Thursday, November 25, 2010

Building your own PLN with Twitter

When people ask me where I get all of this information for my blog, how I know so much stuff, I usually answer with a "I just know" accompanied with the "well, I am smart" look!! It works most of the time, however, I think the time has come to reveal my secret: Twitter + a Personal Learning Network (PLN). Everybody knows what Twitter is, but I think not everybody knows how useful it can be in building a PLN for your professional needs. When I first heard about Twitter I thought "No, not another social networking thingy". However, after witnessing (especially at ISTEKELT) how teachers all over the world are using it to share ideas and resources, I thought "why not try it?". I tried it, I am still using it and believe that all teachers should use it. What is happening is that you follow certain professionals (teachers and other notable figures in the ELT world!!) and after a while, depending on what you have to share, people start to follow you. It can be described as an "ever-expanding network of ideas at your fingertips". There is always someone out there who had the same experience as you and found a solution or another useful idea to your problem .Maybe you can add to it and make it even more useful.
So, how do you build a Twitter PLN? Let's see how:

First you have to get a Twitter account, which is pretty easy. You just go to and sign up for an account:

Sign-up is easy
When signing up, do not forget to include a photo of you. People will take you more seriously if you have some kind of an "avatar" that represents you. It does not necessarily have to be a photograph of you. Cartoons or logos will do fine as long as they are a representation of you. Providing a short bio of yourself is also important since people who want to follow you will want to have at least some information about who they are going to follow. If you have a blog, or another website, do not forget to include the url (your web address).

PLN in action

After you have signed up, you have to look for people to follow. The best way to do this is to follow certain "hashtags" or "searches". Hashtags are certain words or phrases followed by the # number sign. Everyone who uses the same #hashtag can be followed by searches. For example, when you search for #elt, you will be able to read all tweets which contain the hashtag #elt in it. People do this to separate certain tweets according to their topics. You can always save your searches and access them whenever you want.

First step to find who to follow: Search #hashtag
While reading your search column, you will have to decide who to follow. All you have to do is to click the profile name and you will see a summary of the profile with recent tweets from the user. This will give you a main idea about the users activities and subject area. Here you can now click "follow" if you want to follow this user's tweets. 

All the users that you follow will appear in your timeline:

The users that you follow will appear in your timeline
 All the captures that I have used have been take from Twitter's official web site. There are also other ways to use Twitter. These are applications that were written by developers to make the Twitter experience more fulfilling or more tailored to your needs. The most known ones are Seesmic and Tweetdeck. The main reason why they are so popular is that you can see everything in a "column" design. For example, you do not have to change pages to access your #searches:  Seesmic is a web-based Twitter client.

Tweetdeck is a separate program that you have to install on your computer.

 I am sure there are many other programs that can be used to access your Twitter account, but these are the ones that I have found to be useful. If you are using different ones, please share them with me.
After you have found people to follow, you can start to share your own tweets and links and resources. You can also retweet other users' tweets. Do not forget that you only have 140 characters to use. That's why you will see url shorteners in all the Twitter clients. Because nowadays web addresses are way too long to fit in a 140 character tweet, you need automatic url shorteners. The moment you paste a web address into the tweet space you will see that your url is automatically shortened by services like or tiny.url

Twitter at a Glance
Here is a great image that I found at the Daring Librarian. It gives a short summary on how to start your PLN with Twitter:
Twitter at a Glance
 In conclusion, building a Personal Learning Network with Twitter is really easy. All you need is a little bit time and the freedom to experiment. You will see how fast your network will grow and how fast you will be able to learn new things, not only for the sake of using the information but also for the sake of sharing.
Have fun.

Below you will find links to useful resources related to Twitter and Twitter for Educators:

An Educators Guide to Twitter
Twitter for Teachers
Thirty Interesting Ways to Use Twitter in the Classroom

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Language Learning: Why Most Fail and How YOU Can Succeed

This is a presentation by John Fotheringham about language learning and its challenges. You might not agree with everything mentioned here, however, I believe that every teacher has to know what is being emphasized here. If you have the chance, try to show this to your students as well.

Copyright © 2010 by John Fotheringham. For more tips, tools, and tech for Mastering ANY Language, go to

Friday, November 5, 2010

Google Documents: How to create a digital quiz

We know that Google Documents can be used for many things in or out of the classroom. However, sometimes you come across some features that still have the potential to surprise you. This time, I want to show how you can create digital quizzes by using the forms feature in Documents. After you have finished a quiz, you can send it to your students or embed it in your blog. In addition, you can evaluate their answers and see who has taken the quiz. Let's start:

 1. Create a new form in Google Documents

2. Fill in the form with information about your quiz. Your first question has to be the student's name so that you know who took your test.

3. After you click "done", you can continue adding questions by clicking "add item". There are different question types you can choose from, however, I wouldn't recommend using too many different types of questions in one test because it may get confusing for both the teacher and the student.

4. After you are finished writing (or copy/pasting) your questions, you can change the appearance of your quiz by applying a theme. You can also edit, duplicate or delete a question and change the order of the questions by dragging them into another location.

5. Now you can send the form to your students via email or you can embed into your blog by copying/pasting the embed code.

6. It is possible that the quiz might be too big in width and height for your blog. In this case, you have to change its size.

This is how your quiz will look like after you send it to your students:

In your blog:

7.  How to see and evaluate answers: After completing your quiz, you will see that there is a new document in your Google Documents account. When you click that document, you will see that it opens a spreadsheet just like an Excel spreadsheet. There, you will find everybody's answers together with the time they have taken the quiz. It should look like this:

I hope this was useful. If you have any other suggestions please comment.
Have fun.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Dropbox: A Delight...

It is possible that in the corridors and teacher's rooms you have heard teachers talk about an application that has saved their lives and is one of the hottest things since sliced bread. You might have wondered what they are talking about, heard something about a box and how easy it was to drop computer files into it. Why would that be such a wonder? Well, it is. If you are someone who works on documents on different computers, if you are someone who has to send documents (all kinds of them) to a number of receivers or if you have to keep the same document on a number of computers, then Dropbox is your very best friend. So what does Dropbox do? It basically synchronizes your documents on different computers. In other words, the moment I "drop" a file into the dropbox folder on my  computer at work, it will appear in the dropbox folder at home. The best part is that it will be the same file. All the changes I make on any file in the dropbox folder will appear in all my dropbox folders. It is also possible to access your folder on any computer. You just have to log on to and you will have access to all of your files. This is how my online dropbox folder looks like:

 This is how my dropbox folder on my computer looks like:
As you can see their contents are the same. 

Who can use it? 

1. Material Production: Everybody who works on material for the classroom knows how much of a pain it is to have 10 different versions of the same document in your E-mail inbox. Sometimes you are totally confused which one was the one you were actually working on. With dropbox you don't even have to carry a flashdrive anymore. Just drag and drop your file into your dropbox folder and keep on working on the same file at home. They will be synchronized.

2. EdTechs: If you are an EdTech and need to transfer your files (word, powerpoint, pictures, etc) on a number of computers in a lab or laptops, then you can use dropbox. Just download dropbox into the computers/laptops and every time the computers/laptops connect to the Internet your files will synchronize. No running around labs or corridors to transfer files with a flashdrive.

3. Coordinators/teachers:  Coordinators/teachers who need to send large multimedia files to their teachers will find it very useful. E-mail attachments have a size limit, even Gmail has a 10 MB limit. An offline version of a Prezi presentation is about 17 MB. Sometimes a Powerpoint presentation can be more than 10 MB due to the use of multimedia files such as videos or pictures. So, what you can do is make those files available in your dropbox public folder and share the link with your teachers. They do not even have to have a dropbox account. All they have to do is click the link you have send them and download will start automatically.
Teachers can use it to share documents with students or make students use it for their assignments. It definitely helps to get rid of all the 1st, 2nd, 3rd drafts of assignments in your inbox.
These are just some of the opportunities that Dropbox can offer to teachers and administrators. I am sure there are many other ways to use it. It is really easy to get an account (just your email and a password) and they offer you 2.5 GB, which is actually a lot of space, for free. Please comment if you use it in another way or if you have suggestions.
Have fun.