Dec 262020
 

A quick search on the internet will show that it’s probably both. We are all born creative, but are educated out of it, and then have to re-learn it as adults, for example how to draw.

My attempt at blind contour drawing: an exercise to improve observational skills and hand-eye coordination. It’s also an example for setting artificial limitations.

To be innovative needs creativity. As most companies and entrepreneurs want to be innovative, they will aim to be creative, create an environment that is conducive to creativity, and either higher creative people or train their staff to be creative if they believe it is a learnable skill.

Today, I listened to Episode 8 of the podcast by LearnJam (one of my favourite companies to work for) on innovation. I’m not going to try to summarise it, but I have taken a few notes, which I would like to share. It’s worth listening to the whole 45-minute conversation.

My notes

  • creativity in a company – not something unstructured and just for fun, but something that has value for the company
  • creativity can be learned
  • innovative climate at a company – what is the reaction to failure and mistakes, punishment or a frame of mind that accepts mistakes as ‘lessons learned, how we move forward’
  • sometimes innovation is like Apple’s iPhone – completely new, big leap, but more often it is like Amazon – small, incremental improvements that lead to a great success in the future. The first type of innovation is extremely rare, but by making everything a little better each time, you can also innovate over time
  • cognitive bias: familiarity bias: ‘It’s working, so leave it and continue doing it the same way’ OR ‘If it’s not broken, break it.’ Look at your processes and procedures, or products. Perhaps it’s working/selling, but if we spend a bit of time and think about how to do it better, perhaps we can improve it and either save time or improve the product.
  • So, innovation is not about making huge sweeping changes. It’s not really about breaking things especially if there are repercussions for everyone involved, it’s about making ‘micro changes’.
  • So, how do you train people to become creative? Give people structured ways of thinking: tools, processes systems, such as design thinking, divergent and convergent thinking, imposing artificial limitations (read this article for more on how limitations can increase creativity), etc.

Nick mentions an innovation adoption theory, which is explained clearly and entertainingly in this short video.

Are you interested in finding out more about innovation and creativity in entrepreneurship?

All the above ties in very well with the information in this course by the University of Bristol on FutureLearn I took not long ago (Well, I have to admit I sped through it in two weeks just before the course ended): Unleash Your Potential: Innovation and Enterprise (it will run again in February 2021). If you don’t have the time to work through the whole course, there is a plethora of links and downloadable resources, such as related videos, articles, exercises and materials that you can bookmark and go back to when you have time or when they becomes relevant.

Innovation and creativity in language education

Both creativity and innovation are important in EdTech, material design, learning experience design and teacher development. Here’re a few books that you might want to check out if you are interested in this topic, and all of them are available for free:

Innovating Pedagogy Reports – Open University annual innovation reports in collaboration with different partners each year. From the website: ‘This series of annual reports explores new forms of teaching, learning and assessment for an interactive world, to guide teachers and policy makers in productive innovation.’

Creativity in the English Language Classroom – A British Council publication. ‘The focus of this book is on practical classroom activities which can help to nurture and develop our students’ creativity.’

Creativity in English Language Teaching – by the ELT Council, Malta. ‘This book presents the views of a group of teachers, trainers and researchers, all of whom share the belief that creativity needs to be an intrinsic aspect of English Language Teaching.’

The Image in English Language Teaching‘All of the papers in this book urge teachers to use images critically and creatively, and encourage students to resist the passivity they might feel towards images. Every single contribution is meant to help both teachers and students become more active viewers and more visually literate.’

The Innovations in… series by the British Council, for example, Innovations in learning technologies for English language teaching

Some questions to think about

  • How important is creativity in your field and for you personally?
  • Do you believe creativity and innovation can be learned?
  • Have you tried to improve in this area? What did you find out? What worked for you?
  • Do you have any resources on creativity and innovation that you’d like to share?

Dec 122020
 

I’ve used several (social) bookmarking and content curation tools, apps and platforms (e.g. Diigo, del.icio.us, netvibes) over the years.

My criteria

This time, I was looking for an app that was

  • visual and visually attractive
  • easy to learn and use
  • quick to add content or links to
  • available online in different browsers and as an app for different systems
  • embeddable on my website

I had a few other features on my wish list, such as different privacy settings, being able to add notes, etc.

I looked at many different tools (e.g. Scoop.it, Flipboard, Pocket, Pinterest, Padlet), which all had their advantages, but also things I didn’t like for my purpose.

My shortlist

In the end, two were left on my list: Elink.io and Wakelet. In fact, Elink.io was my favourite because it really allows to create visually appealing pages and is very flexible. But I had to admit that it was a bit like a top-notch swiss-knife when I only needed the basic three-function one, which also meant quite an investment of time to learn to use it. Also, it is mainly used by marketers rather than educators.

I was up and running with Wakelet in no time at all without having to read any instructions. It also helped that there were no templates to choose from…

Additional features and fenefits

Two other extra benefits Wakelet offers to educators are:

  • It allows for social content curation, which is great if you want to use it for collaborative work with your students or collaborate with other teachers)
  • Like on Pinterest, you can browse other people’s public collections, follow them, bookmarks or share their collections.
  • They support educators (e.g. with this guide) and there’s a large teacher community.

I’d love to use Wakelet with students for project work and for teacher training, but for now, I’m using it to curate and share content on my website.

How I use it

On my Virtual Reality page, you can click on any of the topics you are interested in and it will lead you to the page with the curated links on that topic. Whenever I add new content on a particular Wakelet, it will update on its page on my webiste automatically.

Final note

If you don’t have a website or blog, or don’t want to embed your content, you can simply use Waklet on its own online or on your smartphone or tablet, and share content by sharing the link to your Wakelet profile or any of your public spaces and collections.

Nov 012020
 

I’m very interested in using virtual reality environments for teaching ESP (English for Specific Purposes) or ESAP (English for Specific Academic Purposes). However, the problem is that it would take a lot of time, effort and cost to develop such course in a virtual world from scratch. This is one of the reasons, I believe, why even after so many years, there are still only a handful of language educators in virtual worlds.

My approach in the past, therefore, was to use existing places (in Second Life) to teach English, rather than buying land, learning to built and script, etc. This wasn’t and isn’t feasible for most teachers.

So, when I came across this video from Arizona State University on Linkedin a couple of weeks ago, I was really excited, not because of Hollywood, but because I think some of us educators might be able to piggyback on this kind of thing. For example, they want to use the world shown in the video to teach biology. Instead of reinventing the wheel, the language department could use the same world to teach EAP or ESAP. I assume that language departments around the world don’t have the budget to build immersive virtual environments such as this one just to teach an English for Biology, or Architecture, Medicine or History course. However, if a university can built virtual reality environments for certain subjects, we language teachers could use the same material or course content and create a language course and activities for that subject area. This would not only save money, time and effort, but it would help integrate the language learning with the international students’ subject courses and support them better.

As I also like project-based learning, I could imagine another type of collaboration between different departments and subject areas. Many universities now offer degrees in Virtual and Augmented Reality, and often students have to work on projects developing VR environments or apps as part of their portfolio for assessment. Some projects could be on building environments or apps for the language department. Or an interdisciplinary collaboration could bring VR development students together with EdTech and TESOL students (like I was) and have them work together on VR for language education projects – a win-win-win situation for the students from the two disciplines and the university.

(For more details about the ASU project, go here.)

Oct 092020
 

It’s been eight years since I left the 3D virtual word of Second Life after a few years of experimenting with teaching English, co-creating the SLExperiments groups for teachers interested in language education in SL, and conducting teacher training!

Daffodil in her house in the virtual world of Second Life

Daffodil in her seaside house, November 8, 2008

A couple of weeks ago, I decided it was time to go back. Daffodil was a bit cross with me for abandoning her, but we made up and are friends again. She still dresses much better than I, that hasn’t changed. But her movements have become a bit clumsy now and it takes her longer to do things, such as adjusting her camera view, rezzing an object, finding stuff in her inventory, etc. She lost her beautiful house at the seaside, too. Well actually, she’s still got the house and furniture in her inventory she said, but nowhere to set it up and settle. So, she was basically just sitting in a corner of a forest, where I had left her (OK, I do feel a bit guilty now…). She told me she kept all our teaching tools and objects, lesson notes, landmarks of interesting places…however, many of the locations don’t exist any longer. How sad is that? Well, she said when you live in a virtual world, you kinda get used to things appearing, being changed or moved, and then disappearing. That’s virtual life for you, she said… Well, it’s not much different in my world either I told her…at which point she took me to a place where she had the right to rez objects, and rolled out our favourite carpet with comfortable cushions, tea glasses and some (to my dismay virtual) food, and we sat down and told each other about our lives in the past eight years in our respective worlds…

When everyone was ‘Zooming’ in the past couple month since this ‘p’ thing has happened to the real world and schools, universities, businesses, and socialising moved online, my mind kept going back to my Second Life times. As a blended and online learning professional, I know you can have great teaching and learning experiences online, whether in synchronous sessions using video conferencing tools or asynchronously. However, when most of our lives move online, learners and teachers might benefit from a more immersed experience when working, learning or socialising. There are many more good reasons, but those are for other posts.

Daffodil wearing a VR headset

I told Daffodil that I was going to start exploring virtual reality for language learning and teaching purposes again, but that this time it wouldn’t just be in Second Life but also other worlds, and that I was planning to use VR headsets too. At which point she jumped up from her cushion and got all excited. ‘I have one, I have one’ she said, and started fiddling in her inventory. I was puzzled. ‘What do you mean you have one?’ – ‘I have a VR headset, wait…’, and there she took it out of her inventory and put it on. I didn’t know what to say. How could I explain to her that this didn’t make sense? ‘Look, you’re an avatar, you are already in a virtual word, you don’t need a VR headset to feel immersed in it.’ – ‘How do you know how I feel?’ she said, visibly hurt. Oh dear…I offended my avatar, and she was right too! Nobody had prepared me for this kind of situation, so I decided I’d best change the subject.

‘So, as I said, I’ll be visiting other worlds. You know, I found out there’re loads of them’ – “Great! I was getting bored here, I’ll come with you and we’ll explore them together, just as we did here back then! So when are we starting? What do you think shall I wear…comfortable clothes and shoes I guess? Right? Why aren’t you saying anything?’ – ‘Eh, I don’t think that’ll be possible. Unfortunately, avatar’s can’t just travel from one virtual world to another. I’d really love to take you with me. You know in some of the worlds they don’t even allow you to customise your avatar; you have to choose one they offer and you’re stuck with that look. Can you imagine? It’ll really be difficult for me to feel immersed in a world when I look like a robot or animal, and even worse, like a human but completely different from what I look like or would like to look like. I know there’re people who don’t mind this at all, but I do…So, really, I wish I could take you with me…Perhaps one day, one day it will be possible…’

There she was looking upset again…’Look, wherever I go, I’ll take notes and pictures and I’ll come back and report to you. How’s that? I might even try to rent a plot of land here where you can set up your lovely house again, hm, hm?’–  ‘Now, that’s an offer! Then, I’d allow you to stay and use the house too sometimes… and sometimes we could go on field trips again and attend conferences together, like in the old times!’ – ‘Yes! Absolutely. That’s how we’ll do it!’

And so both of us were happy and excited about phase two of our virtual reality for language education explorations!

Bring it on!

Jan 292020
 

New teaching experience

I’ve taught ten and six-week EAP pre-sessional courses at UK universities since 2011. In 2020, I was supposed to be teaching my tenth course, but I wasn’t keen on travelling and mixing with so many people for extended periods in the classroom or staffroom. Fortunately, the course came to me 🙂 So instead of spending the summer in the UK, we rented a house with a fruit garden in a beautiful village hidden up in the mountains, but still close to home.

I always believed the pre-sessional courses could and should be taught in blended mode. Some universities have been offering all or parts of their courses in blended mode or (partially) online for a while now. This year all universities had to go online. I really enjoyed teaching the course online, and I can say it was the least stressful one ever. I co-wrote an article with Zoe Smith for The English Teaching Professional, reflecting on the the challenges and opportunities of online pre-sessionals.

New role as research manager

A couple of months ago, I decided to change directions in my work. I started digital authoring and editing back in 2013 and it’s been really a rewarding and interesting seven years in which I’ve learned new skills and found a new community of wonderful people: editors, writers and publishers. When content and copy editing, I found it really interesting to go through a complete course and see how it was built, designed and what the writers created. I like editorial work, even style guides and spreadsheets up to a point! I even sometimes experience some kind of flow when copyediting…Yeah, I know what you’re thinking 😀 

But I felt I needed a change, or rather something in addition to what I had been doing. I felt I wasn’t creating anything and I wasn’t making much use of what I had spent years learning and experimenting with. I missed being involved in the planning and development of a blended or online course, doing research, exploring new things and writing about them.

As nearly all teaching and learning had gone online this year, one thing I noticed was often missing in online courses was the social element. Lessons also quickly start to feel the same in a video conferencing environment, and role-plays don’t work as well as in a face-to-face setting. So I started exploring how these things could be done better online. Which is exactly why I had started experimenting with language teaching in a 3D virtual world more than a decade ago. I started reading up on the latest developments in the field of virtual reality and building new connections on Linkedin with people working in this field. And this is how I met my lovely colleagues from Immerse. Their enthusiasm was so contagious that I had to join them when they asked me whether I’d like to work for them as a Research Manager. The good thing is that my role with them allows me to follow my interests in VR: read about research, meet researchers and other people who are doing great work in VR,  facilitate research and help disseminate knowledge gained about language learning and teaching in VR.

I still accept editing jobs because the skills set an editor needs, such as paying attention to detail, are useful in any job, and as I said, it gives me insight into how others design courses and write content. I also hope I can do some teaching too, because whether you are developing courses, writing lesson plans or doing research into teaching and learning, having recent experience as a teacher gives you invaluable insights.

I’m really looking forward to what 2021 will bring in terms of work and new experiences.

Jul 012016
 

This is my main classroom this year. The seating arrangement has changed into a horse shoe at the front for whole class activities. The seats at the back are used for break-out sessions / group work. On the teacher’s desk, there is a computer and screen with camera, a visualiser, a podcast recording device (the round microphone behind the keyboard, and the small screen with which everything is controlled. In the room, there are 6(!) whiteboards, a projector and large screen. There’s also wifi (throughout the campus) so that students (and teachers) can use their own devices.

All students in my classes have smartphones and laptops, only one or two have a tablet. This hasn’t changed over the six years that I’ve been teaching on these pre-sessional courses.

IMG_2681 IMG_2680 IMG_2679 IMG_2678 IMG_2677

May 292016
 

Huseyin Can March 2106Last week, I had to take care of my nephew, Hüseyin Can, for a couple of hours. Hüseyin Can is special. He’s got cerebral palsy. You can watch some videos of him on YouTube.
I wanted to keep him occupied but also get some stuff done that I wanted to do, which was to sort through the latest batch of photographs I had taken. I had never done this while my nephew was present. So, while I was flicking through my photographs and deciding which to keep and which to delete and talking aloud to keep him engaged, he was watching what I was doing. He’s good with computers and also learns quickly by observing. After a while, he motioned that he wanted to take control of moving forward to the next picture and the delete button. I was still talking about the images: ‘This is nice, I’ll keep it. Move to the next one. This one is blurry, let’s delete it…’ But then, Hüseyin Can started to decide himself and was proceeding to delete some images I wanted to keep. I had to stop him and explain that I liked them, but he disagreed and showed that he didn’t like them. Then came pictures he liked and he nodded with his head and made sounds of approval meaning Yes,! This is pretty! This we’ll keep! Sometimes, we agreed, but sometimes, I didn’t like an image that he liked a lot.

Why am I writing about this on my professional blog? Well. to me, besides having had a great time with my nephew, it was a special moment because he was expressing his feelings about what he found beautiful and what not. He always says what he likes or dislikes, whether it’s a new toy, a new t-shirt, a TV programme, etc., but this was different, it was about photography, about colours, shapes, light!But there was something else why I found his reactions interesting: Although we agreed on some photographs, we mostly disagreed on which were beautiful, or good, or worth keeping and which weren’t. It took me a day or two to make the connection between this and teaching and learning. How often do we choose material and prepare a lesson that we like, but it falls flat on our students. However, it’s also happened to me that I didn’t like a lesson, but at the end, a student walked up to me and thanked me and said it was great and they learned a great deal.
We know this can happen, but it was good that my nephew reminded me of how different opinions can be. In the case of the photographs it didn’t matter so much, I got to keep the ones I liked, but am aware that not everybody will like them. Fine with me. In a teaching context, however, it can mean the difference between a successful and an unsuccessful lesson, so, worth finding out why students liked or disliked a particular lesson.

Apr 152016
 

The details, abstract and slides for my talk

Hall 9

1025-1055

Writing for publication can help teachers develop in their profession and further their career. However, many teachers might think they don’t have what it takes to write for publication. Others want to do it, but don’t know how to get started. This talk is a personal account of my writing journey hoping it will inspire other teachers.

The talk is for the ‘less experienced’. It’s about both Teacher Development and Materials Writing

(The slides can be downloaded at this link.)

The idea to talk about this topic came to me last year when I had blogged about why to write and how to start writing and it seemed to inspire colleagues.

I like to write or talk about my own experience, about how I did things, rather than talk about abstract concepts. This way, I hope that other teachers will say: “If she can do it, I can to!”

At the same time, because the talk is about my own writing journey, there are many others with their own stories. For this reason, and for allowing participants (and non-participants) to add their questions and comments, for which there might not be sufficient time during the talk, I have created this Google document for my IAEFL Birmingham talk.

One problem with starting to write (or any other new things we want to finally do) is that the inspiration or motivation doesn’t often last long enough to actually do it. This is why I will ask the participants

What’s your next step?

… and invite them to talk with each other about their next concrete step and leave a comment in the Google document or below what this will be.
If you do leave a comment, I’d be very happy if you came back and left another comment after you’ve taken that step, no matter how small or big.

Thanks

I’d also like to thank Cleve Miller at English360 for making it possible for me to attend the conference and for Valentina Dodge for all her support and encouragement.

Update

In the meantime, I have given the talk and written up my reflections on how it went here.

May 082015
 

There’s is a very nice role-play activity which our coordinator shared with me in my first year teaching a pre-sessional summer EAP course and which I like to use with my students in the last speaking lesson of the course (unfortunately, I don’t remember the book it comes from).  It’s fun, but also very useful as the role-play situations are authentic: student and librarian, student and accommodation officer, student and head of department, etc. There are no scripts. For each role, there is a role description, which they have to read carefully. Then, the pairs can sit together and prepare their role-play deciding who says what.

However, I didn’t like how students wrote down the complete dialog and tried to memorise and act it out. The dialogues were hilarious and we all had a great time, students did use the language well and it was speaking practise. But it didn’t feel authentic and it didn’t really show how good students where when they had to reply spontaneously. So, I changed the preparation part a bit the following year: I didn’t tell the students who their partners would be! This way, they could prepare for their role, but they would have to listen carefully to what the other person was saying and they would have to react spontaneously. Ingenious! Or so I thought.

When I had given each student their role-play card making sure pairs were not sitting next to each other, I started monitoring and helping where necessary. But I noticed that something was going on; the students had all started using their smartphones. First, I thought they were looking up words in their dictionaries, but that wasn’t it. When I asked them what they were doing, they said they had found their partners and where preparing their role-plays! I felt like a fool! We all laughed about my failed attempt to set up the role-play with surprise partners 🙂 I asked them to switch off their phones, so a bit of the surprise element was there in the role-plays. It was a lot of fun, as usual, but they could also show their real speaking skills. So, I had saved the situation, but learned a lesson too.

This happened a couple of years ago. Although, I was aware of social media apps and was using some tools myself, and although I knew that students were sometimes messaging during class, it didn’t occur to me that they would use it as they did for this role-play task. For them, it was the most natural thing to do, though.

Why I wanted to share this story

– We often discuss which tools we use in class and which we don’t, or even whether we use technology in class at all or not, but there is also the students and the technology THEY use. We need to be at least aware of how they use their tools they bring to class, whether it’s their electronic dictionaries, or their smartphones and tablets.

– Even teachers who like to use technology and who train other teachers in using technology can make mistakes. But it’s hardly ever a disaster as long as one has good rapport with the students and talks about these things in class.

What I learned from this

Since then, I’ve always shown more interest in what kind of apps my students have on their phones and we talk about this at the beginning of the course. Since then, I also try to manage the use of smartphones in class better by, for example, telling them at different stages to put away their smartphones (even if they insists they need the dictionary!). Am I always successful? No! But I’ve come to terms with this. If I see how teachers or other professionals “multitask” or chat with others during conferences webinars, or meetings (including myself) and “claim” this helps them focus, I don’t think I need to manage my students’ use of technology one hundred percent.

 

Do you have a story to share about a “failed” attempt to manage your class due to technology? What happened? How did you react? How did your students react? What did you get out of it?

May 072015
 
Another pre-sessional EAP summer is approaching. Once the intensive course starts, there is hardly any time to reflect on what I’m doing in the classroom. So, I want to look back a bit, in a couple of blog posts, at how and for what purpose I have integrated technology in the course in the previous years. But before doing that, I want to list what kind of technology or tools are available where I work and try to come up with criteria for using technology in pre-sessional EAP courses. Finally, I hope that these reflections will help me to look ahead and think about any area where I could or should do things differently this summer and decide whether technology can help with this.

Unpredictable availability of technology

What makes it sometimes a bit difficult to prepare to integrate certain technology  in pre-sessional courses is that we are not in the school or environment that we are familiar with. Even those of us who have taught at the same university for several years are assigned different buildings and classrooms, and they can all have a very different set of technology that is available. There can be classrooms with just a blackboard (yes, black, with a small “b”!). In many science buildings/classrooms, for example, they prefer the blackboard for certain things. If you are lucky, there will be both black and whiteboards, but no other technology, no access to wi-fi due to the location of the classroom.
Then, there are what I call the “standard” classrooms with a large whiteboard, a computer connected to the internet, a projector and screen, integrated CD-player and loudspeakers, and broadband wi-fi for everyone.
At the highest end, you will have a large classroom with several whiteboards, possibly even blackboards, a computer connected to the internet, a projector and screen, and broadband wi-fi for everyone, and a visualiser, plus thick curtains that you can shut automatically when showing something on the screen.
However, all students (and teachers) have access to quite a lot of technology outside the classroom: broadband wi-fi on campus, lots of computer clusters, scanners, printers, … and, of course, the technology they bring with them: smartphones, tablets, netbooks, and laptops.
Here’s a simple list of some of the technology I’ve used in the pre-sessional courses:

HARDWARE

  • whiteboard
  • blackboard
  • IWB
  • computer
  • CD-player (mostly integrated in the computer)
  • projector + screen
  • loudspeakers
  • Wi-Fi
  • visualiser
  • computer clusters
  • smartphones (the students’)
  • iPad / tablet (mine or the students’)

SOFTWARE

  • MS Word (or other word processors)
  • presentation tools (PPT, prezi, keynote)
  • PDF viewer
  • internet
  • GoogleDocs
  • email
  • Blackboard
  • Turnitin
  • video and audio player on the computer
  • Youtube or other video sites
  • screencasting software (e.g. Jing)
  • electronic or online dictionaries
  • apps for the iPad (to view document, take notes, record audio)
  • apps or tools that my students use
As you see, nothing extraordinary really. So, this is not about the latest “toys” that you can wow your students withs. In fact, if there is one thing I would like teachers who might read this to take away is that this is not about wowing students at all. I would even say that the less they are aware of the technology the better. I don’t want to draw attention to the technology, I want them to be interested in the content, the language, the ideas, etc. If I can accomplish this by using technology fine, but if this can be accomplished in a different, non-tech way, that’s fine too. A simple example: After a couple of weeks, certain tasks become repetitive, or students simply get tired, which is absolutely understandable in a relatively long, intensive course. Sometimes, a simple change of setting helps them to focus again or to make the same task more interesting. For example, I tell them they can do a discussion or group work task outside if they want to, on a warm, dry day. Sometimes, we go to the library for tutorials, so when I talk with one student, the others can do research or continue writing their essay, or can give each other feedback on their writing.
At the same time, we use technology to do certain tasks: During the tutorial, we might look at a student’s writing on my iPad and talk through it. Students might be using the library computers to find books or articles for their essay. Other students might be using their laptops to write their essay. The technology is just there to do certain tasks, nothing extraordinary. So, this would be on criteria for me. I’ll list this and others in no particular order below.

Criteria for technology use in pre-sessional summer courses

  1. needs to me “normal” or normalised (aim is not to wow students but to help do something better or easier, not to distract them with the tech)
  2. no training needed (there is no time for training other than for a brief explanation; this is also connected to the first point)
  3. no sign up required (other than maybe for tools which I think they might continue using, but I really try to avoid this. There might also be a policy at some schools where teachers can’t simply ask students to create accounts or sign up to a website or tool without the school’s consent).
  4. used in a way or for tasks that are authentic (for example, they will use a Word processor and it’s comment or track changes function after the course when continuing with their studies,so it’s good for them to get used to this in the pre-sessional course as the objective of the course is not only to help them improve their academic English, but also ease them into the academic life at a UK university).
  5. help make a task easier (sending drafts by email and for me commenting in word processor is easier and more efficient than asking students to print out each draft and hand it to me, etc. However, I know teachers who prefer printed drafts, so this is my personal choice.
  6. accessible to all students
  7. available for all computer systems (which the students use)
  8. free (no fees for the students!)
  9. available on the university computers or accessible online, or my students have their own (if I want to use them in class)
What are your criteria? Why?