Skype for a better English education

Posted by Vernon on 29 July, 2011 in Education, ESL Technology In Use with Comments closed |

Several months ago, I was heavily inspired by the assessment of learning via Skype, well documented in the blog post at and the release of Skype in the classroom with its directory of languages resources at – you must be logged in to access these (accounts are free). To the right you can see the array of sorting and filtering options for the growing pool of resources. Be sure to contribute your own.

Find out more about Skype in the classroom with points on:

  • What you can do on Skype in the classroom
  • How to get started
  • And much more…

If you need to, get Skype. It’s free. Our campus has the Skype program installed already – maybe one day we’ll have microphones too! Contact your IT department and request it if you don’t already have the software. Beg your budget planners if you need hardware (microphones retail for at $10 and educational bulk purchases are even cheaper). Meanwhile, there are structured chat activities such as practicing writing for fluency (some on the Navitas Ning) to be used.

[skype-status skype_id=”vernonfowler” user_name=”Vernon” button_function=”chat” use_voicemail=”on” use_getskype=”off”]

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Posted by Vernon on 4 July, 2011 in ESL Technology In Use with Comments closed |

A brilliant eBook reading experience. Intuitive is a word I don’t often get to use when describing various technologies but when it comes to using on any of the supported platforms/browsers, you’ll be reading your eBooks in no time at all.

Try the free eBook below. Get this when you sign up to a free account.

A book by

Any existing (DRM free, .epub file format) eBooks you may already have can be uploaded to your library. Shove them in your satchel and you can even read them offline.

On a final note, is Fitzroy (Australia) local enough for you? That’s where the folk, Inventive Labs, are based. Got more questions, read about

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Posted by Vernon on 3 July, 2011 in ESL Technology In Use with Comments closed |

Using a microphone and the Google Chrome browser, allows me to dictate my posts. I talk, it writes. If I say “period” with a slight pause after, it will recognise the end of a sentence. It also capitalizes the first letter each time I start speaking. If I say comma, it will recognize a comma. This might take some practice as I’ve not used speech recognition software before. Maybe I’ll have to speak with an American accent. Perhaps my Australian accent is rather slurred after all. This is great if you want to practice speaking, or if you are tired of typing huge amounts – I had to edit every sentence of this post. This might work best when reading out loud from a transcript. I could be great for student blogging…
Charlie Chaplin stars in the 1940 commedy classic 'The Great Dictator'.
To start dictating, all you need is:

NB. The plugin is still in beta so just hold off for a little while.

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Prezi – engaging presentations

Posted by Vernon on 30 June, 2011 in ESL Technology In Use |

A PowerPoint killer? You decide.

My first Prezi presentation was put together and presented today at the DEPSIG Professional Development workshop.

Cheat sheets and quick learn tutorials are at and yes, they have free educator accounts. Try it. It’s easier than you might think.

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Posted by Vernon on 30 June, 2011 in Academic English, Education with Comments closed |

Scribd is the world’s largest social reading and publishing company. We’ve made it easy to share and discover entertaining, informative and original written content across the web and mobile devices. Our vision is to liberate the written word, to connect people with the information and ideas that matter most to them.

Scribd 101: What is Scribd

Below is my collection of documents on eLearning assessment from Scribd user, bobbyelliot, together with my brief on how to get your school up and running with BuddyPress.

View my profile on or simply sign up for a free Scribd account and join in the reading pleasure together with a community of teachers, students, and researchers.

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A BuddyPress Experiment

Posted by Vernon on 17 April, 2011 in Education, ESL Technology In Use |

This project aims to fill a need for web based e-learning in a social network. It does not aim to be a full blown learning management system like BlackBoard. If a LMS were to be provided in the future, it would probably supersede this project.

The scope for our experiment is solely within our Hawthorn-Melbourne campus of Navitas English. We are testing with 2 teachers and 3 classes over the 5 weeks of course 113, that is from the 4th of April to the 6th of May, 2011. An Upper-Intermediate General English class and 2 IELTS classes have been selected for trials.

Each week the classes have 1 hour in class (and optional homework time) to complete various activities based on their course curricula. Tomorrow begins our 3rd week of running an experiment with BuddyPress.

BuddyPress is built to bring people together. It works well to enable people with similar interests to connect and communicate. Some of the fantastic uses might be: A campus wide social network for your university, school or college.

BuddyPress logoSee more about BuddyPress.

The project has 2 support staff helping administrate the site and design the lesson plans each week. Feedback from the teachers is given after each week’s activity via email and face to face meetings. Further feedback will be sought at the end of the program to contribute toward a full evaluation.

The following posts in this blog will examine the activities for each week with a summary of the students’ experiences and their teacher’s observations. Hopefully most of the activities are successful and can be fine tuned before implementing with additional classes and any willing teachers from the beginning of next course.

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Educating Diigo

Posted by Vernon on 4 April, 2011 in Academic English, Education |

Diigo (pronounced /ˈdiːɡoʊ/) is a social bookmarking website which allows signed-up users to bookmark and tag web-pages. Additionally, it allows users to highlight any part of a webpage and attach sticky notes to specific highlights or to a whole page. These annotations can be kept private, shared with a group within Diigo or a special link forwarded to someone else.

The name “Diigo” is an acronym from “Digest of Internet Information, Groups and Other stuff”.

What are Diigo Educator Accounts?

These are special premium accounts provided specifically to K-12 & higher-ed educators. Once your Diigo Educator application is approved, your account will be upgraded to have these additional features:

  • You can create student accounts for an entire class with just a few clicks (and student email addresses are optional for account creation)
  • Students of the same class are automatically set up as a Diigo group so they can start using all the benefits that a Diigo group provides, such as group bookmarks and annotations, and group forums.
  • Privacy settings of student accounts are pre-set so that only teachers and classmates can communicate with them.
  • Ads presented to student account users are limited to education-related sponsors.

diigo education pioneerDon’t lose all those precious bookmarks because of some technical glitch with your computer. Become a Diigo Education Pioneer.

Diigo V4 Sharing ~ build a personal learning network from diigobuzz on Vimeo.

Sharing ~ Part II of Diigo V4 tutorial series

Diigo — making Researching, Sharing, and Collaborating faster, easier and more effective!

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What is Twitter?

Posted by Vernon on 15 March, 2011 in ESL Technology In Use |

Finally, this is Twitter in plain English.
Twitter is a free social networking and micro-blogging service that enables subscribers to send and read messages known as tweets. Tweets are short text-based messages containing up to 140 characters.

For teachers and students who have questions about Twitter, please use the comment form below (or mention @vfowler in a tweet). Go to to sign up / log in. If you no longer want to tweet, and you wish to deactivate your Twitter account, you can. On the other hand, if you want (to share) a better way to use Twitter to your advantage, then go ahead and comment below.

Further reading


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Help students cite and reference with Zotero

Posted by Vernon on 15 February, 2011 in Academic English |

Zotero [zoh-TAIR-oh] is a free, easy-to-use tool to help you collect, organize, cite, and share your research sources. It lives right where you do your work—in the web browser itself. For anyone who needs to write academic essays, this tool takes the hard work out of referencing, regardless of the reference system your lecturer prefers. This post will cover three parts:

  1. how to get Zotero up and running, using a USB stick
  2. manually adding items to Zotero (with a link to the automated methods)
  3. basic use of Zotero in Microsoft Word to add citations and a bibliography

1. Zotero with Firefox on a USB

Zotero works with Firefox (and other browsers eventually…). This post describes how to get started on a USB because most organizations don’t have Firefox installed. Although you can continue using Firefox Portable and Zotero on a USB, I highly recommend you get setup on your own computer for both, the sake of speed, and you won’t need to reinstall the word processor plugin.

  1. Get Firefox Portable now, and install it on your USB.
  2. Run it and install the Zotero add-on (installation help if needed).
  3. Visit the Zotero page on word processor plugin installation and click the link to “Install the Zotero 2.0 Word for Windows plug-in”.
  4. Restart Firefox Portable.

2. Enter source data

Items can be added manually by clicking the New Item button on the Zotero toolbar, then selecting the appropriate item type. Metadata can then be added by hand in the right column.

There are tons of ways to get, books, articles, web pages, and any other kind of item into Zotero. This screencast covers six ways to get things into Zotero.

3. Write your essay and reference the easy way

For demonstration, I have a basic essay template (Word 2007 .dotx format). Be sure to have added some sources (or import my sample collection of sources). With Firefox running in the background, open Microsoft Word.

To add a citation to a supporting sentence:

  1. Either add a space between the last word of the sentence and the full stop, or after the author(s) name(s).
  2. Select the Add-Ins menu.
  3. Click the leftmost icon (Zotero Insert Citation).
  4. On first citing in a document, you’ll need to select the appropriate citation style (choose the style your lecturer requires eg. Harvard, APA) and click OK.
  5. Select the source and click OK.

Repeat this process for all other citations, suppressing the author(s) where you’ve written their name(s) in the sentence. Once your essay is finished, do a word count and add this to your cover page.

To automatically create a reference list:

Go to the end of the document, under a heading of References, click the 3rd icon on the Add-Ins menu (Zotero Insert Bibliography) and you’re done.

Further reading

Citation styles within the University : Library : The University of Melbourne.

Citing and referencing tutorial, Monash University Library.


Ann Raimes, “#20,” in Grammar Troublespots: A Guide For Student Writers, 3rd ed.

(Cambridge, UK ; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004).

Zotero | Start

Zotero Scholar Citations is a plugin for auto-fetching number of citations from Google Scholar

For updates, communication and collaboration on Zotero:

Follow Zotero on Twitter


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EAP Education on TED

Posted by Vernon on 16 January, 2011 in Academic English, Education, ESL Technology In Use |

In November 2010, Diana Laufenberg presented a 10 minute TED Talk on education titled How to learn? From mistakes.

I downloaded the video to my USB stick to play it projected and through the loudspeakers for our EAP2 class. Although Laufenberg talks quite fast throughout the bulk of her presentation, I set fairly general questions which students must understand before watching/listening. I expect students at this level to be able to catch some of the answers from listening once.

Then I demonstrate the extra features on the talk page i.e. subtitles, interactive transcript, etcetera. Students are then free to use the computers to complete their worksheet (TED education talk tasks).

Homework tasks – in the document

  • Write a brief evaluation of 5 features on the talk page (e.g. download button).
  • Choose a talk and tell the class about it during the next lesson.

Read more…

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