Thursday, 5 November 2015

Why ebooks should be cheaper and how to get my book for free

One of the great things about digital publishing is that it enables any individual to distribute their ebooks to an international audience without having to use a physical distribution network.

This should enable publishers to deliver digital versions of their books for a fraction of the cost as they don’t have to pay the expensive printing, shipping, storage, redistribution and reseller costs that are necessary to get their paper-based versions of books sold all over the world.


As an independent publisher I’ve been able to use digital distribution channels to enable me to sell my ebook way below the price of a physical version of the book and at times, such as International Teachers Day, I’ve been able to give away more than 2000 copies in 24 hours without incurring any cost.

My own ebook retails for around the price of a sandwich (Perhaps a little less if you go to Starbucks).
  • Digital Video - A manual for language teachers - on iTunes
  • Digital Video - A manual for language teachers - PDF version:

One of the big downsides of digital distribution for teacher development books is still payment platforms. In many of the countries where teacher development books are most needed and where publishers could be using ebooks to deliver cut price products for teachers, access to international digital payment platforms is restricted due to either national legislation or lack of  hard currency. This often leaves teachers with no option but to turn to blackmarket sources and support digital piracy.

In an effort to counteract this I would like to make my ebook Digital Video - A manual for language teachers freely available to anyone without the means to pay for it who is willing to help me with a little research project.

If you would like to download a copy of my ebook and don’t have the means to pay for it please send an email to: nik.peachey (add the @ here) peacheypublications.com

  • In the subject line please write - Digital technologies for teaching research
  • In the body of the email please just tell me a about:
    • your teaching context
    • the country and type of school you teach in
    • the biggest obstacles you face using technology
    • how and why you use or want to use digital technologies to help your students.
I would like to use this information for research purposes and publish my findings, but all data will be anonymous and no name and contact details will be included.

Once I receive your email you will be sent a link so that you can download a PDF version of the  book completely free of charge.


Related links:

Best

Nik Peachey

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Video creation activities

Here are two of the 40+ activities from my book - Digital Video - A manual for language teachers.

The activities in the book are split into two main sections:
  • Activities which encourage comprehension through viewing
  • Activities which encourage students to produce language by creating video

These activities are from the second section.

If you enjoy these and find them useful, please buy the book (£1.99 / $2.99 US) and find lots more like this.

The book is available for the iPad at: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/digital-video/id1025275485
Or you can download a version that can be read on any device from Scribd: https://www.scribd.com/doc/276137280/Digital-Video-A-manual-for-language-teachers 

Related links:

Best
Nik Peachey

Monday, 31 August 2015

Lesson plans and activities for exploiting video

Well after many months of hard work I'm really pleased to say that my iBook on exploiting digital video has finally been released.



There are now more than 40 step-by-step lesson plans as well as chapters on different approaches and paradigms for exploiting video, such as how to use video in blended learning, task based learning (TBL) or content and language integrated learning (CLIL).

Here you can download examples of some of the activities:

In addition to this, the book has a chapter full of useful web and mobile based apps and this includes video tutorials and tips and advice on how to use these apps with your students.

Here you can download and example:


It's available here on Scribd


And it's also available through the iBook Store for iPad and Mac users: Digital Video



The book has been something of a labour of love and has grown way beyond what I originally planned.

I hope you enjoy the book, find it useful.

Related links:

Best

Nik Peachey

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Detecting plagiarism with Unplag

Plagiarism has become an increasingly significant issue with the increase of online information and the ease with which it can be copied. It is an issue in the classroom for students and educators, but it’s also an issue for writers, bloggers and journalists.



Of course plagiarism is nothing new. Students and writers have been copying each others work or copying from books for centuries, but perhaps what is different now is the ease with which you can actually detect plagiarism and identify the original sources of the content.



This is where Unplag can help. Unplag is a professional tool for detecting plagiarism. Unplag works in a number of ways.
  • You can use it to create your own library of content built up of student work and then check to see if they are plagiarising from each other.
  • You can use it to search billions of webpages to see if students are plagiarising from the internet.
  • You can run a comparison check between two files to see what similarities there are.

When you check a file against the internet for plagiarism you can also generate a report which includes links to the specific pages where the content originated and clicking through to those pages Unplag highlights the precise piece of text that has been plagiarised.


Unplag also creates a PDF report that you can download or email to someone else. The report contains statistics about the percentages of content that are similar as well as the links to the original sources. 


This makes reporting on plagiarism during meetings or tutorials much more effective as you can have the information you need printed up and share a copy with whoever needs to see it.

As a writer or blogger Unplag can be incredibly useful to help you protect your intellectual property. After creating each publication you can upload a copy to Unplag and then run regular checks on your texts to find out if and where your content has been taken. Once again, having a PDF report to use can make dealing with content theft that much more effective.

You can try Unplag for free, though it will only scan through the first 20% of any document you want to check. If plagiarism is something that is a regular problem you need to deal with then you can subscribe for as little as $4.99 a month.

Of course it is possible to run parts of your documents through Google or another search engine to check whether the content is plagiarised, but this isn’t very efficient and can take up a lot of your time, so in the long run, having a service like Unplag can save you both time and money.

I found Unplag really quick to register on and very quick and simple to use. Just click the icon to upload your document, then choose the type of check you want. 
Unplag takes around 4 seconds to check a document and then shows you the report on the sidebar. You click through to the sources and check what they are. Unplag also has the ability to separate out references from the main text content, so this is great for checking academic articles. 


You can then either click the icon to download the report or you can click on the share icon to email the report to someone else.

I hope you find it useful.

Related links:


Nik Peachey

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Using the TeamUp calendar to schedule learning


One of the greatest challenges to effective study and teaching is organising and managing time efficiently. This becomes even more of a challenge if you want to get your students working in a collaborative way and blending their classroom activity with online activities and projects.

This ability to manage work and collaborative interaction is, however, becoming an increasingly important digital literacy skill for the work place and helping students to manage their collaboration can have a significant impact on their potential to be successful.

TeamUp is a really useful and versatile tool for enabling teachers to do this.

TeamUp is basically an online shareable calendar tool but with some unique features. One of the first and most important for teachers is that you don’t have to register and create passwords. This can make it much simpler to use with groups of students, especially younger or older ones who are prone to loosing or forgetting passwords.


Creating a calendar on TeamUp couldn’t be simpler, just go to the site and click on ‘Create a free calendar’.


You can then give the calendar a name and if you want to you can add your email address. Adding your email address is optional, but if you do add it you’ll be able to get notifications and save access details.

The calendar is then created instantly and then you can either use it privately or share the link with students to allow them to edit it.


There are a number of ways we could use this with our students.
  • Each student could have their own calendar that they use to schedule homework and project due dates etc.
  • You could have a group calendar based around a project and students could access and up date it collaboratively as they schedule their contribution to the project.
  • You could use it to get students setting aims and goals by entering things they want to achieve over the coming year/ course. For example they can write in ‘By this date I would like to be able to …” Or “By this date I will have finished …”  Then they will get a reminder to check that they have achieved their goals.
  • You could use it in a similar way to get students revising vocabulary so that when they learn new words they schedule times to revise the words at intervals of a number of days, weeks or months. They just need to add repeats to events when they add them.
  • Students can use the calendar to keep a blog type learning journal after each lesson to record what they learned from the lesson and then look back and review it.
  • You could also ask students to use it for short daily writing tasks so that they have a theme set up for each day and each student has to write a short text about the topic of that day.
  • TeamUp can also be integrated into Facebook http://calendar.teamup.com/kb/add-teamup-calendar-facebook-profile/ , so if you have a Facebook group that you use with students you can add a calendar to it and enable greater functionality to the group.

For more detailed instructions on how to use the calendar have a look at the getting started guide.


You can also try a live demo of some of the calendars here.

I hope you find TeamUp useful and try it with your students.

Related links:

Nik Peachey

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Take the pain out of marking homework with CorrectiveFeedback

One of the most time consuming and at times depressing tasks any teacher has to do must surely be marking large piles of student homework. That may sound like an awful statement, but the truth is that however little or however much effort our students do or don’t put into their work, many of us know that when we have marked the work and and hand it back to the student, they will look briefly at the mark and then probably never look at the work or our comments again.

So we all know that homework has to be marked and the students’ efforts have to be acknowledged, but we also know that often this process has very little positive outcome beyond that validation of the work our students have done.

CorrectiveFeedback may well have an answer though to both the problem of the time taken to mark assignments and the effectiveness of the feedback given.

CorrectiveFeedback enables you to automate a large part of the marking process and to also make the feedback you give more effective. It does this through using a number of marking ‘grids’ which you can customise to the needs of your students and the nature of your assignment.
Once you apply a marking grid to an assignment it will automatically analyse the content of the assignment for things like spelling, grammatical areas, use of specific verbs students have studied or vocabulary range related to topic field. It will then even suggest links in the feedback that students can use to revise or expand their knowledge of the problem areas and produce a completed feedback analysis which you can then send back to the students.


This is how it works
Once you log in to the online platform you will arrive at the dashboard. The first thing to do is to click on ‘CREATE GRID’. This is where you select the type of marking grid and rubric you want to use for the assignment. There is a really wide selection of marking grid you can use and these vary from the expected ‘error correction’ of text to ones that you can use to record spoken feedback and respond to audio recorded homework assignments.

 You can also mix grids and combine them so that you have one part of the grid for analysing grammar and another part which includes spoken feedback so that your students can listen to your comments, instructions and encouragement.
Once you have selected and created your grid it will be saved into the ‘MY GRIDS’ part of the site. Here you can store as many different marking grids as suits you and reuse them whenever you need them.


The next stage is to start marking your students assignments. To do this you need to either upload the assignments or get students to email you there assignments. This process is made easier for you in two ways.
  • CorrectiveFeedback creates a dedicated email address for you when you register, so that you don’t have to use your personal one, and any emails sent to this address automatically appear in your assignment section. 
  • The second option is that you can copy paste all of your students’ assignments into a spreadsheet and upload them all together.

Once the assignments have been uploaded, go to ‘CHECK ASSIGNMENT’ on the dashboard and here you can select the grid that you want to apply to each homework assignment. Depending on the features of the grid you select, it will analyse the students work find errors or weaknesses in the vocabulary etc and produce a list of areas in the text for you to comment on or mark in some way.


You don’t have to follow the suggestions of the grid, you just read through them and then select, deselect or edit the point you want to comment on and the comments you want to make. You can also award points based on a rubric or record spoken feedback. Once you have finished marking, your feedback is saved into the database and your students receive an email with a PDF of the feedback or links to your spoken audio feedback.
The feedback your students are sent can also include auto generated links to grammar or vocabulary reference materials so students can follow up your comments in a constructive way.

If you need to go back and check students’ assignments at a later date they are all stored in ‘CHECKED ASSIGNMENTS’ and you can even reedit and change the feedback and resend it.


CorrectiveFeedback really is an impressive pedagogical tool and one that can potentially save teachers a lot of time and also enhance the learning process.


What’s great about it?
  • There is a real variety of different marking grids which you can quickly edit to your needs
  • I love that you can record spoken feedback so that students can hear tone and intonation or even examples of pronunciation
  • It’s great that it can scan for errors or weaknesses in vocabulary and suggest helpful links
  • Being able to collect together all your students work into a database where you can go back and retrieve it can be really useful when it’s time to write reports, etc.

When you first sign up for CorrectiveFeedback you are automatically awarded 100 credits which enable you to mark 100 assignments. At present getting more credit is still free, though in the future there is clearly an intention to make this a commercial product.

Paying for an online product may well be difficult for many teachers, especially when there are so many free tools around, but I feel that if you find a product that can really save you time for a reasonable price then it is worth supporting these products and putting a little money in. Ideally schools should be able to pay to enable teachers to use such things, though realistically we all know that seldom happens. I guess the decision we have to make is around the value of our time and how much of it a tool like this can save.

I hope you give CorrectiveFeedback a try and that it saves you some time and helps to make your marking time more rewarding for you and your students

Related links:

Nik Peachey


Monday, 23 March 2015

ESL lesson plans for the digital world

I think if you asked most teachers, especially in their first few years of teaching, what would make their lives easier, the single most common answer you would get, would be ready made lesson plans and materials. Well there’s good news, because that’s exactly what you get from Off2Class, a huge collection of ready made ESL lesson plans complete with instructions, teachers’ notes, answers to all the questions and even homework assignments.

What’s even better about Off2Class is that the materials are all ready prepared for the digital teaching world, whether you teach in the classroom with an IWB or a data projector, or whether you are teaching online using Skype or some form of virtual platform.

The platform is very easy to use. You start by setting up profiles for your students. You’ll need their email address to do this and you’ll need to create a password for them, but this is quick and simple to do.

Once you have set up your students’ profiles you can choose a lesson to do with them. There is a really wide variety of ESL lesson plans to choose from. Most are organized around grammar topics, but there are also reading and speaking plans too. If you click on the drop down menu for each section you can see the range of plans and if you select a lesson and click on the magnifying glass icon you can preview the main aims of the lesson.
To launch a lesson you click on the rocket icon. You’ll then see the lesson materials with the teachers’ notes at the side. You can then flip through the slides and as you move from slide to slide you see the notes changing and synchronizing with the slide you have selected.
When you use the lessons in the classroom or online you can put the lesson materials to full screen and use a mobile app to follow the teachers notes. As you move through the lesson materials, the teachers’ notes will again synchronize with your mobile device.

Once you have launched your class, you can enroll students into the class. This will enable you to take and share notes with the students during the lesson. The notes can go to all students or you can just select the student the note refers to.

The student can also take notes and access all of these notes through their profile. The notes are also automatically referenced to the class they applied to and have the date added so this makes it easier and more useful when students want to revise.
You can also assign and mark the homework assignments through the platform and again all the answers for the assignments are provided.

The lesson materials themselves are well designed with colourful images and illustrations and there really is a huge and constantly growing collection to choose from. When new materials are added you get a note when you log in to the platform, so you always know what new things are available.

 You can find out more from this video:



There really is a lot to like about Off2Class:
  • It looks great
  • The lesson materials are well structured and designed
  • It’s really easy to find your way around and understand how everything works
  • There’s a really good support blog
  • The company is obviously still developing and adding to it, so it can only get better.

There is of course a downside and one which will put many teachers off - It’s not free.
  • The pricing is very reasonable though, starting from $7 a month for 2 student accounts and rising to $25  month for 15 student accounts.
  • It would also be nice to find some listening materials in the lessons too.

There doesn’t seem to be any large scale pricing or corporate offers, so it looks like the product is being aimed directly at private teachers who are doing their own classes. Considering how much work this would save a teacher on lesson planning and producing their own materials, the price seems very reasonable, though I guess this depends to a large extent on where you teach and what your hourly rate is.

On the whole though this seems like a really great well thought out and useful product. So many education start-ups these days seem to drawn by the scent of big money and have little real ambition to deliver a quality product that will really help their customers. This company obviously has some real insight into their market and has really hit on an area that, particularly in the digital world, teachers need some help with. I really hope Off2Class does well and that you and your students enjoy using their materials.

Related links:

Nik Peachey

My eBooks & Lesson Plans