Lifelong Learning

innovative technology + self-sustainability


If you have just started using MS Teams, you’ll see that you can easily create a “Team” for your online class.

Whether you are working freelance (with just a handful of different groups) or as part of a larger institution setting up multiple Teams for large groups of students, it’s worth thinking about the names you are going to use for these teams. Devising and agreeing on a system at the start, can add cohesion to shared courses and help with keeping things organized.


Labelling your team

At our university we have course programs codes for each degree course e.g. CP for Lingue, Letters Culture Comparate.  So a second year group might be 2nd year CP or CP II. We also break groups up into separate surnames e.g. surnames A to D are in one group, E to M in another and so on.

Given that menu bars often abbreviate names and add ellipses, stick with short names and put key information eg. 1 or 2 at the front 2nd CP (A-D) rather than English Year II CP for group A to D.

You can also choose an icon (called class avatar) which will show on your All teams dashboard.

Label your team

What labelling have you found works best?

What advice would you give other members of staff?

What avatars have you used?



Code or link?

When setting up MS Teams, there are two ways of getting students into their team. You can choose to send a link or share the code that is generated.

We chose to share CODES. This can be done by going to the Manage Team > Settings tab and then clicking the small arrow to expand the Team code section on the menu you see in the screenshot here.

Generate code

This means our students are provided the code (by institutional administrators) are are added as member of our team with their existing role ie. student role.

Whereas sharing the link to your team provides direct access which allows guest users to join the team meet up. Direct link access does not take into account the existing role of the user.

Get link to teams

Codes can be reset or deleted. Note: Guests won’t be able to join with a team code.

Which onboarding system provides smoothest access for your teaching scenario?

Multiple Browsers

As I embark on my new teaching adventure on MS Teams, I’ve decided to share my discoveries on my blog here.

When my university provided me with access to MS Office suite through my university institutional account, I realized that I would either need to log out of my other MS Office accounts used for auditing with two other bodies or have a separate browser for this new university access.

While logging in and out via ONE app is feasible, it can be cumbersome.

As a Mac user, I found Safari doesn’t always run so smoothly with Microsoft tools so I’ve now installed Firefox.

Browser icons

Which browser do you find works best?

How many browsers do you have open at the same time?

Moving on …

As many of you already know, the past year has been a very tough one. Oliver Gould (our systems architect) and I (Learning Manager) have held the English360 fort which meant taking on extra responsibility without being in full control of invoicing and finances. Out of friendship and trust, for the past 12 months I have stood by Cleve Miller (CEO) during his illness to ensure platform stability and business as usual for all clients using our services. I am no longer able to sustain this salary-free support so as of tomorrow 1st November 2018, I will no longer be the English360 go-to person.
As the heart and soul of English360, it’s been both a brilliant and extremely challenging decade. It’s been wonderful interacting and bouncing ideas around with very special educators from all corners of the world. A special thanks to all the wonderful clients that made every day so unique. My momentous gratitude goes to all the illuminating colleagues I have been lucky to work with over the past nine years: thank you  Nergiz Kern, Nick Robinson, Jeremy Day, Alison Ramsey, Brian Anderson and Frances Amrani (to name just a few in this short space) thank you for your inspiration and professional contribution. My full appreciation to all the contributing authors who dedicated their time and energy to the concept. Let me take this opportunity to acknowledge that English360 let you down and the business model did not provide sustainable income for those committed to increasing the online resource bank. Interestingly the easier the online tools became, the more clients based their courses on their own user generated content rather than the pool provided. Lots of lessons learnt there. Loads of reflection and notes to write up as critical analysis to help feed the industry forward into the next generation of online sharing.
What at first seemed devastatingly like the end of an era to me, has fast become the beginning of a new epoch!
With my zero-mile philosophy on life, it was natural to focus on local first so recently I got involved in some very cool blended teacher education projects for the Ministry of Education. I have also been whirl-winded into teaching on pre-school and primary school European funded courses sprinkling me with new energizing joy and that extra-ordinary buoyancy that young learners are naturally oozing with. I am now going to spend the rest of the autumn designing personalized online training programs for the hospitality industry here in Italy and then want to explore new channels to promote more sustainable and ethical educational projects. So although tomorrow vale@english360 will no longer be online for e360 projects, I will still be blending courses, life and Italian coffee…

Grab that screen – showcase part 2

In this two-part showcase series that follows on from the part 1 screenshot showcase, I want to turn my attention to screencasts (short videos of screens with  voice added) to share ideas on how these can introduce or recycle language, point learners in new directions or send personalized feedback.

Khan Academy Screen 4

This screencast comes from the  Past tense section of the Khan Academic Grammar course (part of their Arts & Humanities “Free. For everyone. Forever” online courses).

Khan Academy Grammar Course – Past tense

Khan Academy – Flipped classroom grammar input

This screencast was designed by the Khan Academy for students to access on their own – as self-study material. It can also be used for blended or flipped courses, where learners view the grammar video prior to a lesson as input or following a lesson to help review tricky language or simply as part of guided homework for learners that need to catch up on a specific grammar point.

The blackboard style design of the screen represents the traditional teacher explanation of a specific grammar point but the delivery via YouTube or another online video sharing platform cuts out the repetition needed to explain the same grammar point across multiple groups while also providing students with a pause button to allow them to pace their own learning. The rewind feature of online video watching can increase autonomy, review  and support learners are not able to make it to a face to face class perhaps because of trip or illness.

Possible follow-up tasks:

  • Sort words by their past ending and pronounce the endings
  • Use verbs to talk about recent past actions
  • Write and then record a story using 5 of the verbs.

Fast track: find ready-made screencasts on language points you need to cover from YouTube or other video sharing sites e.g Vimeo.

Added value: watching videos independently can help learners take more responsibility for their learning, it can provide additional opportunities to review key language and most importantly it can free up face to face classes for speaking practice rather than language input and teacher talk time! Teachers can also invest in creating a bank of videos and offer these to learners as part of their course package. The time invested often pays off, as learners experience added value and teachers can organize other lessons with other cohorts and perhaps increase the number of learners (clients) they reach.

Instructions Screen 5

This video screencast was created to provide clearer instructions for a mini homework task based on the British Council  Learn English Film UK website.

Learners were provided with a URL to the screencast (either via email, their usual LMS or whatsapp), they watch the screencast and then do their homework.

Possible follow-up tasks:

  • Preparing a presentation on the film selected to share with classmates
  • Recording a mini screencast about things learnt from the film selected
  • Talking about the films in class and comparing or expanding on the topics

Value added: the screencast ensures all learners know what to do for homework. How many times have you had a learner come to class saying they couldn’t find the site or didn’t know where to click or forgot what they were supposed to do?  This gives a very quick explanation and this type of tutorial can save a 1000 words!

Tutor feedback screen 6

This idea comes from the guru of screen casting, Russell Standard who inspires and instructs thousands of educators via his Teacher Training Videos   – check out this one-stop for all things related to screenshots and screen casting. You won’t be disappointed!

In this video Russell shows how he delivers feedback on written assignments without demotivating trainees with over reliance of red pen corrections!

Possible follow-up tasks:

  • learners share their feedback with other learners to show they understand their mistakes
  • learners re-write their assignment and re-submit it to their tutor
  • learners create their own screencast with comments on their assignment or changes made to their work

Added value: although there is some investment in time to get organized and set up with providing feedback in this way, it can actually save time. Often when teachers or tutors give back written assignments, learners might not understand all the corrections and may want to go over them. That personal attention in a face to face class can detract time from the lesson. Personalized screencast feedback provide learners with individual direction, it shows learners that the teacher / tutor really cares, it captures a “forever” moment of their learning, celebrating learner mistakes as a way to value their learning progress by illustrating that “things to think about” nature in their path to further development.


Grab that screen – showcase part 1

In this two-part showcase series that follows on from my screencast survey results post, I want to share some screens to showcase screen grab and screencast usage for a range of learning scenarios, activities and delivery modes.

I presented these during the IH Barcelona ELT conference  on 10th February 2018 and workshop participants completed the PDF of worksheet table so I hope this post can serve as a summary to my session and a springboard for other educators to get inspired. None of the ideas are meant to be prescriptive, just a way of displaying and discussing screens that have added learning opportunities for my students.

 Fun whatsapp screen 1

This screen was used with young adults General English and a teenagers group during class to review direct / indirect speech and the language of conditionals and spark a discussion on ethical shopping.

Possible follow-up tasks:

  • Teacher provides hypothetical situations to spark discussions  – What would you have said? How would you react if a family member / friend left you at the shopping center? Have you ever forgotten someone/something somewhere?
  • Learners talk about ethical lifestyle choices – Do you go shopping by car?  How can you make shopping more eco-friendly?
  • Class discuss Whatsapp texting  – How does this differ to texting with friends? What are the dangers of texting and driving?
  • Pairs of students scroll back over a personal Whatsapp or SMS message that they feel comfortable sharing. In pairs, they  translate two or three exchanges (with or without showing their phone screens to another student).

Screen created by me and my daughter inspired by the and the Walmart Mom Jokes.

Mum you left me at the shop!!!!!

Tip: if possible, reveal sentence by sentence to create suspense, ask concept questions, who is typing? where is she? what do you think she’ll say next?

Other possible options might be to role play by adding adverbs and special intonation to convey emotions such as surprise / disappointment / frustration e.g. “Where are you”, Sophie asked worryingly? Mum I came with you she shouted angrily!

Fastrack alternative: If you are pushed for time and can’t create your own,  Google “Mom jokes”, choose appropriate  screen and display from web.

Added value: adding humour and fun creates a non-threatening learning environment, using Whatsapp screen brings real-world feature into lessons that can be more engaging than a course book page, the personalization of the screen can lead to sharing more about teachers/learners lives and be based on local contexts rather than Walmart!

Business Email screen 2

Email task uploaded to English360 learning management system

This custom-written email was added to a short answer activity for a blended Business course on the English360 learning management platform. This screen provides learners with a real-world email writing task based on their own workplace scenario ie. email exchanges related to planning a branch visit for a real client..

This type of custom screen can bring the “third person” in the learning triangle (learner – teacher  – person learner speaks to in L2) into the physical or virtual classroom. The majority of students will be attending language lessons to improve communication and for most in-company learners, they will already be interacting in L2 with real people on a daily basis. Find out as much about those foreign colleagues or worldwide business partners as you can and use references to them in your material design for added motivation and customization.


Make homework or writing tasks more personal

Possible follow-up tasks:

  • Learners continue the email chain by imagining how the client would reply to the reply.
  • Teacher creates further language tasks around learner errors that crop up during this writing task e.g. copying and pasting sentences from the learners’ actual email replies is fast. Use a  gap-fill or fill in the blank activity to help students focus on specific language points e.g. their use of prepositions without saying student X got this wrong, student Y made this mistake. Add tasks to reformulate language they produced.
  • Teacher create a matching sentence halves activity to review language work related to email writing based on emails they have written or shared with you (see below).

Tip: add references to local places or to places from your clients’ foreign partners. Personalize tasks with local branches and sites not just names of people. You can customize names too!

Fastrack alternatives: Agree with the HR managers at the companies you are working for that accessing company documents, brochures and correspondence will make the course more engaging and specific to their needs. Sign an NDA.  Ask students to send you emails they receive. Screenshot and add blur tool to hide private information if necessary. Only upload company material if your LMS is password-protected.

Added value: individualized practice  with familiar names,  emails addressed to real people,  phone conversations role plays created around current business colleagues, can add an extra sense of personalization, direction and workplace relevance.  An email task from a business book might not always seem important and it is common for busy business learners to skip doing homework. If the email task is part of, or based on, their normal workflow, the chances of completion increase and ensure their learning path includes that “third person” concept (a concept shared by Jeremy Day in his writings on digital materials and presentations on course design for ESP – English through.. or English for.. .

Espresso screen 3

Many industries have jargon terminology that learners need to be familiar with saying, spelling and adding to descriptions, sales pitches, explanations and user manuals. Screencast software allows you to add arrows, numbers or text to teach or review specific vocabulary.

Jargon buster screens

This activity was created by taking a photo of a coffee machine and annotating it using Skitch (freeware for Mac /app for iPhones).

Possible follow-up tasks:

  • Learners explain how to assembling, dismount, clean, substitute key pieces
  • Teacher provides verbs and learners match to functionality e.g. check the pressure gauge, fasten the tip of the steam wand)
  • Learners describe the process of handling the parts (first you…, then … next…) or passive description of functionality
  • Learners role play technical maintenance scenario using modals to speculate on causes of malfunctioning machine
  • Learners draw up a sales pitch highlighting machine’s USP/ special features for an upcoming trade fair

Fastrack alternatives: as above, get company permission to use website material, catalogues, user manuals so you don’t need to take photos. Ask students to take photos of machine components, aspects of their life, workplace processes and provide you with the photos. You can even ask students to annotate.

Tip: ensure they use Text tool rather than free handwriting on mobile or tablets as the final screen will  look far more professional.

Value added: all English is for specific purposes because all our learners have a specific purpose for learning the language. Tapping into that purpose can increase engagement and commitment. It shows you care about their interests.

To create these screens I used freely available software: Jing Project and Skitch.

Interested in screen casting – see Part 2 of this showcase!

Grab that screen survey results

First of all, I would like to thank all those who took part in my survey on screenshots and screen casting.

Here are some observations relating to the results.

There were 45 respondents. Over 80% know how to create a screenshot using their smartphones and approximately the same amount share screenshots with others. The percentage falls considerably when we add voice tools i.e. to create a screencast rather than a static screen. Only 60% have tried creating a screencast.

Q9 Survery results

A similar percentage of respondents save their screenshots in organized folders.

I feel this is the most significant aspect of the survey results and clearly indicates the need to

  1. get more familiar with the options that are available
  2. think about output ie. the final objective of where static or dynamic screens will be saved before embarking on student projects
  3. set up storage and retrieval solutions that can support both the educator and learners for faster and more efficient.

My suggestion is thinking about this before getting going with any screenshot or screencast uses with learners. Different tools offer different options. Some of the freeware solutions, such as Jing Project (for PC or Mac) or Skitch (for Mac / iPhone users) allow you to save to your hard drive or directly to Facebook, Twitter, Youtube or your FTP account.

Freeware Jing Project save options

If you are familiar with Dropbox, then you may want to buy a professional solution such as SnagIt that allows for multiple output locations including Dropbox and Drive.

Use professional software such as SnagIt to enjoy more flexibility of output options.

A range of uses were shared by respondents, these can be broadly categorized under the following points:

  • To exchange / personal things
  • To support part of an assignment
  • To confirm completion or submission of work (ie. as a back up or to review difficulties)
  • To highlight samples of target language when using the internet

One respondent also mentioned using screen capturing tools to share tasks / units via twitter with a screenshot attachment that captures the students’ answer or challenging language which might require further clarification.

In my next post, I’ll share some samples and showcase screens to provide practical illustrations and outline how to set up screensharing activities with students and in part 3, I’ll cover some issues we need to consider when using these tools with or for our learners.

Choose your preferred output location before creating your screen!



It’s week four of our EVO course.

This week we invite you

– to watch the session videos about ethical and sustainable businesses





During your business English teaching what kind businesses or business people are represented?

Look back over material you’ve used or material your students have discussed during your lessons recently and think about whether the businesses could be described as ethical / sustainable / future-fit?

If you are new to BE, think about one example of an ethical and sustainable business you could bring to the classroom and how?


If you are not participating in the EVO, please feel free to add your comments here or get in touch with the coordinator via the Nellie Deutsche’s Moodle.

Future fit?

2018 is going to be all about ethical business concepts so why not join us for 5 weeks during the EVO sessions to share what you know and interact with other educators around the globe?

Not sure what EVO is? Too shy to ask? Click on the question to see the answer!

What is EVO?

What is EVO’s missing? 

What sessions are being offered for 2018?

What will the “English for a better world” sessions be about?

How should I enrol?

Join us for 5 fabulous weeks. I’ll be running week 4 on Sustainability and global issues in Business.

Week 4 sessions will aim to allow participants to:

  • get more acquainted with future-fit and ethical businesses concepts
  • watch videos on how companies are becoming future-fit and committed to sustainable business
  • reflect on local businesses and their contribution to the community
  • discuss how focusing on these types of business models is appropriate for their own BE training contexts
  • choose from local businesses or a list of sustainable brands/companies to create a short lesson activity relevant to their local context and business students
  • collaboratively draw up a Business English for a better world “seal of approval”  list of “better world” companies / brands/ projects to help other educators looking for sustainable businesses/ ethical projects and models for their own classroom use (ongoing)

The other moderators I’ll be working with are

Helen Waldron

Michelle Hunter

Ben Dobbs


Julie Kacmaz-Pratten

Looking forward to collaborating with you soon!

BESIG comfort zones

Following the re-opening of the call for IATEFL BESIG Coordinator nomination, I feel it’s important to write my story and add some names and insight to all these recent comments.

Let me try to shed some light on what seems to have become very murky waters so we can promote transparency and focus on the humans in the picture. Let me focus on why Julie and I care, why we care so much to still be thinking and reflecting about this 3 months after submitting our original nominations.

So, let’s start at the beginning. Both Julie Pratten (aka Julie Kacmaz) and myself submitted our nominations in May with an extra joint-coordinator note. Having met via BESIG (at the SITGES conference) and stayed in touch through mutual and professional respect and interest, we both felt it would be a super opportunity to collaborate rather than compete for the role. We therefore submitted our nominations as joint-coordinators.
My nomination form was signed by Evan Frendo and Claire Hart – both long-time BESIG members and past committee activitists.
Julie’s by Shanthi Streat and Sue Annan – both part of the BESIG BOT team.
Julie and me are living proof of how BESIG links, develops and support professionals” (quoting from my personal statement submitted with my nominationt).
We understood that BESIG were looking for enthusiastic volunteers with a background of commitment and responsibilities. We reviewed the requirements carefully. We checked membership, we reflected on possible conflicts of interest (we are both involved in other SIGs – me the LTech, Julie the GISIG), we both hold down other jobs and have busy lives as well as juggling a variety of volunteer projects in various communities in different corners of the world, however, together we knew we’d be able to support each other and bridge gaps or any unforeseens. Here are our BIOs (ValeJulie).
As many of you know, I’ve been involved in BESIG for over a decade. I was one of the first to promote the Online Webinar concept in its infancy in 2013.
Many of you will also know me with another hat on as I work with Cleve Miller – brainchild of the English360 platform – winner of David Riley award in 2010) although for all things IATEFL, I’ve always strived to be just me, Valentina Dodge, business English trainer, teacher, teacher trainer, materials writer, online course designer etc. I’ve always presented at conferences as an independent educator – speaking from personal experience to share concepts gained from being in boardrooms or Adobe rooms.  Sure, there have been years where the two “Valentinas” have overlapped. English360 has always been a keen sponsor of many BESIG events, connected and promoting the SIG, the values, the network and supporting the great people involved, supporting it financially, promoting it with our clients. Life is not always water tight compartments, nor can or should it be. If we have shared values and ethical professional attitudes, there’s no room for doubt about where our hearts lie.
In the past few years there have been other negative things that life throws at us. So due to family and health issues, I wasn’t able to volunteer for other BESIG roles, but this year, now, seemed like a perfect moment to volunteer my skills, my vibrancy and shared interest with Julie to help from the inside, to put back a little of what we have both got so much out of. To work together to carry on the superb path of those before us and collaborate with existing committee members and reach out to new members to move the SIG onwards, forwards along that very path as well as new ones, towards new adventures.
It seemed like the perfect time to join hands with Julie – a wonderful woman doing remarkable things –  to share this responsibility. To move out of my own comfort zone in the front row at the BESIG annual forum, or roving PCE reporter or feedback provider.
Why wasn’t that possible?
From a dates perspective, the the long and short of it is that my own individual membership to BESIG doesn’t fit the minimum three consecutive yearrequirements. One of the years under the institutional membership taken out by English360 lapsed in 2015. Basically, individually I did NOT fit the requirements.
NB #1
an IATEFL institutional membership covers a number of staff for SIG affiliation or conference attendance so it has not always been financially possible or logical to pay twice. So yes sometimes I was Valentina part of the English360 team and sometimes it’s been just Valentina running her own business courses paying her own conferences or SIG membership. BTW, by institutional I mean, me and Cleve plus extra editorial team members when projects arise and of course our platform architect. English360 is not a huge multinational organization. English360 is small – Cleve was way ahead of his times when he launched this blended idea in 2007. We are publisher agnostic and became fully independent many years ago – see our 2011 blog post here for more details. We are bottom-up. We are people-focused. We believe in localization, customization, keeping people in the technology picture. No where can I see in any guidelines, that IATEFL excludes institutional members who are educators in their own right from applying for volunteer positions. Please correct me if I’m wrong.
NB #2
there was no mention of the three year consecutive requirement
here’s the screenshot of the original call in case you missed it:
Inline image 1
so like many, I was very surprised that our joint nomination was turned down.
Actually, I was incredibly disappointed that our joint nomination was not seen as more suitable than an individual nomination. Together we have more than all these bullets (no pun intended, no gun in hand!)
neither of us received any communication from HO or BESIG committee that there were any other issues holding back our nomination.
On the contrary, the latest communication from Julia Waldner is very clear

Julie, there’s no need to re-apply obviously as we have your application from last time.
Can I just ask whether you will be standing alone or whether you, Valentina, want to change your mind about withdrawing your application so that you can apply to be Joint coordinators?
Pls advise,

I was baffled. I had been invited to apply. I am still baffled.
I was hurt. I had been encouraged to apply. The hurt is gone, the bewilderment is still there.
I was puzzled. I had received numerous support message from both committee and non-committed BESIG members during the whole process. I am still puzzled.
I am dissatisfied by the way HO and the BESIG committee have handled this over the past three months – yes, three months. The timeframe has been a strain (I presume for the out-going coordinator too). The communication has been cold. The outcome has been negative. As a business trainer, this doesn’t reflect any of the global communication I am fortunate to see or support in my daily workplace.
I can handle negative but I always need to question it. For analytical purposes, for personal development, for growth.
One of the reasons why I was so proud to be applying as a joint coordinator is actually Julie Pratten-Kacmaz herself – as person she is one of the most positive people I’ve met in a long time.
I’m always looking for creative solutions to hurdles, new ways to solve things from a different perspectives. So when I realized that the gap in membership and the three-year consecutive issue was due to my lapsed membership, I understood immediately that this was holding Julie’s sole nomination back. Therefore, I emailed the committee and head office to offer my immediate withdrawal. I’m fine with working behind the scenes without the official “title”, I guaranteed Julie my full support and time (ghost coordinator was our whatsapp term). Hey guys, we are not doing this for our CVs or jobs 🙂 Without my nomination, the process is fairly easy and clearly stated in the guidelines, no voting needed. Julie was sole nomination received. Julie fits the membership requirements that HO took weeks to check and double check.
However, in the interest of democracy and our enthusiasm to offer two-for-one, we asked for this to be put to a vote.
The vote is simple:
  • Julie Pratten (individual nomination – meets all the requirements)
  • Julie Pratten and Valentina Dodge (joint nomination – together meet and possibly exceed all the “membership” requirements)
With the re-opening of the call, the voting idea got taken to a new step.
Julia Waldner’s email above clearly shows there’s something intrinsically wrong here.
I am deeply disappointed that the professional association I have for so long belonged to has acted undemocratically.
I ask myself, are we talking people here or are we talking dates?
And if we are still talking dates – not people – why is the re-opening dated 1st April not 1st August as this was edited at end of July specifically for the re-opening?
You don’t need to be in online publishing to understand it should say:
Original event dates: 01 April – 15th May 2017
New opening published: 01 August 2017 with following edits in blue – > e.g. consecutive years, do not apply if you are a member of an institutional account etc..
If we are talking people, why did neither of us receive any acknowledgment, gratitude for applying and/or message / observations on our commitment and skills as PEOPLE??
Have I missed something here or has BESIG missed something here?
And as a closing remark, let me publicly thank all the BESIG and non BESIG members in my PLN who have reached out and offered their full support and views in private.
A huge thanks to Julie for all her brilliant upbeat attitude and great professional and personal touch over the past three months.
That has meant more than becoming joint coordinator in itself.
The whole process has been a real eye-opener…
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