Saturday, October 1, 2016

It's FUN to be WINNERS!!!! (Especially when EVERYBODY wins!)

Last spring, I launched a pilot competition for bringing Google Translate into the language classrooms in Israel. The innovation was sparked by a request I received from the Google Education Lead in Israel, +Yael Doron Drori . She asked if I could think of a way to get students involved with the tool which Google had devised in order to gamify the process of gathering translations. The aim is to improve the ability of Google Translate to provide more accurate translations when used when translating between English and Hebrew, and English and Arabic. 

Google Translate needs help because the translations between English and Hebrew, and English and Arabic just aren't good enough. The reason for that is the lack of a critical mass of online webpages which Google needs in order to develop accurate translations. Relative to more common languages, such as English, or Spanish, there is a much smaller quantity of webpages and digital online content in both Hebrew and Arabic. Although Arabic is spoken far more widely than Hebrew, much of the Arabic speaking population is not online. Another barrier to quality translation for Arabic, which I just discovered after meeting our group of winners, is that the Arabic used on the web is mostly literary Arabic, and the great need  for translation, is for spoken Arabic.

So I sent out a call to ALL teachers of languages in Israel - but mostly to teachers of English, Hebrew, Arabic and Russian, to join us in our efforts to make a difference in the abilities of Google Translate, by having their classes participate in a competition. The first place prize: a fun visit to Google Israel!

51 classes from around the country registered in last spring's competition. The overwhelming majority were English classes where the students' mother tongue was either Hebrew or Arabic. The timing was VERY problematic. It was May - the season for many missed lessons (Holocaust Remembrance Day, Independence Day, English Matriculation....) and only 8 of those classes made it to the finish line.  I ran a website dedicated to the competition, which was the hub of it all. It included the submission forms for registering, for keeping track of the class' achievements, anecdotes and teaching ideas that participating teachers shared, as well as a weekly Leader Board to keep participants informed and to spice up the motivation! 

Do you know what happened? Google San Francisco called Google Israel and told them that they were OVERWHELMED with translations from our groups: both English/Hebrew and English/Arabic! They knew we were running this competition but HUGELY underestimated the results! During the month in which when we ran the competition, Google Translate received 50 times as many translations as they would normally receive! In other words: OUR Arabic and Hebrew speaking students have already made an impact on the world!

ALL of the classes that stuck it out until the end, were sent SWAGs with the Google icon on them. The class that had the highest number of  submissions per student, won a fun morning with a visit to Google Offices, presentations by Google Ninjas and a tour of the coolest spots in the Google Tel Aviv offices! 

And THAT took place LAST WEEK!!

Last Thursday, I left behind everything I was doing in my home on the border, in order to go to Tel Aviv and join in the festivities! I HAD to meet the winners of our competition! When they arrived, I saw a class-load of students and their teacher piling out of their bus.... wearing...... GOOGLE shirts that they had made specially for this visit!

After having the honor of congratulating them in person, and welcoming them to Google, I was followed by Lee, who kick-started their morning of fun by explaining just how extraordinary their achievements were!

Yael continued where Lee left off, by talking about the concepts of gamification, about learning and playfulness and how it helps us learn better by making learning a lot of "boring" material, fun. She gave the example of an online Spiderman game, where players actually learned all the streets of New York as a by product of playing the game! She explained how learning will become even more interactive and engaging in the future, by virtually immersing learners into the venues of the topics being learned, for example, by using CardBoard and other virtual reality tools. Yael described a true instance, when a teacher in Israel, who was teaching her Jewish-Israeli students about the pilgrimage to Mecca. By using CardBord, she enabled the experience to come alive for them by sending them on a virtual pilgrimage, where they were able to virtually experience it, 360 degrees, for themselves! Yael introduced them to Voice Search (using OK Google) and inspired them with Moonshot Thinking: where by asking huge questions, we can find radical solutions that work!

"Do you know what Google's mission is?" Yael asked the students. After a few suggestions, she sent them into their smartphones to find the answer to her question. (Do YOU know? Google it!)

The students agreed with the answer they found, and explained how excited and motivated they were by the competition - even making their school postpone a physics exam so that they could post more translations before the end of the competition! They explained that they realized that they were literally doing something not only for themselves. They told us that even though it was Ramadan, and they weren't eating during the day, they were motivated to translate. They realized that it was helping them with their own vocabularies in English AND that they were improving their understanding of grammatical structures of sentences. On top of all that, they understood that they were doing something important to help Arabic speakers around the world!

Their teacher. Rozeen Daw said: "I have always told my students not to use Google Translate because it's bad, but I think this contest helped me see this tool in a new light. It's no longer the source of badly written sentences. I have learned how to integrate this tool in my classroom. It can be a beneficial tool for teaching, not only translation, but also in teaching writing."

She also told me that through participating in the competition, she realized that they can fix the translation tools. Moreover, it enabled her to encourage her students to talk about language.

We then broke for lunch (because.....Google)! After the meal we went on a tour of the Google Offices, which was (as always) amazing! We took them to the floors inspired by the Israeli outdoor market, the night life of Tel Aviv, the realm of the imagination and the orchards!

The tour was followed by a talk by Sarit about what Google R&D are doing in Israel, including the "Mind the Gap" initiative. Finally, we heard from Liat (and her dog, who, it turns out, also works at Google) about Google Doodles


Meeting these talented, motivated teens and their inspiring teacher, was the perfect send off that _I_ needed to get THIS year's competition - which will be even bigger and better - off the ground! In light of our successes from last year, Google has built a special dashboard, which will make it easier for us to keep track of the competition! (Making MY life a WHOLE lot easier!!! Thank you Google!!!!xxxx) In addition, we will be running the competition for three months, rather than one, and there will be PRIZES!!!!! Ever class who passes the 400,000 mark will win a Google CardBoard for EACH of their students! (FYI: two of the classes from last year, including the winning class, submitted  over 300,000 in only a month. A third class came close to that number.) And, again, in addition, the winning class gets a special tour of Google!

Have I whetted your appetite? It's FUN to be winners - especially when, like in THIS contest, EVERYONE WINS!!! To find out more, keep your eyes on the Ministry website (Stay Up To Date) and the English Teaching Community's Facebook page, where it will be formally announced at the end of this week! (Just in time to start the New Year with something AMAZING!!!!)

Looking forward to LOTS of action this year, and even MORE improvement of Google Translate, thanks to the efforts of our students!

Digitally yours,

(That's me in the middle photo-bombing the class before they left Tel Aviv :-)

P.S. Also got the ultimate compliment: "Thank you and you were cooler than we expected"   This is my 36th year in the classroom. I say: one HAS to be "cool" to last that long! :-)

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Getting students an online presence while protecting their identities

I truly believe that if my students leave school without at least a basic digital proficiency I am doing them a disservice. I do not know what they will grow to do in the future. And as they say, the jobs that many of them will have in 10 years' time probably don't even exist today. But I have NO doubt that the Internet is here to stay, and that it will continue to be a major part of their lives. So I want them online and doing stuff. 

But sometimes I want them to do things online with and online profile but without them exposing their pictures. (Most high school students are minors.) 

A really simple of doing this is by having them devise an avatar to represent them! And a fun tool that can get them there is Androidify. I came across it after seeing a cute avatar representing one of my Google-teacher colleagues. 

To set an example (since I am starting to use NEW Googlesites, which are REALLY COOL and easy! As well as venturing into Google Classroom) I made my own avatar. But I plan to have my students do so, after they write a 6 Word Memoir for themselves, and based upon that, they can make their own avatars.  So that they can "be together. Not the same."

Here is my avatar.

Her name is @dele, and I am really kind of getting attached to her. 

Can YOU think of other opportunities for using this tool? I would LOVE to hear them!

Digitally yours,


HT: Irit Merchav  

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Starting the year off right! Getting to know your students.

It's August 31st, the day before school starts. 

This will be my 36th year in the classroom, and you know what? I STILL get excited (and nervous) before a new school year. I STILL spend hours and hours getting myself ready for my classes. (And as I keep saying: the year I do NOT get nervous and excited is the year I step away from the classroom!)

I have these..... "Getting Ready Ceremonies". 

One of them is preparing a yearly plan, with a line for each week. (When I first started teaching, I would do it meticulously on lined paper. Then I moved it over to WORD. Today I do it in Googledocs! (Which is why I can share it here!) You can make a copy and use it if you feel it will help you!

Another "Ceremony" is getting to know my students. I need all sorts of information from them. 

I want to know how THEY write their names in English.
I want to know their mobile phone numbers (to build a WhatsApp group.... I am considering using a broadcast group this  year instead of a regular group... any thoughts on that?)

I want to know if they all have smartphones (because I like incorporating smartphones in the lessons and I need to know what to expect)

I always use an email group (even though I am considering using Google Classroom this year... but I still haven't decided about that finally). 

I also want to know what learning styles work for them. 

I have not yet decided for sure which literature to teach, and I would like to know what genres interest them. Not that they will decide, but again - I want to know my audience. 

Finally, since I am getting a new class of 11th graders, I want to know if there is anything THEY think I should know about them. 

Of course, we will be doing an icebreaker activity, to get to know each other, but that's not enough. (Sharing that here, too - it's based on an activity from Jennifer Gonzales' "Icebreakers that Rock".) I want this information to come to me, individually. Which is why I make a Googleform to gather all of the information that I want. I embed it in my class website, and post a QR Code below it so kids will be able to scan it and respond in the lesson, on their smartphones.

So... that's it! I guess I'm ready! 

Roll on September 1!!!!

What do YOU do to get YOUR new school year started?

Have a GREAT school year everyone!!!!

Digitally yours, 


Monday, August 22, 2016

BLOG FLASH! Adding a Googledoc to more than one folder

It's summer and I have been ultra-busy doing stuff ASIDE from Digital Pedagogy and English teaching (who knew?! I actually DO have a life!!! ;-)  

I am now busy gearing up for the new school year, in which I plan to get into GOOGLE CLASSROOM! I will keep you updated about that, but while I was doing OTHER stuff, (hint: it's connected to next  year's Google Translate Community Competition... will uncover that when it's ready) I came across something that is REALLY handy. 

So I thought: I'll incorporate a series of short and sweet "Blog Flashes" for when I learn something useful. A "Blog Flash" will not be a regular blog post (which I usually spend quite a bit of time composing and investigating) rather I'll just shoot it off - then can share on Facebook, Google +, Twitter, and it's here for safekeeping!

So here is my first discovery!

I gave a talk at the summer ETAI in Ashkelon about the Google Translate Community Competition. I wrote it up in Googledocs and it was in my Drive in a folder for "ETAI 2016". But I need that data again now, as I prepare for the coming year, and want to be able to access it easily when working on this year's competition. However I ALSO want to leave it in the "ETAI 2016" folder in my Drive. 

I considered just making a copy - but then, any changes I make on one, will not show up in the other. So I Googled my query :-)  and to my joy, found the solution I was looking for, on a site with tech guides called: "Digital Inspiration"!

From Digital Inspiration:

How to Add a File to Multiple Folders in Google Drive

Here’s how you can place existing files or folders inside different multiple folders on Google Drive without making copies of the file.
 Open the Google Drive website in your desktop’s web browser and select one or more files or folders. You can use the Control key on Windows ..... to select non-consecutive files and folders. Now press Shift + Z and you’ll see an “Add to Folder” pop-up....... Next select the folder where you wish to add the selected files and click OK.
 That’s it. You have neither copied nor moved the files to the destination folder, you’ve merely created references or aliases to files inside the other folder. You can use the Shift+Z keyboard shortcut again to add the selected files to any other folders in your Google Drive.
To read the rest of that site, click here
I hope you are all as excited about the new school year as I am! (36 years in the classroom and still excited, mostly thanks to the digital age which opened a whole new world for me! Woohoo!!!)
Digitally yours,

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Learn to Hyperlink Like a Pro!

Most of the time I write about different tools that teachers can use in their work for and about education, but sometimes one needs to stop, look around and see if there are some basics that people seem to have bypassed without realizing their importance. In a course I am co-presenting, I noticed that many of the participants are not using hyperlinks, and when they do, they just stick the entire endless URL in and let that hyperlink automatically. 

So I'm taking a step back, to help some of you jump ten steps forward.

The URL (internet address of a webpage) is long and complicated. I can remember when the Internet first came into my life, you used to have to go to the browser window and type in the whole interminable thing (MAN am I dating myself now! ;-) Even though on most digital platforms where you stick a URL (a website, an email, a wordfile, a Googledoc, etc) the gobbledygook URL automatically turns it into a live hyperlink (it gets underlined and turns blue without you having to worry your little head about it) but still looks... how shall I put it...? Awkward.

In order to prevent this, there are three things you can do.

1) You can add a hyperlink to a word, phrase or object (ex. picture/graphic) which, when clicked on, will take you to another website.

2) You can make a long URL shorter. You would want to do this for digital products that are going to be printed out, or presented via an online  platform where hyperlinks are not live and clickable, or if you want to project something for an audience, so that they can go into a website (like with the new Q&A tool for Googlesides that I wrote about in my previous blog). 

3) For when you need to kill off a few trees and print material out hardcopy,  or project it on a screen because you want an audience to go into a website, you can also turn the URL into a barcode. Barcodes are fun, and get people using barcode scanners. I did that - and wrote about it - in an activity last year, although that blog was about the activity rather than the technicalities of how I made the barcodes). But fear not, for Google URL Shortener (one of the tools I talk about in this tutorial) will do that for you easily. 

I hope the following tutorial, which introduces, tiny.url, url and the (ridiculously simple) art of hyperlinking,  helps you get your head around this, in under 6 minutes. 

If you have any questions; if anything isn't clear, please write in the comments. I'll get back to you as soon as I can. Promise :-)

Digitally yours,

You can follow me on Twitter! @AdeleRaemer Also - search for tweets with the hashtag #IsraEd 
For EFL teachers in Israel, please join us on facebook: EFL Digital Pedagogy in Israel

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Google Presentations latest capability: Q&A Live

It's REALLY new, hot off the virtual presses: the ability to really interact with your audience, real time, regardless of how many people are there! It rolled out at the beginning of the month, and I had the opportunity to try it out this week at a workshop I gave!

Here is a short explanation of what it does:

And this is Karissa Bell's blog post on "Mashable" explaining a bit more.

It sounded so exciting, that I decided to jump straight into the deep end (that's the ONLY way to learn how to swim, right?)

I made my presentation using Google Slides, as you normally would. When it came time to start the session, I clicked on the "Present" button. With Q & A, you are given the options of "Presenter View" or "Present from the beginning". In order to use the Q& A, you want the first option.

Once you open that "Presenter View" you see a screen that looks like this:

Click on "Audience Tools" and another window pops open, giving you a short (relatively) URL, and you can see the window where all of the audience questions will be visible. The URL will be viewable at the top of each of your slides throughout the presentation.

Another convenient tool that is here is a laser pointer - try that, too!

The tool worked really well. The only suggestion would have are the following:

1. Since the screen that is projected is the same screen you are working from, the audience can see all of the questions. They can ALSO see the questions on their devices, of course, which is where they write their own questions and vote for questions they "second". However while I was giving the presentation, I wanted to check the questions on my own, to see when they were coming in. I was not happy with the fact that I couldn't do that without obstructing my presentation slides. In future when I use this tool, I will have another device (either bring my laptop or view on my phone) so that I can check audience feedback without interrupting the flow of the presentation.

2. It would be REALLY helpful if, in addition to the URL, there were a barcode (which is easier to scan than it is typing in the letters).

I DEFINITELY plan to use this tool in future presentations, and highly recommend you try it, as well! It is a tool that will be making appearances in my future sessions and my high school classes! How about YOU? Have you tried it?

Digitally yours,

PS (I must admit that until now, I have used PowerPoint presentations more than Google Slides, but with this new function, it could be a game changer for me!)

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Learn Short, Learn Fast, Learn A Lot

One hour. That's all you get. But it's one hour jam packed with ideas, revolving around a specific topic. 

Last night at two minutes to nine, I realized that I just happened to be at the right place at the right time to participate in a Twitter Chat. So I dove right in.

A Twitter Chat is a discussion, or "event", the time for which is predetermined, as is the topic (usually), and led by a moderator (again - usually). Last night's ELT Chat was due to be EITHER about using Twitter in the classroom, OR about Snapchat. The topic is usually democratically decided for this chat by taking a poll before the chat begins, but last night's topic was tied. In the end, it wound up being about BOTH, in a way. We discussed the advantages and disadvantages of the two different tools. 

The discussion goes on fast and furious, and in order to keep up with the conversation, you need to be tuned into a hashtag. Does that sound like Greek to you? Hopefully it will make sense by the end of this post.

First of all you need a Twitter account, and it helps if you use a tool like Tweetdeck which can isolate the topics into columns depending on how you label them. For example, I have a column for any tweets that use my Twitter handle; another column for tweets that include specific hashtags. I add or remove columns as suits me. It's an easy tool to learn and use, with tons of tutorials out there (I made two in Hebrew, if you prefer).  

Using Tweetdeck, I opened a column for the tweets that use the hashtag #ELTchat and a few minutes before it was due to begin, I grabbed a glass of water, logged in and hunkered down. 

At exactly 21:00 (Israel time) the conversation set sail! If you wanted to respond to something someone said, you hit "reply", if you wanted to say something unconnected to what anyone else had said, you sent a new tweet. All interactions in the conversation had to have the #ELTchat tag, (something which I realized a bit late... I had thought that if I wanted to respond to someone, the hashtag would be included, as it were, from the person's comment which I was replying to, but I learned the hard way.) Although it's annoying to type it in each time, you can just copy it and then bang it in anywhere in your reply (beginning or end, usually) and your two cents will be seen by all those participating, thus keeping you in the conversation. 

It wasn't always easy to keep up (and the moderator said that this had been a relatively "tame" chat ;-) ) but you can always read back (even now I am looking through the chat which can be found on Twitter any time, by going back to the hashtag and the date and time when the chat took place).

At 21:50 someone (the moderator, maybe?) called for people to start summing up the chat... and at 22:00 the window closed, and everyone logged out.  WOW did I learn a LOT! I "befriended" some experienced and knowledgeable people, who I am now following on Twitter, and I took away some REALLY good resources for learning about Twitter and using it in the classroom, and even more importantly, as a PLN (Personal Learning Network) which is in essence, what we did in the Twitter Chat, itself. (I'll tweet the resources out over the next few days, follow me - @AdeleRaemer - and look for them via the hashtag #IsraEd). 

So....are you ready to jump into the fray? All you need to do is to find a tweetchat that is interesting or relevant to you, at a time that suits you. They are going on, quietly, quickly, behind our backs in Twitterdome virtually 24/7 on practically any topic (not only digital pedagogy) you could ask for - and LOTS for EFL educators. Have a look here

Hope to see some of you join the #ELTchat which takes place every Wednesday at 21:00 Israel time! If you want to be on the directory of educators on @ELTchat, get to vote for the topic and be notified of the next chat, you can register here.

Do YOU participate in tweet chats? If so, please tell us what they are about, which language they are in and what the hashtag is! 

Digitally yours,