Tag: edtech

Reviewing metalanguage using a Jeopardy-style quiz


Love it or hate it, it’s difficult to get away from metalanguage and terminology in teacher training. I find metalanguage especially empowering for experienced instructors who’ve had very little formal training but that’s a topic for another post. It’s a good idea though to review terminology continually using interesting activities to reduce the cognitive load.

Sarah Priestly’s tweet from the TESOL Italy event jogged my memory about jeopardy which I’ve used frequently to review declarative and conceptual knowledge.

Have you ever seen Jeopardy? It’s a slightly addictive American TV quiz show where contestants select dollar amounts & categories from a board usually by saying something like “World capitals for 300”. Players are then presented with questions worded as statements which they must answer using the trademark formulaic phrase “What is _________”


  • Review conceptual information in a game show like format.


  • Flippity quiz show board with your questions & answers
  • Laptop & LCD projector
  • Internet connectivity


  • Flippity works through Google spreadsheets so you’ll need to have logged into your Google account.
  • Access this template. It’ll prompt you to make a copy – the template will get automatically saved in your Google Drive before it opens.
  • You will see a 6*5 table with existing questions and answers.
  • Change the categories (row 2) to your own.
  • Replace the questions and answers with your own. Ideally, a question at 600 should be more challenging than one at 100.
  • You can’t have more than 30 questions (6*5) but you can have fewer. Place an X in the category column or question cell you don’t want to use.
  • You can add media to the questions:
    • For images, get the image link and insert it into this format: Ask your question?[[Image:http://blahblahblah.jpg%5D%5D
    • For Youtube videos, get the link from the share section below the video. Don’t use the link in the address bar: Ask your question?[[https://youtu.be/pFhSKPOF_lI]]
    • For Vocaroo audio clips, record your audio and insert the URL using this format. Ask your question?[[http://vocaroo.com/i/s1OEopSqfxQn]]
  • When your quiz board is ready:
    • Go to File and select Publish to the Web. Copy the URL
    • Scroll down and access the second worksheet ‘Get the URL here’
    • Paste the URL into the green cell
    • The Flippity link quiz will magically appear.

Flippity quiz how to.gif

Here’s my quiz on ELT terminology. The questions and answers in this quiz are sourced from Thornbury, S. (2006). An A to Z of ELT. Macmillan.


  • Divide your participants into groups. Flippity lets you keep score within the app and allows flexibility in terms of number of groups.
  • Project the link so everyone can see it.
  • Groups choose a category and corresponding point denomination. Bring up the question – instead of getting just one group to answer, you could get all the groups to write down their answer before displaying it on the screen.
  • Award points to groups who got the answers right (the app will automatically increase the score by the denomination of the question)


  • While the display isn’t perfect on mobile devices, it’s manageable. You could have participants play against each other individually in small groups. All you’d need is one connected device per group and some way of sharing the URL (a shortened URL using goo.gl or a QR Code).

Coming back to Sarah’s tweet, I haven’t tried out Jeopardy Labs yet but it looks fairly straightforward and easy to use but I don’t think it allows for offline usage which would have given it a leg up over Flippity.

Jigsaw caselet | A QR code activity


My learners often get bored with traditional text-based case studies. Presenting it as a jigsaw task explored using QR codes is one way of making it more engaging.


  • Transform staid case studies into active, jigsaw tasks


  • Printed QR codes which you can stick around your classroom using Blu-tac or similar
  • Focus questions
  • Learners will need to have downloaded a QR code reader on their smartphones


  • Select a case study that you can condense into a caselet narrated preferably from different perspectives. For example, if the caselet involves a manager and her team member, chunk it so you have 4 bits of information from the manager’s side and four from her team members. Eight is a good number in terms of chunks for this exercise.
  • Copy-paste each chunk into a QR generator (I like using QRstuff). Select plain text from the panel on the left and paste the text into field. Download the QR code that’s generated.
  • Print the QR codes. I prefer to use coloured paper so they’re easier for learners to find.
  • Prepare some focus questions that learners will answer incrementally at they uncover the text in the QR codes.
  • Stick the QR codes randomly around the classroom.


  • Signpost your focus questions and tell learners that the answers are hidden within the QR codes posted around the room.
  • Learners work in pairs to scan the QR codes and analyse bits of the caselet.
  • They need to answer a question after scanning and reading an odd number of QR codes (for example after the first QR code, the third one, the fifth one, and the seventh one). Make sure they write their answers down.


  • Ask learners to share their reaction to the caselet. How did their perception of the issue change as they uncovered the perspectives of the people involved and got a fuller picture?
  • How do the different ‘agents’ feel?
  • How might this relate to their own work?
  • Get learners to discuss other context-specific questions based on the caselet.


The caselet I’ve used is adapted from Bob Dignen’s session on Leading International Projects at the recent BESIG Annual Conference in Munich.

Focus questions

  • After scanning one QR code: What do you think is happening?
  • After scanning three QR codes: Who is at fault? Why?
  • After scanning five QR codes: What should be done to resolve the issue?
  • After scanning seven QR codes: How could this situation have been avoided?

Image attribution: QR_Code_in_HandCropped by @GwynethJones -The Daring Librarian!  | Flickr | CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Beyond Buzzing


I bought this set of four classroom buzzers on Amazon on a whim (and because they were on sale) and now I’m wondering what to do with them. Obviously, I could use them to run team quizzes but there must be more to buzzers than plain old buzzing to answer a question.

I’ve brainstormed some ideas:

  • Put up a key on the board that maps each colour to how confident a student is feeling about a controlled practice exercise they’ve just completed. When students finish the exercise, they run up to the front of the room and press one of the buzzers. The buzzers aren’t very loud so the noise won’t disrupt those who are still working, at least I hope it won’t.
  • Set the buzzers up as an exit ticket. When Ss leave they press one of the buzzers based on what they thought about the lesson (each of the buzzers produces a different sound).
  • Use it as a peer feedback mechanism. For instance, if students catch one of their peers speaking in L1 during a practice activity, they hit the red buzzer.
  • Use it as a teacher-led feedback tool during group activities (I’m not completely clear in my head how this would work without disturbing the students).

It’s not a very exhaustive list at the moment. Do you have any ideas for how I could put these buzzers to use in classroom?

Building as a Learning Aid (BaLA) | Frugal edtech

Building as a learning object 1.jpg

Image source: TheIforinnovation.blogspot.com 

While BaLA isn’t exactly tech in the conventional sense of the word, I think tech solutions for countries with lots of systemic issues often need to be non-tech in order to achieve the same learning outcomes. For instance, in India, electricity supply is very uneven. Some states have a surplus and others have a chronic deficit. Some of the less developed states regularly have 5-6 hour power cuts daily. Running gadgets in this kind of environment is challenging.

Building as a learning object 2.jpg

Image source: Designpublic.in

Building as a Learning Aid (BaLA) is an intriguing little hack and an outstanding example of frugal innovation. BaLA uses existing infrastructural elements at a school like the floor, walls, pillars, staircases, windows, doors, ceilings, fans, tree – anything and everything in and around the school building as learning resources.

Some examples of BaLA include:

In resource poor  environments where it may hard to procure and or maintain learning aids, BaLA offers practical alternatives which generally don’t require anything more than paint and cement.

Links to explore:

  • Here’s a video from a government school in Gujarat who’ve really embraced BaLA. The BaLA elements seem to not only make learning more fun and tangible, they also make the school look and feel more appealing.
  • A Teacher’s Manual for using BaLA in elementary schools is a catalogue of ideas and practices for using BaLA for teaching and learning, funded by UNICEF and created by Vinyas, an Indian architectural research body. The focus is on literacy, numeracy science, and language learning.
  • A short concept note on BaLA with lots of ideas.
  • An interesting article from Teacher Plus on how it started in the desert state of Rajasthan and current developments.
  • A visual inventory of BaLA ideas implemented at a school in Northern India. It does however seem to be a private school. It’s interesting to note that schools that are well funded also seem to see value in an initiative that was originally conceived for  underprivileged rural schools.

What kind of frugal innovation have you implemented in your school?

Frugal edtech: Document camera

Frugal edtech.jpg

Do you know India is famous for frugal innovation? It’s a phenomenon born out of poverty, systemic issues,  environmental problems, and a really resourceful attitude coupled with homegrown ingenuity. There’s even a name for it in Hindi – Jugaad.  My teacher training projects take me deep into the hinterlands and I’ve been observing some examples of frugal education technology that I’d like to document.

This first one, though, is from my own repertoire.

When I first laid eyes on a document camera – I was instantly smitten. The participants in the workshop I was attending were producing written work which was then being projected for everyone to read. The whole group could follow along as the participant or the facilitator discussed this work. I could see lots of potential for applying it in my own classroom. At that point the cameras were really expensive. While they’re a lot more reasonably priced now (between ₹5490 and ₹18105 on Amazon), it’s an added expense that an educator can do without.

You can, however, replicate a document camera using a free Chrome app called the Overhead Projector. To use this app, you need to have a laptop with a webcam (I suppose it could work on a tablet as well although I haven’t tried that yet) and an LCD projector.

Overhead projector.png

Downloading the app

  • Open up a New Tab in Chrome
  • Select Chrome Web Store
  • Search for Overhead Projector (or click on this link)
  • Click Install
  • The projector will now sit within your Chrome apps. To access it, go to a New Tab and then select Apps.

Using the Overhead Projector 

  • Connect your laptop to the LCD projector.
  • Place the document you’d like to project on your keyboard.
  • Open up the Overhead Projector app. It uses your webcam so it will display whatever’s in its direct line of sight.
  • Bring your laptop screen about half way down.
  • Now look at the document being projected. You may need to adjust its position on the keyboard to ensure that no portions are being cut-off.


Here’s a non-exhaustive list of activities you can use the overhead projector for:

  • Display mindmaps created by participants in small groups which they then share with the whole class using the app. If the mindmap was done on a flipchart, this wouldn’t be a problem. But in my lessons, mindmaps are often created in notebooks and participant guides.
  • Project a list of ideas after a brainstorming task.
  • Share peer feedback notes. Get participants to note observations within a graphic organizer which you can project when they report back to the whole class.
  • Display participant responses as an answer key. While monitoring, make a note of a participant who has got most of the answers to a controlled task correct. Project this page from his or her book and ask other participants to check their answers.
  • Annotate, correct, elicit, and/or give feedback on written work.
  • Project keys from teacher or trainer material.
  • Display model texts.
  • Share utterances for emerging language focus or error correction towards the end of a lesson.

Do you use any frugal edtech in your classroom? I’d love to do a post on it so do share your ideas in the comments section.

Nik Peachey’s Talk on Online Learning at the LTSIG OLLReN Conference | Summary

Nik Peachey.jpg

This is a summary of Nik Peachey‘s talk titled “Learning a language online – How we can ensure quality?” where he focused on the challenges of learning and teaching online for the IATEFL LTSIG OLLReN web conference on Oct 7, 2016. The conference presented research into how teachers use technology.

Online learning and teaching are topics that often get discussed in terms of the challenges they pose. However, rarely do we get to hear robust solutions that respond to these challenges. In his talk on ensuring quality in online language learning, Nik Peachey presented challenges both from the perspectives of teachers and students and followed them up with some ways of mitigating them by sharing initiatives that he has supported or led at English Up, a 100% online school.

With online learning, students face a range of challenges, including the double-edge of experience where poor previous online learning experience can affect their perception of the course they are taking and those who are completely new to this mode of learning may lack the technical knowhow to navigate the course. Staying focused and motivated over a longer term may be challenging for students who believe the online format translates to quick results.  Lastly, the online environment can be very isolating.

It’s interesting how the challenges faced by teachers mirror those of their learners, pivoting on the very same double-edged sword of experience. Teachers who are often used to working within a larger physical space with the freedom to walk up to their learners, may feel constricted by the fact that they have to do all that and more seated in a chair.  Rapport and paralinguistic behaviours operate differently in the online environment. Teachers may also lack the technical toolset to be successful online and like their learners, feel cut off from their both students and other teaching professionals.

Nik placed the human element firmly at the heart of his solutions (Nik called this ‘human on board’). He suggested that early and direct teacher-student contact, learner training, and structured support through goal setting and period reviews could motivate learners to stay focused. He highlighted the first three months as a critical period for these pastoral conversations when students are most likely to drop out. For teachers, he proposed mentoring and peer support, regular sharing of anonymised student feedback, group action points derived from video observations, facilitating an online community for teachers, and providing training and development using the very same online platforms.

Using clean, simple, elegant slides Nik compellingly made the case for building a cohesive online learning community of teachers and students. These genuinely seem to be practical solutions because they leverage the affordances of the online environment, rather than resist them.