Calling all French Second Language Teachers!


Keeping Twitter lists up-to-date is very difficult. I used to have one for French teachers but then my life got busy (who can relate?) and I gave up adding to it. So yesterday I put out a plea to my PLN on Twitter and Facebook (Ontario French Teachers group) and voilà: within 24 hours I had 60 names on the shared Google doc!

If you are an FSL teacher and haven’t added your name yet, please do! And please forward the list to any other FSL teachers you might know so that they can add their names. This will be a great go-to list for any FSL teacher looking to make more connections on Twitter.

Click here for the list.

Keep on being awesome, my #FSL PLN!

Love, Sylvia






Facebook Fail

(WARNING: Disturbing content)

Every now and then you come across a social media post so vile and offensive, it makes you sick to the stomach and you wonder what horrific set of circumstances created such a hateful person.

I had the misfortune of coming across one of these posts recently in my Facebook feed. I’m not sure how this happened as I’m pretty sure none of my friends would be friends with this monster. Which makes the whole thing even more disturbing, as his posts must turn up randomly on many Facebook users feeds.

A peak at his Facebook page revealed him to be a regular poster of racist, homophobic and misogynistic content. Here are just a few (I have covered his name to prevent me from becoming one of his targets. I get the feeling that he’s a psychopath; best not to aggravate such types)

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So, I decided to report these posts because, well, Facebook has strict Community Standards, doncha know.

Within a few hours, I got this response for each of the posts I reported:

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They removed one post (but not the ones you see, above, which are still there).

In light of the horrific Leslie Jones debacle I am shocked that Facebook does not take a stronger stance against hate-mongering trolls. The fact that they allow this deranged man to continue his vitriolic posts publicly for all to see means that they condone his behaviour, and others like him.

It is time for social media platforms to take responsibility for the hate they are allowing to germinate by taking a firmer stand against trolls. Facebook, I am so terribly disappointed in you.


How to pass the Google Certification Exams


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(This is a cross-post from the EdTechTeam blog.)

The new Google Certified Educator Certifications were established to give teachers official recognition of their mastery and understanding of Google Apps for Education. The exams consist of multiple choice questions and practical scenarios that require you to demonstrate hands-on knowledge of various Google tools.  The modules in the Training Centre cover topics such as basic Google docs, Google Classroom, Blogger, Google Earth, Google groups, Gmail, Google Play for Education, and much more. The exams are designed to be finished in 3 hours and cost $10 for Level 1 and $25 for Level 2.

“To get certified or not get certified?” that is the question!

When the Google Certification program launched a few months ago, I debated taking the exams.

“Why do I need to get certified? I’m managing fine with Google Apps and I’m doing interesting things with my students. What’s the point?” I said to myself.

Life gets busy and it’s easy to put something aside that is optional. But then I began to notice that teachers in my network who I admire were getting their certifications. I started to feel like I was missing out on something and before I knew it, I signed up to do the Level 2 exam (I decided to skip Level 1). “How hard could it be?” I thought.

Prior to the exam, I perused the Level 2 Training modules, tried some of the unit quizzes, and felt like I was ready to go. I clicked “Start the exam” and 3 hours later, I clicked “Finish”.

Within minutes I received this email:

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I was crushed. Despite my confidence with Google Apps, my level of expertise was obviously not what I believed it to be. And then the real self-debate began: To re-try the exam, or just accept defeat? Exam rules stipulate that you must wait two weeks before re-taking an exam so I had 14 days to get ready. I decided to go for it. This is what I did to prepare for the retake of the Level 2 exam:

  1. I reviewed the modules for Level 1, took the Level 1 exam and passed (much easier!)
  2. I revisited the modules for Level 2, reviewing every section in finer detail. I did all of the lesson checks and all of the unit review quizzes. I took screenshots of the review questions I didn’t answer correctly, and went back and reviewed the material. Then I did all the lesson checks and quizzes again. And again. Until I got every answer right.
  3. I created a folder on my Bookmarks bar and loaded it up with links to topics that I wasn’t feeling confident about for quick and easy reference during the exam (all the links are from the Training Centre.) Tip: put these bookmarks in alphabetical order for easy retrieval.

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NOTE: When you take the exam you have to sign out of your Google account (they will give you a temporary account for the exam), so your bookmarks might not be available, especially if you’re on a Chromebook. So I recommend that you have two computers open during the exam: one for the exam itself, the other to access your bookmarks.

Hardest part of the exam? The multiple choice questions. They were tricky; some questions were confusing and appeared to have several answers. Some questions were difficult to understand. There’s definitely a skill involved in doing multiple choice questions, a skill you can hone by doing (and re-doing) all of the lesson checks and unit review quizzes in the Training Centre.

The practical part of the exam was fun. I can’t divulge specific information, but be prepared to demonstrate your working knowledge of everything GAFE (Docs, Sheets, Forms, Add-ons, Sites, Blogger, Classroom, Google Scholar, Google Play for Education, etc.) The best way to prepare for this part of the exam is simply to use GAFE (in every aspect!) on a regular basis. If you’re not, you’re going to find this section very challenging. Reviewing the tools that you don’t use often in the Training Centre is highly recommended.

I am happy to report that minutes after I pressed “End Exam”, I received this notification:

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Bottom line: these exams are definitely worth while taking. You will learn so much about GAFE, even if you feel like you already know a lot. The process will help you see what areas you have a good working knowledge of and what areas you have more learning to do. BONUS: if you pass, you get to proudly display your badges wherever you want. And who doesn’t love badges?!

If you prefer to have support while preparing for the exams, the EdTechTeam offers Bootcamps across the USA and Canada. Or, you can contact them to come to your school/board to provide a personalized, in-house Bootcamp.

Do you have any more tips for passing the Google Certification exams? Please leave your ideas in the comments below!


NOTE: I found this great resource after: Take a look at the checklists that Eric Curts put together: fabulous!


How to Win a Demo Slam

(Note: Previously posted on the EdTechTeam blog)

My heart is racing, my breaths are quick, my palms are sweaty, and I feel like I’m about to faint. “You can do it, Syl” I say to myself over and over again, as I await my turn. “And now….. Sylvia Duckworth!” the announcer says, and I force myself up to the podium, placing one shaky foot ahead of the other. I am filled with dread but walk purposefully to the front of the stage, and start my Demo Slam.

The Demo Slam is one of the highlights of an EdTechTeam GAFESummit that takes place at the end of a full day conference. This is a quick-paced, high-energy session where presenters have three minutes each to demonstrate something Googly in front of the crowd, who will vote for a winner at the end.

After watching and participating in many Demo Slams over the past three years, I have become a keen and curious observer of the sport, mentally taking notes about what works and what doesn’t work. What became clear to me from the beginning is that winning the competition has very little to do with technical expertise and everything to do with delivery and maximizing entertainment value.

Here are my top 10 tips for a winning Demo Slam.

  1. Choose something fairly easy to demonstrate. Nerves can trip you up if there are too many steps.
  2. Everyone loves a good story. Try to tell one during your Slam. String a few ideas together in a cohesive way.
  3. Be original. If you use a Demo Slam that people may have seen before, put a unique twist to it.
  4. Perform your Slam beforehand in front of your friends and ask for honest feedback and suggestions.
  5. Time your Slam while performing it out loud and make sure that it does not go over 3 minutes.
  6. Practice is key. Practice your Slam over and over again until you can do it without thinking.
  7. Trash talk the competition: they love it and the audience loves it, too.
  8. Play up the home court advantage if you have one. Remind the audience that you are from their home town and that they should vote for you.
  9. Play up the foreigner advantage if you have one. Throw in flattering comments about their city. Bonus: attempt to speak in their language if different from yours.
  10. It’s all about attitude. Try to exude confidence even if you are not feeling it.

After my turn at the microphone, the audience is applauding, and I stumble back to my seat, the other competitors high-fiving me as I pass. Regardless of the outcome, I am proud of myself for stepping out of my comfort zone for three excruciating minutes. After all, how can I ask my students to take risks in my class if I don’t take risks myself from time to time? It’s the only way to learn and grow, and to discover your true potential.

“The greatest failure is the failure to try” (William Ward).

NOTE: For inspiration, check out Google Demo Slam: Live on Air.



15 Tips for the Reluctant (or New) Presenter

I have a love/hate relationship with presenting. I love sharing my knowledge and teaching experience with others, but I always get anxious about public speaking. Every time I step up to the podium, I need to say to myself, “Syl, you can do this.”

Over time, I have gathered some tricks and tips to help prepare me for presentation day. Here they are:

  1. Go over your presentation days before. Make sure all the links and videos work. Try opening all Google Apps documents with a different Google account. (Note: see this sketchnote for some EdTechTeam tips on a great presentation).
  2. Practice your presentation. Ask a friend/colleague to watch and provide feedback.
  3. Check earlier in the week that you have all the equipment necessary for your presentation (dongle, clicker, power bar, projector, speakers, etc.) and put them in a bag by your door.
  4. Try to get a good sleep the night before. If you suspect that you’re not going to sleep well, try to get a good night’s sleep two nights before.
  5. Charge your devices the night before.
  6. At the venue, ask someone in charge who to contact in case you need help with technology. If possible, go to your presentation room early in the morning before anyone arrives. Plug in your laptop/speakers/projector and make sure that everything works.
  7. Make sure you know how to set the proper resolution for your laptop to maximize projection on the screen and to be able to view all of your open tabs. If you don’t know how to do this, get help. (NOTE: Every projector will display your screen in a different way which is why I recommend you check this early.)
  8. Internet connection: Sometimes there will be a special wifi network for presenters only, so ask about this. But if you have a hard-wired option, take it. In fact, it’s a good idea to have your presentation (and videos) in a non-internet-dependent form in case you lose all internet connection.
  9. Close all applications on your laptop during your presentation to prevent them from slowing it down. Also, make sure that you have turned off all notifications so that they don’t pop up during your presentation.
  10. If the room and audience is large, ask for a microphone. Wireless clip-on is best. If going with clip-on, avoid wearing a long top/shirt (or dress) without a belt to clip the receiver onto.
  11. If you are at a conference, try to get to your presentation room at least 15 minutes before your presentation. Sit at the back of the room, and as soon as the previous presenter has wrapped up, start setting up for your presentation. You might have to be assertive: that’s okay.
  12. When people start to arrive to your session, be friendly and say hello (it will relax you). Ask them how they are enjoying the conference, etc.
  13. Make sure you have lots of water nearby: you will get very thirsty!
  14. Just before your presentation, take a few deep breaths and remind yourself why you are there: You have something to offer and the audience appreciates you being there to share your expertise.
  15. Apply to present again and again. The more you do it, the less nervous you will be.

Many thanks to organizers of conferences such as GAFESummit, OMLTA, BringItTogether, ConnectISTE, and the AIM Summer Institute for giving reluctant/new presenters like myself the opportunity to step outside their comfort zone to hone their presentation skills. I am truly grateful and one of these days I hope to be able to present with full confidence!

Do you have a tip for presenters? How do you stay calm before a presentation? Please add your tips in a comment below!



Anatomy of an internet scam

I recently put this ad on kijiji to sell my piano:

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Within a few hours, I received this response (gray: him; green: me)

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I realize by now that this guy is a scammer, but I wanted to see how far he was going to go, so I kept up the convo.

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In my email, I get this message from “PayPal” which looks pretty official, right?


So basically, the scam is this: If I want my money for the piano, I need to send the “Transport Company” $650.

I sent the scammer this reply:
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And that was the last I heard from him. But it makes me wonder how many people fall for these scams. To me, they seem so obvious, but perhaps to others (more gullible, weak English skills, less knowledgeable about internet scams), not so much.

Have you ever been victimized by an internet scam or do you know anyone who has? I have been following with much interest (and horror) to Alec Couros‘ struggles with a Facebook romance scammer who uses his images and Alec is doing a fantastic job trying to educate the public about his plight. Are social media companies and the media doing enough to publicize this issue? What are your thoughts?