Vicky Loras's Blog

A Blog About Education



#MoreThan140 – Get to Know Matthew Ray

Get to know more about Matthew Ray, a special education educator based in New York City and the person behind the More Than 140 project. Matt talks about his super projects with his students, speaks some Greek and discloses his culinary talents! Enjoy.


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To receive updates about other “More than 140″ interviews, make sure you follow Matt Ray (@mrmatthewray) and Vicky Loras (@vickyloras), follow the hashtag #MoreThan140 and watch this blog.

#More than 140 – Get To Know Your PLN

A few days ago, I was very happy to be contacted by Matthew Ray, in order to start a great project we are calling “More than 140.” We hope you will follow the hashtag #MoreThan140, as well as our blogs and youtube channels (links are provided after the video).

Watch the video to find out more about our project:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

***Update: We are working on figuring out how to upload wetoku/vodpod videos to youtube. In the meantime, the videos will be hosted on vodpod, which you can access by clicking here.

Vicky Loras

1st collector for More than 140 – Welcome
Follow my videos on vodpod

Interview with Aki Puustinen, Finnish Educator and Principal

It is a great honour for me to host an interview with Aki Puustinen, Finnish educator and principal at Muurame Upper Secondary School in Muurame, Finland.

Aki is also CEO of Team Company, a company he runs with fellow Finnish educator Timo Ilomaki.

You can read Aki’s blog at .

Kiitos for this great and informative interview, Aki!

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Number Sixteen – Change Your Environment – The 30 Goals Challenge

Change the displays, seating, rooms if possible... (image taken from

This is a period when lots of schools are re-opening worldwide. I love seeing educators on Twitter mentioning in their tweets that they are changing their classroom, redecorating it (some even share pictures or blog posts about that) or coming up with ideas about how they will be changing their classroom throughout the year. The reason I love seeing educators talk about how they will change their classrooms is manifold: they have their students in mind in doing so, they like changing the environment and because it has been proven that learning becomes more effective, either in a classroom that changes often or if the learning environment per se is the one that changes.

  • Educators can change the way their classroom looks as regularly as they like and at a low budget. There are so many ideas on the internet now, that one does not have to spend enormous amounts or ask for great financial support from their administration. There are so many printable posters, banners, signs to choose from, so that your students can be motivated and encouraged throughout the year. Some websites with great printable materials for classrooms, free of charge, are and Changes are good, as long as they are not too drastic and very often, as they need a sense of familiarity, especially for the younger students, so that it can be a place where they feel safe and where they feel they belong.
  • Two years ago I was very fortunate to attend a workshop by Ron Ritchhart, one of the great educators behind Project Zero of Harvard University. What I particularly loved about the workshop was that he was pointing out the importance of documenting the students’ work on the walls. Educators everywhere use their kids’ own work to put on the walls: posters the kids make, drawings, projects, absolutely anything! Do it often and fill up those walls inside and outside your classroom! Visual learningis at its best when students can see their own work on the school walls and also see other kids’ work. The learning that takes place there is amazing!

    ...or take them outside to learn! (Marcher Sur Le Sable by @Alice_M, from
  • Take your students out of the classroom. Yes, it works wonders and they learn in the process. No matter what their ages are, I always try to take te students out. As I have mentioned in Goal Number Three, I take the kids out – we tried a cornfield near the school plenty of times and they have learned so much. It is also a change of environment and stimulates their curiosity to learn. Even with adult students, leaving the classroom every now and then is a great experience. We go to a restaurant or a walk and start talking about the things around us – especially at the restaurant, we take apart everything on the menu and look at the language of ordering food and drink, asking for things and any other relevant language.

Change can happen in many ways. Your students will love it and learn in the process!

How Will You Follow Up on RSCON3? – An ELTChat Summary

We discussed our experiences as attendees of RSCON3 on ELTChat.

After the very successful Reform Symposium RSCON3, I was very happy to see (and I am sure there were lots out there on ELTChat) that the topic of discussion for ELTChat would be this great event.

The topic was how we will all follow up on RSCON3. The Twitter timeline was absolutely full of recommendations (I got the failwhale three times!). First of all, there were those of us who had seen a lot of sessions but would like to catch up on those we did not manage to watch and there were some people (and that was absolutely great) who did not manage to catch the conference at all.

Some of the recommendations were:

  • Blogging. Some of us mentioned that we had either already blogged about the event or will do so in the future, so there will be quite a collection in the end! (Last night, during ELTChat, there were already 58 blog posts on RSCON3!) In particular, Neil McMahon, an educator based in Argentina, mentioned that he would extend his blogging after attending Steve Wheeler‘s final keynote. Professor Wheeler blogs almost on a daily basis!  Tyson Seburn suggested incorporating ideas from RSCON3 and then blogging about how it went in class.
  • Watching or re-watching the sessions. The great thing about RSCON3 is that all of the sessions and keynotes have been recorded and the videos will all be up very soon, for all of us to watch (or watch again, again, again…). The videos will soon be on the RSCON website:
  • Training sessions in our schools. Sue Annan, a great educator and wonderful person from the Jersey Islands (with her own blog), mentioned that she had already organised a training session for her colleagues based on the RSCON3 sessions. Some mentioned they would also be using the videos with their colleagues and will encourage them to participate in the future (as there will surely be a RSCON4!).
Time flew by on ELTChat - as always! (Photo: Three extra minutes by Sue Annan, from

When asked what ELTChat participants would come away with from RSCON3, there was a variety of responses.

  • There was a general consensus that there was a great variety of sessions and the learning that took place was great. Tyson Seburn mentioned that the educators were a very diverse crowd, culturally and education sector-wise. James Taylor also mentioned that he liked the fact that the educators were also from outside ELT.
  • We all liked being able to watch from home or our offices or schools – there were no tech issues worth mentioning whatsoever, so we could all watch the sessions comfortably and everything ran smoothly! It is not called Professional Development in Pyjamas for nothing! The fact that it is a free event was also mentioned by everyone.
  • We all managed to connect with a great number of educators we did not know before on Twitter, Facebook and now Google+.
  • There was a large number of people on the chat who mentioned that they liked the fact that there were a lot of interactive sessions.

Some useful links were mentioned:

The time just flew by, as every time and the chat was great! Once again, many thanks to everyone who organised RSCON3 and to the ELTChat educators for such a great chat.

Number Fifteen – Be A Guide – The 30 Goals Challenge

After a great online conference, RSCON3, time to get back to the 30 Goals Challenge!

Guide them and they will find their way! (Image taken by Carol Goodey, @cgoodey, from

Being a guide in your classroom and your school is very important. It should be part of a teacher’s make-up and being to be a guide towards the students and towards other teachers in their school.

A Guide to the Students

  • A lot of the top educational systems in the world are exactly at the top because they allow students and show them the way to researching on their own. No ready answers from educators, no pressure – the teachers present the subject matter and let the kids explore and find the answers on their own. And that is why we are there for them. To facilitate their learning – not in giving them ready-made answers, but showing them their potentials, that on their own and through searching and looking and researching they can find the answer and their way to knowledge. Each student in their own way. In my classes, the best lessons come when I am listening to the kids speak to one another and debate and explain – I am only there and intervene to give them encouragement and praise and lead them perhaps to something else, when I see that they want more to learn.

A Guide to Teachers

  • There is nothing better than a school full of teachers who have a great relationship among them, communicate and always know they will be there for each other. A bit difficult to happen throughout the whole school, but at least it can happen for a number of teachers in a specific school – and then, who knows? The others might join them as well!
  • Let your teachers know you are always there for them, be it for school-related things or personal things, if you can help them of course. There is nothing better for them to know they can depend on you and come to you without hesitation, whatever your role in the school.
  • Guide them to new things: social networks like Twitter, Facebook and now Google+ and so on and let them know how they have helped you with your professional development. Let them know about conferences and workshops – I let them know I am going and sometimes they join, because they feel better when they are with someone else. Once we are there, they open up and meet other educators as well (and see what good stuff they are missing when they do not come!).

Be a guide for both students and other teachers – someone else has guided you and is guiding you too – everyone is a link to a great chain!

Multiculturalism and Diversity in the Classroom – A Preview of My Presentation for RSCON3

The Reform Symposium is almost here! Literally thousands of educators from all over the world will be watching the presentations, all from the comfort of their own space at home or elsewhere – professional development, free for all! This is going to be my first presentation and I am really looking forward to it and attending other talks as well. Many many thanks in advance to everyone organising, moderating and attending!

This is a slideshow of my presentation:

Here is the information from the fantastic organisers of this great event:

In a few days, nearly 8000 educators from over 40 different countries are expected to attend a free 3 day virtual conference, The Reform Symposium, #RSCON3. This free award-nominated e-conference is going to take place on July 29-31st, 2011. Participants can attend this online conference from the comfort of their homes or anywhere that has Internet access. This amazing conference provides educators new or currently active on social networks the opportunity to connect with educators and professionals in the field of education worldwide. With over 12 Keynotes, 80 presenters, and 3 keynote panel discussions you are bound to be inspired!

We would like to thank the incredible organizers– Shelly Terrell, Kelly Tenkely, Chris Rogers, Lisa Dabbs, Melissa Tran, Clive Elsmore, Mark Barnes, Ian Chia, Cecilia Lemos, Jerry Blumengarten, and Kyle Pace- and Steve Hargadon of Classroom 2.0 and The Future of Education online communities for making this incredible conference possible.

We hope you can join us for this incredible professional development experience!

Number Fourteen – Build An Ideal Classroom Culture – The 30 Goals Challenge

An ideal classroom culture is achieved when everyone enjoys being there! (Picture from, taken by Adam Simpson, @yearinthelifeof)

The fourteenth goal is, in my opinion, a very strong foundation for the rest of the goals to materialise. An ideal classroom culture has been successfully created when:

– Students feel comfortable in their classroom and view it as a place where they love to learn.

– Educators and students co-operate and see each other as members of a great learning team.

– Parents and caregivers are welcome to come in and visit at times, in order to enjoy the great learning atmosphere.

– There is mutual respect and everyone is valued.

– Students do not leave immediately when the lesson is over, but enjoy staying at school and working on their school material or helping each other. (Sometimes they even stay after school to help the teacher tidy up the classroom, which is very nice and reflects the atmosphere of helping and co-operation!)

– Educators feel comfortable in their classrooms, love what is happening there, that they even go there on weekends or stay longer after school (as long as they don’t overdo it!).

Number Eleven – Give Students Reign – The 30 Goals Challenge

Time to get back to the 30 Goals Challenge! Give your students the chance to become teachers for a day … or more!

Give your students reign - they can come up with some really good ideas! (Image taken from

This one has to be one of my favourite things to do in class. It depends on how educators use it and can be very successful if planned carefully beforehand – and it also depends on the students’ age.

Young Learners:

With children, I have seen that it works particularly well when a portion of the lesson time is devoted to their deciding on a new activity. If it is the whole lesson, chances are they might run out of things to do, or even worse, things may get completely out of hand in terms of classroom management.

So depending on when you think it is appropriate, it can be the first or last fifteen or so minutes of the lesson. Sometimes I give them a list of ideas – so we have, this, this and this to do…which one would you like? You can either have them quickly vote and go with what the majority decides (and promise to do the other activities another time in case some children start complaining – but keep to your word, they sure will remember!), or split them up in groups and they can do the activity they chose.

Adult Learners:

With adults, you can let them know beforehand that sometime during the year you will be giving them the opportunity to choose the course of the lesson. If a teacher just goes in class and announces, Ok, so what would you like to do today? your students may think that you have not prepared  (even though you may have the best intentions) or they might feel insecure about learning anything that day.

Again, as with young learners, either a portion of the lesson can be devoted or even the whole lesson, if they wish to. Once, I told a group of bankers that I teach that they could have the opportunity to choose to do whatever they wanted. They chose to prepare some presentations and they were so enthusiastic about it, that they had made the best presentations ever, complete with  PowerpointTM and this was one of the best lessons ever with them. (I just told them to e-mail me beforehand on what they would be doing, so I prepared some notes for them concerning presentations. And while they were presenting, I was keeping notes of all the super expressions and language they came up with, just to put them on the board afterwards for the rest of the group to see and use.) So if you participate in any of these ways, it shows that you do give them reign, but as educators we also have something to give back to them and not only let them do all the preparation  so we can revel in the free time. It is not why we are doing it anyway.

By giving them reign, we give them the opportunity to actively engage in their learning process and find out how they learn best. As educators, we can also gain insight into that from the ideas they come up with.

If you have any other tips on how you choose to give your students reign, I will be very happy to read about them!

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