Going Beyond the Tools!

September 5, 2014

Welcome back everyone! I hope you had a great summer. I’m excited to announce that Avi Spector’s ICT Blog is evolving into something a little different this school year. In the spring of 2008, Avi Spector’s ICT blog was started to collect and share web-based tools that could be used in our classrooms. It’s hard to believe that just six years ago smartphones were rare in the classroom, and apps and tablets didn’t even exist. Technology integration mainly involved using interactive websites to supplement teaching materials and there was lots of buzz around our new SMARTBoards. As such, a big part of my job was visiting FGA centres to provide one-size-fits-all technology demos to large groups of teachers.

Over time, I discovered that focusing solely a tool was not necessarily the best approach. Many workshop participants had trouble applying the tool in their own classroom environment, and therefore, they did not use it. As I got closer to the teachers I moved away from a one-size-fits-all approach and began working more collaboratively with teachers and smaller groups to come up with individualized solutions. We now start by first looking at the learning objective(s), rather than designing a lesson or learning situation around a particular tool.

This is the motivation behind my new website, Beyond the Tools. I want to help teachers move beyond the tools and work together to share our best practices in regards to technology integration. Rather than simply providing information about an app or tool, I will be focusing instead on sharing stories of successful projects and connecting teachers with similar goals.

I’ve also ported over my full history of app suggestions, interactive whiteboard content, and web tool suggestions from my old ICT blog. These may come in handy as you brainstorm about projects and look at what you would like to accomplish in the classroom. These all can be found at my new site at www.beyondthetools.com.

As many of our schools have opened their wifi networks to students, a lot of us now find ourselves teaching in a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) classroom. Students might be experts at using their own devices but often still need a teacher’s guidance in knowing how and when to use their technology for learning. How can we help our students with information literacy skills (critical thinking, search strategies, copyrights) and safe on-line behavior? How can concepts like the Flipped Classroom and Gamification help in a BYOD classroom?

These are just a few of the topics I’d like to address on the new site. As always, I appreciate your comments and feedback. I’m also interested in hearing about you and showcasing your projects on Beyond The Tools for others to see and learn from throughout the year. Be sure to check my “speaking and events” section for upcoming events and links to resources from past workshops. See you around!

Note: If you’re already subscribed to Avi Spector’s ICT Blog by e-mail, I will automatically move over your e-mail subscription to Beyond the Tools. Nothing needs to be done on your part.

Students tell their own stories with Adobe Voice!

May 27, 2014

Link: Adobe Voice website

Quick overview: Adobe Voice allows your students to narrate in conjunction with images, icons, and text. The app is incredibly easy to use, yet produces very polished results. Great for ANY language classroom and encourages a student-centered approach. Free!

How did we use it in the classroom? I first used Adobe Voice with Megan Maclean, an English teacher at the New Horizons Adult Education Centre (ETSB). Megan’s learning objective was to help her multilevel English students (Secondary Levels 4 and 5) articulate their ideas in an organized, concise manner. In preparation for the Adobe Voice activity, students were asked to research information to support their viewpoint(s). They then used the app to put together a complete presentation. Here is an example from one of Megan’s students:


How did it go? Adobe Voice took the pressure off the students as they no longer had to stand up in front of the class and present. The students could re-record each spoken segment until they were happy. This gave them more practice speaking compared to the “one-shot deal” of an oral presentation. The following week, I worked with Darlene Brown (SWLSB/TLE) to adapt this activity to her multilevel CCBE class at CDC Vimont. I should note that before either class touched any iPads, we spent time helping students develop their viewpoints on a paper sheet. We formatted the paper sheet so that it would help keep the students on track as they were recording in Adobe Voice:


Benefits: The app is free and easy to use. Both groups of students were up and running in less than ten minutes. The app includes access to a plethora of copyright free images, icons, music. Activities done in the app can scale from Literacy to Secondary level language students. Our test students liked the app so much that they kept asking how to download it on their own devices! While the interface is in English, it could also be used in a second language classroom too. For those of you teaching at the elementary level, I successfully tested it out with my 5 year old daughter and (with a little help) she created a simple story about loosing her first tooth.

Limitations: Students must create an Adobe account or log-in with a personal Facebook account to save and share their work on-line. Currently, you cannot save projects in the iPad’s Camera Roll. That being said, you can still view completed student projects in the app without saving them on-line. At the moment, the app is only available on Apple’s iOS platform.

Downloadable resources: Darlene and Megan have generously offered to share their lesson plan and prep sheet so you can reproduce or adapt the activity for your own class. Huge thanks to both Megan and Darlene!

  • Adobe Voice lesson plan by Megan Maclean
  • Adobe Voice paper prep sheet concept by Megan Maclean, updated and adapted by Darlene Brown (for the students)




3 simple web tools to create on-line posters

November 26, 2013

Quick overview: Three web 2.0 tools to create on-line posters that can help language students develop writing and communication competencies:


ThingLink: ThingLink allows students to create an interactive poster with links, text, or videos. For example, here’s a Martin Luther King poster created with ThingLink. If you’re looking at the poster on a computer, you’ll notice that you can hover your mouse over the different icons on the MLK poster to bring up different multimedia elements. Here’s 27 ways of how ThingLink can be used in the classroom. ThingLink works on Apple mobile devices too.

Automotivator: Automotivator allows one to create motivational-stytle posters. One way this tool can be used in a language classroom would be to explore proverbs in a more visual way by asking students to create posters around proverbs. Often the meanings of the proverbs cannot be interpreted literally, so there’s lots of concepts to play with! Here’s one poster I threw together for a quick example of the tool. Visit the “50 most important English proverbs” website to get your students started.

Smore: Last year, Tina La Rosa’s Accessing Services (B124-4) Literacy students at Galileo Adult Centre used Smore to create detailed posters to help develop writing and speaking competencies. One reason Tina chose Smore was because it allowed her students to work with more text in comparison to other poster creation tools at the time. Please click here if you’d like to know more about Tina’s activity.

Benefits and Limitations of the three tools: Automotivator works well when you’re working with a small amount of text and would like to provide your students a novel way to play with a simple language concept, such as proverbs. ThingLink is an easy way to make a poster that links to other content on the web. Smore is your best bet if you’d like your students to make a more complex poster with pictures, lots of text, and YouTube videos. As a reminder, always remind your students to use copyright free images when working with any of these poster tools.

Automotivator: www.wigflip.com/automotivator
Thinglink: www.thinglink.com
Smore: www.smore.com

Source: Simple K12’s “101 Free Tech Tools for Teachers“, ISTE 2013 San Antonio

Special note: There’s still space in my webinars next week! Please click the following links if you’d like to register for the Flipping the Classroom (12PM-1PM, December 3rd) or the Bring Your Own Device (12PM-1PM, December 4th) webinars.

Rewordify helps language learners simplify difficult vocabulary in a written text

October 29, 2013

Link: www.rewordify.com

Quick overview: Rewordify is a free on-line tool that simplifies difficult vocabulary in a written text. In a nutshell, Rewordify will analyze an English text (or an entire website) and then automatically highlight all the words it considers are too difficult. Rewordify can either transform the vocabulary to something more appropriate for lower level learners or highlight the difficult passages and suggest alternate definitions:reworidifyHow can this be used in the classroom: This tool could be used to help students on an individualized basis or to deconstruct a complex text with the whole class. Rewordify works on both tablets and computers. If you teach in a BYOD classroom, this is a great tool for students to have in situations where they need a little extra help to decipher a text on their own. Follow this link from the iLearn Technology blog for more ideas of how to use Rewordify in your classroom or try the live demo if you’d like to see how it works yourself. (Thanks to Tina La Rosa, Galileo Adult Centre, EMSB and also Kelly Tenkely from the iLearn blog.)

Benefits and Limitations: As with any on-line language tool, results are not always 100%. It’s a good idea for you and the students to get in the habit of analyzing each suggestion and see if it makes sense in context. That being said, one could argue that this “limitation” is actually a benefit as it will force learners re-analyze the text and vocabulary a lot more closely. Currently, Rewordify only works with English text.


Create a written skit between one or more people with Doc Story Builder

October 8, 2013

Quick overview: Doc Story Builder tool simulates a written (i.e. – typed) conversation between one or more people writing in a simulated Google Document. While incredibly easy to use, it produces a result that looks like a polished TV commercial. This tool works on any Mac or PC computer. The tool helps students focus on writing competencies and communicating/storytelling.

Link: http://docsstorybuilder.appspot.com

How can it be used in the classroom? App Story Builder can be used to create a simulated conversation between two or more people to:

– Simulate a conversation between two or more historical figures
– Demonstrate spelling/grammatical mistakes in an FSL or Literacy class
– Introduce a new concept to your class in the form of a funny skit
– Ask student to create their own skits around a certain topic

How does it work? First, you choose the names of the characters in your skit. Next, write in the text and preview what it looks like with your choice of the included (copyright free) music. That’s it! App Story Builder will then put together a little animated story that can be shared with others via a unique link. See example:
docstoryBenefits and Limitations: There’s no need to create an account, it’s easy to use, and produces great results. That being said, ask students to keep things short and I highly suggest you limit the amount of times you use this with your students. If used too often, the tool will likely become tiresome and the novelty will quickly wear off. The background music does not (currently) work on Apple iOS devices. (Thanks to Elizabeth Walhof, Educational Technology Specialist at Douglass County School District for telling me about this tool at one of our sessions at ISTE 2013!)


ICT Tip: Smore allows students to create on-line posters

January 29, 2013

This ICT tip could be best applied to the following subjects:

Link: www.smore.com

Quick overview: English, Literacy, or FSL language students can use Smore to create on-line posters to announce a community event, advertise an mock product, create a class newsletter, and more! What I like best about Smore is that students can quickly choose the poster’s look from a choice of templates, which helps keep the main focus on writing (i.e. – learning a language) rather than fiddling with the design.

How can it be used in the classroom? As an example, if you have students who are in the process of learning what’s involved in renting an apartment or organizing a community event, this tool could help them put new vocabulary they’ve learned into practice by creating a digital poster. Furthermore, if students present their finalized posters to the class, you could use the opportunity to address common mistakes (grammar, vocabulary, content, etc..) that may be present across the various groups. Since the poster is all digital, students can correct errors as they go along. YouTube videos can be embedded too. Last but not least, as the posters often don’t contain too much text, you may want to ask your students to create a series of small posters around a single theme. A free account sign-up required. (Source: 60in60 with Brandon Lutz, San Diego ISTE 2012, tutorial video from Theresa Quilici‘s YouTube channel.)

ICT Tip: ESLYes contains 365 short ESL stories that include pre-recorded narration and text

April 17, 2012

This ICT tip could be best applied to the following subjects:


Quick overview: A website that contains 365 short stories designed for the ESL classroom. All of the stories are narrated by professional speakers. Similarly, there’s also a section called easy conversations for beginners which are sorted by category.

What is it? Students follow the text as the story is read out loud. Each short story is accompanied by quizzes, vocabulary, and other interactive activities. The site is easy to navigate and the printed text in each story is large enough to be seen from the back of the class if projected on a interactive whiteboard or digital projector. (Source: Mark Richards, James Lyng Adult Education Centre, EMSB)

Update 4/17/2012: One of our readers pointed out that there are a lot of distracting ads on this page. If you’d like to automatically hide  the ads, then I recommend you install AdBlock for Firefox or AdBlock Google Chrome which works great with this site.

ICT Tip: Manythings.org for English Literacy (ESL) students

March 27, 2012

This ICT tip could be best applied to the following subjects:

Link: http://www.manythings.org

Quick overview: A website that contains a variety of self guided learning activities for ESL students.

What does it do? Are you looking for short activities to help ESL students build listening and reading skills? If so, you may want to take a look at the American short stories in the Listen and Read Along section of the Manythings website. All the American short stories are read out loud by professional speakers. The students can play, pause, and rewind the short stories as many times as they need. In addition, some stories highlight the individual words as the author reads each passage. In regards to other content, the website contains activities that deal with reading, listening, biographies, videos with subtitles, and more.. (Source: Kim MacDonald, Place Cartier, Riverdale Campus, LBPSB)

Will this site work on all computers? Adobe Flash is required for a significant number of the activities on the Manythings website, but there is a large section of activities that will work on computers without flash or mobile devices such as the iPad or iPod.

ICT Tip: Visuwords puts a new twist on looking up words in the dictionary or thesaurus

January 31, 2012

This ICT tip could be best applied to the following subjects:


Link: www.visuwords.com

Quick overview: The Visuwords website is a unique twist on a dictionary or thesaurus. Students look up a word and immediately see color coded “pop-up” connections to adjectives,  antonyms, related words, definitions – all at once!  Surprisingly intuitive and easy to use. Works well with an Interactive Whiteboard.

How can this be used in the classroom: If you’re teaching in an individualized classroom, you could leave this website running on your Interactive Whiteboard while your students are working on reading or writing assignments.  If a student is unfamiliar with a word, they can walk over to the board themselves to look up certain words. Roll your mouse (or finger) over any of the “bubbles” to get a more detailed definition of the words. Double-click the “bubbles” to bring up more word connections. Last but not least, this tool could be used with the whole class when discussing new vocabulary. (Source: Candace Hackett Shively, ISTE 2011 Philadelphia)

ICT Tip: Exploring different approaches for oral presentations using Voki

November 29, 2011

This ICT tip could be best applied to the following subjects:

Link: http://www.voki.com/Voki_for_education.php

Quick overview: Do you have students that are uncomfortable with public speaking? Using Voki, a student can create a virtual animated avatar that “speaks” a recording of your student’s own voice or written text. Works in French too.

What does it do? Voki allows students to customize a unique looking virtual person, called an avatar. The avatar could be a representation of the student or a fictional character from a book. To make the Voki speak, students either type in text, speak into a microphone, or call in their recording with a cell phone. The Voki avatar is limited to 1 minute of “speaking” time, which helps students keep things concise. A Voki can be embedded into blogs or sent by e-mail. Free. (Source: Dr. Kipp Rogers, ISTE Philadelphia 2011)

How can this be used in the clasroom? There’s a huge bank of lesson plans for using Voki in an educational context, but one approach I like is using Voki to help students that are uncomfortable speaking in front of the class.

A sample lesson idea: Let’s say your students are assigned a book to read and are asked to provide a viewpoint from the story’s protagonist. If your focus is helping your students develop writing skills, you could ask the students to write their viewpoints for their animated Voki to speak. Once complete, the students’ Vokis are presented to the class using a projector and speakers. Alternatively, if you’re focusing on helping your students develop oral skills, you could ask students to speak and record their viewpoints using a microphone with Voki. The Vokis are then presented to the whole class and “speak” on their behalf. The point of the exercise is to get students sharing their viewpoints (formulating thoughts, mobilizing writing and/or oral competencies) without actually having to be put on the spot in front of the other students.

Something to consider: I highly suggest that you set a short time limit when students create the look of their Voki Avatars. The goal of using Voki in a language classroom should be to get students better at writing or speaking, not creating pretty Avatars!

Video Tutorial: For more information on how to use this Voki, click the (3 minute) video link below:

ICT Tip: Englishspeak provides a multitude of written dialogues that ESL students can hear spoken out loud

May 6, 2011

This ICT tip could be best applied to the following subjects:

Link: www.englishspeak.com/english-lessons.cfm

Quick overview: An ESL/Literacy website that contains typical English dialogues (going to the doctor, shopping, taking a taxi, etc..) that your students may encounter in their everyday life. Each sentence or individual word can be spoken out loud with the click of a mouse. Students can choose hear the audio clips at a regular or slow speed.

How can this be used in the classroom? Englishspeak could be used by ESL/Literacy students who need help with learning basic vocabulary and pronunciation. It’s also useful for students who benefit from learning at their own pace. As this resource is web based, your students can visit this website on their home computer or a school computer (with earphones) and listen to material as many times as they want.

How does it work? If students “hover” their mouse over a word, it will be read out loud. However, if students click on a word, they will be brought to a Merriam-Webster dictionary definition of the word. If your students enjoy this site, there is also a section with 1000 common spoken phrases which works in the same fashion. (Source: Evelyne Hadida Singer, Saint-Laurent Centre, EMSB)

ICT Tip: Lingro provides instant “pop-up” dictionary definitions for any website

April 12, 2011

This ICT tip could be best applied to the following subjects:

Link: http://www.lingro.com

Quick overview: Using Lingro, students can visit a website and click on any word to obtain a definition, along with a spoken pronunciation. Easy to use and no software to download. Free!

How can this be used in the classroom? Think of Lingro as a language “overlay” for websites. Using the Lingro website, students simply punch in the address of the site they would like to visit and now they can click on any of the words they encounter to obtain a definition. Lingro also keeps a history of all words clicked, so students can go back and review their word history. Lingro can be used in different languages too. So for example, a Chinese speaking student can obtain Chinese definitions when reading words from an English website. Definitely worth checking out! (Source: Mish Papazian, St Laurent Adult Education Centre, English Montreal School Board)

Video Tutorial: For more information on how to use the Lingro website, please click the play button below:

ICT Tip: Google Translate will translate text as you type and can speak the translation out loud

March 15, 2011

This ICT tip could be best applied to the following subjects:

Quick overview: Google Translate (translate.google.com) performs instant text translation between two different languages. If desired, the translated text can be spoken out loud with a realistic sounding synthesized voice.

How does it work? Google Translate works best on short phrases and single words. However, students should be aware that translating complicated bodies of text or common expressions may not work as well. Case in point, here’s an actual example of a Google translation (for our French speaking readers) that has gone very wrong. I can’t stress enough, if this tool is used in a classroom, it’s important to tell students to proofread the translations!

How can it be used in the classroom? If you have a student who doesn’t know the odd word, Google Translate will allow your student to type in a phrase (or a single word) in their native language and then have it translated into the language they are learning. As the translated sentences are often far from perfect, it forces students to analyze and improve their writing skills by constantly having to proofread the translations. In addition, as the text can be spoken out loud, this tool can help our ESL or FSL students with pronunciation. Lastly, for teachers that use the iPod, iPad, or iPhone in the classroom with their students, you may want to check this video out.

Video Tutorial: For more information on how to use Google Translate, please click the large play button below:

ICT tip: Create crosswords or word puzzles with Readwritethink or Puzzlemaker websites

February 22, 2011

This ICT tip could be best applied to the following subjects:

Quick overview: Free web based tools to create crosswords and other types of word puzzles. Quick and easy to build. Puzzles can be played on-line or printed on paper.

How do these sites work? Puzzle generator sites such as Readwritethink (link) or Puzzlemaker (link) allow you or your students to create customized word puzzles by typing in any choice of words and the associated clues. Once the words and clues are entered, a working word puzzle is automatically generated.

Something to consider: The act of filling out pre-made crossword puzzles does not necessarily promote creative thinking but rather aims to help students with lower order Bloom’s thinking skills such as remembering and understanding. As so, it’s my opinion that pre-made crossword puzzles should not be relied upon as one of the main sources of teaching material with your students.

How can be used in the classroom? Instead of creating a word puzzle for your FSL or ESL students yourself, why not ask them to build one themselves? Give your students a list of vocabulary words and and then ask them to create a definition (i.e. – clues) for each vocabulary word they have been asked to include in their crossword puzzle. This approach can help students build their vocabulary on their own.

ICT Tip: Vocaroo is lightning fast way for students to record an audio clip and share it with others

November 9, 2010

This ICT tip could be best applied to the following subjects:

Quick overview: A website that allows you to record and playback your voice. If desired, it can be shared with others. Extremely simple interface.

How does it work? Vocaroo (www.vocaroo.com) is very straightforward to use. In fact, it’s so easy that there is only ONE button that you can press when you arrive the website.. the record button!

How can this be used in the classroom? The Vocaroo website allows language students record their own voice and then hear their own pronunciation. If desired, students can use Vocaroo to record a sound clip and then share it with their teacher or other students by choosing the “post on the Internet” or “send to a friend” buttons. If students choose the “post on the Internet” option, they will be provided with a unique “Vocaroo Link” which they can simply copy and paste into an e-mail. This site opens up the possibilities of working with ESL or FSL students in other classrooms or even others around the world! (Source: Tammy Worcester, ISTE 2010 Denver conference)

ICT Tip: Create word poetry with PIC-LITS

November 2, 2010

This ICT tip could be best applied to the following subjects:

Quick overview: The PIC-LITS website allows your students to create virtual “fridge poetry” by dragging and dropping words onto an inspiring image. Quick to setup, easy to use.

How can it be used in the classroom? The PIC-LITS (www.piclits.com) website can be used with students to create simple on-the-spot word poems that are inspired by different images. It also serves as a visual way to help students improve their understanding of nouns, adjectives, adverbs, and verbs when composing a sentence. The PIC-LITS website can also be used in an interactive group setting with a SMARTBoard.

Other details: Instead of picking from a list of existing words using the default “drag-n-drop” mode, students can choose to create their own words using the “freestyle” mode found on the bottom of the screen. While it’s easy to jump right in and create a PIC-LIT, a free account is required if your students wish to save or e-mail their PIC-LITs. Thankfully an account sign-up is hassle free and only takes a few seconds to do. (Source: The Tech Chicks, ISTE 2010 Denver Conference)

Video Tutorial: For more information on how to use the PIC-LITS site, please click the large play button below:

ICT Tip: Google Street view allows you to virtually walk around the streets of Canadian cities!

October 8, 2009

This ICT tip could be best applied to the following subjects:

Quick overview: Google has finally brought their groundbreaking “Street View” technology to Canada! This amazing technology allows your students to virtually walk around the streets of Canadian cities and experience them as if they were really there.  It’s EASY to use, no special software required, and is free. Works even better on a Interactive Whiteboard, such as a SMARTBoard.

How can it be used in the classroom: Using a digital projector, this technology can be used to take your students on a virtual tour of famous Quebec landmarks that the class may not otherwise have been able to travel to in person. French second language students can use this site to verbally describe various landmarks or buildings found in their own neighborhoods. In addition, this technology can be used as a starting point to bring up a class debate regarding privacy in the Internet age.  Would your students be comfortable having others look up their home addresses?  What would the pictures show?  (i.e – Can you see what was in the garbage that day?  Who was parked in the driveway?)  Ultimately, do your students feel this technology is an invasion of our privacy or a beneficial technology?

Video Tutorial: To see an on-line video of Google Street view, please click the large play button below:


ICT Tip: Ask your students to create digital slideshows quickly and easily with Photo Story!

September 29, 2009

This ICT tip could be best applied to the following subjects:

photosto-titleQuick overview: A free application that allows your students to create a digital sideshow with copyright free music and their own digital photos.

Update August 2011: This application only works on Windows XP and Microsoft has taken down the download link. We are working on finding a web based alternative to this resource. Do you know of any? Contact us!

What does it do? Photo Story allows you or your students to easily create a “digital slideshow” out of images taken with a digital camera or images from the Internet. Photo Story can even generate copyright free music for the slideshow, no musical talent necessary!

How can it be used in the classroom? Nancy Peterson from the Pontiac Adult Education and Vocational Training Centre (WQSB) showed me how she used Photo Story in conjunction with a class field trip.  Her class took digital pictures during a “sugaring off” field trip and once they got back to the classroom, they pooled together all their digital images and imported them into Photo Story. The students then took turns adding their own vocal narration for each slide. Once complete, they exported the digital slide show as a PC movie file. Nancy was really impressed with the results and so was I!

Video Tutorial: In order to explain step-by-step how a Photostory is created, I’ve created an on-line video tutorial which can be viewed below:


Technical note: Photo Story is a desktop application. This means in order to use Photo Story, it must be downloaded and installed locally on a Windows computer.  If you do not know how (or have the rights) to install software in your computer lab, you can ask for help from your IT department. The digital slideshow files that Photostory 3.0 produces (.WMV files) can be played on any Windows computer, even if Photo Story is not installed.ict_25

ICT Tip: Comprehensive, ready-to-use EFL/ESL lesson plans based on current world events

May 19, 2009

This ICT tip could be best applied to the following subjects:

break_newsQuick overview: Ready to use EFL/ESL lesson plans based on current world events. Each lesson contains reading and listening exercises. There is a new lesson added every three days.

How can it be used in the classroom? The Breaking News English website (www.breakingnewsenglish.com) offers your students an opportunity to read and listen to current news items on-line. Each comprehensive lesson plan contains a news article, pair work, discussion, communication activities, reading and vocabulary exercises.

Technical info: The lesson handouts are available in Word and PDF document formats.  You are encouraged to print and use the lessons with your students.  Podcasts (an audio recording of the lesson) in MP3 format are available on the site too. If you’d like to know more about PDFs, MP3s, or Podcasts, please consult my ICT Blog Terminology section.


  • The lessons are free.
  • There is a new lesson every three days.
  • All lessons are based on stories currently in the news.
  • As the world’s news breaks, teach it!
  • All lessons are also downloadable in Word and PDF formats.
  • Listening files can be downloaded as MP3 audio files.
  • Listening files can also be subscribed to via a podcast.
  • Classroom handouts are readily reproducible.
  • There is a graded listening with each lesson.
  • Teachers can copy/paste parts of the lessons they want to use.

(Source: Lise Demers, Place Cartier Adult Education Centre, Lester B. Pearson School Board. Certain parts of the “Quick Overview” description have been paraphrased from a description provided to me from Lise Demers. As well, certain parts of the “Highlights” description have been paraphrased from the Breaking News English about section.)


ICT Tip: Quick access to images of various maps and flags of the world

April 14, 2009

This ICT tip could be applied to the following subjects:

world_mapQuick Overview: A website that showcases maps and flags from all over the world.

How can it be used in the classroom: Theodora’s Maps site can be used to showcase maps (links to maps) and flags (links to images of world flags) from all over the world. If you have ESL or Literacy students new to Canada, this site could be used as an icebreaker activity to enable these students to show the class their country of origin.  However, I should note that the maps on Theodora’s site fall more on the simple side.  They often cannot be “zoomed in” and are best used to simply situate the location of different countries across the world.  If you are looking for more detailed maps, please refer to the link provided below.

Additional Resources: For students looking for more comprehensive maps, you may want to visit the University of Texas Perry Castañeda Library Map Collection (www.lib.utexas.edu/maps) which offers categorized maps of the world that include historical maps, topographic maps, permafrost, etc.  (Source for Theodora’s Maps: Lise Demers, Place Cartier Adult Education Centre, Lester B. Pearson School Board)ict_10

ICT Tip: An on-line English “pronouncing” dictionary with over 115,000 pre-recorded words, read by a human voice!

January 29, 2009

This ICT tip could be best applied to the following subjects:

howsjay3Quick overview: An on-line English Dictionary that contains over 115,000 English words that have been pre-recorded by a real person with a clear sounding voice.

What does it do? Using the Howjsay (www.howsjay.com) website, students type in English words they would like to hear pronounced. If they click on a word and it has a recording associated with it, the word will be colored pink. This means the word can be clicked on and it will instantly be read out loud with the correct pronunciation. As with any other audio ICT application, headphones are recommended if used in a class with multiple students.

How can it be used in the classroom? To help English or Literacy students with their pronunciation. (Source: Tina La Rosa, Galileo Adult Centre, EMSB)


ICT Tip: On-line English Dictionary and Thesaurus

September 26, 2008

This ICT tip could be best applied to the following subjects:

Quick overview: An on-line English Dictionary (www.dictionary.com) and Thesaurus (www.thesaurus.com). Both are easy to use and quick to search.

How can it be used in the classroom: If your students ever need to use a paper dictionary or a thesaurus in your classroom, try sharing this resource with them. By enabling them to access this information more quickly, it may encourage them to look things up more often. Even if you’re a new teacher to ICT, you’ll have no problem explaining how to use these two sites. One simply types in a word and then clicks “search” to look it up – that’s it! An added feature is that if your student’s spelling of a word is off, a few possible suggestions (of what they were possibly looking for) will pop up.

ICT Tip: Dave’s ESL Cafe Idea Cookbook, activities for Literacy students

August 6, 2008

This ICT tip could be best applied to the following subjects:

Quick overview: Dave’s ESL Cafe Cookbook (http://tinyurl.com/davescafe) features loads of simple activities to use in the classroom for Literacy students that include culture, food, games, music, writing, vocabulary, etc.

How can I use it in the classroom? For each section, there are small activities (or may I even say simple suggestions) to use in classroom. For example, in the section “ice breakers” there are numerous activities that you can use in your classroom on the first day of class and so on.. There’s WAY too many to list here on my Blog, but I highly suggest you check this site out!

P.S. – Dear Mystery teacher at the St-Pius April 7th, 2008 workshop. I did not take down your name for this amazing resource. Please contact me so that I can credit you for this site. Thanks!

ICT Tip: Tim’s ESL Page for literacy students

July 6, 2008

This ICT tip could be best applied to the following subjects:

Quick overview: A great ESL page (http://tinyurl.com/55xyrq) with lots of simple and straightforward media rich activities.

How can it be used in the classroom? Tim’s ESL page can be used in a literacy classroom that is looking to use some simple ICT activities. Here are just a few great examples:

(Source: Farida Ali, James Lyng EMSB)

ICT Tip: ReadPlease text-to-speech voice synthesis

June 28, 2008

This ICT tip could be best applied to the following subjects:

Quick overview: A desktop application that will read back any written text in a synthesized voice.

How can it be used in the classroom? In a nutshell, ReadPlease is a free software application allows your students to type in single words or full sentences and then hear it spoken back through the use of computer generated voice synthesis. The computer will read aloud phrases or words that are typed in. This can help FSL or Literacy students with their pronunciation and oral comprehension.

Video Tutorial: Want to know how it works? I’ve created a detailed video tutorial at: http://tinyurl.com/55vag3


Why should I use it? If you look through the rest of my Blog, you’ll notice that I’ve already highlighted the AT&T Text to Speech Website that does pretty much the same thing as “ReadPlease” without requiring you to install special software on your school’s computer. Heck, the voices on the AT&T Text to Speech Website even sound more realistic! At this point, you may ask why would I even mention the “ReadPlease” software in the first place? Well, ReadPlease has a few advantages over other voice synthesis applications. In fact, some FGA teachers I’ve spoken to prefer to use “ReadPlease” in their classroom for a couple of good reasons:

  1. ReadPlease allows you to control the speed of the computer’s voice as it reads back the text. You can slow things down for students who really need it.
  2. ReadPlease highlights EVERY word as it reads it aloud. This makes things MUCH easier for students to follow along.
  3. ReadPlease does NOT rely on a stable or fast Internet connection. In fact, once it’s installed on a computer or notebook, you don’t even need to be connected to the Internet!
  4. ReadPlease allows you to download other language “vocabulary packs” so that ReadPlease works in French too.

ICT Tip: Create a Photo Roman comic book in Word

June 27, 2008

This ICT tip could be best applied to the following subjects:

Quick overview: A tutorial to create a comic book with photos using Microsoft Word.

What does it do? A “photo roman” consists of a series of photos presented in a way where it creates a comic-book style story.The term “photo roman” translates to a “photo novel” in English. Your students can create their “photo roman” using Microsoft Word.

How can it be used in the classroom? Using Microsoft Word (available in most school computer labs) your students can import photos from a digital camera and create a “comic book” of any given topic assigned by the teacher or picked by the student that is related to the class subject. As a picture is worth a thousand words, you can see the end result below:(Source:Marc-André Lalande, RECIT FGA)

Video Tutorial: Want to know more?  I’ve created a step-by-step video tutorial which will instruct you how to create a “Photo Roman” below:


ICT Tip: AT&T voice synthesis provides help with French and English pronunciation

June 27, 2008

This ICT tip could be best applied to the following subjects:

Quick overview: A website that will read back ANY written text in a variety of realistic sounding synthesized voices.

What does it do? The AT&T Text to Speech website (http://www.tinyurl.com/k49s9) allows you or your students to type in single words or full sentences and then hear it spoken back through the use of computer generated voice synthesis.

How can it be used in the classroom? This website can be a valuable tool for FSL or literacy students learning pronunciation. The AT&T website allows you to change “speaker” with a drop down menu (see image below) so that you can hear your phrases with different voices and accents. There’s even a French voice (named Arnaud) who is programmed with a French Canadian accent. I should note that unlike some other voice synthesis websites, certain AT&T synthesized voices can be quite realistic sounding. Best of all, the AT&T Text to Speech site is very easy and fun to use.. try it out!

Advanced ICT Tip: Additionally, you are given the option to download the spoken sound file (.WAV file) that can be inserted into other PC applications such as PowerPoint or Photostory 3.0.

ICT Tip: VozMe – Text to sound converter website

June 19, 2008

This ICT tip could be best applied to the following subjects:

Quick overview: Transforms written text into speech files that can be played on portable music players.

What does it do? In a nutshell, the VozMe (http://www.vozme.com) website is a “text-to-MP3” converter. The term “Text-to-MP3” means that one can copy and written text (i.e – Word files, content of web pages, etc..) and then paste it into this website. The result will be a spoken sound file, meaning it will be read aloud by a synthesized voice.

How can it be used in the classroom? Your students can take these spoken sound files (MP3s) and then listen to them on their iPod or digital music player at their convenience, similar to an audio book. This could be a great tool for students with learning difficulties who are better at listening to course materials instead of reading them! (Source: Vince Jansen (LEARN) Cool Tools Duel workshop)

%d bloggers like this: