A few shout outs and a woof

Before the semester comes to a crashing halt, and we all go off to hibernate for a while, I wanted to get out at least one more post here on LLU to thank  the people whose incredible work with technology has made my job as a language teacher so much fun this past semester.  I want to share their work with you, tell you how wonderful it is, but also give you links as to how you too can take, adopt, play and create with these tools as well. Enjoy!

#1:  To my colleague Justin, the class blogging tool he has created:

Justin created a class blog package using WordPress and several custom made plug ins in response to my many years of teaching with blogs, and my desire to keep tweeking the tools to best suit the learning outcomes of my class.


Justin explains on the project page for our center:  “Our class blogs package consists of a group of plugins, packaged as an easy-to-use single MU plugin, that provides features that are commonly used by classes, such as word counting, automatic approval of student comments, an auto-updating YouTube class playlist and, most importantly, aggregation of student posts, comments and tags.”

What I really love about it is the newspaper-like feel to the central mother blog, and how all of the participants’ posts show up together on the front page. (Each student has his or her own blog.. but this front page aggregates everything here)  The only  shifting that happens is that the most recent post lands in the upper left hand corner of the front page. The other posts get pushed to the right and down (but they do not disappear).

Also, if you look closely at the “header” for each of the columns you will see some numbers:

The blog counts not only the number of posts that each student has contributed (via his or her own blog) but also the number of comments s/he has made on other people’s blogs within the class. Since blogging is about creating community and sharing, their comments (at least in my class) are as important as their posts.

Also, despite what that Digital Native-Digital Immigrant balderdash you might have been led to believe, the students I teach  don’t take to technology willingly and fearlessly.  So the bloghas a way to allow students to assume another name should they not wish to be known by their own out there in the big ole blogosphere.  Like so:

(look at the number of comments vs the number of posts…whoa)

Okay so the best news evah? You can have the blog package for your very own:  Yep.  Download it and use it…for free.  Click here to find out more.

All I ask is that you acknowledge Justin’s hard work when you use  it (i.e. don’t claim it to be your own)  AND that you tell us how you are using it.  I would love, love,  love  to create a community of teachers and classes (language and otherwise!) that are using this tool so we could share our ideas and our experiences.  Interested? I hope so.

#2: To Todd Bryant  and his amazing tool The Mixxer:

The  Mixxer has, every semester, taken the messiness and the headache out of finding language exchange partners for my students in Spanish, not to mention more than several dozen people willing to drop everything on a Friday morning just to chat with my students in Spanish on Skype.

The community here is wonderful, and Todd does a great job of keeping the site current and free from sketchy folks. He is always willing to help the language teacher create contacts and connections as well as meetups for classes.  The site has a blogging tool as well.  I understand that there will be updates made to the site very soon, so stay tuned.

Bravo to Todd and this site.  The Mixxer has created more friendships between my students and “strangers” than I can count, and provides language learners with a flexible way to keep practicing the languages they are studying even after the semester is over.

#3 To the Cog Dog (Alan Levine) and his site Five Card Flickr

I just love this site.  Five Card Flickr allows the user to create a visual story using random  images that the class can choose  (pics come from individual’s Flickr collections  and have been tagged “5cardflickr”).  The site then allows the user to give the story a title and perhaps some text to go along with it.

CogDog was kind enough to allow my class to have its very own 5 Card Flickr page, so when they tagged their Flickr photos as “Hisp205” they showed up here.

Don’t despair.  You can use the 5 card Flickr site as is for your class, or you can  access the source code here. Either way, you need to praise Alan to the heavens and be sure to credit him for his amazing work.  If you have a blog, blog about it.  Share the love. woof.

#4 Finally: where would I be without Voicethread. ?

I love this tool.  I love the fact that students can create content together, share ideas, comment on each others comments, draw…all of it.  For my final “exam” this semester, my students are taking screen shots of what they consider to be significant learning moments that happened on their class blogs (be it a post, a comment, whatever) and making a Voicethread narration (in Spanish) of those moments.  (note: using 5 card flickr to help them warm up to this task was awesome).

I also love the fact that my having an educators license for the tool, we easily encourage other faculty to come and use it too.  Thanks to Voicethread, those “make a movie of yourself speaking an email it to me” nightmares are over.  Now it is:  make a Voicethread and share it with others, and then respond to their comments.  Everybody participates, everybody learns.

Have a tool you would like to share? Please add it to our comment stream.

Wishing each of you a restful and rejuvenating end of the year break!

Series Navigation<< Our WordPress Class Blogging Tool: Now Yours TooMid semester evaluation: Do it. >>

Barbara is a Lecturer in Hispanic Studies at a small liberal arts college in Maine. Rumor has it this was also her alma mater. She used to work for a small liberal arts college in the cornfields of Ohio for almost 20 years as a teacher and language center director. Prior to these adventures in higher ed she taught high school Spanish and loved it. She wishes she had more time in her life to play with her dogs, write, read, swim, do yoga things and making stuff out of clay. To see her online portfolio please click here!


  1. Pilar Munday · December 14, 2011

    Hi Barbara,

    Thanks so much for sharing your ideas. I wish so much I also had a blog aggregator, but that’s beyond my knowledge completely. I may ask someone in our school to see if they could help me with it. (They are so lucky in your college to have such a wonderful lab!)

    In any case, I have been using a new tool in some of my classes and It’s working really well. It is http://gosoapbox.com/ – I’m actually not using completely as it is intended for (mainly for big classes, so students can post anonymous questions and tell their professor they don’t understand something).

    Here’s an example of how I’ve used it in a first year course: http://gosoapbox.com/event/237716735

    If I ever get a minute, I should write about this tool. The students love it. I asked about it, and this is what they said: http://gosoapbox.com/question/31717279190197

    Thanks again for your wonderful examples. You are such an inspiration.

  2. triplingual · December 16, 2011

    Credit where credit is due. So important!

  3. PechaFlickr for language classes | Language Lab Unleashed · March 24, 2014

    […] by Alan Levine (the same man who brought us 5 card flickr …I blogged about that fun tool here). […]

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