Saturday, September 20, 2014

Stop in the name of love: no more autoplay, Mark, please

OK. Yeah, it has been ages since the last time I wrote a post here...But, you know, life, work or maybe my lazy fingers...OK. I have been reading these posts where people complain about videos playing automatically (autoplay) on and on every time they scroll up or down Facebook. You might be thinking Mark Zuckerberg is always trying to make your life miserable (unexpected changes - some of them a bit cumbersome) , but it is not like so.

Good news!  You can stop these irritating videos  from playing automatically. How? Here are a couple of screenshots showing you how to do that on your computer, Ipad or smartphone (android).

It is easy-peacy...No more Buzzfeed videos playing automatically  showing you how North Americans Try Sushi For The First Time or Creepy Ways To Ask If She’s Single.

Computers: (Click on image to enlarge)

 Ipad: (Click on image to enlarge)

 Smartphone (android): (Click on image to enlarge)

Let me know, if this was helpful and you were able to stop those videos from playing automatically and unexpectedly on Facebook.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Knowing me, Knowing you: 11

OK. So I have been tagged and now I will share with you a bit of myself in 11 random facts and my 11 answers to questions from two amazing taggers. You might be wondering what this is all about. Well, it is this chain started - this I presume- by  a fellow ELT-er and the idea is to invite an EFL-ESL colleague to "reveal" personal information few or no one from his/her professional (passionate) learning network know about them. To do that you are supposed to write 11 random facts about yourself, answer 11 questions the tagger asked you and invite 11 colleagues to do the same. You can sort of represent the whole process like this:

My two lovely taggers

My taggers are two lovely, sweet ladies from my PLN: Malu Sciamarelli (Brazil) and Hana Ticha (Czech Republic). Here you can read their very own posts: Eleven! and 11 random facts. How I met them? Well, just the way most of us have met amazing ELT colleagues  on the web: Facebook, Twitter, a webinar, the Electonic Village Online, you name it. The truth is they are part of my PLN and how luckier can I get?

OK, time for the knowing me, knowing you 11 random facts

1. I have a twin brother. He is not as cute as me (smiley), but he is taller, fun, sociable and loves
salsa music. I am quite the opposite. People mistake us most of the time on the phone – similar voices so they say. We are fraternal twins.
2. I draw or at least I used to do that well until my late 20s, early 30s. After that no more drawings, blame it to work, computers, life. As a child I was into the religious theme, you know (Hey!  a family thing)…Growing up drawings became cartoonish and more personal ones. At the uni, I drew for Young Editors (a sort ELT language learning magazine funded by two amazing undergraduate teacher trainees: OK, my best friend and I)...Also, as a teacher I dare to draw these potatoes like characters for a children material- totally hand made.

3. I do trip the light fantastic ( a smiley)…A family thing. Everybody dances. It is also a cultural thing…If you are a teen and you know how to dance you don’t have to worry about anything else in Venezuela (as opposed to teens in the USA – if you know what I mean). I discoed, "salsaed", "meregued" even danced to drum beats and a bit of breaking - not anymore! But unlike singing, I can still boogie oogie boogie (smiley)
4. Call me a coffee addict. During the day I can drink more than 10 cups a days and I can still sleep like an angel. Love Venezuelan coffee, but I can enjoy drinking this "black brew" anywhere. Its smell and even listening to cups and saucers rattling in coffee shops takes me back  home,  reminiscences of a nice conversation, friends, grandma, my aunt Hilda, mom…family.
5. I used to sing a lot…I was part of this school choir and once I even tried to participate in a singing contest…Stopped singing in my early teens and you know what they say: "Use it, or lose it". Nowadays, my voice is literally pitchy...Not the same anymore…So forget American Idol or the Voice.
6. I had never been interested in politics at least in its narrow sense (political parties , politicians. "politiking" and all that), but over the last 15 years I have been participating in rallies, protests,  signing here and there against one of the most corrupted governments in Venezuela. It is a totalitarian, militaristic regime disguise as democratic.  

7. Love whatever is related to green, color in nature...Blame it on my "abuelita" (grandma). She encouraged me to take care of plants as a child...I did. But as I grew older I quit on this idea of having a small, welcoming garden for several reasons. Now I have shyly started an orchid collection at home. Cross my fingers hope they will spike and bloom one day.
8. Oh yeah, I used to write poems as a child. It was triggered by my first experience traveling to a distant place away from home (OK, in the same country). It was entitled: "Un Niño, un Viaje y su noche Mirandina" ( "A child, a trip, and his “Mirandina” night"). I was part of this school music band (estudiantina) and we were going to perform somewhere.  I played the cuatro. It was a successful performance, but I just wanted to be back home really. I was about 8 or 9 years old. Strange enough I still have the same feeling every time I travel. The only difference is I can stay for more than two days away from home - OK a bit more. I have learned to manage my inner child.
9. I have got this thing for books. Apart from its traditional use related to pleasure and knowledge, I believe they can be amazing decorative objects. They do! Believe you me.
10. I am a proud introvert (not necessarily shy). I do enjoy being on my own a lot. Good listener.Give me some rain, good music, my caffeine fix and I'll be obliviously happy on my own.

11. My first online friend and the first one I met in person is not from my PLN, not an EFL teacher. That was mid 90s. He is a nice, thoughtful Dutchman. I had the chance to visit him and his partner twice. We still keep in touch.

The biting-my-nails-moment: answering my taggers' questions

Malu Sciamarelli

1. What do you have on your bedroom wall?
A framed poster of Slaapkamer te Arles (The Bedroom) by Vincent van Gogh

2. What’s the first thing you do when you get up?
I grab a cup of coffee (You do!) and check out email, Facebook and Twitter.

3. Do you have a pet?
Yes, a shih tzu named Luna -totally spoiled.

4. What’s your favorite food from your childhood?
A fish cake, my mother used to make it during the Holy Week.

5. What do you like most about teaching? 
Designing materials and teaching in the classroom

6. What’s the best thing about going to a conference?
Meeting your e-friends F2F + what you can get from presentations.

7. Do you read two or more books at the same time?
I sometimes read 2 books at the same time.

8. Who is your hero?
My mother

9. What’s your favorite country to visit and why?
The Netherlands...Especially the Hague...I don't know I think it is its buildings...or its exhibiting sculptures in the Scheveningen district from the Beelden aan Zee museum.

10. What’s making you smile at the moment?
A text message.

11. Life is too short to…
please everybody. 

Hana Tichá

1. If you could change one thing about education in your country, what would it be?  
The education ministers and local authorities 

2. Have you ever thought of quitting your job as an educator? Why?  
Yes, once I wanted to be a graphic designer. 

3. What's your earliest memory as an educator? 
Teaching English to my classmates in high school - that was a start, right? 

4. Is education valued where you live? If not, what is the main reason?  
Not as much as it should. It has been neglected by most governments and over the last 15 it has been used to instill political values, nationalistic pride and now more than ever before to worship the late "Hugo Rafael Chávez Frias". 

5. How do you think we could help to make teaching a more prestigious job? 
Taking the time to develop ourselves professionally. Now there are more opportunities than before especially online to be updated in your field / interests (IATEFL / TESOL webinars, The Electronic Village Online, The reform Symposium, The Virtual round table, MOOCs).  

6. Apart from burning-out, what's the biggest danger for a teacher? 
Low salaries (juggling jobs to get by) , lack of support from authorities and colleagues, the school year's routine.

7. Did anyone try to put you off teaching in the past?  
No, no one. 

8. Why do you think teaching can bring so much satisfaction but also frustration?  
Well, we are dealing with people - unpredictable - in spite of all the research. The way students react to or show / manifest their "learning" varies from one person to another, from one group to another. So when we feel they have learned, we feel elated; when they don't, we feel we are not doing enough.

9. What makes you happy? 
Designing material, thinking of new activities to help my students learn.

10. When did you last laugh out loud? 
Like about two weeks...with (Ok "at) my best friend. 

11. If your child/best friend wanted to become a teacher, what piece of advice would you give him or her?  
Well, try to do things to the best of their abilities...Just make sure you love what you do.
When the tagee becomes the tagger: fun!

So here's my tagee list, time to meet some Venezuelans and  other wonderful EFL teachers!

Miguel Pérez @maperezramos
Elvina Castillo @elvicaro
Teadira Pérez @teadira 
Evelyn Izquierdo @EveWeb
Marina Majonica @teachermarinam
Yuly Asención @yya2
Beyza Yilmaz @Beyzah
Priscila Mateini @priscilamateini
Elena Nikiforou @neleni
Liliana Simón @lilianasimon
Fabrice Karenzi @Kafamem
Martha Mendoza

So now it is your turn to let us know a bit about yourselves, tagees. There's no pressure. If you feel you have time to do this, great. Otherwise, you have been chosen because you are amazing! If you rise to the challenge, you can take your time. There is no rush. Please, if you write your post, let me know...If you have already been tagged, share your post with us in Comments as well as the tagees.

My 11 random questions to you, tagees:

1. Since there’s a been a debate on how you should greet someone in Christmas season, what would it be in your country? "Happy holidays" or "Merry Christmas"? In Venezuela, most people say "Feliz Navidad" (Merry Christmas), no matter what.
2. Have you got a favorite sitcom? If yes, which one.  Why do you like it?

3. Is there a favorite poem you like? Which one? Why?
4. Which music decade you like the most? 70s? 80s? 90s? any?
5. If you happen to have a deaf student in your class, you think you must learn sign language?
6. Is there a memorable international / local conference you remember? If so, which one?
7. Any favorite educational app or web 2.0?
8. Have you ever been taken an unflattering photo you’d like to get rid of especially from social networks? If so, How did you feel? What did you do?
9. What’s the most favorite hot drink in your country? Coffee? Tea? Chocolate?
10. Is there a popular folk singer in your country? What's his/her name? Can you share a video link?
11. Is there a national flower that represent your country? Which one is it?

Images: Miguel Mendoza by Miguel Mendoza is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial No Derivs 3.0 Unported License 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

RSCON2013: Diversity and Disability

- My thoughts and reflections are based upon my experience at a public university in Venezuela- Miguel Mendoza

It has been a week already! I delivered my presentation Diversity and Disability: Are teachers up for social change outside the classroom? in RSCON#4. After this, I have been wondering what’s ahead for our role as agent of social change when it comes down to providing support to students with disabilities inside or/and outside the classroom. You will be amazed by how many teachers think they have no responsibility whatsoever for helping these students. Some of them verbalize it; some others go with their actions. Now this might have its reasons. What talks or shows, in my opinion, is the lack of training and the fear of not knowing what to do when a student with disability is in their classroom. What talks or shows, in my opinion, is this construct of “normalcy” we have of a “person”, a “human being”, a student. What talks or shows, in my opinion, is the programming  we have been subjected to since childhood about people with disabilities. Being different is off; being like everybody else rocks. As a result, stereotypes and the lack of proper training win. These students are, then, marginalized.  They become invisible in the classroom. Fortunately, there are some other teachers who think otherwise.  In my presentation, I reflected in a loud voice about my experience with students with disabilities outside the classroom as part of a support group created back in 2004 in the School of Librarianship. This is one of 10 schools in the Faculty of Humanities and Education at Universidad Central de Venezuela. I started off by acknowledging the initiatives I have noticed over the last couple of years about diversity and minorities groups like the LBGT community and people with disabilities. For the latter group, a very good example is the work done by the Disabled Access Friendly or posts like the ones written in the iTDi blog on Special Needs or the one written by Patrick Jackson, Hey, teacher! What are YOU for? And what about the amazing work people from Northern Arizona University are doing with their Disability Awareness Week! That definitely brings hope. But there’s still a lot to do. Also, during my talk, I shared my experience as part of CAEDEBA (a committee that offers support to students with disabilities from the School of Librarianship). It focuses on academic support and raising awareness activities. It has been on the road for 9 solid years. Towards the end of the presentation, I asked participants if they believe teachers were ready to bring about social change to help guarantee integration and inclusion of students with disabilities inside and outside the learning environment. Also, I told them what I believe are the benefits of providing support to students with disabilities outside the classroom and sketched out what they have to take into account if they would like to create a similar support group. I ended up the session showing them it is not that easy to identify when a student has a disability. Perhaps, this  happens because we generally tend to focus on the disability and not the PERSON.

RSCON# 4 was the perfect platform to talk about this. This year, most sessions and keynotes in RSCON were focused on technology. But it was interesting to see some of them were not (Cecilia Lemus, Leo Selivan, Gallit Zvi, Tamas Lorincz, Malu Sciamarelli, Barbara Hoskins Sakamoto , Chuck Sandy among others).

As far as I know, all four RSCONs have focused its attention on the future of education. "Diversity" and learning to teach and deal with students with disabilities inside and outside the classroom are part of that future. I see a more inclusive classroom with inclusive and accessible teachers and classmates as well as all the members of this educational community (school, high school, university). A place where we will focus on the person and not on “the lacking of…” Disability in education should not equal to “dumb”, “limited”, “slow”. This only shows a narrow concept of what a PERSON is. It only shows we do not acknowledge the differences or do not know what to do with them.   I am not talking about special treatment (medical model), but equal opportunities (social model). I am not talking about pitying (medical model), but adapting content (social model) . Provide them with opportunities and they will success or not just like any other student (social or functional diversity model). It is true we have to consider the potential learning and the type of disability the student has before they are granted a place at the university. This information will be important for both: the students and the university he is applying for. In our country, most of them can get a place from a government modality without having a thorough evaluation (skills, competency and disability) or a counseling session (Why he she chose this or that career?) creating sometimes false expectations in the students and his/her parents. Now this responsibility falls into those who provide access to students with disabilities at the university. Anyway, If they get a place at the university, we should find the way to help guarantee equal opportunities.

On the other hand, universities or institutions training teachers should include in their curriculum a subject or course related to diversity and disability. Also, all universities public or private should consider in their curricula a subject or course related to disabilities to train or sensitize undergraduates students about it. As graduates, they may have to deal with people with disabilities at some point at work.

As language teachers, I do believe our responsibility goes beyond the perfect lesson or
choosing the right method, approach, or methodology. If there’s a student with Asperger's syndrome in our class and we would like to use / explore this DOGME methodology, do we know it is very likely he/she could start to feel really anxious if they are not provided a structure to respond positively to this metholody? How can we adopt this methodology to include this student and guarantee he will get the most of it as the rest of the students?

Without this RCON session, I think I wouldn’t have sat to reflect and even talked about this to ESL/EFL teachers. Something I believe I should have done a long time ago. I will finish this post by sharing a snippet from Patrick’s article: “ is not just about acquiring skills and knowledge but that it also embraces social improvement. Teachers are in a unique position to impact on the future through their teaching of well being, fairness, equality and truth.”

Here's my presentation and the recording. October 12th, 2013. 2 p.m. Venezuela time.

"You all laugh because I'm different...I laugh because you're ALL the same." Jonathan Davis
All images: Miguel Mendoza by Miguel Mendoza is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License - See more at:

All images: Miguel Mendoza by Miguel Mendoza is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License - See more at:

These images Miguel Mendoza by Miguel Mendoza is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial No Derivs 3.0 Unported License

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