Monday, October 31, 2016

No new blogposts here

Unfortunately I do not have time to continue blogging on this blog because I am too busy with my PhD study and my professional blog I am writing for it.

You can find that blog HERE:

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Special [spesh-uhl], (adj)

Today is a special day to me. 35 registered students have started my online course. I hope all of them will successfully finish it. I would not like this course to become a case for the "survival of the fittest" as Darwin wrote in his infamous book on evolution "Origin of the Species" (1859).

Did you know that the word "species" and "special" are etymologically connected? "Special" comes from Old French "especial" which comes from the Latin "specialis" (individual, particular) from "species" (appearance, kind, sort) showing that, whereas the word "special" has slowly evolved from "species" over the years, the word "species" itself has kept its original Latin word meaning - a real case of survival of the fittest. But if the "species" stayed so long unchanged, doesn't that prove something against the evolution theory?

The fact that these students are doing my course is special to me because this is the first ever course I have built on Moodle. Every new course I build is an adventure. I learn something new every day. I also learn a lot from online courses I do with other institutions. For example, I did an online course by the University of Oregon on "Webskills in the 21st Century" which was extremely interesting and gave me a lot of ideas for my own online course "Teaching English in the 21st Century". The course was sponsored by the American Embassy. In the spring I will start an additional sponsored Oregon course called "Special Education and Differentiated Instruction in EFL Contexts". Did you notice? Here we have the word "special" again....

"Special Education" is a well-known collocation to teachers. I was therefore quite surprised that it is not considered a "common collocation" in the collocation dictionary of This dictionary gives collocations such as "special agent", "special occasion", "special interest" and "very special", "something special", "make special" and "nothing special" but "special education" is not mentioned. Apparently they feel that the need for special education is not that common. Maybe they should come and visit an average Israeli classroom...

Monday, December 17, 2012

Flipped [flipt], (adj)

I told the students who are doing my online CALL course to keep a running review of at least three Technology in Education blogs. One of my students, Moriya,  chose to follow the following blogs: Free Technology for Teachers (which has received its fifth Edublog Award for the Best EdTech Blog),  Edudemic (which, among many other interesting items, has a list of the 20+ apps to know about in 2013) and Flipped Learning (which focuses on flipped classrooms or, as the blog writer prefers: flipped learning)

The idea of a flipped classroom/ flipped learning is quite fascinating. And not just because of its revolutionary educational idea. I feel the name is well chosen. What does flipped mean and where does it come from?

To flip can mean to throw or toss (usually imparting a spin) e.g. flip the hair out of your eyes or flip a coin. Flipping out means to go crazy while flipping over something means to get very excited about it. A flip is also an alcoholic beverage often including beaten eggs. Flipped is the name of  a 2001 young adult novel and the 2010 movie based on it. 

But in education, Flipped Learning basically means that students study at home and practice in class instead of the traditional other way around.

While trying to research the etymology of the word "flip" I was stumped by the fact that it was called an imitative or an abbreviation of flippant which itself is held to be an imitative. I was stumped because I did not know (and could not find) the difference between an imitative and an onomatopoeia. In the end, I sent out a request for help to the ETNI mailing list (English Teachers' Network of Israel)  which was answered by Izzy (Israel) Cohen . He forwarded my quest to James Harbeck who runs a daily blog on sound-symbolism called Sesquiotica. James promptly sent the following reply stating that apparently onomatopoeia is a sub-category of the more encompassing  "imitative" concept :

"Well, I'm not so used to seeing "imitative words" used per se as a concept in linguistics -- it seems to me that all onomatopoeia is imitative, but depending on context a person could make a case that a word can be imitative of something other than sound (the kind of sound symbolism and ideophones you get that may use high front sounds for small things and low back sounds for large things, for instance), or may be imitative of other words and thus not onomatopoeia per se. But for the most part I would expect to see "imitative words" used to refer to onomatopoeia, I'd think.

Ciao, James."

Thank you James.

Anyway, for all interested in learning more about flipped classrooms which most definitely do NOT imitate the traditional way of teaching :) take a look at the following links:
Flipped classrooms
vodcasting and flipped classroom

And just as a final note:
lɯʇɥ˙dılɟ/ɯoɔ˙pɐɟʌǝɹ˙ʍʍʍ ʇɐ ʇno ʇı ʎɹʇ ˙noʎ ɹoɟ uʍop-ǝpıs-dn ʇı dılɟ llıʍ puɐ ʇxǝʇ ɹɐlnƃǝɹ ɹǝʇuǝ noʎ sʇǝl ʇɐɥʇ ǝʇısqǝʍ lnɟɹǝpuoʍ ɐ uǝʌǝ sı ǝɹǝɥʇ

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Animals [an-uh-muhz ], (n)

One of my uncles once told me that he always compares the people he meets to animals. He explained this by pointing at people around us stating that to him "that man standing there" was an owl while "that woman sitting over there" was more like a bat. This concept was strange to me at the time but I must admit that nowadays I sometimes look at the people around me and imagine them as animals. A cuddly teddy bear, a rattlesnake or an okapi which is one of the strangest animals around as it has not yet made up its mind if it wants to be a donkey, zebra or giraffe!
The Okapi

The official name for the Okapi is "Okapia Johnstoni"  in recognition of the explorer Harry Johnston, who organized the expedition that first acquired an okapi specimen for science from the Ituri Forest in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

In English a dog barks, a cat mews, a cow moos, a horse whinnies, a sheep bleats, a donkey brays, a pig grunts, a cock crows, a duck quacks, a hen cackles, a mouse squeaks, a bull bellows, a snake hisses, a craw caws, an owl hoots, a parrot screeches, a lion roars, a bee hums, a bear grumbles, a frog croaks, a pigeon coos and a bird whistles. But do animals in all languages make the same sound? Just like the Okapi has difficulties deciding on its appearance, so seem all animals confused as to what language they should speak.

Just take a look at the following wonderful ESL Languages website which compares animal sounds in different languages. A pity Hebrew is missing. Anyone volunteering in sending them the Hebrew soundbytes?

Animal Sounds – Badge

 And if I have already mentioned the teddy bear, I can't stop myself from giving the etymology for that name too.

The Teddybear is named for U.S. president Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt , a noted big-game hunter, whose conservationist fervor inspired a comic illustrated poem in the "New York Times" of Jan. 7, 1906, about two bears named Teddy. That year, two bears presented to the Bronx Zoo were given the name Teddy, as a follow up on this poem and cartoon. The name was picked up by toy dealers in 1907 for a line of "Roosevelt bears" imported from Germany. The meaning of teddy bear as a "big, lovable person" was first attested in 1957, through the song popularized by Elvis Presley - "Let me be Your Teddy Bear"

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Smart [smahrt] (adj.)

astute, clever, bright, quick, witty are all synonyms for "smart" but where all these have stayed pretty much within the bounds as adjectives describing people or animals, "smart" has gone digital and is one of the most "high-tech" words around. We use smartphones, smartboards, etc. But was smart always that smart? As it turns out, smart has a painful past.

The word smart started out as a verb from Old English smeortan "be painful," from W.Gmc. *smert-  originally "to bite". This led in late O.E. to the adjective smeart "sharp, severe, stinging". In c.1300 smeart became smart meaning "quick, active, clever", probably from the notion of "cutting" wit with words, etc. The first mention of smart devices, "behaving as though guided by intelligence" (e.g. smart bomb) was made in 1972. 

So from 1972 on wards "things" started to become smart and this is how we got smart phones and smartboards. The fact that smartphones are really smart can be seen from the fact that NASA uses android smartphones to power an economical new line of satellites called PhoneSats. And there is no way of knowing which object will turn "smart" next! Smart cupboards? Smart glasses? Smart desks? 

As a matter of fact, it turns out that smart desks already exist: NEW TECHNOLOGY PROMISES TO TRANSFORM CHILDREN’S SCHOOL DESKS INTO GIANT TABLET

Could we get some SMART CHILDREN next please? That would make teaching so much easier...

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

challenging [chal-in-jing] (adj.)

Setting up an online course on Moodle is quite challenging. In the past, I worked with Highlearn (and was quite good at it) and this is the first time on Moodle for me. On the one hand it is going quite well, on the other hand I am having a lot of trouble getting everything to work the way I want. This course is taking me far more preparation time than a regular course battling with Moodle (and hopefully winning).

The word "challenging" comes from "challenge" which nowadays means a figurative invitation to a fight. This word underwent many changes. The figurative meaning came after the literal meaning "to challenge someone for a fight" which originated in the 1520s. This was based on the earlier meaning of "to accuse someone or to dispute something" from the Old French "chalone" (late 13th century). Chalone came from Vulgar (=ordinary) Latin "calumniare" , meaning "to accuse falsely" which in its turn came from the Latin  "calumnia" meaning "trickery". 

So although the word "challenge" started off with quite a negative connotation - trickery, falsely accusing-, it has made a remarkably positive turnaround now having a positive connotation - of something that invites you to battle it but that will usually let you win in the end.

Let's just hope that my feelings towards Moodle will evolve in the same positive manner. The battle continues...