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

VOSCREEN: a fun tool to learn&practice languages


I knew about this tool long before when it was in the project stage – which I thought was a brilliant idea. In a nutshell, you watch a really short extract from visual media (film, series, ads, etc.) and choose from two options the correct transcription. When you google “voscreen”, here is what you’ll see:

001When you click on the link, it asks you to choose your mother tongue:

002You can then sign up if you want or just to see how it feels, you can play as a guest. If you sign up, you will be able to monitor your progress and your scores, etc. You can also edit your profile and upload a photo.


I should work on my score 🙂

How it works

When you start using this tool, you’ll see that the video is covering most of the screen. After you press the play button, you watch the short extract around five seconds.

005You can watch it again if you like. Now, you are expected to figure out what the representations in the middle of the boxes below the video mean. In the development stages, there used to be “yeah, I got it” and “I’m not really sure” options. My guess is that the lines with a diagonal red line over means “I’m not really sure” and the one without the red line means “yeah, I got it”. After, you choose one, you’ll be shown the transcripts. If the video you watched is in the target language, the transcript will be in your mother tongue and vice versa.

006You’ll notice that on the right, there’s a timer counting down from 15 seconds. The quicker you answer, the more scores you can get. If your answer is right, the box will turn green, if wrong then red. After 15 seconds, the correct answer will be revealed if you don’t click on anything.

007The developers claim that they have a special algorithm that is the heart of this tool. So, this tool will react according to your level and your progression. Some videos will be repeated according to this algorithm until mastered and the level will gradually go up.

I used this tool in my lessons by projecting my laptop on the screen and I gave my students the wireless mouse and they would take turns as they pass the mouse over. They really had fun. I know for a fact that some students kept using it after that lesson.

One concern would be that this tool didn’t seem to work on my iPhone and I don’t know whether it works on Android. It’s certainly great on a computer or laptop.

and the info link:

‘Interactivizing’ Printed Course Book Using Moodle


Recently, I turned one unit from our hard copy coursebook into an interactive online version using Moodle. This post is to share my know-how and also keep a record of this process for my future reference 🙂

How to make: Interactive Coursebook


  • Soft copy of your coursebook (on PDF, Word, or JPEG)
  • A screen shot software (Jing)
  • Adobe Photoshop CS2
  • Moodle (+ knowledge of making quizzes)

First, go to your course on Moodle and turn editing on 🙂 (So simple, yet I keep forgetting)

1Make sure that you have all the necessary windows open – especially the soft copy of the coursebook.

2014-04-18_2026_001This is the soft copy screen shot of the unit I worked on (below):


If you have already have a soft copy, that’s great but of course you can scan your book – even take pictures with your phone.

Next, you need to add “book” resource on your Moodle course.

2Click on “add an activity or resource”, then choose “book”:

3Give it a name and description. If you like, you can change the settings for restriction of access, etc.

46Save it, then on the course page, click on it to edit the chapters and other info.

7After you typed your chapter title, type anything in the content window and save it for now. On the left top of your window, you should see this (below):

8This shows the table of contents. Here, you can add, delete, hide and edit other chapters as well. Click on the hand icon to start editing.

9Delete whatever you typed before saving and when you have a clean content box, click on the “Toggle full screen mode” as shown with the arrow.

Below you will see the first image I added to the content window. This is from the coursebook I teach at Sabanci University. Using “jing” I took the screen shot of the necessary part. This part is something I wanted to use as it is. However, you need to edit the image before you put it there. In your folder where you keep these images, right click on the image and open it with Adobe Photoshop CS2 (download free).


Click on “alt+ctrl+I” to change the image size. Alternatively, on the file menu, click on “Image” and choose “image size”. Now, what we need is the right width for the image. Change the width as “810 pixels” and click on “OK”. Any image which has the same width on the hard copy book you want to put on your “book” resource needs to be saved as, like in this procedure – width= 810px.

10After I put the image, I had to put some written course book content. However, to make everything proportionate, I used “table” option. Below is an excerpt from the book:

11This is in Word, so it’s easy to copy. Again the 810px rule is important to have a proper formatting.

12Depending on your page design, you need to decide how many columns and rows you will need and which ones you might want to merge, etc. For example, below you can see how I made a table. There are two columns and four four rows. On the right, there should be an image (of an old lamp) – which I didn’t feel the need to edit the size in Photoshop. I merged the rows on the right and inserted the image there.

13On the left column, each row will receive some course content – mainly the instructions. Using ctrl+C and ctrl+V, you can add your content from the soft copy of your course book or any other material.

14Now, here is the important part. Because if you only put some images and texts cut and pasted from the soft copy book, it will be only an online version of your hard copy book. In order to ‘interactivize‘ your book, you need to use your knowledge of quiz tool in Moodle. The parts in your book that reads something like “Read the text below and answer these questions” can be turned into interactive activities for your learners. To do that, you need to analyze the activity and decide which quiz questions you can use. For instance, a text with true false questions can easily be turned into an interactive activity.

15For this, you need to go to “question bank” and depending on the type of questions in the book, you need to choose appropriate quiz questions.

2014-04-18_2154_001You need to prepare all your quiz questions.

2014-04-18_2154Make sure that you name the quiz questions effectively to remember and locate when necessary. Now, we can go to course page on Moodle and create a quiz. On the course page, click on “add and activity or resource” and choose “quiz”.

5You can then click on the quiz you created and add all the questions you prepared in this quiz. The next thing to do is on the “book” resource, in an appropriate place, type something like below and copy paste the link of the quiz you prepared using “insert/edit link”. Remember that your learners should not see the quiz on the course page. It should only be linked to your “book” resource. That’s why you should hide your quizzes.

15Once you save it, now your online version of your course book will interact with its users, when they click on the link they will answer the i.e. reading questions and get immediate feedback, plus you can monitor their process. Below are some examples of these questions. You can also add supplementary materials such as YouTube videos to your content. This is ideal for those who missed the class on that day and/or those who want to do revision. I’d be pleased if you let me know what you think about this post, especially if you are a Moodle user 🙂

16 17 18

Top 5 Mobile Apps Used By Students in Higher Education


As an English teacher working in a university, I was intrigued by a scene I have been facing in the mornings when I enter the classroom, which inspired me to do some research and write this post. The picture is something like this: 8 – 10 students out of the total of 14 are sitting with their gaze fixed on their mobile phones and not even talking to each other, waiting for the teacher. Whilst letting students use mobile phones during the lesson can be a topic of debate, I was indeed more interested in knowing what they were really doing with their smart phones. Needless to say, all my students possess smart phones and they are mostly addicted to them. The picture below can give you an idea of what kind of phones they have.

Students' Mobile Phones in a Box during an Exam

Students’ Mobile Phones in a Box during an Exam

Data Collection

I asked just two simple questions to encourage greater number of responses. I collected the data through a questionnaire using SurveyMonkey. The questions are in the students’ native language to minimize any misunderstanding. The data were collected from 92 informants who are university students  enrolled in a one-year intensive English course at the Foundations Development Year in Sabanci University, Istanbul.


Here is a summary of the findings, the details of which you can find below in the infographics and at the bottom. The majority of the students have an iPhone, next preferred smart phone is Samsung. Looking at the apps the students use in their phones, it can be said that students use their favorite apps to “chat” mostly. The raw and analyzed data can be found at the bottom of this post.

What Phones Students Have

What Phones Students Have

Antconc Analyzed Data

Antconc Analyzed Data

Top 9 Mobile Apps Used by Students in Higher Education

Top 9 Mobile Apps Used by Students in Higher Education


Please click here to read about the details such as the raw and analyzed data, the list of apps, etc.

Organizing Bookmarks Toolbar for Ease of Use in Firefox


Bookmarks or favorites are one way to keep your popular web links under your reach at any time. It is quite essential to have organized bookmarks. Bookmarks can be found if you press the following combination: ctrl + shift + b. You can also access to your bookmarks through the menu by clicking on the orange Firefox icon on top left corner of your browser. You can store many bookmarks in an organized way if you like. However, to make it even easier and quicker to access your popular links, you should use the “Bookmarks Toolbar”.


Address Bar, Bookmarks Toolbar in Firefox

I would like to show two ways how you can make the most of your toolbar.

2014-04-01_15441. ICON ONLY: Let’s say you want to keep Facebook at your disposal, that is, with one click you want to reach it instead of typing “” on your address bar, etc. You can follow these steps:

  • Step1 – Go to Facebook.
  • Step 2 – Press “ctrl + D”.
  • Step 3 – In the drop-down menu next to where it says “Folder”, choose “Bookmarks Toolbar”.
Add to Bookmarks Toolbar

Add to Bookmarks Toolbar

Now, you should be able to see your Facebook bookmark on the bookmarks toolbar. Yet, the word “Facebook” next to the Facebook icon makes it long and to reduce the space it takes, you can do this: right click on your Facebook bookmark and choose “Properties”. Then simply delete the name area and leave it blank. Once you save it, you will see that there will be only the icon itself there. Since the icon is extremely familiar to everyone, it will not be a problem to remember what it is. Even if you forget an icon, when you hover your cursor of your mouse over the icon, the content will be shown to you.

2. FOLDER: If you already have a collection of bookmarks under a folder; for instance, you collected all vocabulary related links under a folder named “vocab”, you can place that folder in the Bookmarks Toolbar, too. For this, you can follow these steps:

  • Step 1 – press “ctrl + shift + b” to open the Firefox library.
  • Step 2 – right click on the folder you want to put on the Bookmarks Toolbar, and copy it.
  • Step 3 – right click on the Bookmarks Toolbar and choose “Paste”.

Make the name as short as possible

So, basically you copied a folder and pasted it on the Bookmarks Toolbar. But this way you can reach many links at the same time.

Open All in Tabs

Open All in Tabs

For example, let’s say there are 5 sites you want to open every morning. Keep them in a folder with a name you like. Follow the steps above. Next time, when you turn on your laptop or computer, after you start Firefox, right click on this folder and choose “Open All in Tabs”. I guess this will save you some time.

Acknowledgements: Icons on the Bookmarks Toolbar idea occurred to me when I was watching Jim Scrivener‘s slides during his plenary at TELT conference.  I noticed how he organized his browser and that gave me the idea of this post.

I had no idea that it was possible to copy a folder on the Bookmarks Toolbar until I bumped into a Google image whilst looking for a screen shot of Firefox Bookmarks Toolbar.

Geddit: reflections and classroom implementation



I found this tool two weeks ago and I’ve been using it almost everyday. The fact that it’s on my Bookmark Toolbar and the positive response by the students makes it a successful tool for me. In this post, I’d like to introduce this tool and show how I’ve been using it.

I also need to state that all my students have smart phones and there is wireless everywhere in the campus. Alternatively, students can use their laptops, and tablets, too.

Basically, geddit is a tool to monitor students’ progress. You can ask questions to your students anytime during the lesson. Collecting instant feedback, making a quick poll, and even a small quiz is possible.

2014-03-21_2057Signing up is really easy. First, you need to choose your role. I haven’t tried the student sign up but I can say it is fast seeing my students already responding to the questions as I was expecting them to spend at least five minutes trying to sign up.

choose your role

choose your role

Below you can find what kind of info you are required to enter. For the email, by default it says ‘your school email’ but actually you can enter any accounts such as Gmail, Yahoo, or Hotmail.

sign up info

sign up info

Once you sign up and you are in, there are three steps to familiarize yourself with the tool. First, you can watch a two minute video about the basics and the logic of this tool. Then, you can try the demo lesson for hands on practice. Finally, you can add your first class and get started. I particularly found the demo lesson useful to get to know this tool. You start with giving a name for your class. I gave “R5M2” as this is my current class.

2014-03-21_2111You can then continue with either preparing your lesson or setting up the student accounts. There is no particular order. Either can be done any time. Yet, I started with the student accounts. Here you have two options:

2014-03-21_2111_001Later I realized that giving students the class code was the easiest thing to do for me. There is a 6 digit code and students enter your class using this code. Once they enter with this code, students reported that next time they could enter without the code.


However, I tried the other option as well. I had an Excel class list sheet and I uploaded this list with great curiosity thinking what they can make out of this list as it was not made according to some certain template. To my surprise the message below came up.2014-03-21_2118Even more surprising was to see a neat name and surname list of my students after about ten minutes! Anyway, let’s have a look at some important aspects of this tool about how you can use it. Below in the screen shot, you can see some important aspects. Firstly, changing the lesson name is a good idea to make an organized archive. Since, my current course is for 16 weeks, I wanted to name the lessons in this format: “week5Mon”. You could set a date if you like. Secondly, you can prepare your questions after or before you click on ‘start teaching’ button. Finally, make sure you click on ‘save&exit’.

2014-03-21_2119Now, I think the core of this tool is the questions. When I first started using Geddit, the options you could do with the question was something like this:2014-03-21_2125So, you could ask your students multiple choice, or short answer questions or give them a poll. But recently I noticed that there is now ‘long answer’ option as well.

Apart from answering questions, students can ‘check in’ and state their progress. Let’s say they are reading a text and after reading they can check in how much they understood. They can raise hand to ask a question without raising their hand physically. Since I haven’t figured out a systematic use of this aspect of the tool, I cannot write more about this feature, that is, monitoring the students. So far, I’ve focused on asking questions and collecting feedback aspects of this tool.

Some examples from my lessons:

 I took notes from my students’ individual presentations and using my notes I prepared ten multiple choice questions. Preparation is really easy. Students enjoy doing anything using their mobiles let alone adding pictures makes it even more attractive for the students. Here is one of the questions:2014-04-05_2216You can see even more detailed statistics about the answers such as individual student’s answers and their confidence level through the ‘check in’s they make. I also use this tool to collect immediate feedback:

2014-04-05_2225These two examples are from my past, completed lessons. As well as exporting the statistics in .csv format (Excel can open it), you can share these with your teaching partner(s), or a colleague. Also, after every lesson, there is a comment box for you to record your reflections for that lesson. Here is an example of how I used the new ‘long answer’. This time the questions are from a running lesson:

2014-04-05_2229So, before reading a text, as a warm up, I wanted my students to use their mobile phones to search for information about a concept. Students have no difficulty typing with mobile phones. Later, I asked them to watch a video and answer a couple of questions. You can choose any student’s answer and share it anonymously with the rest of the students. You can prepare your question whenever you want, before or during the lesson. Once you click on ‘ask’ button, it becomes visible to students instantly.

Overall, I find this tool very practical, easy to use, and engaging for both students and teachers.