Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Towards an Asia Literate NSW

This professional learning opportuinity is for school leaders and teachers who are interested in cultivating an Asia literate school. Keynotes will focus on Asia and Australia’s engagement with Asia and the skills needed for students to be successful.

Asia Literacy Forum

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

'Word Clouds' on steroids

Learning lots and lots of new vocabulary can be overwhelming for language learners. Vocabulary is an important part of language learning, however, memorising long lists of new words is not always the best way to go. Most learners have better recall of information they have used, explored and made connections with. When students are excited and involved with their learning they are able take on and retain more new information.

Word clouds have been around for a while and can be quite engaging for students. Many language teachers successfully use ‘word clouds’ to introduce, reinforce and review vocabulary. Some of the most popular tools are Wordle, Tagxedo, Wordsift and Tagul. My personal favourite is Tagul and I will explain why later in this post.

The embedded slideshare presentation by David Dodgson contains succinct information about using word clouds in the language learning classroom

What is a word Cloud?


I am a believer in the addage a picture's worth a thousand words. Hence, rather than describing the tools for you, I have created and embedded some word clouds so that you can be the judge!

 And last but not least

Tagul is an amazing word cloud creator which allows you to customise the shape of your tag clouds and insert active hyperlinks. When you create a word cloud with Tagul all the words are automatically linked to a Google search however you are able to add your own link to any word and link to any pages or content on the web. Tagul will create word clouds from entered text or any url you specify.

I created the tagul above using the names of animals in Spanish. I played with customising the hyperlinks. Most of the words are linked to a wikimedia search but it is also possible to enter specific links for individual words. In the embedded example the links to some words are customised to lead to specific websites. Check out el leon, el antelope, el oso, el gato and la mariposa, to see how the links work. Shell Terrel has written a great post in her blog Teacher Reboot Camp about using tag clouds to reinforce vocabulary. Her post gives detailed instructions on how to customise the hyperklinks of tags in Tagul.

When you have finished designing your word cloud Tagul provides you with an embed code to put your cloud on your blog.
To get started you may like to use the step by step instructions by Modern Educator in the video below


Thursday, July 18, 2013


Storybird allows students to make and share beautiful story books within minutes, on any sort of device. Students select images from a comprehensive gallery of artwork contributed by illustrators and animators from around the world, then add their own text. The site’s ease of use means students are focused on their writing skills, not on the technology. The stories can be embedded in blogs, emailed to parents or shared with classmates.
Note: European characters can be entered using the ALT codes. Storybird does not accept scripted languages.
It’s free to sign up, and the site is accessible for all DEC students K-12.
You can also find support and see a range of Storybirds already created by students of Languages at: http://mfl-storybirds.wikispaces.com/

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Image Chef

Image Chef enables students to create a range of short texts, including:
• visual poetry
• photo frames (e.g. vinyl album covers, ‘Wanted’ posters, billboards)
• fun and friendship texts (e.g. fortune cookies, number plates).
It takes foreign characters, using ALT codes, and also takes Chinese and Japanese script (no Korean – sorry!). Why not have a little explore, and see how you could use it? As always, check before using with students.

Our Asian Stories - a place to share

The NSW Department of Education and Communities is about to launch a new website: Our Asian Stories.
The website will provide support for The Arts, English, Geography, History and Languages.
It contains:
1. Background information relating to why Asia is a significant part of our curriculum
2. A suite of resources which relate to intercultural communication
3. A searchable gallery of DEC resources, including those linked to the Australian Curriculum
4. A searchable gallery of teacher-developed resources
5. Related links.
We would love you to contribute your resources! Work needs to be original and contain no third-party images or photographs. Microsoft Clip Art, your own photographs or creative commons images are all okay. Contact ourasianstories@det.nsw.edu.au if you'd like more details. Imagine if every teacher contributed just one resource...

Edmodo - would you recommend it?

Edmodo provides an easy way for your students to connect, collaborate and access content. I'd love to hear from anyone who's using it successfully - what's your favourite thing about it? Pros and cons? Reaction of students? Has anyone had a bad experience with it? With the shift towards flip teaching, I think it's an interesting platform to explore more. It's also a great way to link classes across schools, motivating students as they connect with peers.
I'd love your feedback!

Monday, January 21, 2013

My Languages Online (MYLO)

MYLO is designed to engage young people in learning languages, to raise their competence, and to encourage them to continue studying languages. It is available in German, French, Spanish and Chinese. Why not explore for free? If you like it, you can sign up (also free!!). It includes league tables, for students who like to compete.

Hindi resources

The 2012 White Paper, Australia in the Asian Century, has a range of national objectives, including:
11. All Australian students will have the opportunity, and be encouraged, to undertake a continuous course of study in an Asian language throughout their years of schooling. All students will have access to at least one priority Asian language; these will be Chinese (Mandarin), Hindi, Indonesian and Japanese.
Source: http://asiancentury.dpmc.gov.au/white-paper
In response, the NSW Curriculum and Learning Innovation Centre has created seven IWB resources for Hindi. Students’ language skills will be developed though a range of activities, including matching games, ‘drag-and-drop’ and class surveys.
The resources have been carefully designed to support both teachers of Hindi and mainstream classroom teachers, with images and sound files supporting both background and non-background speakers.
4.Fruits and vegetables

Connected classes in Languages: Teaching languages via video conference

The NSW Curriculum and Learning Innovation Centre has produced a video to support schools wishing to implement a successful connected class in Languages. It includes information and ideas from delivering and receiving teachers, students and school principals.

Creative Commons explained

Welcome back to the new school year! Understanding copyright continues to be an issue for many educators. I love this short video, which explains creative commons in a clear and simple way - excellent for both teachers and students.

Monday, July 30, 2012

How to make a photostory in Microsoft PowerPoint

For the complete beginner! A step-by-step guide for you to practise at home and then try with your students. We'd love to hear how you went!

photo credit:Valerie Reneé via photo pin cc

Monday, April 9, 2012


This year's "Get Connected!" schools are trialling Edmodo as the platform for sharing and collaborating. Edmodo is a secure social learning network for teachers and students. It's free to register and easy to navigate. We'd love to hear your feedback if you're already using it!

Monday, March 5, 2012

"Get Connected!" - 2012

It's on again! On Monday, 2 April 2012, 18 teachers of Asian languages will be coming together to learn about the "Get Connected!" program, which links students of the 100 hours in Languages. We asked the 2011 cohort "What do you see as the program's greatest benefit/s?", and their answers are below:

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

PhotoPeach - but wait, there's more!!!

A very kind person read my post on PhotoPeach and left a comment about loving the quiz feature - I had no idea there was one! Take a look at my little sample below, practising vocabulary related to daily routine...
Was macht Isaac der Bär? on PhotoPeach

Monday, February 27, 2012

Reverse image search

Teachers are becoming more and more copyright aware and wanting to model ethical use of digital images in their classrooms. Do you have an image and you are unsure where it came from? Would you like to check if it is an image you are free to use? Or perhaps you would like check how one of your images is being used across the internet? TinEye is reverse image search engine that is free for non-commercial use. Simply upload an image, or type the URL of an image and hit Search to see where it exists on the internet. Your image may not be found, but TinEye is constantly trawling the web and updating the image database all the time so try again at a later date.
The same people - Idée Labs have a range of other visual search engines. We love them all! You can search images that contain a set of defined colours, search for images that are similar to one you identify or search for images by tags. The results are displayed in a beautiful mosaic of colour. Try Idée Labs now, but be warned - you may be completely absorbed in image searching for some time!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Tagxedo: Create word shapes

A little like Wordle (see earlier post), Tagxedo enables you to create beautiful displays of text. The advantages of Tagxedo include:
1. You can chose a shape for your text.
2. There is more interactivity when online (words 'pop out' when you scroll over them, and link to a Google search - try it below).
3. It accepts and recognises script.

For both Tagxedo and Wordle:
1. You can enter phrases (e.g. watching~tv) by joining words with a tilde (top left on your keyboard).
2. The more times you enter a word/phrase, the larger it appears in the final images (acting as a 'heading').

Sample activities for both:
- vocabulary posters for each chapter/topic/function (e.g. verb charts, preposition charts). Text can be copied from the internet or existing documents.
- pre-testing - ask students what they know at the start of a unit of work, and then again at the end of the unit. Create a poster each time, and then compare - this is an excellent way for students to visualise their progress.
- summaries of an article, chapter, film scene, poem or book (good for Extension/Heritage/Background Speakers courses).
- self-descriptions (students could enter a list of words to describe themselves) - see 'Alice' example below.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Top 20 untranslatable words

Sometimes, in my travels with technology, I forget that my soul really lies in languages. Recently I discovered this website, which reminded me of the gift that learning another language provides: A door into a world that only speakers of that language can pass through.
My favourite is No. 20, saudade, although I'm often guilty of tartling!!
20 awesomely untranslatable words
photo credit: Juli Goes via photopin cc


Blabberize enables you to make any photo or image 'talk'!
Students select an image, add a mouth and then record their voices straight on to the website.
Whilst not one of my best effort, the sample below will give you an idea of the end result!!

Elmo: Hi, my name is Elmo. I am four years old. I have a goldfish called Dorothy. I live in Sesame Street. I like riding my trike and playing with my friends.
Note: I recorded my voice with Audacity first, and then changed the pitch (to make me more Elmo-like). Students can record straight on to the site using headsets.

Audacity how-to guides

Audacity is free software, which means you can download it and use it for free (or it's already on the DER laptops!). Audacity enables you to record your own listening tasks (and change your voice, so it can sound like two different people talking) and also enables students to create speaking tasks. Take a look at the short videos and information on our website, and you'll be using Audacity in no time!
Recording and changing your voice for listening tasks
Transferring audio from cassettes to digital files
Editing listening exams
Creating speaking tasks
'De-chipmunking' Audacity
photo credit: Derek K. Miller via photopin cc

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Copyright - an important issue for teachers

Copyright is an important and, at times, confusing issue for all teachers. For example, many teachers think they can copy up to 10% of a textbook without any associated costs. Whilst Part VB of the Copyright Act allows teachers to copy up to 10% of the textbook, the NSW Department of Education and Communities does still pay the writer of the book for the portion copied. This includes paper and digital copies. With more and more schools now storing resources on school intranets and learning management systems (e.g. Moodle), a clear understanding of copyright is vital.
To support teachers in their understanding of copyright, we have included the following resources on our website:
Copyright FAQs – summarises ‘the basics’, for individual teachers
SMART Notebook presentation – examines the importance of “getting it right” with regard to copyright in the Languages classroom. Good for prompting discussion at faculty meetings. Note: If you are having trouble downloading the Notebook, right-click on the link and select 'Save As'. In the drop-down menu at the bottom, select 'Save as type: All files', then add .notebook to the end of the file name.
Copyright in the digital world (PowerPoint) – provides comprehensive advice for all educators.
Copyright for teachers – links to key copyright websites (includes a student-friendly version).

Copyright-free images
• Microsoft Clip Art: Teachers are free to use Microsoft Clip Art images in the resources they create for the classroom, as long as these resources are not sold.
Creative Commons enables teachers to look for ‘free for educational use’ images from a range of websites, including Flickr.
Photopin provides a similar service, making searching and attribution simple. Excellent for bloggers who like an easy-to-use interface.
photo credit: opensourceway via photopin cc


PhotoPeach has to be one of the easiest sites ever for creating a photostory. I'm not exaggerating when I tell you it took less than two minutes to create! Students could make a PhotoPeach about their family, their friends, their school - whatever they like! Text can be added to each slide in the form of captions.
Luke's 5th birthday on PhotoPeach
Note: The DEC has blocked this site.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

blogED - the Department's blogging tool

Are you new to blogging and feeling a little overwhelmed? The NSW Department of Education and Communities had its own blogging tool, which is very user-friendly for beginners. BlogED enables teachers to create blogs for their students easily and safely, through the DEC portal. Students can create posts on the topics they are learning, or collaborate on shared tasks. For a short introduction, take a quick video tour (4:52 mins) or visit the website.
Note: blogED does not accept Asian scripts.

Monday, October 10, 2011

SMART Notebook software: Support for beginners

Have you just had a SMARTBoard installed in your classroom? Or are you keen to start using the interactive whiteboard in your school’s connected classroom more often?
We have included a comprehensive support section on our website which will assist you in developing the skills to use this technology with confidence.
Note: Due to the size of SMART Notebooks, some school servers want to download them as zipped (.zip) files. If this happens to you, right-click on the link and select 'Save Target As'. Then add .notebook to the end of the file name and, in the drop-down menu at the bottom, select 'Save as type: All files'.

Beginners guides to using a SMARTBoard
These SMART Notebooks are for complete beginners, and include activities where you can practise your skills (best done on the SMARTBoard, rather than sitting at a computer).
Introduction (non-language specific)
Chinese: Samples of SMART templates
Indonesian: Samples of SMART templates
Japanese: Samples of SMART templates
Korean: Samples of SMART templates

Creating SMART Notebooks for Languages
This Notebook takes you through everything you need to know about developing SMART Notebooks for the Languages classroom, including copyright information, lower order thinking skills vs. higher order thinking skills, addressing the four macro skills, vocabulary building, grammar activities, etc.

SMART activity templates applicable for Languages
SMART Notebook software includes a range of interactive activity templates, including multiple choice, random word chooser and keyword match. All you need to do is drop in the content and SMART does the rest! Most of the activity templates can also be used with Asian scripts. The activity templates can be accessed through the Gallery tab in SMART Notebook.

Developing your own templates for SMARTBoards
This Notebook is designed to support teachers in developing their own SMART activities, including sorting, 'magic' translators, interactive class rolls, quizzes and class surveys. For each activity, you will find a sample and a 'how-to' page, which includes instructions on a pull tab.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Procedures for support: Workshops in your region

Do you teach at a NSW public school? Would you like NSW Curriculum and Learning Innovation Centre (NSW CLIC) consultants to come to your region to provide professional development activities for teachers involved in your projects? Your School Education Director will need to email Raju Varanasi (Director, NSW Curriculum and Learning Innovation Centre) and cc your Regional Director, requesting the consultant’s attendance and providing a brief summary of the support required.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


ToonDoo is an online comic-creating tool. You can sign up for free, or pay for an educational version.

To create comics in foreign languages, simply choose the text bubble that looks like this:

Find these and other great manga style characters under the 'special' tab (indicated by stars) in the ToonDoo maker.
This site also has the option to create your own cartoon characters, called TraitR. What a fun way to explore describing what people look like in other languages. Students could create their own characters, then describe what they look like, or create a character from the description the teacher provides. Students could use it for self decsription too, as you can upload a photo as a reference - I had lots of fun creating a cartoon of myself!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


Kerpoof is a suite of online multimedia software to create original artwork, animated movies, stories, greeting cards and more. It is owned by the Walt Disney company and has a section dedicated for educators. Check out the teachers’ guide, provided lesson plans or dive straight in at http://www.kerpoof.com/

Scripted languages work in Make a movie and Make a picture but not in the other sections. However, you can use the pencil in Tell a story to draw the script and use the text box below to enter the meaning – a nice way for students to build their own kanji/hanzi reference book. You can also use script by using Create a doodle in Make a card to draw your message using the pen.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Strip generator

Students create their own comic strips. No sign-in required – just click on ‘Create new strip’. Students can type in script.

Speaking online avatars

Students create their own online avatars. Students register, then create their avatar, customising their chosen character with different facial features and colours, clothing, ‘bling’, voice and background. Students can type in text and then select Accent/Language to have their text generated into spoken language, or students may record their own voices using Audacity and then upload the sound files. Great fun and quick and easy to use! Creations may be published and/or emailed.
Languages available include: Chinese, French, German, Greek, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Spanish.

Stage 4 classes connect with each other

In May 2011, my colleague Leanne Smith and I ran a full-day workshop for teachers wishing to link their 100 hours students with another class, using connected classroom technologies. Providing students with a real audience for their learning is a huge motivator and a vital component in Quality Teaching. Blogs, video conferencing, Bridgit, email, even old-fashioned letter exchanges - linking is now easier than ever before! Teachers of Japanese from four high schools (Armidale HS, Braidwood CS, Camden Haven HS and Glen Innes HS) are linking their students in this way, with students enjoying creating online avatars and speaking in Japanese to each other via video conferences. Why not try it...?
photo credit: Florian SEROUSSI via photopin cc

Quizlet: A simply FANTASTIC online flashcard generator

Quizlet is an online flashcard maker and vocabulary learner. You can create your own flashcards, or students can create their own sets of vocabulary (by chapter, by topic, etc.) and then learn the vocabulary through a series of steps and games. Without exaggeration, to create a set of 15-20 vocabulary items, you'll need less than five minutes!! You can also access existing games created by other teachers and students (Caution: there may be errors!). All languages available.


Wordle enables teachers and students "to create beautiful word clouds" - a great brainstorming or summarising tool. At the end of each topic, students can create their own vocab list – in a much more visually spectacular fashion! Each ‘wordle’ (see image below) can be printed off in colour, and laminated for students to display in the classroom or at home.
Note: Students cannot type in script, however ALT codes can be used for European characters.

Sunday, February 27, 2011


Another fun little website:

Pixton provides a visual writing tool. From fully posable characters to dynamic panels, props, and speech bubbles, every aspect of a comic can be controlled in an intuitive click-n-drag motion. Comics can be published and shared, enabling classmates to view and comment.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Poster yourself with Glogster

Hi everyone and welcome back to the new school year! I had a little play with this website the other day and I LOVED it! The idea is to "poster yourself". Students can add their own images, sound files, movie files, text, graphics, etc. The sample below will give you an idea of the finished product - stunning!
You can use Chinese, Japanese and special characters and accents. Using script was a little clunky so you may want to download our instructions.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Go Animate!

A great tool for encouraging student writing skills and embedding ICT. Students make their own animations, choosing characters, props, scenes, sounds and special FX. Unfortunately it doesn't take scripted languages, but European characters can be inserted using the ALT codes. Sign-in required.
Take a look at the sample I created...
GoAnimate.com: German David's house by elisabeth_robertson

Like it? Create your own at GoAnimate.com. It's free and fun!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

IWB resources

I have just added 11 new IWB resources to the Curriculum K-12 website:
  • Chinese: Leisure and hobbies
  • French: School life
  • German: At home; Finding your way around town
  • Indonesian: Age
  • Italian: Pets; Modes of transport
  • Japanese: Describing body parts; In the classroom; Likes and dislikes (food); Verbs
This brings the total to 67 resources - ready for you to use! Check them out here.

Sunday, August 15, 2010


With technology making its way into our classrooms like never before, it's no wonder that we can feel overwhelmed at times! The purpose of this blog is to provide a forum where teachers of Languages can ask questions, provide feedback and share information and ideas.
photo credit: mckaysavage via photopin cc