A Little Bit of Serious Fun

Sometimes, when I’m not teaching, reading, writing, or parenting, I like to have some fun. I watch TV and movies, and play board games. And then sometimes, I like to have some serious fun. One of my favorite websites to visit is the North American Computational Linguistics Olympiad website. That sounds REALLY fun, right? But, in fact, it is!

NACLO Language Puzzles

A sample puzzle on Inuit writing.

A sample puzzle on Inuit writing.

The NACLO is an organization that offers a language puzzle competition to high school students throughout North America, and these puzzles are highly addicting. They require no knowledge of other languages. Instead, they require logical and analytical skills. With just these skills, and a bit of patience, you can decipher Inuktitut orthography, Pali grammar, or nonsense English. They recently started making some of their puzzles web-based, which makes them all the more fun. Give one a try and I guarantee you’ll be addicted. I liked them so much, I even made my own, based on Game of Throne’s High Valyrian:

Can you solve this simple High Valyrian puzzle?

Can you solve this simple High Valyrian puzzle?


Linguists Against Humanity

Have you discovered the insane fun that is Cards Against Humanity? There are numerous derivations of this game, including one for our type of people: Linguists Against Humanity. I have yet to play this game, but it seems like some pretty cool, serious fun.

A linguistics take on Cards Against Humanity.

A linguistics take on Cards Against Humanity.


Other Linguistics Games

Check out All Things Linguistics page for any posts tagged “games”. They have tons of fun stuff listed.


Conference Bingo

Mixosaurus has a conference bingo card generator. Next time you go to a conference, bring one of these to mark whenever someone says “I’ll try to be brief,” a teaching panel doesn’t offer practical ideas, or a presenter shows up visually hungover. You can also find an ELT specific one here (thanks Mura Nava). I originally heard of this idea through PhD Comics:


Jargon Generator

Finally, to spruce up some of your next tweets, check out the education jargon generator.

ELT Job Interview Database

To help any prospective job seekers prepare for interviews, I have created a user-submitted database of possible interview questions. These are questions that have actually come up during job interviews. Preparing notes or short answers for these questions may be quite valuable if you have a pending interview. This list may also come in handy if you are an interviewer.

Please click here to access the database or submit a question.

Getting Started on Twitter (for English Language Teachers)

Twitter has been one of the most useful and transformative tools for my teaching. I have read more ideas, reflections, and thoughtful analyses than I would have had I simply browsed the Web or relied on peer-reviewed journal articles. The Twitter PLN (personal learning network) I have formed has given me new ideas for teaching, new resources for students, new concepts to read about, and most importantly, a safe space for sharing and reading reflections on teaching. Most of the people who form my PLN are not armchair theorists, professors of education, or quantitative researchers; they are entrenched language teachers who share the same problems we all have and who ask the same questions we all ask – namely, “how can I be a more effective teacher?” Continue reading

How to get the latest journal articles in one place with Yahoo! Pipes

Note: This article assumes you have access to journal databases through a university library network. If you do not, the information about using Yahoo! Pipes may still be useful for combining RSS feeds of other sites.

I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately, which could explain my lack of blogging and writing. I’ve been kind of addicted to reading. There are so many great people writing so many great blogs and sharing so many great articles. When I read, I like to keep everything together in one place, which is why I love Flipboard, and why I started ELT Magazine.

Most of my reading lately has been from blogs and news articles. However, I’ve been wanting more journal articles to read. I love journal articles, but I’ve never been good at browsing the journal sites. I just hear about an article or do a specific search via Google Scholar. Yesterday, I read an article on ProfHacker about using RSS feeds to stay up to date with the latest journal articles. I didn’t even know that journal’s had RSS feeds, so this was good news. If you use a feed aggregator like Feedly or other services, this is good news! Now you can keep up to date with the latest news. Problem solved.

However, I use Flipboard. I’m a Flipboard addict. I love the visual experience, which simple text readers don’t offer. But, I don’t like having a million feeds to check – Flipboard keeps each feed as a separate “magazine”. So, I wondered how I could combine all the journal article feeds into one meta feed? Enter Yahoo! Pipes.

Yahoo! Pipes is an easy to use web content aggregator and manipulator, and its simple to use. Basically, I enter the RSS feeds I want, connect them to an output pipe, and Yahoo! makes a meta-RSS feed that I can add to Flipboard. It also creates a small homepage where all the content is displayed, so I could also browse the latest articles on one website too.

Below are a list of common journals and their RSS feed addresses. Below that is a video showing how to use Yahoo! Pipes. Below that is an image of my pipe. You can check out my ELT Journal Pipe here. Feel free to add it to Flipboard!

Journal Article RSS Feeds


How to Use Yahoo! Pipes for RSS Feeds
(Note: You can skip the filtering step if you wish.)


My ELT Journal Pipe. The RSS feeds are sorted by publication date and then aggregated in one single RSS. I then add this to Flipboard.

Join ELT Magazine on Flipboard!

Joining ELT Magazine and ELT Research Magazine on Flipboard is easy! ELT Magazine can be your top place to read ELT-related news articles; get practical lesson and teaching advice; and read about interesting methods, concepts, and theories! ELT Research Magazine* is the place to find interesting new research articles related to ELT.

Flipboard is a wonderful tool for professional development as well as staying up to date with news and your favorite sites. By clicking the links below and signing in to Flipboard, you will be able to easily flip (add) content into the magazine from your smartphone (via the share icon) or from any website (by using the Flipboard bookmarklet). It’s easy and requires very little effort so please consider contributing.

To join ELT Magazine: http://flip.it/fvAPQ

To join ELT Research Magazine: http://flip.it/s5Arv 

View my Flipboard Magazine.View my Flipboard Magazine.

*Note: due to the nature of ELT Research Magazine, new content may not be added on a continual basis. In addition, some content may require access to an academic journal database.

The Flipped PLN


Too many tweets!

Twitter has become the most common way to start a PLN (personal learning network). It is quite easy to follow and connect with people or organizations who share information we find necessary for professional development: articles, ideas, opportunities, resources, etc. When I first joined Twitter, I was blown away by the wondrous amount of information I had just from following a few people. However, after a few weeks of tweeting, retweeting, faving and hashtagging, I began to grow dismayed by the malestrom of short messages studded with links, pound signs, and abbreviations. The Twitter feed can often be seen as a disorganized, textual mess. So, is there any way to break free from the maelstrom yet still have the same powerful information come through?

The answer is Flipboard – a social, visually-stunning, magazine app and website. There are two ways to use Flipboard as another (extension) of the PLN. First, you can subscribe to any number of magazines as well as Tumblr, Twitter, RSS, Facebook, Instagram, Google+, etc. For example, I subscribe to a general news magazine, The Atlantic, Forbes, and io9. You can also subscribe to your favorite ELT websites and blogs. Here, Flipboard offers a nice and organized way to access the articles you want.


Flipboard for iOS, Android, and the web.


Second, you can subscribe to other people’s social magazines in which they “flip” topic-related articles.  I subscribe to several social magazines which are flipped by other people (Language Matters; University Teaching; and Education, Teaching, and Language). It is with these shared social magazines that the power of Flipboard as a PLN can be harnessed. While all the articles I get from these social magazines are great, not all are related to ELT. In addition, there doesn’t seem to be a single source for ELT-related articles; there is not ELT magazine.

So, I have started two magazines in which you can begin to flip ELT articles: ELT Magazine and ELT Research. ELT Magazine is for blog, news, and web articles related to teaching English as a second or foreign language. ELT Research is for flipping peer-review journal articles on both theory and practice – readers may need a university database subscription for this though.

It’s easy to flip articles to these magazines. If you are using a smartphone, simply share the webpage with Flipboard and choose the magazine you want to flip it in. If you are on a regular computer, use the Flipboard bookmarklet.

If you like this idea and are interested in flipping articles to these magazines, please send me an email or private tweet with your email address and I’ll add you as a contributor. In order for these magazines to become useful, I need to get as many contributors as possible, so please help out! It doesn’t require more than a few clicks of your time – enough clicks to share what’s interesting in ELT. Remember: a PLN is a network. That means you!

View my Flipboard Magazine.View my Flipboard Magazine.