3 Tools to Explore This May


In this post, I wanted to share some of the tools I made a shortlist of during May with a brief description and ideas for implementing in my teaching.


1. Spellup: This was introduced on May 13th as a new word game and Chrome experiment. I first tried it on my iPhone and I had to type instead of spell and some letters were behind some icons inaccessible. When I tried it on my laptop with Chrome, it worked best as it was described (also on Android and tablets.)

Ideas: I’m planning to first demonstrate it in class. After some time, I might devote one lesson for a spellup competition. I’ll use 3-4 laptops, placed in front of the class, with groups of three students. I’ll have to plug in and out the sound cable whenever it’s a groups turn. Each time one person from the group will come to the front and use their laptop to compete.

I’m not planning to use this game in class for individual work or for early finishers. Instead, I will recommend students to play this game outside the class.

quill_logo2. Quill: This is another tool I heard of in May. I think it’s not about writing skills but more to do with practicing grammar through typing. At first, I got excited presuming that I could upload students’ long writing assignments and get them correct their mistakes and get feedback. In reality, there are some Quill worksheets that you can assign to your students. Yet, this is extremely useful, because you can monitor students progress from your dashboard. You give your students a code so that they do not need to sign up.

Ideas: I think I will use quill for homework. Students can do these worksheets on their own and I can monitor their progress. In fact, I assigned them some worksheets to be finished in two days time about subject-verb agreement, which is a common problem amongst my students.


3. Chalkup: This is a nice tool to create and assign written tasks; check students’ papers and give them feedback and numerical grades. This is similar to Edmodo, which I personally don’t feel the need to use since we can assign written tasks and run them through turn-it-in using Moodle, which is more than enough. What really attracted me about this tool is the integration with Google Drive. We use Gmail at school so all teachers and students have easy access to Drive all the time. Plus, the annotator for feedback is something that Moodle lacks.

Ideas: I am planning to use chalkup for setting regular short writing tasks for my students.

Update for Chalkup: When I tried to sign up, I was asked to choose my school. There’s an “international” option but my school name was not listed. Send them an email and be patient, because the next day it’ll be there.


Scheduling emails to be sent later


Recently, I had a situation where I needed to attend to some official paper work the appointment of which was at the time I was teaching. I couldn’t estimate how long it would take so I was not sure whether to postpone the lesson, or ask my teaching partner to take over, or simply give them a task and return to class as soon as I am done. Since I thought it would not take long and maybe after the first lesson I could continue with teaching, I decided to go with the last option.

However, the problem was informing the students. If they were informed before the lesson, there’s a chance that they wouldn’t turn up. I had asked them to bring their laptops and the task I prepared for them was perfect for self-study individually or in pairs/groups. So, I started to search for sending scheduled emails. The first thing came up was “boomerang”. I didn’t have much time, so instead of exploring more, I installed the extension immediately. This gives you one month pro trial.

Soon, I found out that my school account on Gmail does not support this extension, so I had to use my alternative Gmail account. I copied and pasted the contacts and composed an email to be sent at 8:30 am, which is 10 minutes before the lesson starts. The email explained the situation and asked them to start working on the task attached. The task required them to search on the Internet about some endangered species, choose one from the list and prepare a PowerPoint presentation based on an outline provided. They had a lesson time to do the task which I assumed wouldn’t be enough for a proper task completion. Yet, keeping in mind that there could be early finishers, I composed another email scheduled to be sent at 9:30 am, which is the end of the first lesson. In the email, I asked them to first go to “geddit” and check in there, and to state whether they finished. I could see their check ins from my phone while dealing with the paper work. An early finisher task was also attached in the email scheduled to be sent at 9:40, which is after the break, and students were informed that this email would come in the previous email. This was preparing “kahoot” questions for the vocabulary for that lesson’s input. To take the attendance, in the email I asked them to go to the chat room I had opened in our section “moodle” and type that they were there. I also set the chat room to be visible at the end of the first lesson. My final email scheduled to be sent later at 10:30 am was just in case I was still not there. Since I arrived before that I deleted it.

In sum, using “boomerang” and with some extra arrangements, I could do a distant lesson. It required some prep work. Another situation could be that you might be on the move at a time you need to send en email, such as an exam result to students.

For scheduling emails another tool is “rightinbox“. Both boomerang and rightinbox are subscription based services and allow you to send limited number of scheduled emails per month for free. Also, if you are concerned about privacy, these are not very suitable for you since you grant them access to your inbox. An alternative idea I found on the Internet is using Google Sheets, which is explained in this post.

How to use “boomerang”

Go to http://www.boomeranggmail.com/ and click on “install boomerang”. It’s explained well step-by-step. After the installation, compose and email as usual, you’ll see the following “send later” button:


When you are finished composing your email, click on “send later” and schedule your email:

2014-05-19_1204When you choose the time of the email and click on “confirm” you will see this message:


That’s it, you don’t need to do anything else. If you want to see and edit your scheduled emails, click on the “boomerang” icon and click on “manage scheduled messages”:


Appear.in An Easy Video Conferencing Tool


logo-appear.in-237x239I first read about this tool in freetech4teachers blog and I decided to use it in teaching. I recently gave a short webinar presentation introducing this tool to my colleagues at Sabanci University. Appear.in is an HTML5 video conferencing tool that is built with a technology called WebRCT. Since HTML5 does not require “flash” or “shockwave”, there is no need for plug-ins or sign-ups. This is the most appealing aspect of this tool. It’s super easy to use. All you need to do is create a room, copy and share the link and get started. Now, let me talk about how I am using this tool in teaching.



1. Guest Speaker

Once in a while, students love seeing a different face in the class. So, on one occasion, I arranged a video conference with a friend of mine who lives in London. She is a native speaker who used to be a paramedic which makes her ideal because of the topic we were studying: health – common cold. I had sent her a copy of the transcript for the listening that we were supposed to do earlier in the first two lessons. Appearing in class at 11 am was the plan as it would be 9 am in London. So I projected my screen on the wall. When we entered the room “appear.in/commoncold” she was already there. She shared her expertise for about 15 minutes in the topic and invited questions. Two students asked questions but they had to come closer to my laptop. That later gave me the idea of using a microphone extension. At the end of the day, my students loved this experience

On another occasion, I convinced a teacher friend of mine who works at another institution to appear in class for a short lecture. I thought the original lecture recording was too fast for my students so I wanted them to hear this lecture in a slower pace and most importantly ‘live on air’! Again I sent her the lecture listening file and the transcript before the lesson and arranged a time and the room – “appear.in/unit3input3”. This went very well. I turned off the microphone after my introduction during her speech and there was no problem at all in terms of the sound quality.

So the guest speaker can be anyone. Teachers: colleague(s) from the same institution, colleague(s) from another institution. Peers: a student or a group of students from the same or different school(s). Experts: friend(s), anyone with expertise.

2. Tutorials

At Sabanci University, we often have tutorials with students mainly for writing, portfolios, and about their progress. I haven’t had any tutorials using “appear.in” yet but due to my full schedule this week I’m planning to have some online tutorials. I’ll update the post once I have the experience. I arranged “appear.in/tutorial” and claimed the room. All I need to do now is to send an email to my tutees what time they should appear there. If all goes well, I can even arrange group tutorials with students who live in the dorm.

3. Online Tutoring

There are two options here. You can use “appear.in” for extra lessons or for private tutoring. Say the lesson time was not enough to dwell on some concepts, then you can ask those to appear.in/extralesson at a certain time after the lesson. This of course depends on the number of students for the reasons I will talk about below. You can also try “appear.in” for your private lessons. I think it fits perfectly with speaking and listening. Appear.in also allows you to share your desktop with a little fix:


screensharing fix

4. Meetings

As I was trying out this new tool, I found out that it worked well with three people. At work, I tried it with four people and although we were all on the same network, we have experienced some problems with the sound most probably because of microphone adjustments. I am not sure how to overcome this echoing issue but maybe if video conference participants turn on and off their microphones as they speak, this could be a solution (or use headsets).

5. Baby Monitoring 🙂

This could be another handy use of this tool. You need to use two laptops for this.

For more information:



Factsheet-appear.in (pdf)


Note-taking Tips: Identifying Important Info



As they commence their faculty life, my students currently studying English at the Foundations Development Year (FDY) at Sabanci University, Istanbul will attend countless lectures delivered in English. For this reason, my colleagues and I at FDY train and assess our students on lecture note-taking skills as a preparation for their faculty life. The lectures they listen to are usually around 20 minute long at CEFR C1. They contain typical lecture features such as setting the scene, outlining the lecture, repeating important information, emphasizing significant ideas, using signposting language, giving examples, and drawing the lecture to a close, etc.

One of my observations in class is that most of the students are not really aware of how to take notes efficiently. To me, taking notes efficiently means identifying the important ideas. How can we show them what is important to take notes? I prepared this infographic below as visuals can better attract the learners attention, and it can be saved and stored for future reference. Feel free to embed or send it to your learners, especially in EAP context and in higher education.

There can be more tips of course, but these are the main ones I have frequently encountered so far. One could also add tips such as “taking notes where there is a definition of a concept, especially at the beginning of a lecture”. Please, make a comment of those you have, thank you 🙂

notetaking tips

notetaking tips