Monday, February 13, 2006

Online Classrooms

Since joining Webhead in Action I've been introducted to 2 fantastic applications called Elluminate (as used by Learning Times) and Alado. Both of these pieces of kit have really blow me away. There is so much potential for both (and I'm sure many are already using them both really well).

Some notes comparing the two:

Elluminate (Learning Times) – Has many more features. You can arrange for the session to be recorded or do it yourself using Audacity. It is also possible for users to 'share their desktop'. It is more modular and means you can disconnect parts of the page into different windows therefore personalising your experience. For example I like to have the text chat in a nice big window. I also like to have the window of the participants extended to I can see what everyone is doing in terms of writing, emoting etc etc. There is also more functionality in regards to the white board and control of users browsing. On the whole I find Elluminate easier to use but then again I have very high expectations having been a techie working specifically in usability.

Alado – allows for individual recording of a session which is nice feature. The use of content seems to be limited only embedded to web pages. You can't upload files to it. The lack of extra features means it is really aimed at users with slow connection and older operating systems. There is also no whiteboard pluggin (apparently this keeps the application lighter for speed). Also only 1 web cam can be used and only if embedded. There is also less moderator control – you can lock the browser but if the user wanders off then the moderator just has to keep pushing the page they want them to be on. Alado is a more limited application but it is lighter and that gives it a big advantage in some cases.

Putting it all into practice

A wonderful previous f2f student of mine from Spain has decided to join me on the journey of blogging to learn English. We've been corresponding by email since she finished my classes last year and we have now added Blogger to our belt.

Since we are just starting out I will give her written topics about once a week which she will write about and reply to me in a Word document. I then return it to her with suggestions for corrections but not specifically corrected. She then self-corrects her work and puts it up our blog. It is a starting point and we can take it from there as I learn to teach online and she learns about learning online. Podcasts and web quests are on the horizon but we aren't there yet. Baby steps so to speak.

A current f2f 1-2-1 student of mine called Karolina is also interested in trying blogging out for her written skills as she wants to do her CAE soon.

All very exciting.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Scottish Culture Part 3: Up-Helly-Aa

History

The celebration of Hogmanay dates back to pagan times when people burned fires in the depth of winter to ward off evil spirits. These rituals include The Fireball Swingers of Stonehaven (Which takes place in the High Street of Stonehaven at midnight on the 31st of December. At the strike of midnight the High street is lit up as sixty local fireball-swingers make their way, swinging their fireballs above their heads, through the town.)

Another fire festival is Up-Helly-Aa which takes place each year on the last Tuesday of January. Up to 1000 costumed "guizers", bearing flaming torchs, drag a Viking galley through the dark streets of the Shetland capital Lerwick. They are led by a horde of vikings wearing traditional garb, winged helmets, sheepskins and carrying axes and shields. At a designated burning point in the town, the torches are thrown into the galley and the ship burns.

The Shetland Islands have strong links with their Norse past and is celebrated each year in January with a fire festival called Up-Helly-Aa (also Up-Helly-Ah).

UP-HELLY-AA is a relatively modern festival. There is some evidence that people in rural Shetland celebrated the 24th day after Christmas as "Antonsmas" or "Up Helly Night", but there is no evidence that their cousins in Lerwick did the same. The emergence of Yuletide and New Year festivities in the town seems to post-date the Napoleonic Wars, when soldiers and sailors came home with rowdy habits and a taste for firearms.

On old Christmas eve in 1824 a visiting Methodist missionary wrote in his diary that "the whole town was in an uproar: from twelve o clock last night until late this night blowing of horns, beating of drums, tinkling of old tin kettles, firing of guns, shouting, bawling, fiddling, fifeing, drinking, fighting. This was the state of the town all the night - the street was as thronged with people as any fair I ever saw in England."

As Lerwick grew in size the celebrations became more elaborate. Sometime about 1840 the participants introduced burning tar barrels into the proceedings. "Sometimes", as one observer wrote, "there were two tubs fastened to a great raft-like frame knocked together at the Docks, whence the combustibles were generally obtained. Two chains were fastened to the bogie asupporting the capacious tub or tar-barrel . . . eked to these were two strong ropes on which a motley mob, wearing masks for the most part, fastened. A party of about a dozen were told off to stir up the molten contents."

The main street of Lerwick in the mid-19th century was extremely narrow, and rival groups of tar-barrelers frequently clashed in the middle. The proceeding were thus dangerous and dirty, and Lerwick's middle classes often complained about them. The Town Council began to appoint special constables every Christmas to control the revellers, with only limited success. When the end came for tar-barreling, in the early 1870s, it seems to have been because the young Lerwegians themselves had decided it was time for a change.

Around 1870 a group of young men in the town with intellectual interests injected a series of new ideas into the proceedings. First, they improvised the name Up-Helly-Aa, and gradually postponed the celebrations until the end of January. Secondly, they introduced a far more elaborate element of disguise - "guizing" - into the new festival. Thirdly, they inaugurated a torchlight procession.

At the same time they were toying with the idea of introducing Viking themes to their new festival. The first signs of this new development appeared in 1877, but it was not until the late 1880s that a Viking longship - the "galley" - appeared, and as late as 1906 that a "Guizer Jarl", the chief guizer, arrived on the scene. It was not until after the First World War that there was a squad of Vikings, the "Guizer Jarl's Squad", in the procession every year.

Up to the Second World War Up-Helly-Aa was overwhelmingly a festival of young working class men - women have never taken part in the procession - and during the depression years the operation was run on a shoestring. In the winter of 1931-32 there was an unsuccessful move to cancel the festival becuse of the dire economic situation in the town. At the same time, the Up-Helly-Aa committee became a self-confident organisation which poked fun at the pompus in the by then long-established Up-Helly-Aa "bill" - sometimes driving their victims to fury.

Since 1949, when the festival resumed after the war, much has changed and much has remained the same. That year the BBC recorded a major radio programme on Up-Helly-Aa, and from that moment Up-Helly-Aa - not noted for its split-second timing before the war - became a model of efficient organisation. The numbers participating in the festival have become much greater, and the resources required correspondingly larger. Whereas in the 19th century individuals kept open house to welcome the guizers on Up-Helly-Aa night, men and women now co-operate to open large halls throughout the town to entertain them.

However, despite the changes, there are numerous threads connecting the Up-Helly-Aa of today with its predecessors 150 years ago.

Source – Shetland Times


The following pictures are from the Edinburgh Torch Light Procession held on or around the 29th of December as part of a week long celebration for Hogmanay which also includes street performances, concerts and husky racing! The Edinburgh Torch Light Procession is led by a 30-strong troupe of vikings from the Lerwick Up Helly Aa Viking Festival and historical fight display team, The Clann. Some 15,000 people with torches walk through the city, following the Vikings and the evening culminates in burning a traditional Viking boat.

Fire Procession Picture 1

Fire Procession Picture 2

Fire Procession Picture 3

Fire Procession Picture 4



Up-Helly-A' Song

Words by J. J. Haldane Burgess,
M.A. Music by Thomas Manson

From grand old Viking centuries Up-Helly-A' has come,
Then light the torch and form the march, and sound the rolling drum:
And wake the mighty memories of heroes that are dumb;
The waves are rolling on.

Chorus -

Grand old Vikings ruled upon the ocean vast,
Their brave battle-songs still thunder on the blast;
Their wild war-cry comes a-ringing from the past;
We answer it "A-oi"!
Roll their glory down the ages,
Sons of warriors and sages,
When the fight for Freedom rages,
Be bold and strong as they!

Of yore, our firey fathers sped upon the Viking Path;
Of yore, their dreaded dragons braved the ocean in its wrath;
And we, their sons, are reaping now their glory's aftermath;
The waves are rolling on.

In distant lands, their raven-flag flew like a blazing star;
And foreign foemen, trembling, heard their battle-cry afar;
And they thundered o'er the quaking earth, those mighty men of war;
The waves are rolling on.

On distant seas, their dragon-prows went gleaming outward bound,
The storm-clouds were their banners, and their music ocean's sound;
And we, their sons, go sailing still the wide earth round and round;
The waves are rolliing on.

No more Thor's lurid Hammer flames against the northern sky;
No more from Odin's shining halls the dark valkyrior fly;
Before the Light the heathen Night went slowly rolling by;
The waves are rolling on.

We are the sons of mightly sires, whose souls were staunch and strong;
We sweep upon our serried foes, the hosts of Hate and Wrong;
The glory of a grander Age has fired our battle-song;
The waves are rolling on.

Our galley is the People's Right, the dragon of the free;
The Right that rising in its might, brings tyrants to their knee;
The flag that flies above us is the Love of Liberty;
The waves are rolling on.


Next post: Blogging with my 1-2-1 students


Thursday, February 09, 2006

Scottish Culture Part 2: Hogmanay

Hogmanay with the main stress on the last syllable - hog-muh-NAY is the most important date in the Scottish calendar, even more important than Christmas because it is older than Christmas.

The etymology is unknown but h' og maidne ("new morning") is Scottish Gaelic so that is a possibilty. We also like to say it comes from ‘hugging many’ because the Scots are a very friendly and warm people. :-)

The root of the celebration comes from pagan celebrations, and there are many customs, both national and local, associated with Hogmanay.

'The most widespread national custom is the practice of first-footing which starts immediately after midnight. This involves being the first person to cross the threshold of a friend or neighbour and often involves the giving of symbolic gifts such as salt (less common today), coal, shortbread, whisky, and black bun (a fruit pudding) intended to bring diff! erent kinds of luck to the householder. Food and drink are then given to the guests. This may go on throughout the early hours of the morning and well into the next day. The first-foot is supposed to set the luck for the rest of the year, so it is important that a suitable person does the job. A tall, handsome, and dark-haired man bearing a gift is strongly preferred. According to popular folklore, a man with dark hair was welcomed because he was assumed to be a fellow Scotsman; a blonde or red haired stranger was assumed to be an unwelcome Norseman
source Wikipedia

Personally speaking we give presents at Hogmanay. We give gifts at Christmas too but also at Hogmanay. In fact my husband’s family remember only starting to get Christmas presents in the 1960’s. Before that it was only at Hogmanay. This and our other traditions such as first footing are only typical in Scotland although New Year is also welcomed merrily in England and Wales with parties and alcohol.

We also sing Auld Lang Syne (a traditional poem reinterpreted by Robert Burns which was later set to music). It means ‘“old long since” and basically means 'about the past'.

The capital city’s celebration: http://www.edinburghshogmanay.org/ Edinburgh has the largest Hogmanay celebration in Scotland and the world (well, this depends on your interpretation of Hogmanay and New Year not being exactly the same as there are many many bigger cities and New Year celebrations than Edinburgh's - We're only a small country).

Another great source of information is here: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2002/12/1230_021231_hogmanay.html

Next post: Up Helly Ah

Sunday, February 05, 2006

EVO

I've been blogging on LJ since 2002. Then in Jan 2006 an online LJ friend in a TESOL community posted a link to EVO. Having been a techie for far longer than I've been a teacher I had to wonder how I never thought more about the use of the internet in ESL.

Sure, I had used the internet as a resource for teaching but never actually taught online. I've had email contact with former f2f students but I wouldn't say that the emails 'teach', more that they give access to authentic materials (my email banter) and at a suitable level (moderated vocabulary dependent on the student.

So I signed up for Becoming a Webhead, Tips and Tricks, and Podcasting. Eventually, 3 weeks late, I signed up for Blogging.

My impressions and thoughts so far:

I've only really been lurking in Tips and Tricks. Deena Ferguson's presentation on the dos and donts of online teaching was a highlight. Everything she said made sense and is what the majority of teachers do f2f. The point she was making, I think, was that these dos and donts are even more important in online teaching because of the different challenges that the teacher faces. (ie technology, no visual clues, etc)

The Podcasting group is interesting but again I've just been lurking because while I am already familiar with recording and posting mp3s online I'm not in a place in my teaching life where I am ready to use it. So instead I have been harvesting useful links and will go back to it later.

BAW has been great. Such a vibrant and helpful group. Tim Berners-Lee's vision of the internet was to facilitate sharing and updating information among researchers. By making his idea available freely, with no patent and no royalties due the internet has become what it is today. In many ways the webheads are doing this by sharing their resources and information freely and for free. I just love to see collaboration on the internet.

Last but not least is Blogging. I signed up for this a stunning 3 weeks later after Bee's presentation on the use blogging for EFL teaching. For me her presentation raised more questions than it answered and left me hungry to find out more about how I can use a technology that I love dearly to help my students improve their written English. Already this week I have also had the great opportunity to play on Elluminate as a moderator.

Thoughts on new tools:
Alado, Elluminate and Tapped In are all new resources to me. I have been lucky to not encounter any problems. Well that isn't entirely true but any problems I have faced have been my own fault for doing too many start-arse things to my computer.

Alado and Elluminate are great. I can immediately starts see how they could be used. One possible problem is the need for a second moderator for cat herding duty to get everyone in. 2 moderators has also proved useful in sessions where one is doing the presenting and the other is dealing with questions in the chat room.

I'm not sure about Tapped In. It seems to be developed as a tool to do many things but mainly to replicate reality. IMHO A tool should be developed with the function and the user in mind. Further investigation is needed before I would use it without hesitation.

Scottish Culture

I intented to back date this post to the 25th of January (something you can do on LJ) but I haven't found a way to do it. Also I would normally put a long post with pictures under a cut to save bandwidth for others (the users would only load the pics if they want) , but again I don't know if Blogger can do it.

As an introduction to Scotland here is some information x-posted from my own LJ from the 25th of January - Burn's Night. Burn's Night is a celebration of our most famous poet Robert Burns (25/1/1759 - 21/7/1796)

Derek: Ode to a Haggis - mp3 - Click here to hear
Gregor: Selkirk Grace
Malcolm: Toast to the Lassies
Kat: Toast to the Laddies
Gregor: Immortal Memory

The preparation
prep

Ode to a Haggis. What are the words again?
Ode

Haggis, Neeps and Tatties
Fud

Cranachan
cranachan

Lemon Shortbread
lemon

Chocolate Shortbread
chocolate

Feeding time at the zoo...
gang1

gang2

The Toast to the Lassies
Lassies

The Toast to the Laddies
Laddies

The Immortal Memory
Memory

My my, the red and white checked sofa really goes with your Irn Bru kilt
D

Thursday, February 02, 2006

My First Teaching Related Blog

So, welcome.

This is my first 'teacher' blog.

Hold onto your hats, it might be a fast and bumpy ride!