Highlights of 2011

Dec 26, 2011

What an incredible year 2011 has been for me and my professional development! While I was nothing more than an ordinary yet enthusiastic lurker in 2010,  I  dared and I did in 2011!

Despite being a shy presenter I plucked up the courage to present at two ELT conferences and a Teach Meet and I gave a talk on new technologies in education to teachers in two schools in Zagreb.

I'm extremely proud of the series of webinars for students that Sonja and I launched in the spring. There were 13 webinars that I co-hosted and/or presented at and they proved to be extremely successful, useful and popular among the student population. Besides student webinars, I delievered two webinars for teachers, entitled School Without Walls and Safer Internet Day - How They Do It. I was a co-presenter at the webinar about the Microsoft Partners in Learning Institue 2011.

The highlights of the year have been by far the two TeachMeets  that I co-organized and co-hosted with Sonja and Bart. The first one was aimed at Croatian teachers, the second one was international with 22 presenters from 15 countries.(See the video clip below)

So that makes 23 presentations in one year! Not bad for a shy presenter, huh?

In 2011 I finally had a chance to meet many great educators in person - Vicky, Eva, Chiew, Chuck, Vladimira, Ann, Ania, Anna, Ceci, Sue, Brad, Fiona, Dan, Kelli, James..... I've been lucky enough to have met some of my Twitter and Facebook friends twice - Fiona, Shelly, Marijana, Cheryl, Beyza, Isil, Valentina, Sue, Denize, Luke, Rakesh, Ania, Ken, Julie....  and even three times - Jugoslava,  Dede, Tatiana, Jan and Bart.

The world has become a small place, literally! It doesn't matter where they are - we're in touch - be it virtually or f2f! Nothing is impossible any more. At least not when it comes to travelling. Of which I've had my share in 2011 - I've travelled to Egypt, Turkey, Ireland, Northern Ireland, the US, Greece and France. Not bad for someone who is just a teacher, huh?

Good vibrations

Dec 18, 2011

If anything deserves to be described as a truly out of this world experience, then the two yesterday's webinars should be it! The iTDi webinar and the TeachMeet Int'l definitely set new standards for professional development and I'd like to express my heartfelt thanks to all the speakers and participants who shared their experiences, ideas and best practices and sent out a great deal of good vibrations into the cyberspace.

I'm especially grateful to Bart and Sonja, my co-hosts for the TeachMeet Int'l  for their wholehearted support before, during and after the event. The Twitter back channeling was absolutely amazing and I extend my huge thanks to Jeannette @7MrsJames for compiling  the tweetdoc  and for being there with us although it was middle of the night in Australia. Jeannette has written a wonderful post about this special day, and so did Vicky, who was one of the TeachMeet Int'l esteemed presenters.

Just a perfect day for webinars

Dec 15, 2011

I first presented at a webinar a year ago - and got hooked immediately! When it comes to webinars, it doesn't matter if  I'm a moderator, a presenter or only a listener, I simply love them. They're really contagious - you do it once - you want to do it all the time! And on Saturday Dec. 17 there is going to be a real treat for all the webinar fans out there. Two fanatastic events will take place in the virtual world: 

At 10:00 am CET,  iTDi will be hosting a special webinar What's a Teacher? moderated by Shelly Terrell with live online presentations by Scott Thornbury, Luke Meddings, Marcos Benevides, Steven Herder, Chuck Sandy, and John Fanselow. 300 teachers from 57 countries have registered for the event. Are you one of them too?

Immediately after the ITDi webinar, at 2:0 pm CET, Sonja, Bart and I will be moderating our first virtual Teach Meet Int'l. In this webinar, 25 speakers from 15 countries will be sharing their ideas and projects in  3-minute presentations. Check out who our fabulous presenters are and what they're going to talk about. You don't have to register to hear our speakers, just follow this link to the Live meeting room which will be open at 1:30 CET. Click here to see your time and date.

What is GFTW, anyway?

Dec 6, 2011

I feel elated and excited because my  wiki Greetings From The World has been nominated for the Edublog Awards 2011! This is the third time in a row that it has been nominated and if you take a look at the sidebar you'll see that GFTW is the proud winner of the 2009 and 2010 Eddies.

It started with a tweet about Glogster by Shelly Terrell . I liked this tool so much that  I immediately created my own glogster called My Magic Wand a.k.a Web 2.0. On the very next day I introduced it to my students who loved it even more than I did and a new project was launched. Three months later it was nominated for the Edublog Awards! I felt as if I had been nominated for an Oscar Award and I will never forget that December night when the winners were announced. At that time there were 10 participating schools in the project. A year later we were joined by another 8 schools and this year we have grown again - for the time being there are 29 schools from 6 continents with more than 500 students who have contributed to the project with their glogsters. There are more than 300 amazing glogsters that our members have created. Over the past year we have worked with Beetroote, whose travels and glogs have inspired all of us to create glogs that can be used as wonderful learning resources.

If you want please vote for Greetings from the world on the Edublog Awards website. This year the voting process is slightly different: you can vote for us every single day! But please make sure to view all the other wonderful wikis, blogs and blog posts and let amazing educators and students from all over the world inspire and enthuse you.

My fav piece of tech

Nov 29, 2011

After having taken the poll about using technology in the classroom on the Facebook page of the International Teacher Development Institute, I'd like to recommend my favorite web 2.0 tool that my students and I used - and liked - the most over the past year.

Wikispaces is definitely Number 1 on my list. I started using wikis three years ago, then moved from there to blogs (I tried all of them: wordpress, edublogs and blogger) and the Google sites as well. But this year I returned to the wiki - I think wikis convey the true essence of Web 2.0 - collaboration! It's amazing how easily we can work with students and teachers from all parts of the world. Even teachers who aren't tech-savvy can easily use it and keep it running smoothly. Here's my Greeting from the world wiki, which has connected more than 500 students and educators from across six continents.

In October 2011, I set up a virtual classrooms for my second-year students where we do the tasks that accompany the course book. It's called  My English Class 2B and we've done quite a lot over the past two months. I have recently introduced the wiki to my first-year students as well:  My English Class 1E  and right now they're learning how to use it.

A tweet that made a lesson

Nov 22, 2011

Yesterday evening this tweet  grabbed my attention

and it brought me to an amazing lesson which I did in my class today. The author is Ian James, a teacher with fantastic ideas and great lesson plans.

What would you do.... if you came across these videos? is a lesson on 2nd conditional in a completely different and very real kind of way. And it came as if on cue, because I've just finished the conditionals with my students. What's more, I'm their classroom  teacher (something of an advisor or home room teacher) and we've been discussing bullying and violent behaviour among teenagers quite a lot lately and the video that we saw this morning triggered an interesting discussion on teen dating violence - during which they used 2nd conditional without noticing that they were actually practising a grammatical concept.

Following Ian's suggestion, my students will watch one of these thought-provoking videos at home and next time they'll role-play different situations. For this I chose six videos that teenagers who live in this part of the world can easily relate to, which will make the role-plays more authentic.

What Would You Do videos are produced by ABC Prime.


#eddies2011 - my nominees

Nov 19, 2011

It's this time of the year again: The 2011 Edublog Awards are on! I'm particularly fond of the eddies, they are so dear to my heart - for two reasons: Firstly, because I'm extremely proud of my wiki which has been recognized with the Best educational wiki award twice in a row, and secondly, because I'm given a chance to let the world know about the distinguished educators who have inspired, enthused and motivated me over the past year - or years, as a matter of fact. Here they are:

TESOL France sessions

Nov 14, 2011

At TESOL France my greatest wish was to be omnipresent and to attend different sessions at the same time! Because  with 68 attractive talks and workshops given by amazing educators from 27 countries we were literally spoilt for choice. But in the end, a choice had to be made, regardless of how difficult it was to decide which session to go to.

Fortunately, the post-conference buzz is still going on all over the blogosphere and twitterverse with blog posts, tweets, videos and photos of the speakers we didn't get a chance to see, so that they've all come alive in Vicky's posts on Day 1,  Day 2 and Day 3, in Ceri's Echoes of Paris,  in Brad's #TESOLfr made me think thrice and Shelly's Sharing Stories. Here are some of the most interesting thoughts, ideas, activities and links that I learned from the speakers whose sessions I attended.

I consider myself to be a true lifelong learner but Stephen  Brewer added two new dimensions to learning: lifewide learning and lifedeep learning. Definitely something worth exploring.

David Hill's talk about culture and cultural backgrounds as well as doing the activities with Julie Raikou and Paul Maglione made me think about the importance of living in different countries, of being more flexible and yes, more courageous.

Vladimira Michalkova was a real gem in the early Saturday morning. My students loathe homework (and so do I, to be honest) and Vladka gave some interesting ideas how to make homework fun, for which Vocaroo and Today's Meet have proven to be useful. Ania Kozicka, Chuck Sandy and I had a lot of fun with our chain story (no, you don't want to hear it!) which was based on an Old Spice commercial - except that we didn't know that!

Anna Musielak's workshop was as energetic and lively as Anna is herself. A workshop packed with verbal and non verbal activities that made us laugh and behave like little kiddies.

Cecilia Lemos shared fanatstic ideas on how to improve students' writing skills, such as forming a reading club at your school or making students do some mini writings in every class. She showed us her own worksheets that she used to check if students have actually read the book -  a far cry from the ordinary, boring ones  that we are so familiar with. Interacting with the writer per e-mail is something that can definitely boost students' motivation to read more. Rakesh Bhanot recommended a jigsaw reading activity which students will find inspiring as well.

Luke Meddings! Dogme and the city! Absolutely brilliant! Especially when he impersonated Greta Garbo and Melvyn Douglas (Thank God for tech malfunction).

Fiona Mauchline showed us different ideas on how to motivate students to write. I especially liked the activity with two totally different songs which students listen to and write about the images they can see in their mind's eye.

Ceri Jones' session You've got mail  on using e-mail in the classroom is an excellent example of how to achieve big results with little tech. Also, Ceri's students wrote the summaries of every lesson, which was a great way of learning. Important: The summary writer was always chosen at the end of the lesson.  

Weronika Salandyk showed us different ways of learning new vocabulary. We listened to music, wrote on the wall, played tug of war and had a lot of fun.

I didn't get to see Geoff Tranter's That's a Fun(ny) Way to Teach and Learn English, because I was way too overwhelmed after my own presentation. Luckily, Geoff's pleanary is online and I'm looking forward to grabbing an hour of free time and listening to this fantastic talk.

Cecilia Lemos 

Stephen Brewer

With Vladimira Michalkova

Anna Musielak with Vicky Loras and Dale Coulter

My TESOL France presentation

Nov 8, 2011

I just arrived from Paris where I attended the 30th TESOL France conference, which was perfectly organized by the wonderful Bethany Cagnol and her amazing team. Those three days were absolutely fabulous.

I'm delighted not only because I was there, but also because I met many of my Twitter friends in person. Another thing is that my presentation went well, especially as it was my first international presentation ever.
Photo by Chuck
I'm deeply grateful to all the teachers who came to my talk, especially to

my iTDI family - Chuck Sandy, Anna Musielak, Anna Loseva, Vicky Loras and Vladimira Michalkova,
my wonderful Twitter and Facebook friends Valentina Dodge, Elizabeth Anne, Helen Noire and Sue Annan.
Special thanks go to Sue Lyon Jones who inspired me to create my own tests and quizzes
and Shelly Terrell, my good fairy of the internet, without whom I would never be where I am now.

Here's the slideshare of my talk. I hope you find some useful tools for creating online quizzes, tests and puzzles.

My story: Vicky's blog challenge

Oct 19, 2011

Vicky Loras has recently started a new blog challenge What's your story? Vicky invited teachers from around the world to share their stories about the changes they've made that helped them become a better educator or a better person. Vicky herself has made some big changes in her life and so have so many other educators, people who I know from Twitter and Facebook and who took up the challenge and wrote amazing posts about their amazing lives.

Do I lead such an amazing life? Do I have such a story? I've never lived anywhere else but in Croatia. I've never done anything else but teach. I'm not thinking about a change in the future (no matter how much I would love to live in a foreign country - any foreign country, for that matter - and learn a new language by speaking it - but I simply don't have the courage to make such a move). But despite living and teaching in one country for a long, long time I have changed as an educator and a person because of - you guessed correctly - Twitter and my PLN!

Before Twitter I rarely got the opportunity to share my experiences/knowledge/vision with other teachers and more importantly, the very thought of me giving a presentation to an audience sent shivers down my spine. I used to be an extremely shy presenter. I've been a teacher for many many years, but standing in front of an audience always made me feel ill at ease. Today things have changed,  my confidence has increased tremendously and I readily accept every invitation, in spite of the butterflies that appear at the first mention of a possible presentation or talk.Yes, I'm still nervous at the beginning of a talk, but this is positive nervousness, more like adrenalin, something that makes me want to keep on talking to my audience forever and ever.

At the beginning of November I'm going to do something that I would never do if it weren't for Twitter and my precious PLN - I'm going to speak in front of an audience of English teachers at TESOL Paris! I know I'll die ten times during the first ten minutes of the talk, but I want to go through it and I'm so terribly excited about it that I can hardly sleep. What's more, I'm thinking about singing karaoke in Paris! Something stupid - you might be thinking. (No, it's just that I love Robbie Williams:-) This would have been absolutely impossible two years ago, but today I feel quite comfortable with it. Yes, I have changed, definitely.

Despite having butterflies during my presentation in Redmond, I thoroughly enjoyed it

A very sad iActivity

Oct 6, 2011

It's not an exaggeration to say that today the world is deeply saddened by Steve Jobs' death. I admire him greatly because he was a dreamer who dared  to pursue his dream. As soon as I heard about this tragic loss, I knew I had to create an interactive exercise for all the students who regularly visit my website Moja  matura.  Inspired by Cecilia Lemos' speaking activity for advanced students, I created an open cloze test for  upper-intermediate students and Sonja, my friend and co-founder of the website put the finishing touches to it with some nice photos.

My activity is based on the Wikipeda's article on tributes to Steve Jobs given by notable Americans. When someone dies, it's so hard to find the right words to extend our condolences and this activity might be a great practice on how to do it.

Tributes to Steve Jobs

Pretty girls, a determined boy and a Comenius project

Sep 27, 2011

It was in October last year when a teacher from Turkey sent me a friendship request on Facebook. I gladly accepted it, as I really like connecting with teachers from all over the world. On the very same day, however, it turned out that he was not a teacher but a high school student. As my policy regarding student friends on Facebook is very strict, I defriended him immediately and explained clearly why I couldn't be his friend. The boy, however, didn't want to disappear from my Facebook page just like that and it took me several messages to find out what he really wanted. It turned out that he was eager to connect with students from Croatia because someone told him that Croatian girls were really pretty!

And so here we are now - his school and my school together with schools from six other European countries have just begun a Comenius project, entitled Imaging Europe, and at the end of October I'm going to Athens to meet the participating teachers. In January 2012, Croatia will be hosting all the students and teachers and I hope the boy from Turkey will be able to meet some pretty girls - not only from Croatia, but from seven other countries as well.

Icebreaker extension

Sep 11, 2011

The September edition of the ELT Carnival was hosted by a brilliant teacher from Istanbul, Eva Büyüksimkeşyan. The theme of this month's carnival was Warmers, Fillers and 1st Week Activities - because for most of us September means a new beginning - and meeting new students. Eva has compiled a fantastic list of posts about amazing acitvities for the first day of school, which would ease the nervousness many teachers feel before entering a new classroom.

I contributed to the Carnival with my post - Who am I? - about one of my favourite icebreakers for large classes. But this year, I extended it a bit, and it worked very well with my students.

Even though it was their first English lesson of the new school year, I made an exception and gave them homework. (Yes, they looked at me with disbelief in their eyes, but didn't say anything, of course.) They had to write a short composition about themselves, about their family, their likes, dislikes and hobbies and about their wishes - to put in words what they drew on paper as part of the icebreaker activity. On the following day they took turns in reading their classmates' work and had to guess who the author was as well as to explain why they thought so. We had a lot of fun with this guessing game, especially as they remembered very well what their classmates said about themselves the day before - like who wants to climb the Eiffel Tower on foot (an easy guess), who has an older brother (absolutely impossible to guess for me, but not for them) and the like.

My first Teach Meet Session

Aug 25, 2011

In Redmond I had a wonderful opportunity to present at my First Teach Meet ever. If you don't know what a Teach Meet is you can take a look at this video.

All our Teach Meet sessions were recorded on video, but while we're waiting for the videos to be uploaded, and following Fiona's suggestion, I made a screencast of my presentation on Live Meeting webinars for students.

It's all about us

Aug 6, 2011

It's been a week since we returned from Seattle, but the blogoshpere is teeming with posts about our visit, our experiences, our learning activities and excursions, about the wonderful time we spent together. In order not to miss any of the precious posts by my fellow PIL bloggers, I've decided to make a list of all the posts about the Institute that have been published up to now and I'll update the list on a regular basis. Please keep me posted about the new arrivals.

Here they are (in the order they appeared)

Bart: Ped Xing
Dan: Microsoft Magical Mystery Tour Part 15 - Amazing just the way you are (feel free to read parts 1-17 as well:-)))
Bram: Maken we chef koks van onze leerlingen of keukenhulpjes? ;  Follow the guide through the Microsoft Partners in Learning Institute and The balance between Microsoft, partners and learning
Arjana:  Seattle, Bellevue, Redmond,  Inspired, motivated and enthusiastic (+ 4 posts on my Croatian blog)
Jugoslava: First Partners in Learning Institute
Kylie: The End is here... (+ more posts about the Institute from her archives)
Robyn: Dancing to a Great Song Part 1
Fiona: Will you be the next to attend the Microsoft Partners in Learning Institute week? and Why not hold a TeachMeet in your area?
Gergely: Ma van a tegnap holnapja, Immerzív tanulás, Innovatív tanárok fóruma USA, Tananyagok és tanulás and  Jó nekünk?
Laurence: From … Partners in Learning Institute / retour sur une semaine à Redmond
Kiley: Recap: Microsoft Partners in Learning Institute

Don't forget to take a look at these amazing videos:

Bart: Redmond, Seattle
Bram: MS PIL Institute in Seattle, Washington
Arjana: MS PIL Institute 2011
Dan: Partners in Learning Institute 2011 Redmond
Laurence: Seattle

Inspired, motivated and enthusiastic

Aug 2, 2011

I just returned from Seattle where I attended a training for top 50 educators from 31 countries, organised by the Microsoft Partners in Learning Network. We were invited to Seattle to be trained to become teacher-trainers in innovative teaching and learning practices.

This past week has been absolutely fabulous. Whenever I come home from a trip, I always ask myself what the best moment of the trip was. But now it's simply impossible for me to pick out just one, because

- meeting 49 amazing teachers from 30 countries and learning from them (and there was so much that I could learn from each and every one of them)
- meeting the excellent organizers of the seminar who made the whole week as memorable as possible
- taking part in meticulously organised sessions and workshops
- getting familiar with so many wonderful tools that can be used in the classroom
- feeling inspired to apply what I have learned
- being ready to change my teaching practices and
- bubbling up with enthusiasm to change the Croatian educational system (Yes, indeed, I really mean it:-)))

is what makes this conference simply one of the best I have ever attended!

Top 50 in Redmond

Jul 24, 2011

I feel tremendously proud and deeply honoured to be among the top 5o innovative educators from around the world who have been selected to attend the Microsoft Partners in Learning Institue 2011 in Seattle next week.

During this activity-packed week we'll be learning how to improve our own teaching practices, how to effectively teach with technology, how to prepare our students for life in the 21st century and how to train other teachers to implement innovative teaching and learning practices.

I'm immensely looking forward to it - to seeing the teachers who I have already met in Berlin and Cape Town, to meeting f2f those teachers who I have known only vritually but for such a long time, to meeting others from around the globe who I haven't had the opportunity to talk to yet, to learning from them all and together with all of them, to lifelong learning, which I'm so pasionate about, to flying across the Atlantic with a dozen of innovative educators, to travelling..... yes, it's all that and more!

Not just an interview

Jul 12, 2011

When Chiew asked me if he could interview me for iasku, his new blog series, I just couldn't believe my eyes! Me? He wants ME in his interview? I mean, his first interview was with Scott Thornbury! THE Scott Thornbury! What could I talk about that people would be interested in hearing?

Of course, I felt immensely flattered and proud and a bit of a VIP and I agreed to do it. The interview was supposed to last up to 15 minutes, but I was kind of worried that I would say everything about my work in less than five. It turned out that it was too long so I had to cut out some of its parts!

When Chiew published it, I thought no one will ever watch it, let alone leave comments! But what a wonderful surprise! - So many fabulous people have tweeted about it, left nice comments and told me what a great educator I am. Yes, Chiew, I really feel rewarded. Thanks a million :-)

Discovering Cork

Jul 5, 2011

In January 2011 I applied for a two-week seminar about teaching pronunciation as part of the Comenius Professional Development Programme - and I got the grant! So, right now I'm in Cork, Ireland, together with 10 (mostly) English teachers from different EU countries (well, most of them are from Spain :-) and sharing the apartment in a student dorm with three nice teachers from Spain and one nice teacher from Romania.

What we did yesterday morning was being introduced to the other students, the teachers and the course itself, and in the afternoon we were given a task - to discover Cork. My group was made of a Spanish and a Danish teacher and our task was to explore the very centre - there where the shops and pubs are! This morning we showed our classmates what we had discovered and how beautiful the city of Cork is! Here's the preso:

Free webinars for students

Jun 10, 2011

A month ago I blogged about a series of webinar presentations given by a bunch of enthusiastic Croatian teachers to high school students from all parts of the coutnry as part of the preparation for their exit exams. (More about it here.)

The webinars turned out to be a huge success both among the student and teacher population, so that we're now planning the second series of webinars for the next school year - but this time with even more teachers involved - because presenting online does not only pump up adrenalin, but it's also very contagious and addictive.

The number of attendees (or webinarees) shows that this type of e-learning is what students want and need. The number of downloads of the webinar recordings over a short period of only two months shows that we have struck the right chord:

No.of attendees: 998
No. of webinars: 13
No. of presenters and guests: 14
No. of downloads: 2525

That's the reason why we want to keep on doing it during the next school year as well. Another thing that we especially like is the song that we play both at the beginning and the end of every webinar - Barry White's My First, My Last, My Everything has become an inseparable part of our webinars. I have even made a video listening task for the webinarees.

Collaboration and Fun

May 28, 2011

Over the past two years I have met a lot of fantastic teachers from all parts of the world via Twitter. I often exchange tweets with many of them and I've always had a feeling that I know these people well. But then Brad Patterson (@brad5patterson) challenged his PLN to a series of interviews in which members of the PLN are asked five questions so that we can get to know them better. And I just couldn't stop reading the interviews with teachers who I thought I knew well. It turned out that there's more to them than the Twitter bio or the About page.

So I immediately wanted to know more about Eva Buyuksimkesyian.

Eva was one of the first teachers who I met on Twitter and who joined my glogster project. Her students made a dozen of wonderful glogs about Turkey and ever since that time I had been dreaming about visiting Istanbul. Our students also successfully collaborated in her award-winning project Celebr8UandMeDigitally. Together we tried to organize two skype chats for our students, but failed both times - once because of a bad Internet connection on my side, and the second time because I was at the right place at the wrong time (I have an issue with time zones). However, this won't stop us, as right now we're planning a third-time-lucky skype chat on Penpal Day, June 1.

I finally met Eva in person at ISTEK in April 2011 and when I saw her on the third floor of the main building at the Yeditepe University I just felt I had known her forever.

So I tried to predict what her answers would be to the five questions of the PLN blogging challenge:

1) If your students were to label you with 3 adjectives, what might they be? If I were Eva's student I would say that she's warm-hearted, caring and innovative.

Here's what she said:
Well, I'm not sure,It depends but I guess most will say 'very strict' (when they first meet me), then they find out that I'm understanding and for a third adjective I'd like my students to think that I'm challenging.

2) What would we find in your refrigerator right now?
If I were a teacher in Turkey, my refrigerator would be full of baclawa and kadaif - absolutely delicious!

What she said was:
Cheese, yoghurt, milk and vegetables and chocolate :)

3) If you weren’t a teacher, what might your profession be?
I thought she would be a writer.

And she said:
I love teaching but if I weren't a teacher, I'd like to be an interior designer.

4) What do you find most difficult about the teaching profession, or What has been your most difficult class as a teacher?
I keep thinking that the end of school with tons of grading and testing is the most difficult part of school year for every teacher.

She replied:
Teaching itself is a challenge and keeping up to date is a must. What I find difficult is that I usually find myself motivating myself. From time to time it would be great to hear that you are doing well. We don't usually have a finished product at the end of the process so we can't know where our students will end up but all of a sudden one of them appears and thanks you. That's one of the things I love about my job. I sometimes feel guilty I steal time from family because I need to work at home too. I once wrote about my most difficult class as part of Shelly's #30 Goals Challenge. They taught me when there is a will there is always a way.

5) What was the last book/movie you read/saw, and what have you seen/read way too many times?
As I think that we have so much in common, I wanted her to name one book by my favourite writer Nick Hornby.

Imagine my surprise when she told me that:
Finally I managed to finish High Fidelity by Nick Hornby (High Fidelity is my all time favourite book!) on my way to IATEFL and started reading The Glass Menagerie by Sylivia Plath on my return and I don't know when I'll finish it. Unfortunately, I spend more time in front of the computer so I read less but I read lots of blog posts :) The last movie I watched was The Pirates of the Caribbean: On strange tides. I watched it on Saturday with kids.

Thank you Eva for doing this interview and for being my friend!

Almost a State Alumna of the Month

May 12, 2011

I first published this post on my Croatian blog, but as I shared it on Facebook, my English-speaking friends saw it and after reading part of the post that was in English, they congratulated me on winning the award - but I didn't win any awards! I was only nominated for the State Alumni of the Month award at the Department of State. According to Ms. Odhuu, the E-Teacher Program Officer who nominated me for this award, I was in the top three in Europe and "the board liked me so much that they put an article about me up on the State Alumni website."

Because they have really written some nice things about me, I've decided to copy it here too. To be honest, this is kind of a show-offish post so you can just stop reading it. Now!

Croatian E-Teacher Alumna Creates Award Winning Websites to Engage English Learners

Posted on 2011-05-11 11:04 am
ZAGREB, Croatia -- Even before joining the E-Teacher Scholarship Program and completing the course “Building Teaching Skills through the Interactive Web”, Arjana Blazic was a self-starting user of the Internet for English language instruction. In fact, between her two exchanges, the 2005 School Connectivity Project and the 2010 E-Teacher scholarship, Blazic created an award-winning website, "Greetings from the World," which is a virtual repository of multimedia posters (glogsters) created by learners to teach others about their countries.

Through the "Greetings from the World" site, students can take a “trip” around the globe. In this way, students are actively engaged in learning from and with their peers about their countries and cultures. In creating this site, Blazic successfully exploited new web technologies to develop students’ reading and writing skills and foster mutual understanding through cross-cultural collaboration. “Greetings from the World” is a growing community, now with 500 students and 24 teachers participating from 15 countries across five continents. Blazic continues to maintain this site and actively recruits international students. Applying the skills she learned in her E-Teacher course, Blazic continues to use this project in her classroom by focusing on the learner autonomy that this project fosters: students do not look to the teacher for knowledge, but instead look to their peers and to themselves to construct knowledge.

"In my classroom today I try to find activities that cater to different learning styles," Blazic explains, "and I think that I have made headway in making my students take control of their learning and become responsible for it.”

"Greetings from the World" won the Croatian Microsoft Innovative Education Forum award in 2010 for its innovative method of online community-based learning. The site reached the semifinals in the European Innovative Education Forum 2010 and the finals in the Worldwide Innovative Education Forum 2010. The project has also been recognized as the Best Educational Wiki by Australian Edublogs for two years in a row, in 2009 and 2010.

Blazic began a second project, “Cultural Profiles,” in her E-Teacher course. Her classroom technology skills and her desire to create autonomous learners helped Blazic create this project for her students. Students from her class research with their peers from Belgium, choosing and investigating an English-speaking country’s culture and norms. As the students conduct this online research, they expose themselves to opinions and stories beyond what they would uncover in a regular classroom. They collaborate, learn about web 2.0 tools, and share their knowledge with the world. So far, Blazic has repeated this project with three separate classes.

Blazic is also one of the three co-founders of “Moja Matura”. She collaborated with two teacher colleagues at her school to create this website, which enables secondary students from all over Croatia to access free interactive exam preparation materials for their standardized exit exams. The founders interact daily with students visiting the site, and as such it has become a unique place for senior-year students to prepare for the exam. Though this project began in December 2009, Blazic has since applied the knowledge she gained in her E-Teacher course to this site by adding webinars, changing the way the founders interact with the students, and introducing the students to a new way of independent learning. As a result, the site’s popularity has grown immensely. On any given day, this website may have up to 12,000 visitors. The founders and students also interact on social networking sites, such as Facebook, where they have more than 5,000 fans.

Blazic’s innovative strategies for engaging students in the learning process encourage teachers and learners worldwide to participate in the rich and unique online learning environment. With her pioneering use of technology in the classroom, Blazic is influencing educational objectives around the world as teachers adapt Blazic’s projects into their own curriculum. The future of education is evident through her projects, as students who are thousands of miles apart work collaboratively online. Her example of peer-to-peer learning in an international environment, through her “Greetings from the World” and “Cultural Profiles” projects, will certainly lead education toward the next great theoretical foundation.”

Volunteers and webinars

May 6, 2011

Have you ever wanted something so much that it almost hurt? No, nothing personal, but something for a greater good. And you knew that you could achieve it only with the help of a bunch of other people? And when those people responded with an enthusiasm and commitment that matched yours, did you feel that you could fly and touch the sky?

Well, I just did! Sonja, my friend and the co-cofunder of Moja matura and I came up with a terrific idea of organizing free webinars for school-leavers from all over the country. In the webinars, given by teachers who teach different subjects, students would be able to get all the necessary info on the upcoming school-leaving exams and also ask as many questions as they wanted. So all we had to do was to find a platform for free webinars and teachers who would be willing to present online - for free.

And we managed to do it! The Croatian MS Partners in Learning community kindly provided as many Live meeting rooms as we needed, eight teachers from IX. gimnazija (my school) and Medical school from Varaždin enthusiastically embraced this unique opportunity to share their knowledge not only with students from their schools, but with the students throughout the country.

So over the next week, eight teachers will give nine webinars covering 12 subjects for the national school-leaving exams. Now we just need the students.

Avatars, autoshapes and digital identity

Apr 27, 2011

One the tasks that our Embedded-in-EU students had to do as part of our collaborative project was to create their own digital identity. First they discussed the importance of their own sensible and responsible behaviour in the cyberspace. Then they watched the Lorenzo video clip and we showed them our own examples of how to use different photo editors and MS Autoshapes to create their internet ID.
We turned all their avatars into this PhotoSory slide show, which shows how creative and imaginative our students are.

Writing muses

Apr 25, 2011

Kelly Tenkely from iLearn Technology has recently blogged about The Bookshelf Muse, a blog that every English teacher should know about.

The Bookshelf Muse is run by two writers, Becca Puglisi and Angela Ackerman or better to say two muses who unselfishly share their knowledge and want to help all those writers who suffer from writer's block. On their blog you can find several comprehensive thesauruses with lists of all the words and expressions that might come in handy when writing a blog post, a short story or just an ordinary descriptive essay.

The Bookshelf Muse can be really useful for English language learners on the (upper-)intermediate to advanced level. Not only do the muses create lists of words used to describe the sight, the sounds, the smell, the taste or the touch, but they also provide helpful hints and tips on how to improve your writing skills.

I highly recommend the Bookshelf Muse:

The Bookshelf Muse

Some thoughts on ISTEK

Apr 14, 2011

Last week I had a great privilege to attend the 2nd ISTEK ELT conference in Istanbul. Upon coming back I wanted to write a blog post about it, but then I thought Prezi might be a bit more convenient for me to say what it was like.

A tweet up

Apr 2, 2011

Yesterday was my second Twitter birthday. I got the most wonderful present ever – a tweet up in Istanbul! Who could have imagined it two years ago when I signed up for Twitter with a nickname that still sounds so meaningless, but which actually says who I am and where I from?

Yesterday I met my virtual Twitter friends in person for the first time, but it felt as if I'd known them for my whole life. We all came to Istanbul to attend the 2nd ISTEK conference, an event that I only watched in my twitterfeed last year. I was thrilled to see Burcu and Shelly face to face, because they were the first two teachers who I stumbled upon by pure chance one day in May 2009 and who introduced me to this amazing world of educators. It was great to talk to Sue, Elizabeth, Willy, Petra, Ken, Gavin, Mark, Russell, Dave, Anna, Luke, Lindsay, Eric and David without being limited to 140 characters. (No, I have nothing against 140, quite to the contrary, I love it, we all do). I got a chance to meet Rakesh, who I only recently friended on Facebook. And I was so glad to see Ken, Dede and Jamie again.

The morning brought another tweet meet – with Eva,Valentina, Culia, Isil, Mike, Beyza, Deniz... so incredible, I still can't believe that I'm here in the real world with my virtual friends.

Embedded in EU

Mar 4, 2011

This year my students and I have started a new project with a school from Belgium. In the project, the students explore the world of widgets and "embeds", they collaborate and share what they have learned.

Their first task was to set up their blogs and create headers with images of the networks they are "embedded" in. In order to make posters for headers they used MS AutoCollage. The full version of Autocollage can be downloaded from the Partners in Learning website and it's absolutely free for educators.

Our students come from two different countries, but their networks seem to be so similar - almost all of them feel "embedded" in Facebook and YouTube. In the video below you can see how creative the students are. We are also holding a competition to choose the nicest header. Feel free to drop by and cast your vote.

Twitter, anyone?

Feb 14, 2011

Recently I've become an associate partner in a newly launched European project called APLaNet (Autonomous "Personal Learning Networks" for Language Teachers). The aim of the project is to introduce language teachers to social networking sites and help them build their personal learning networks. You can read more about this exemplary project in the post by Burcu Akyol, one of the coordinators of the project.

I'm a strong supporter of social networks, especially Twitter, and I've already tried to introduce Twitter to newbies many times before - with a disastrous result! I failed every time but once. Now, I don't want to lament about that, but I've been thinking about what I've done wrong.

And I think I might know the reason why my mentees haven't made it further than a couple of introductory tweets. What they needed was a constant, gentle push, which I didn't give, simply because I didn't want to be a bore. I used to tell them that Twitter is what you make it and so I actually let them sail through the twitterverse on their own.

But it's more than obvious that Twitter newbies need someone to hold their hand, someone who will help them cross this huge gap between a beginner's keen interest in Twitter and the world of the PLNs that lies at the other end.

Despite my futile attempts so far, I'm on my mission again and hopefully my mentees will manage to build their PLNs. I'll nudge them to log in to Twitter more often, even if several weeks have passed since their last tweet. I'll help them learn by doing - by tweeting. I'll introduce them to my PLN more frequently and more forcefully. I'll be more than willing to dedicate an hour or two of a lazy Sunday morning to teaching them the basics of Twitter and PLNs. And I'll keep you posted on how we're doing.

In the meantime, you can read more about Personal Learning Networks in this excellent post by Shelly Terrell.

E-safety in my classroom

Feb 9, 2011

In support of Safer Internet Day, my students and I did some of the actitivies I wrote about in my last post.

After seeing the video clip about parental protection and online dangers, my students took part in a walking debate. The idea for this activity came from the Debating the issues activity, which I downloaded from the excellent Think B4U Click Click website. However, unlike the suggested procedure, I decided to go paperless, so I created a short Power Point with five issues to be discussed. After reading out loud each of the statements, they took a stand and explained why they agree or disagree with it.

What really surprised me was the fact that most of the students feel safe on the Internet. Some of them supported their feeling of safety with the fact that teachers and parents constantly talk about it. Others explained that they are very careful about the stuff they publish on their blogs or on Facebook. Only some of them think that adjusting Facebook privacy settings keeps them protected.

I was taken aback when I heard that most of them think that cyberbullying is not as big an issue as bullying, mostly because one can switch off their computer or mobile phone and thus not be cyberbullied. It's obvious that we need to delve deeper into the topic of cyberbullying.

Finally, I asked them to think about advice that they would give to their peers and share it on the Wallwisher which you can see below.

(Click here to see our wallwisher Safer Internet Day by msblazic)

This one is my favourite, although I'm a strong supporter of social networking sites:

Talking to a friend
and reading a good book
is better than Facebook.

(by Norma)

E-Safety in the EFL classroom

Feb 6, 2011

My students spend a lot of time on the Internet and even though they say they know absolutely everything about the perils of the virtual world, I strongly believe that every now and then this topic should be brought into discussion.

The most suitable occasion is of course Safer Internet Day, which will be celebrated on February 8. I think that teachers around the globe have the responsibility to dedicate at least part of their lesson to e-safety and help their students to acquire essential skills about the efficient, safe and more responsible use of the Internet.

Last week I held a webinar for Croatian teachers on how Safer Internet Day is celebrated around the world and I found some fabulous resources. So here are some that you might use in your classroom on Tuesday, or, as a matter of fact, on any other day of the year.

These two pages helped me find my way around the www resources:
Insafe, which is a network of national Awareness Centres in 27 countries in the European Union, Norway, Iceland and Russia and Larry Ferlazzo's Websites of the Day. Larry is an outstanding English teacher and blogger from California.

There you will find excellent links, brochures, lesson plans, worksheets etc. which you can use with your students.

What I'm going to do on Tuesday will be the video clip "Wo ist Klaus" that I found on the activity-heavy German website KlickSafe about how parents protect their children in real and virtual life. The clip is in German, but on the KlickSafe website there is also the English version, as well as versions in many other languages.

Another powerful video by Klicksafe "Wo lebst du?" is about the addiction to the Internet. (Unfortunately, I found myself in it..... and I really must give some serious thought to my Internet addiction)

Think B4U Click is an Irish website where I found the most interesting lesson ideas about the matters of privacy, online rights, mobile phones etc. I highly recommend this site.

The Australian website Cybersmart is a fantastic resource with educational games, quizzes and activities for kids and teens. It provides excellent materials addressing different safety issues that teachers can download and use in the class.

It's more than a game, it's your life!

Jan 17, 2011

It's more than a game, it's your life! is the motto of Safer Internet Day 2011 which will be taking place on February 8. Safer Internet Day is observed every year in countries around the world. It is coordinated by the Insafe Network, co-funded by the European Union. Its main golas are to promote safer and more responsible use of the Interent and mobile technology by children and teenagers and to raise awareness about online safety issues.

A wide range of activities, initiated by the Croatian Teachers Network, will be conducted in Croatian schools, with contests, workshops and webinars being some of them. I'm delighted to be able to take an active role in the event with a webinar in which I'm going to talk about how this important event is celebrated in other countries.

So that's why I'm asking your, dear PLN, to share your best practices with me and my audience of teachers and parents. How have you celebrated this event over the past years? What do you plan to do this year? What activities will your students be taking part in? What kind of resources are you planning to use? What ideas and tips would you like to share?
There might be borders between our countries, but there are none in our virtual world. Let's make this world a better and safer place for our kids.

Moving forwards

Jan 1, 2011

If a good beginning is half the battle, then I'm on the right track. It's still the early morning of 1/1/11, and I've already posted two comments to my virtual friends' blogs. Actually, I started writing comments last week, on the day I made my resolution and I really hope I'll keep it in 2011. Not so much because of the resolution itself, but because I know that commenting is the best way to connect and interact with like-minded teachers from all parts of the world.

ImageChef.com - Custom comment codes for MySpace, Hi5, Friendster and more

So watch out for my name in the comment section of your posts, dear bloggers.
But not before Jan 10, because my travel bug has been bugging me for a while so next week I'll be trying to discover the secrets of the pyramids.
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