Friday, 31 December 2010

2010 - The Year of Going with the Flow!

2010 has far exceeded my very modest but wildly unknown expectations. My sidebar notes started off the new year with the following lines: "I have no idea what 2010 will have in store for me, whether virtually or on terra firma".

Long gone was the person who planned everything meticulously. The Janet who always had Plan A, B, C and then even D, just in case of unforeseen circumstances. The person who had to know everything in advance. I wrote the section below on my blog on December 30th last year - 2009:The Year of Living Technologically.

The Future of 2010
Where do I go from January 1st 2010? I don't really know. I will find out.

Will my life change overnight? I very much doubt it.

Will I continue to do my best in whatever I choose to do? Yes, absolutely!

Will I challenge myself enough? I hope so. Nobody else on this planet will do it for me.

Will I continue writing my blog? Yes, I very much want to. It has become an essential part of my life.

Will I strive to incorporate new e-tools wherever practicable? I hope so.

Will I finally unleash the demons preventing me from creating a Power Point Presentation? Yes, I really really want to!!

Taking the Powerpoint Plunge
Well, my goal of finally taking the plunge and creating my very first PowerPoint presentation has well and truly been achieved. I have created 10 Powerpoints this year and I plan to do many more in 2011. Having waited so long to use this tool, I feel there is a lot I want to learn. How to insert videos and other media into my presentations is a modest goal for the new year. Many thanks to Noel for sending me some great and inspirational videos.

A Year of "Flow"
Many wonderful things have happened in 2010 and it has been an action-packed year which I would never have imagined possible at this time last year. I would like to say a huge Thank You to every single person (and furkid), who has contributed to 2010 being one of the BEST ever in my whole life.

With the help of my amazing PLN I have:On a personal level I have:
  • enjoyed being with my family and friends in Oxford and Abruzzo
  • been back to England on the back of the Aprilia Rally Raid Capo Nord
  • had lots of fun with Samantha, the new furkid on the block
  • written a personal book review of "R U Listenin'? by Terry Bianchini
  • made loads of home made tomato sauces
  • made loads of fig jam / peach jam / apple sauces
  • have made loads of Tiramisu, courtesy of Chikita, Berry, Ken Cluckie, Filito, (& Norris & Nikita now sadly demised)
  • tended to and helped pick lots of olive trees
  • made lots of homemade birthday cards / special events cards and Christmas cards
  • unpacked a few more boxes
  • collected a few more owls!

The Future of 2011
So, what does 2011 have in store for me? Well, this time I do know a little bit about what is planned!

I would like to do a 5-week Tesol Electronic Village Online course starting in January. I haven't chosen which course yet because there are so many fantastic choices.
I am interested in the following courses:
Please do join me in experiencing the excitement of being a student again. It's a wonderful feeling!! I can guarantee you will learn a lot!!

February 2011
I am doing another workshop in L'Aquila for Tesol-Aquila Action Group on Wednesday February 2nd 2011. I am really looking forward to seeing all the amazing teachers again.

On February 5th I hope to be presenting at Connecting Online 2011. My wonderful mentor and former tutor on the Moodle for Teachers course Dr Nellie Deutsch has invited me to present online. It will be a great pleasure!!

In February I will be tutoring on another e-course on behalf of the Consultants-E.

April 2011
I will be presenting at IATEFL Brighton on April 17th. I can't wait to meet members of my fabulous PLN and fellow tweeters during that time.

I would like to brush up my very basic riding skills and do my CBT (Compulsory Basic Motorbike Training) again at Abbey Motorcycle Instructors.

I hope to teach on more Teacher Refresher courses for the Lake School of English.

An Open Year Book
The rest of the year is an open book, waiting to be filled. More book reviews are on the cards. Who knows, I might even get down to writing my own e-book. That would be really cool.

Finally, I hope to achieve the very important goal below:

I would also like to do the following:

That's it!! The rest, I really don't know at this stage. I look forward to the new year and to seeing how it will all evolve.

Once again, many thanks to everyone I know who has helped me develop as a teacher and helped me to do my best.
In particular, I owe a lot to the amazing Shelly Terrell for encouraging me to venture into the thrilling world of online conferences and presentations. Without her constant support, I may not have given it a go.

I wish all my readers and fellow bloggers, tweeters, teachers, and students I have taught this year, a very Happy and successful New Year.

"Don't just dream it. Do it!"

Have fun, and may all your dreams come true!!

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

2 New Moodle Books from Packt Publishing!

Packt Publishing has just published 2 new books on Moodle and I have great pleasure in introducing them hot off the press on my blog! The first one is by Michael de Raadt and it is called Moodle 1.9 Top Extensions Cookbook.

The second new book just published is Moodle 1.9, Testing and Assessment by Jason Myrick.

Both books look very good, so why don't you treat yourself in the new year? Just click here for more information and to see what festive offers are available at present.

I am currently reading Moodle 2.0 First Look by Mary Couch. I hope to have a book review up on my blog in the New Year.

Til my next post coming up soon, enjoy the holidays!!

Friday, 24 December 2010

Happy Christmas Greetings from Abruzzo!

I would like to wish all my readers a very happy Christmas and all the very best for the New Year. This Christmas will be spent in Abruzzo. Weather conditions are looking good, but sadly no snow for the moment.

Below is an interesting seasonal video, which shows the sign of the times in this technology-driven era.

I think you will also enjoy looking through "The 12 Days of Edtech Christmas" by Sue Lyons-Jones from The PLN Staff Lounge.

Felicitacion Colegio Divina Pastora 2010
One of my lovely teachers from the summer Teachers' Refresher course at the Lake School of English has sent me this fantastic video of all her school taking part in a Christmas Greetings' video special. Thank you for sending me this wonderful video, Marga! More than 800 pupils took part in this event. That must have been incredible to organise it all! Many congratulations to all the teachers and pupils involved!

I would like to leave you with my all-time classic Christmas song favourite -"White Christmas", sung by Shania Twain.

Enjoy your well-deserved Christmas break!

Monday, 20 December 2010

An #ELTChat Podcast with a Crackling Backdrop!

I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Marisa Constantinides, straight after the Twitter ELTChat talk on Wednesday 24th November. Marisa is one of the wonderful moderators for ELTChat. The top topic discussed at 4pm (Rome time) on that particular afternoon was " Do ELT lessons need to have a theme or focus, or is it enough just to communicate using English?" It was a bitterly cold day in Abruzzo, and the fire was roaring and crackling away in my living room.

Image above of fireplace found on google search here

You can read the full transcript for that session by pressing on the link: It proved to be a lively discussion and I was very happy to join in with my views. The chance to exchange opinions on all manners of topics with teachers from around the globe on a given day and time, every Wednesday at either 3pm or 9pm GMT is really wonderful and is great for one's CPD (Continuing Personal Development).

While it was very cold in Abruzzo, in Athens the temperature that day was 24 degrees!
You can listen to the podcast interview with the background crackle and pop of the blazing fire here.
There is also another interview on the podcast, directly after mine has ended, with Erika Osváth on the subject of "Soft Skills" that teachers need when teaching. You can see the ELTChat transcript of that topic here.

Leahn Stanhope from Early EFL blog has also followed the discussion up with a very interesting and thought-provoking blog post called "Teachers: Born or Made?" Please do add to the comments on her blog. It is a fascinating question.

A seasonal Christmas message from all the wonderful ELTChat team on Twitter can be viewed here.

If you have never joined in the ELTChat discussions, why don't you pop in this Wednesday afternoon at 3pm or Wednesday evening at 9pm GMT? The sessions last approximately one hour.

The topics you can choose for the chat on Wednesday 22nd December are listed here. I have opted for the topic of "How can we overcome teacher burnout?" Please do join in on Wednesday if you can! All you need is a Twitter account, and then follow the hashtag #ELTChat.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

An Idiomatic Story: Defeating Writer's Block!

Walking along the deserted road in the gloomy fog, the lonely figure made its way wearily towards the village in the distance. He hadn't eaten or drunk for days and he was feeling undernourished and parched. What would he find up ahead? His thoughts lingered as he trudged slowly towards the looming houses.

Having lost everything he owed on the horses a few days before, he knew he would have to start from square one again. He was in the red, he knew it. He had blown everything on one last crazy gamble. He knew people would say he had lost his marbles, but he didn't give two hoots about them.

He came within sight of the main square of the tiny village. It was time to take the bull by the horns.....

Image above found on google search imagesbykids

Can you match the meanings below with the idioms highlighted in the story above?

What happened next???

I wrote this little paragraph a while ago, but for some reason I didn't publish it immediately. Then the days passed and I lost my inspiration, work took over and I realised that the reason was I didn't really have a title that grabbed MY attention. The original title was "An Idiomatic Story". The title was just so uninspiring, and that very fact was hindering my progress in a way.

Then today via Twitter I vaguely tweeted the following:"Still no inspiration for a blog post. I need to think of a title first. No title, no blog post! Usually full of titles, but not today!"

I received the following tweet by @becluwlib saying " Maybe 'overcoming writer's block's' would be a good title. :)". I replied "Yes, thanks! That's a good one - I think I'll just give myself a little bit more time :)". Well, the time has come now, and I have incorporated part of the advice in the title for this post, so many thanks indeed to Cari Teske from Conrad IA!

Again, the power of Twitter is amazing. So, I now have a blog post with a slightly offbeat title, which I am happy to publish. The challenge I had originally set myself was to create a short idiomatic story from a picture prompt. This is in preparation for my presentation at IATEFL Brighton 2011, which is on the theme of "Teaching Idioms".

The inspiration to challenge myself to writing an idiomatic story came from "Every Photo Tells a Story" blog. It's a fantastic source of images and a great resource for teachers. I really like it!

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Lauretum Vinum et Oleum

Set against the magnificent backdrop of Loreto Aprutino's historical quarter, we spent a very pleasant 3 hours last night at the Lauretum Vinum et Oleum Event. A wine and olive oil event which was fantastic and enjoyable. It was also extremely well organised and exhibitors from the local area were there to explain each of the different types of food and wine on offer. For the modest sum of 10 euros each, we were given a wineglass in a special pouch container to hang around our neck and 2 blocks of 15 tickets each for the samples of delights to come.

15 samples of individual wines, including Kudos, Aternum, ModA from the Cantine Talamonti and many more including delicious wines from Masciarelli.

15 tastings of local delicacies, all from around the Loreto Aprutino area.

No, before you ask, I did not get "legless" by the end of the evening, maybe just a bit happy! This was due to the fact that each sample of lovely wine was accompanied with solid bits of food, such as lentil soup, bean soup,cereal soup, lovely ham slices, lamb stew, "baccala", which is a type of very common salty fish, local "aprutina" tripe, lots of bread liberally covered in delicious olive oil, and I could go on. You get the picture..

The picture below shows you a painting housed in the Olive Oil museum of a family of workers relaxing during the olive picking season.

Part of the "Vinum et Oleum" tour involved going into the Acerbo Museum of Castelli Ceramics.
I loved viewing each delicate and intricate piece of Castelli ceramic art - 579 precious pieces, to be precise. The Loreto Aprutino museum houses the biggest collection of Castelli ceramics in Italy. They survived the Earthquake tremors from L'Aquila intact, whereas some of the pieces in the Castelli Ceramics Museum actually in Castelli, did not survive, and the museum remains closed to this day.

I love collecting Castelli ceramics, and I have a 1950s Castelli vase, which I was lucky enough to find in a second-hand shop for only 50 euros. One of my favourite possessions is this wash bowl with stand set below, which used to be in all the bedrooms of the old "casale", or farmhouses.

Below a flyer of the Wine and Olive Oil Event hosted by Loreto Aprutino.

I love this image below from the wall of the Olive Oil museum which shows a family gathered together for a group photo. I have a similar family photo from Abruzzo taken many years ago like this one, but it is still in one of my boxes somewhere. It's a piece of time stood still.

Below an image of our olives, a reminder that we live in an area blessed with abundant amounts of olive trees, a life force for many of the local famers. Some of the prestigious bottles of olive oil on display at the event cost up to 90 euros for a 750 ml bottle, a very special olive oil indeed! Olive oil has often been alluded to as "Liquid Gold" and I guess there must be a reason for this name.

You may also like to read:

If you are looking for somewhere to stay in Loreto, maybe this might be interesting for you. It certainly looks comfortable. B& B Lauretum.

Above you can see an edited image of where part of the fabulous event took place. Very Gothic -looking indeed!

A big thanks to the organisers "Lauretum Vinum et Oleum" for this wonderful event, now in its 5th successful year.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Janet's Nominations for the 2010 Edublog Awards

Here are my nominations for the 2010 Edublog Awards. Of course, it's always a difficult task to choose amongst the many worthy candidates for inclusion. I feel that everyone whose blog I follow should be up here alongside the individual ones I have selected. I would like to wish everyone the best of luck!

Best individual blog: English Raven by Jason Renshaw
Best individual tweeter: Shelly Terrell
Best new blog: Box of Chocolates by Cecilia Coelho
Best resource sharing blog:Cybrary Man's site
Most influential blog post: The 30 Goals Challenge - Shelly Terrell
Most influential tweet/series of tweets / tweet based discussion - #ELTchat
Best educational use of audio: Breaking News English - Sean Banville
Best educational use of video / visual: Teacher Training Videos by Russell Stannard
Best educational use of wiki: Celebr8UandMeDigitally by Eva Büyüksimkeşyan and Alexandra Francisco
Best educational use of a social network: English Companion ning
Lifetime award: The Edublogger by Sue Waters