitely would forget the lesson plan. Obviously there are times when that cannot happen – in the case of exam preparation classes or similar.

The most important thing to associate with Classroom Dynamics is that it is the essence of creating ‘group’ made up of its members within a classroom. A group with a similar goal in mind, bringing together in the learning environment sharing the ups and downs, collaborating and assisting one another. The Teacher needs to be a part of that ‘group’ mind, but at the same time be it’s inevitable leader keeping the group on its learning track. The Teacher facilitating the learning for the group as a whole and as individuals.

Following are some screen shots taken during the Webinar.




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“Learn with Technology” – Shelly Sanchez Terrell

Shelly Sannchez Terrell is an amazing person and her website is filled with lots and lots of ways to assist Teachers worldwide in understanding the use of Technology.

Visit Shelly’s website here.

Following is a great infographic on the many ways to learn using Technology in the classroom. Link to infographic here.


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Moodle Mooc 9

It’s the first day of November, 2016 which also marks the beginning of another Moodle training chapter in the Moodle4Teachers program of courses. The MM9 has been organized totally by Dr Nellie Deutsch and will be co-moderated by Tom Hodgers and Ramesh Sharma.

Exactly you might rightly ask just what does a Moodle Mooc entail…well, firstly it’s all about learning how to use the moodle in conjunction with live virtual meetings commonly referred to as Webinars. The Moodle platform is constantly being updated and is perhaps the most equipped platform to create self paced courses, with tracking mechanisms that keep the course participant on the right path.

Teaching and Learning do go hand in hand – as a Teacher should know – that in order to be in the forefront of modern teaching methodology then the Teacher must be a constant dedicated life long learner. Some may beg to differ … please do and leave your comments below, thank you.

The Moodle Mooc is a free normally 4-5 week course with varied activities and opportunites to actively participate in course creation within the ‘practice’ areas of the Moodle site on the Moodle4Teachers by Integrating Technology. This year we will be ‘playing’ on the newest version of the Moodle 3.1 with over 100 professionals from around the globe. But there’s room for more so if you’re keen to learn and can devote 2 hours a week then come and join us here!  You can easily join by clicking on one of the social media buttons and voila you will be a participant in less time than it takes to make a cup of tea.

See you there!

Below is an example of what the moodle looks like and my haphazard navigation…

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Day 2 IATEFL Birmingham

IATEFL Online Banner 2016
Nearly missed everything of day 1 online – firstly due to my internet connection which slowed down to nearly zero! Telephone company supplied a meagre excuse, however the mild frustration that ensued as a matter of being ‘lost’ without a connection made me realize how much dependant I am particularly.

Some weeks ago a colleague mentioned that some of us Teachers seem not to be able to do anything in the classroom anymore if we don’t use technology of sorts. A giggle or two that day surely brought on the bad Karma to the internet stability which has never really been much but enough that sufficed.


Photo by Rob Howard 

However today glad to be back and just finishing up listening to the Interview line up today – again another amazing day! Bravo and compliments to the Online Presenters who are even able to create an interview on the go! Today’s guest list included the following:  Carol Read; Adrian Underhill; Sandy Millin; … to name a few. All the interviews are available on the Interview recordings page of the IATEFL Online British Council site.

The interview yesterday on Wednesday with Jim Scrivener was particularly interesting as he talks about how Teacher training should make a change by ‘simplifying’ methodology study. He mentions planting a “naive seed of thought” allowing the new Teachers to put into practice and then reflect on their experience.

On this topic of Reflection practices an interesting Forum was held today Thursday in Hall 7 at 10:20 am. Watch the recording at this link.

Julie Pratten held her presentation today on the HeartELT special project, below is a great photo by Roving Reporter Rob Howard, who incidentally will be presenting on Friday! Rob will be talking about his creation EFL Talks bringing together Teachers worldwide to talk on varied topics in the Education field.


Julie Pratten HEART ELT photo by Rob Howard

Two of my favourite online people, one is Dr Nellie Deutsch who has guided and trained me over the past 3 years to teach online and the other one is a great leader of Teachers Rob Howard – also my eyes at Birmingham supplying great photos.


Rob Howard and Dr Nellie Deutsch ‘selfie time’

More to follow …