May 31, 2014

A free online meeting platform: Fuze

This post is dedicated to a dear friend, Márcia Lima, who introduced me to FUZE, the webtool I'll be talking about today.

According to the website, Fuze is an online meeting platform for Mac, Windows, IOS and Androids, in other words, it's a device neutral platform which allows people to meet online (for free) and share content.

So you might say, "That's the same thing we can do with Skype, Google hangouts, Adobe Connect and Wiziq".

Well, not quite. As far as I know:
- With the free version of Skype, nowadays, you can't have more than two webcams working, no screen sharing and your meeting is not recorded.
- With Google hangouts, although you can share your screen and record your meeting, you have a limit of 10 webcams.
- Adobe Connect is perfect for webinars and online meetings, however (this is a big BUT), it is paid.
- Wiziq would be the best alternative here. The free version allows several webcams to work and you have the possibility to record some of your sessions.

To start my exploration, I watched some of their videos, such as this one:

Fuze Content Collaboration from Fuze on Vimeo.

With the FREE plan you can have:

As with all the webtools and apps I decide to use with my students, I wanted to try it out first. Márcia promptly accepted my invitation to give it a go on a Saturday Morning. Our trial video is in Portuguese, our mother tongue, but you can have an idea how our exploration happened.

What we liked about it:

  • It's free.
  • It runs on different devices and systems (Mac, Windows, IOS and Androids)
  • You have a whiteboard to write on.
  • You can share different files such as word, ppt, pdf, images and videos.
  • You can share your screen.
  • There is a chat box.
  • You can have 25 people using their webcams (I haven't tried the quality of the session with many participants).
  • It seems simple to use.
  • It's very easy to start an instant meeting by creating a room and sharing the link with another person provided you have already downloaded Fuze.

What we didn't like about it:

  • You can't record the meeting with the free version ( I used Quicktime on my Mac to record our meeting).
  • The files I shared didn't work so well on the Ipad. The only file Márcia could see was the image I shared. However, when I started another meeting on my Ipad, the video worked just fine.
  • You have to download the product before you join a meeting.

May 26, 2014

Sharing your digital production with Tackk

I love exploring tools which allow our students to share what they produce using English. This week, I noticed Tackk for the first time. This post has the objective to briefly explain how it works and also share some examples of tackk projects and assignments which I've come across.


Tackk allows you to publish photos, videos, audios, maps and forms. It's great for digital portfolios, assignments, promoting events, storytelling, book and film reports and so much more, all it's needed is your creativity. The site is free and it's DEVICE NEUTRAL, a term I learned from Lisa Johnson today. And what does that mean? It works on laptops, Ipads, and cell phones (IOS and androids), therefore it's perfect for BYOD. Students can create a tackk page without signing up, however, it is deleted after one week. If you wish to have your content saved, consider creating your free account.

To learn how it works, watch the tutorial below:

For references on how teachers have been using it, I suggest the reading of two blog posts and the TACKK education page:

As I believe we can learn a lot by checking examples, these are some I've collected:

Try scrolling the image above to see the rest of this tackk page.

  • This assignment was to answer the question "How would you increase the peace?"  Students added the tag #PeaceDay2013, this way all the pages created by them can be found on the same board.

Have you ever had your students use Tackk
If so, please use the comment area to share your project with us.

May 20, 2014

Text Genres and digital possibilities

Last week, I was invited to facilitate a 3-hour mini course to EFL teachers from public schools in Uberlândia, Brazil. The topic I selected to work with was "Text Genres in English: exploring digital possibilities".

I wanted it to be a course where teachers would explore different webtools themselves and then discuss about the possibilities.

My plan was to use a Google Docs page as the basis of our course. As the course would take place at a school lab, I imagined each teacher would have access to a computer and we would use the google docs first as a space for synchronous brainstorming ( Part 1), as a guide for the activities we would develop, as a library with the links to resources we would use, as a notebook where participants would also post and share whatever they produced during the course.

However, as usual, many things didn't go according to plan. The first problem we encountered was to get each teacher to be on one computer. Although the lab had several desktops, few of them were ready to be used, so teachers ended up having to share the same computer. Well, not a big problem, I thought, at least the internet was working.

As soon as we started, I provided them with  the link and started our brainstorm activity by proposing two questions:

I made the google docs public and after they discussed their ideas with a partner, they started typing their ideas synchronously. They were amazed with the fact that they could all type on the same document at the same time and were also able to see what others were typing. I could say this was a highlight that morning.

The text genres I had selected to work that day were: poetry, message, poster, e-mail, text message, storytelling and the news.

From that moment on, the hands-on mini course became more of a lecture, against my will.

The internet was very slow and at times inexistent. Fortunately, I had a plan B with all the activities on a powerpoint presentation, so instead of trying out the tasks, I explained what the tool allowed us to develop and showed some images with examples.

By the end of our course, participants got together and exchanged ideas about what tools they imagined using with their own students and what activities they could develop.

In spite of all the problems we faced, the opportunity to be in contact with these teachers and also learn from their realities was priceless. Right below, I bring a feedback message posted by one of the participants in Portuguese (our native language).

If you would like to see our google docs, click HERE. In June, we're having the second part of this mini course. 

May 16, 2014

New house remodeling for LIFE FEAST

Changing can be scary sometimes, but it can be refreshing too.

LIFE FEAST has just been remodeled with the help of the very talented Savannah and Jenny from

I wanted a template which reflected the way I am and the way I see things in life. 

What am I like? Well, the title of the blog can give anyone a hint. I value life, family, true friendship, I cherish moments such as being in the classroom with my students. I love flowers and delicate images. My personal and professional lives are forever entwined. I am simple with flaws and dreams. And above all, I love LEARNING and sharing.

Life Feast is my virtual home, the place where I share, in a simple language, the things I like about teaching, what I try or would like to try with my students and whatever touches my heart.

I started blogging in 2006 and little by little I found my voice as well as what I really wanted to share with others.

With the help of an interesting website called WAYBACK MACHINE I was able to trace back the different looks Life Feast has had over the years.


2008 (header created by my daughter Camila)



Now, we're back to a cleaner look with a delicate touch. Thanks, Camila, for discovering the great work developed by Maiedae. Hope all of you enjoy the new look. :)

May 12, 2014

App Fun Day: exploring 3 cross-platform apps

Friday afternoon, we had one more APP FUN DAY at Cultura Inglesa Uberlândia.

We are still focussing on apps which work OFFLINE and are available for both IOS and android devices, such as:

- Songify 

We had one hour to demonstrate the apps, try some possibilities, a hands-on activity and then pairs brainstormed other activities for their classrooms.

These are the activities we tried together:

Songify turns your recorded sentences into a songified version.

Challenges for using the SONGIFY:
- when recording you have to speak very close to the microphone.
- covers of devices can muffle the sound and spoil the recording.
- pronunciation has to be very clear to be understood.

Having said that, we tried recording sentences and isolated words.

With Instaquote you can create short texts with beautiful background and fonts. You can use default backgrounds or even your own photos.

First, I asked teachers to imagine ways of ending the sentence "Where there is love, .......", create an instaquote with their sentence, share with others and choose the best one.

Then, I asked them to try to guess the original quote, which was "Where there is love, there is life." by Mahatma Gandhi.

Buddypoke is a great app for children and young teens. It allows you to create customisable characters and create video recordings using your own voice.

For the background you can use default backgrounds provided by the app, grab pictures from your device or even use your camera.

After having played with the three apps, before saying goodbye each teacher was handed an EXIT TICKET where they contributed with more ideas to use the apps.

Their suggestions:

- Each student records a short sentence about their last weekend and the partner tries to guess what it is.
- Record 5 to 10 words and use the app to present a different dictation.
- Students leave the room to record a sentence, then the sentence which is more easily understood gets a prize.

- Write definition to find out words. For example: Sentences using relative clauses (which, where) / It's a place where we buy food (they can use pictures in the background)
- Students can prepare a gap fill sentence (using comparatives for example) and their friends have to fill in the blanks. As a round up, they can practise speaking and can elect the best or more creative background.

- Two students create a short dialogue (with two characters) about the subject they are studying and present the recording to the class.
- Students can use it to give funny orders and their classmates have to obey. For ex: go to the front of the class and start dancing samba.
- A student records directions using Buddypoke. The other student listens to the Buddypoke and follows the directions with the help of a map.

Some examples:

- A recording made by a student of mine where he reads two sentences in the First Conditional. 
Can you identify them?

This is a previous blog post where I explained the activity.


- two instaquotes created as a test by Ana Cláudia.


- This is an example of what can be done by adding images from the web to the background. In this case, it's used to describe a bedroom.

May 9, 2014

Storytelling with Adobe Voice

I've just learned from the amazing blog about an interesting IOS app called ADOBE VOICE which allows us to create video stories.

I just love storytelling and I was thinking of what story I would tell to try this out. The other day I was talking with a group of students of mine, some teenagers, about this love and hate chemistry. I was saying that sometimes feelings change and I mentioned that I knew that from experience.

I caught their attention straight away. They all wanted to know about my love/hate story. I've been postponing this storytelling, but they don't seem to forget that, LOL. This week, we've been focussing on narrative tenses, trying to improve our storytelling by using different verb tense combinations. This is a video grammar class about the topic

Well, back to my ADOBE VOICE trial. I thought to myself, why not use the opportunity to tell my story and see if they can notice the verb combinations we worked with last class?

Last class, apart from doing grammar exercises with Simple Past, Past Continuous, Past Perfect and Past Perfect Continuous, I asked students to choose a story to tell: a funny story, an accident, a surprising story or meeting a famous person. They had 4 minutes to choose one of the topics and write notes which would help them tell their true story to a classmate. After pairs of students told their stories, I asked them to send me their stories via Edmodo.

Next class, I'm going to start with notes I've written down about "Our love ? story" 

Can you guess my story? After students try to predict the story, I'll play the following video which I've created using ADOBE VOICE.


A friend of mine, Lívia Fernandes and her very creative boyfriend, Matheus Pinheiro, created and Adobe video with their adaptation of the story "The secret of the king". I had to share it with you, it's really worth listening.

How can we use ADOBE VOICE?

This is a tutorial showing step by step how to create your own stories. The app is FREE and very intuitive.

May 6, 2014

Humanizing the Oral Assessment moment

Do you have to assess your students' oral performance in English? Do some of your students feel anxious and end up speaking less than they normally do in a normal class? Do you, teacher, feel exhausted after a whole class assessing pairs of students? If you can relate to some of these questions, this post might interest you.

The objective of this post is to share my experience in trying to make the oral assessment moment a less threatening one, where my students can speak to each other while I observe how they have been using the English language.

In 2012, I had the great pleasure to study about Evaluation at UFU (Universidade Federal de Uberlândia, in Brazil). I learned a lot and one of our first topics was about the difference between ASSESSMENT and EVALUATION. I had always understood an assessment as an ongoing process which involves observing not only the 10 minutes a pair communicates in front of a teacher for marking purposes, but specially the overall performance observed during the classes. 

So, what is the difference?

Table from online document

While reading several books and participating in discussions, an important point I had failed to observe was the objective of an Oral Assessment. If an Oral Assessment in the middle of the semester is supposed to be formative, its goal should be to diagnose areas for improvement. I asked myself: Have the Oral Assessment interviews I've been conducting with my students for years and years been diagnostic or judgmental? 

Due to my dissatisfaction with the way I had been assessing, or better, evaluating my students, as a final project for the Evaluation Class I had been taking at University, I decided to try something different.

Considering that we can continuously assess our students orally during our classes, the oral assessment moment would be one more opportunity for focussing on the speaking skill, therefore, there would be no need to check every little word each student spoke.

My proposal:

Tell students about the oral assessment moment which will take place the following class and explain that they will be doing the same kind of activities they normally do in class. Show the rubrics to students:

By explaining the rubrics to students, they could understand that my focus was not to write down every little mistake they make, but how well they can communicate with others. I also asked them why the item INTERACTION had a different mark (1-2-3-4) from the other items. They promptly answered "Because it's more important". 

I told them their marks (yes, for the school record there has to be a mark) would be a combination of 3 observations: my impressions, their own impressions and their peers' impressions.

The idea is to use 40 minutes of a normal class ( we have two  80 minute classes a week) for the oral activities during which pairs or groups of students will be engaged in communicating while the teacher can move around the room observing and taking notes of their oral performance individually on the following marking sheet. 

Before the activity, organize the desks into 4 groups at different corners of the room ( I normally have a maximum of 16 students). So with bigger groups, I might have groups of 4 and in smaller groups, trios or pairs. On each corner of the room, there's a communicative activity they have to carry out for the period of 5 to 7 minutes. To set the time limit, I normally use , then when the time is over a song is played and students move to the next station and a different activity, like a "carrousel".

This is a video I made of a group of students during the Oral Assessment moment. 
Do they seem nervous?

After all the groups have covered the 4 stations or the 4 different activities, show the rubrics to the students again and ask them to write their impressions about their own performance and the performance of their partners (5 to 10 minutes). This is the form (in Portuguese ) that we used.

-The teacher shows the rubrics again reminding them they have been evaluated in 50 points. The total mark involves the mark given by the teacher, the students and their peers.
- Ask for suggestions for how students can improve their oral performance in each of the items observed (Grammar, Vocabulary, Pronunciation and Interaction).
- Cut out the squares from the form used by the teacher during the oral assessment and hand to individual students. Ask students to observe the aspects they did well and the points they need to improve.
- Ask the whole group about the major difficulties they faced and what kind of activities they can do to improve their English.

What comments did I get from students?

"I didn't feel nervous!"
"Wow, I've never talked so much!" 
"This is much better!"
" I don't want to do the other type of oral assessment anymore!" 

Points to consider:

-You might question "If the objective is to have an ongoing assessment, why have an oral assessment moment?" Well, for the simple reason that, teachers at our school find it hard to abolish an evaluation moment. Another reason is to have a moment to pause and reflect with students about their progress.

-I don't know if this "Carrousel" dynamics would be appropriate for all levels and all the groups. I've piloted the idea with Lower Intermediate and Upper Intermediate students and have been thrilled with the results.