Fostering collaboration with technology

Image source:

Image source:

In yesterday’s OUP webinar we dealt with collaborative techniques for CLIL lessons and some collaborative web 2.0 tools were presented.

Collaboration in the classroom means that learners have to work together to achieve a common goal. In collaborative activities everybody has a clear role to play and the roles are interdependent, in a positive way. In order for a group to succeed they all must do their part, which means that everybody feels important. The benefits of collaboration for learning are countless. Among the most important ones mentioned in the webinar we have the follow


  • Contributes to the development of higher order thinking skills
  • Promotes interaction & develops social interaction skills
  • Builds self-esteem in students
  • Develops communication skills
  • Promotes understanding and tolerance
  • Allows for active, exploratory learning in a safe environment
  • Stimulates critical thinking
  • Takes into account different learning styles
  • Fosters and develops interpersonal relationships
  • Develops leadership skills
  • Students become responsible for own learning and for each other’s

( From: 44 benefits of collaborative learning

One of the reasons why collaboration belongs in the CLIL classroom is that it promotes interaction and communication, which are fundamental to learn both content and language.

Here are some of the collaborative strategies presented in the OUP webinar:

In Think, pair, share, the teacher asks an open question or poses problem and gives students time to think individually; then, they get in pairs to explain and share their ideas and to think together; finally, they share their responses with the teacher, a bigger group, or the whole class.

Here is an example of an activity which could be done using the technique Think, pair, share: Explain the meaning of this sentence: ” Reproduction guarantees the survival of the species” (from Natural Sciences. Oxford CLIL. ESO 1, Unit 8: Earth, an inhabited planet).

Jigsaws are one of the most popular collaborative techniques. Here is the example I showed in the webinar.

agesProject: The metal Age (from: Social Sciences. Oxford CLIL. ESO 1, Unit 8)

  • Let’s make groups of 5
  • Each member of the group chooses an aspect of the Metal Age to be investigated:
    • What was the natural environment like?
    • What did people live from?
    • Where did they live?
    • What did they believe in?
    • What was society like?
  • Let’s make groups of experts and investigate
  • Return to your original group & share the information
  • Create the final product

Dictogloss consists in recreating a text collaboratively. It is a good way to start a CLIL unit when you choose a text which has to do with the topic, as an activation activiy. These are the steps to be followed:

  • Choose a short and meaningful text
  • Divide the class into groups
  • Read the text aloud. Students write down key words.
  • Provide students with pictures to help them remember the story.
  • Students, in groups, recreate the text
  • Groups edit their texts and present them.
  • Students compare their texts with the original.

Finally, we saw how to use the Snowball technique to co-construct a definition. (From: Social Sciences. Oxford CLIL. ESO 1, Unit 3)


These are the steps:

    1. Students write key words individually
    2. In paris, they agree on the key words  and then write a definition, in a way that they enrich each other contribution.
    3. Two pairs together, they create a new definition.

What about technology? What’s the role of technology when it comes to collaborative activities? How can it help?

Well, web 2.0 is collaborative by definition. Its essence is collaboration and communication, which are two characteristics we all want in our CLIL (or not so CLIL) lessons. Our students are millenials who are used to using tech and mobile devices in their daily lives to look for information, to interact  with others, to network in order to share and exchange ideas, info, materials… Technology is an integral part of their lives and whenever they cannot use it in the classroom they may feel like they are powering down , not just literally when they turn their devices off but also in terms of learning and thinking.

Some of the collaborative tools presented in the webinar are the following:

  • Glogster and Popplet to create multimedia posters and presentations and Dipity to create interactive timelines.
  • Podcasting tools such as Voxopop (audioforums) and Ivoox to create podcasting episodes (a radio programme, for instance). Voicethread to create collaborative presentations which include audio and/or video recordings.
  • Infographics with Piktochart and ly
  • As collaborative writing tools we mentioned Google Drive and wikis (Wikispaces and PBworks)

We discussed the convenience of using a bookmarking service to save and tag our favourite websites for easy access anytime from any computer or mobile device. Examples of social bookmarking sites include Diigo and Delicious (among others).

We saw how to save a bookmark to Diigo using the Diigolet tool (browser extension) added to your browser bar.

diigo2 diigo3doiigo

Social bookmarking sites are also a great way for your students to network and share resources when doing a project, for example. Also, you can provide a bunch of bookmarks as an outliner for them to search for information.  Other sites which can be used to save bookmarks in a more visual way or to curate content are Pinterest and Symbaloo.

Collaboration in the classroom is essential and we, teachers, should practice what we preach and collaborate with one another, co-create and design things together, exchange ideas and resources and network in a way that we enrich each other and keep on learning and growing professionally. When it comes to adding technology to all that, it is necessary to keep an open mind and to be willing to try out new things. Risk it! It’s well worth it.

Digital assessment

P_measuring1_0113This Tuesday 17th, I did a webinar on digital assessment. This post intents to be a handout for those teachers who attended it.

Digital assessment allows teachers to give students helpful feedback (formative assessment), to encourage them to do better and better (ipsative assessment, provides learners with feedback from fellow students (peer assessment), gets them to understand their own progress (self-assessment) and allows them to use their tools (21st century assessment)

Digital tools can be used both to design assessment activities and to assess learners’ performance in any kind of activity (digital or not).

Here are some examples of assessment activities which integrate the use of technologies: collaborative mindmaps (  to demonstrate full understanding of a topic, audio forums ( to discuss ideas presented in the unit, interactive timelines for History (or other subjects) projects (, interactive games which provide immediate feedback related to any topic (we saw: Save the world and Pyramid builder, infographics as a final product of projects (



Captura de pantalla 2015-11-15 a les 12.44.31

Some of the digital tools to assess learners’ performance that I presented are ePortfolios, rubrics and checklists.

According to Dr. Helen Barrett (2009), “an ePortfolio is an electronic collection of evidence that shows your learning journey over time. Portfolios can relate to specific academic fields or your lifelong learning. Evidence may include writing samples, photos, videos, research projects, observations by mentors and peers, and/or reflective thinking. The key aspect of an ePortfolio is your reflection on the evidence, such as why it was chosen and what you learned from the process of developing your ePortfolio

Check Dr. Barrett’s website for more information on ePortfolios.

Students can create their ePortfolios with EduPortfolio  or by creating a blog (wordpress or blogger) while teachers have different options to keep all their students’ portfolios organized and at hand, such as Netvibes or a list of blogs in their own blog.

“A rubric is a document that articulates the expectations for an assignment by listing the criteria and describing levels of quality from excellent to poor” (Heidi Andrade). Two good websites where we can find ready-made rubrics or create our own are Rubistar and iRubric. Check this tutorial on how to create rubrics with Rubistar.

Rubrics, when given at the beginning of a project or unit of study, promote thinking and learning by providing guidance to the students who know right from the beginning what we expect from them. Creating the rubrics with the students helps to get them involved in their own learning too. Rubrics are a good tool to assess projects and their final products, oral and written assignments, group work and collaboration.

Checklists to support Project Based Learning can be created online too.

To all the teachers who took part in the webinar, THANK YOU SO MUCH! It was a pleasure. Feel free to leave comments and ask questions.

Celebrating failure and learning

“If you are not prepared to be wrong

you’ll never come up with anything original.”

                                                                               Sir Ken Robinson

I’m preparing a webinar for OUP on digital assessment and one of the ideas that I plan to address is the importance of failure in learning.

Our students should always feel that they are in a safe environment where they can take risks and make mistakes and we should help them embrace failure as a valuable learning experience. To fail  is, in fact, inevitable at one point or another. When failure is followed by constructive feedback that addresses both the strengths and the weaknesses of the learners, it provides a new opportunity to learn from it. Reflecting on what they did, how they did it and why, with the guidance of the teacher helps students to find new paths and alternatives and promotes learning. And isn’t that assessment’s primary purpose too?

Finland celebrates the International Day for Failure on October, 13. The idea is to celebrate our shortcomings and to spread the understanding that failing is part of the learning experience. I think schools all over the world should definitely join the celebration!

On a personal note, when I first accepted the challenge of participating in the OUP seminars I was excited and grateful but it felt like a big responsibility and I had to accept there was a possibility of failure. I’ve felt this way many times in my professional career. In fact, it is this possibility that makes my job all the more exciting. It means I get to do new things, to face new challenges and, most of all, I get to LEARN from these experiences, whether they are successful or not.



Always look on the bright side of CLIL (‘cos there’s one!)

Yesterday’s talk about CLIL at the Oxford University Press seminar in Madrid dealt basically with some scaffolding tools we can use in the CLIL classroom. Scaffolding is key because it is what allows learners to process the input they are provided, both in terms of content and language.

Here are some of the basic ideas I presented:

Nowadays, students are multimodal learners, so we need to provide multimodal, context-rich input : written texts, podcasts, images, videos, simulations, infographics, augmented reality…

Tasks need to be manipulative, hands-on, contextualized and cognitively engaging. They should rely heavily on hands-on experiences, concrete materials, visuals and manipulatives so that they allow the learners to match experience (content) with language (meaning).

CLIL project: MADE IN...  Students checking where their goods are made in

CLIL project: MADE IN…
Students checking where their goods are made in

Visual organizers help learners to organize and reorganize input and ideas, and to process the information presented to them. Check out this site for visual organizers of all kinds and my Visual Thinking board in Pinterest.

Questionning is an essential scaffolding tool in the CLIL classroom. Good questioning challenges the learners’ thinking. Questions can be used for multiple purposes and the classroom should be a safe environment where discussion and opinion can be generated and where learners can take risks.

Languaging, or self-explaining, improves understanding. Learners who are given the chance to think out loud about both the content and the language, understand both better. Out loud, collaborative thinking is more powerful tan silent, individual thinking.

Conversation in the CLIL class is a collaborative process of give and take in which both teacher and students work to send and receive comprehensible messages. The teachers’ ability to make themselves understood, to make a rich interpretation of students’ oral production, and to expand and refine the learners’ language is key to making language and content accessible.

Frames and substitution tables provide the learners with the vocabulary and structures necessary to deal with the content and help them to feel more confident when using the academic language of the subject they are learning in English.

Finally, I presented some websites where we can find all kinds of online materials which are really useful for a CLIL class: interactive games, animations, simulations, activities, resources, images, videos, lesson plans…

I am a big fan of both games and simulations. Simulations allow learners to experience and do hands-on activities to which they might not have access otherwise, or to carry out experiments with no safety concerns and, as games, they provide immediate feedback to the learner.

Here is an example of an interactive game that allows learners to learn how embalmers made mummies in ancient Egypt.

Captura de pantalla 2015-04-26 a les 12.18.31

For online materials, check my pinterest and diigo


Augmented Reality in education

This last Saturday I was fortunate enough to take part in a Seminar organized by Oxford University Press in Barcelona, along with some of OUP most outstanding authors and lecturers on ELT and CLIL. One of the topics covered in my talk English 2.0: the winning ticket to success was Augmented Reality (RA).

We talked about how Web 2.0 allows us to enrich all kinds of things by adding interactive layers of information.

  • Images
  • Videos
  • Reality itself

We saw an example of an image made interactive with Thinglink, in which pictures, youtube videos, and links to websites and to the Wikipedia had been added. Thinglink offers endless possibilities for learners, who can not only enrich pics but they can also create the content they will link to them: videos they have recorded and uploaded in youtube, articles in Wikipedia they have edited, photos they have taken…

A great tool to enrich videos is PopcornMaker. Students can add layers of information onto videos by inserting links, pop-up text, annotations and pictures, thus making them interactive.

Check this enriched TED-ED talk by Beau Lotto

Augmented Reality (AR) allows learners to bring their learning  to life  by linking the physical and the digital world through mobile technology. Among the many apps available  to create AR experiences are Aurasma, Layar and Junaio.

Shaw Wood  Primary School in Lancaster, UK, uses Aurasma to integrate AR meaningfully into their learning activities. Do not miss one of their students explaining  what AR is in his own words.


Some ideas on how to use AR in the classroom are biographies, presenting works of Art, book reviews, Science projects, describing landmarks in the local area, local legends, describing places, lab safety procedures, etc.

Augmented Reality is already used by some companies to train their employees and it’s transforming such diverse fields as medicine and medical training or mechanical engineering.

See how BMW uses it.


And a hundred years later…

It was one hundred years ago when John Dewey wrote that “If we teach today’s students as we taught yesterday’s, we rob them of tomorrow”, and his message is still absolutely relevant nowadays. It will probably always be. He created an everlasting slogan no educator should ignore for it reminds us that it is our responsibility to keep on learning so that we can reinvent ourselves as teachers to meet the new challenges we face as the world changes. I just think this is something we do not need to do on our own. Hence, this blog.