Category Archives: Tools

E-Safety for Teachers – Part 2

hacking-ImageIn the first part of this series on e-safety for teachers I looked at some of the general dangers out there for anyone online and a few of the things we can do to help students avoid them.

In this second part I’d like to look at what we can do to ensure we are not bringing the dangers into the classroom with us through the sites we use with students.

Checking Sites
Student imageWe should take responsibility for the sites that we recommend to our students. Of course we should check the appropriacy of the content and any advertising they may be carrying, but there are a range of other things that could also alert us to potential dangers. It’s important to stress the word ‘potential’ here though. The internet is a resource that was initially developed by enthusiasts, so many perfectly legitimate and valuable sites that were put together by people working in their own time might throw up one or more of these warning signs, conversely all of these could be present and correct, but that doesn’t 100% guarantee that the site is ‘safe’.

Here are some things you can check:

  • Encryption
    computer imageCheck the URL of the site and see if it begins with ‘http’ or ‘https’. The ’s’ on the end stands for secure and means the site has been registered with a security certificate to confirm that all information that travels between your browser and the site is encrypted . This is a good indication that the site is legitimately registered and less likely to pose a security threat. Never make financial transactions on a site that doesn’t have https.Google provides a useful tool for checking whether sites have been flagged up as potentially insecure. Just go to: paste in the URL and Google will share what it knows about the site.
  • Address
    Look for the physical address of the company creating the site. If it is a legitimate company and involved in any kind of business transactions the physical address should be visible, usually on the ‘about us’ page. Bear in mind though that many sites are put together by enthusiasts and they might not want this level of exposure, especially if they work from home.
  • Contact info
    As with the address, most companies will offer some form of contact information for their customers, whether this is a phone number, email address or contact form. It may be worth checking to see of this does actually work if you have any suspicions about the legitimacy of the site. Again you are likely to find this on the ‘about us’ or ‘contact us’ page. If the email address is a generic, like Yahoo, Hotmail, Gmail, etc. you might want to look more closely at the site, whereas a dedicated company email address is a more positive sign.
  • About us
    Check out the ‘’about us page to see if the site offers information about the people who produce it. See if this looks legitimate and authentic and whether the profiles look like genuine people.
  • Registration
    If a site requires registration, check to see the terms and conditions. Important things to check for are:

    • How do the site owners use and protect your personal information (email address, etc.)?
    • What information do they store and why?
    • What ownership, if any do they claim / retain over the information or content you or your students create?
    • If they require registration through a social media platform, what access does it give to them to the information about your profile and the profiles of your friends and connections?
  • Summary
    If reading through all of this information starts to make you nervous, then please keep in mind that the vast majority of websites and applications created are absolutely legitimate. I have been using the internet for educational purposes for more than 20 years now, without any great sense of caution, and have yet to encounter any situation that couldn’t be dealt with through either simple blocking of individuals or good antivirus software.
Digital Tools for Teachers – Teacher Trainers’ Edition

This text is the second of a two part series adapted from my ebook – Digital Tools for Teacher – Trainers’ Edtition.

You can find part one at: E-Safety for Teachers – Part 1

E-Safety for Teachers – Part 1

This text is the first of a two part series adapted from my ebook – Digital Tools for Teacher – Trainers’ Edtition.

In this first part I look at potential online dangers and how we can help students deal with them.

E-SafetyIncreasingly, as teachers use and guide students to use web-based and mobile applications we are faced with the responsibility of ensuring our students’ safety online. In this chapter I’d like to look briefly at some of the issues involved and attempt to put these into realistic perspective.

Please bear in mind though that these are my opinions based on my perspective and experience as someone who has spent two decades working in online education. These are not the views of a cyber security expert.

Online Privacy
To be honest I don’t really believe there is any such thing as 100% online privacy. Even the FBI has been hacked. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing as long as you use the internet with an awareness that anything you do, see, create or store online could potentially be seen by others.

You wouldn’t walk through a crowded market place in your underwear shouting out your secrets and sharing your address, bank details and pictures of the people you love, and expect it to remain a secret, so don’t expect to do it online.

If you want to keep something private, keep it in your head, never write it down, don’t tell anyone about it and make sure you don’t talk in your sleep.

If you and your students enter the online domain with an awareness of this and only post things that you are comfortable having in the public domain then you should really be fine.

Having said that, most web-based social media platforms and educational platforms do have some form of privacy control that limits who can see what, within and from outside the platform, and processes for reporting abuse, so do make sure you and your students are aware of how these work and put them to good use.

The Dangers
There are a number of dangers associated with being online. The main ones that we need to consider are:

Viruses and malware
writingThese are among the most common of online problems, especially in places such as schools, libraries and internet cafes, where access to a computer is shared and people are using things like USB drives to store information.

These problems are also reasonably easy to avoid, if you make sure that you have antivirus software installed and keep it regularly updated. Also, make sure that you have a firewall on your computer and it’s turned on.

Inappropriate materials
It’s undeniable that the potential for students to find inappropriate content, either deliberately or accidentally, is ever present. There are a number of ways of dealing with this including filtering and monitoring software of various kinds. None of these are 100% foolproof, so don’t rely too heavily on them especially if you are working with younger learners.

The best way to deal with this problem is to design purposeful tasks with clear instructions and then monitor carefully to make sure students stay on task. Having some form of device or network monitoring software can help with this, but if you do so, it’s wise to make students aware that you can see what they are doing, as it’s better to discourage a problem before it occurs rather than have to deal with it after it has happened.

Harassment and bullying
Make sure that your school has a policy regarding cyberbullying and a process for reporting and dealing with it. Also make sure that your students know what this policy is, both in terms of how to report it and what the consequences will be for the students who do it.
Make sure students know what does and does not constitute harassment. In many cases, students just aren’t aware of the harm they are causing and think that they are being witty or funny.
It’s actually much easier to track, prove and trace back online behaviour to the person responsible in the virtual world than it is in the physical world. It’s extremely difficult to carry out any online action without leaving some form of digital footprint. Make sure students know how easy it is to get caught if they are bullying or harassing someone. This is likely to reduce the chances that anyone will do anything irresponsible and greatly increase the chances that anyone being harassed will have the confidence to report it.

Make students aware that, as soon as they log in to the internet, they are creating a trail of behaviour for which they can be held responsible for the rest of their lives. Every word and image that they share online can potentially be stored and reproduced infinitely and indefinitely. They should be aware of the implications of this in terms of future jobs, college entrance and future relationships. They can use this to their advantage and create a creditable footprint that can help them to build a great reputation and enhance future career prospects, but one single act of poor judgement can also follow them around for the rest of their lives.

Taking Responsibility
In all of these instances it is better to educate students about the safe use of digital devices and resources than to ban them. Banning the use of these devices is a denial of our obligations as educators. We may be protecting our school and ourselves from any consequences in this way, but we aren’t helping to protect our students. They have access to all of these resources outside of the school and usually inside it, through their own device, so we must take responsibility for their safety and help to educate them and their parents in a well informed and logical way to the realistic dangers that exist and how to protect themselves and their friends from those dangers.

Make sure your students know how to use any reporting or red-flagging features of any site you suggest. Even the most genuine of sites can have comments from users that are inappropriate. Showing students how to flag up or block comments from people that are offensive is a valuable lesson, as well as a good way to help protect them.

This text is the first of a two part series adapted from my ebook – Digital Tools for Teacher – Trainers’ Edtition.

Digital Tools for Teachers – Teacher Trainers’ Edition

In part 2 of this series I’ll be looking at what you can do to ensure the links and apps you share with students aren’t putting them in danger.

Applying Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to the Use of Educational Technology

Digital Tools for Teachers – Teacher Trainers’ Edition

This text has been taken and adapted from my ebook – Digital Tools for Teachers – Trainers’ Edition.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs was originally developed by Abraham Maslow in his 1943 paper ‘A Theory of Human Motivation’. Maslow studied what he called ‘exemplary people’ and looked at how and what motivated them to achieve. His study included Albert Einstein, Jane Addams, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Frederick Douglass. Maslow also studied the healthiest and highest achieving 1% of the college student population.

As a result he developed the hierarchy of needs as an attempt to describe what people need in order to achieve a level of fulfilment from their lives or what Maslow describes as ‘self-actualisation’.
This hierarchy is divided into five levels usually depicted in the form of a pyramid moving from the sections at the bottom, providing for our basic physiological needs of food and shelter, to the level of ‘self-actualisation’ at the top.

Maslow Hierarchy of Needs
Maslow Hierarchy of Needs

This paradigm is a useful one for education because it can help us to focus on what education is really for – helping students to realise their own potential and lead fulfilling lives – rather than achieving what can be rather abstract syllabus goals.

The relevance to educational technology is that it can help us decide which tools we choose to use with our students and how we enable our students to use these tools.

It has become a mantra that pedagogy should lead technology rather than the other way around and this is, to a large extent true. Much early implementation of educational technology did focus on using technology as a form of motivational gimmick rather than because it was the best way to achieve a pedagogical goal, but that is not the only truth.

Putting the technology into the hands of students and helping them to understand how to use it in a way that leads to their own self-actualisation can also be a perfectly legitimate goal in itself. If we do this though, we should be sure that the technology we teach students about has genuine functionality for them outside of the classroom and measuring this against Maslow’s hierarchy is a good way to do this.

You can use this presentation from Digital Tools for Teachers – Trainers’ Edition to train other teachers and encourage them to reflect on their use of technology.

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4 Reasons why teaching students to use technology in the classroom is a no-brainer

Few things divide the opinions of teachers more than the use of technology in the classroom but with more than 20 years of the internet I thought we would have moved on from “Whether?” to “How?” It seems though that I’m mistaken, as France moves to ban mobile devices from their children’s classrooms I’m once again appalled that our education systems can be so out of touch with our students’ day-to-day realities.

Both sides in this debate regularly site research or the lack of it to enforce their arguments that technology should or shouldn’t be used, but much of this research is either very small scale and carried out within a very limited context or looks at how technology can be overlaid onto an antiquated approach to transmission teaching that itself has no foundation in research and was only used in the absence of any other approach.

So, I feel like common sense should be our guide and here are four reasons why teaching students how to use technology should be a no-brainer.

Developing writing skills

With the vast majority of written discourse being created on digital devices it would seem only natural that we look to digital tools to assist in both the production of a wide range of text based genre and also in the teaching of the sub-skills of writing.

writingIn addition to this the move to digital text production has enabled the creation of a number of tools that can assist students in the production of better quality writing and supply them with feedback, guidance and suggestions for improving the quality of their output. Many of these kinds of tools don’t exist in the analogue world of paper-based production, so it is imperative that we as teachers help to educate our students to enable them to get the best from these tools and resources.

Another significant change that digital text production has ushered in is the ability to produce text collaboratively, both asynchronously and synchronously. The skills involved in working collaboratively to produce and refine text are becoming increasingly important in todays modern workplace, so again this reinforces the importance of developing students writing skills within the digital realm.

Developing speaking skills

Digital connectivity has brought about a revolution in the way we use voice to communicate both with each other and with the digital devices that accompany us wherever we go. Face-to-face synchronous communication across continents has become a day-to-day experience for many people and the use of voice to control various aspects of our computers and indeed our homes is becoming normalised.

Speaking imageWith the falling cost, increased accessibility and use of voice communication tools across continents and cultures it seems only natural that we should be helping our students to access and make use of these tools effectively both inside and outside the classroom. These tools don’t just offer our students the opportunity for genuine language use but they also offer them the opportunity to record and reflect on their own abilities and take a more autonomous and self-aware approach to the development of speaking skills.

Developing reading skills

Despite the proliferation and popularity of video and audio on the internet, the vast majority of what is published and consumed online is still text. Reading from screens, websites and digital communication tools present students with some unique challenges that the more linear, homogeneously sealed environment of paper-based communication doesn’t. In contrast to the challenges of reading from screen, digital tools also offer a range of functionality to support the reading process and make it more engaging and enriching.

Reading skills imageIt can also be argued that we now consume text in a very different way on digital devices. We are much more likely to explore background information, take tangental journeys away from the original topic and read across multiple texts and genres during our searches and researches. Developing the skills necessary to read effectively in this new digital environment can only be done using the tools and devices that are native to that environment, so as teachers we need to ensure that we are using a range of digital texts and tools that help students to develop the skills they need to navigate this digital world with confidence.

Developing listening skills

Much like speaking, the digital communications revolution has expanded access to a huge variety of digital genres and with that a range of voices and accents that students would never experience in the analogue classroom.

Listening skills imageThese digital communication tools coupled with the proliferation of mobile devices offer students the opportunity to work more autonomously to develop their listening skills both inside and outside the classroom. Helping students to negotiate the huge range of available tools and use them in a way that enables them to develop their listening and communication skills more effectively should be among the top priorities of language teachers.

These four short texts come from my ebook – Digital Tools for Teachers – Trainers’ Edition.

Digital Tools for Teachers – Teacher Trainers’ Edition

Available as iBook
Available as PDF

8 YouTube Tools to Help Learn English

It always amazes me that despite being the world’s largest video library, YouTube is still blocked or banned in many educational institutions. As a resource for  learning about almost anything, but particularly for language learning it is an incredibly valuable tool and a tool that many third party companies have started to build on and exploit to make its use easier and more engaging.
 Below are just a few of the many tools that can help educators exploit the learning potential of YouTube with a particular focus on English language learning. I hope you can enjoy these tools and if you do work in an institution where YouTube is still blocked perhaps you can use this article to help persuade the people responsible that the benefits of making the resource available far outweigh the manageable risks that it can create.
1. VoiceTube –
voicetubeThis is a self study tool for students that allows them to listen and study each individual sentence within a video. There are a number of study support features. The students can take and save notes about the vocabulary within the script. They can also listen and record themselves saying sentences from the script then compare to the original.
The LMS within the site tracks their activity and can show them which and how many videos they have watched and show their notes and history of translated words in their word bank. Some of the videos also have quizzes, but these only work in the Chrome browser. Their is also a free mobile app which is available for both Android and iOS, so students could work with this whenever they have a free moment.
2. YouGlish –
youglishThis is a great tool for developing pronunciation. Just search for any word or phrase and YouGlish will find an example in a YouTube video and take you directly to the part of the video where the phrase appears. You can then listen to the phrase in context and see the sentence that it appears in.
You can also save the phrase and clip if you register on the site and you can also grab a link to it or share it through social media.
3. TubeQuizard –
tubequizardThis is a great self-study tool. Students can select level, the area they want to study, the type of film and even the accent they want to learn. TubeQuizard will generate activities for them based around the subtitles. They can then listen, fill in gaps and check their answers. There is also a search engine so that you can type in a specific phrase and find a video that contains that text.
You can also create your own video quizzes. You can either search for a video using the search tool on the site or copy paste in the URL of the video you want to use. The only limitation here is that the video must have subtitles available.
4. CaptionGenerator –
Caption_GeneratorThis is a really useful tool for exploiting clips that have no audible dialogue. Students can add captions to the clips and make up their own dialogue. This is really easy to do, they just add the URL to the video clip and then type in the captions,  and a great way to get students thinking about the link between language and context. You can find a selection of suitable videos here: Silent Videos
5. WatchKIN –
WatchkinThis is a tool for removing advertising and distractions from around the YouTube clip. This is particularly useful if you are showing a clip in the classroom and you don’t want students to see some of the surrounding clips. Just paste in the link to the video you want to show and WatchKIN will produce a framed version of the clip. You can then generate a unique URL to the framed version and use that either in the classroom or when you link to videos in online or digital materials.
6. reEmbed –
reEmbedThis tool takes the concept of WatchKIN a step further and allows you to create your own customised video player with your own logo, colouring and choice of controls. This is useful if you are building video clips into an online course and you want them to look consistent and professional throughout the course. Once you have created your player you can then just use it to generate an embed code for each of the videos in your course.
7. PeggoTV –
PeggoThis is a great tool if you want to download and edit a clip from YouTube. It gives you a number of options including trimming the video so you only see a selected part of the clip, removing the audio so the video is silent, removing the visual part so you have only the sound track or just downloading the entire clip to your hard drive (This can be reassuring if you are working in the classroom with an unreliable connection). Being able to create these different versions of the clip allows you a lot more flexibility with how you work with the clip in the classroom or how you create online tasks around the clip. See my manual – Digital Video – for suggestions.
8. YouTube Kids –
KidsYouTubeThis is a great free app if you work on mobile devices with younger learners. It allows you to give your students free range to search through YouTube clips with the confidence to know that they won’t find anything inappropriate. There is also a parental guide to help you use the app and ensure your students safety.
I hope you find these tools useful. There are lots more as well as lots of video based activities, lesson plans and video tutorials in my award winning ebook – Digital Video – A Manual for Language Teachers.
By Nik Peachey