Sunday, June 28, 2015

Tutorial on Posting Images to Google Docs on iPad

This post was originally made in conjunction with a workshop prepared for TESOL 2015 by Dani Coelho, Ellen Dougherty, Nery Alvarado, and I (Thursday, March 26th 3:00 – 4:30 PM in Toronto) entitled iPadagogy: A Bloomin' Better Way to Teach
and listed in the CALL-IS Electronic Village program here:

My part of it is to show apps that can be used to help facilitate writing and make it fun, as shown on my Writing Apps page. My particular focus is on using voice tools for this, and for using apps like Educreations and Word Clouds to jazz up writing projects with media and visuals. Links associated with Vance's part of this presentation can be found here

Meanwhile, stop presses! While giving a version of this workshop on March 28, 2015 at the ISTE conference in Philadelphia, one of my attendees showed me where Google had got round to adding this feature in its latest version of the Docs app. Now there is a big plus + on the Docs tool bar and a pull down that allows you to add tables, comments, and IMAGES! simply and easily.

So there is no need to read further except as a historical footnote. There is no longer a complicated need for a desktop view workaround in order to add images to your Google Docs. This also gives a single example of how much you learn by taking the opportunity to give workshops at conferences.

The tutorial posted here was referenced in both the above presentations

Originally posted 


Historical footnote ...

On a PC, generating wordles at, saving them to a device with a discernable file structure, and inserting your graphics into your Google Docs is straightforward, so I was surprised to find that on iPad it is anything but. One of my co-presenters, Dani, put me on to a wordle-like app, Word Clouds by ABCYa. It's free and it generates attractive word clouds from text you paste into it; for example:

I made a screen shot of this image so it was stored in the Camera Roll on my iPad. Unfortunately however, there is no way to get this image into a composition being prepared in Docs on the iPad through the current version of the app itself (there is no image insert feature in that app) so to do this, we must resort to trickery!

We have to work through a browser app on the iPad and point it to In one of the videos I watched explaining the process (

Jeff Herb says that Chrome works best, so I used Chrome in this tutorial. Incidentally what follows is what I found on and captured from my iPad. This is a little different from the way it appeared to work in Jeff Herb's video, but I was able to follow the principle, and hopefully this will help you to figure it out on your own idiosyncratic iPad.

On my iPad brought up the MOBILE version of DRIVE in my Chrome browser app. Check that you see "mobile" in the URL as shown in the screen capture below (if you don't you may have to watch the video yourself and figure out the intermediate steps, or Google for a better explanation):

You can now browse your folders and find the file that generated your word cloud.

When you've found your file, open it and click on the little box in the upper right part of the screen with the arrow pointing out of it -- here, between the search tool and the X.

In the next screen expand the pulldown chevron left of the EDIT button ... 

Select "Use Desktop Version"

Are you sure? You bet! Continue to Desktop Version :-)

Here you'll find the missing formatting tools you are looking for. Pull down Insert / Image, and you'll soon be in familiar territory.

Now we'll see how Insert / Image in desktop view works on an iPad. First choose an image to upload

Now tell it you want to choose an existing image, unless you want to take one on the spot

Opt for the Camera Roll, if that's where your image is

The rest is easy: find your image in the Camera Roll

Click on it, and the image is inserted

Congratulations, you've done it! But you might notice that in this view the normal iPad shortcuts do not appear to work. Most notably, you can't press on a word and select it or copy, cut, or paste. To resume working on your Google Doc return to the Docs app, where you will find your image intact:

Friday, March 13, 2015

Developing online listening exercises for natural English

Presented at the TESOL Arabia Conference in Dubai, March 13, 2015

by Vance Stevens

A Google Docs version of this page is available at:

This proposal was made when I was developing materials to teach English listening to pilot cadets at KBZAC in Al Ain UAE. One important aspect of their English language training is being able to communicate with ATC (air traffic control) towers. At KBZAC we use real ATC recordings, and it is useful to render these in text format so as to make exercises that will train the cadets to listen and respond to text-based prompts that will both hone and test their comprehension.

The pedagogical issue

Because our class sizes are large (apprx. 20 per class) we develop materials that students can access through their devices: laptops or iPads.

The big problem with such broadcasts is that they are difficult sometimes to understand. The interchanges are highly contextualized (though knowing the context helps with comprehension). It is tedious to transcribe them, so I looked to speech-to-text software to improve my workflow. This presentation explains what I have discovered so far.

Getting text from printed text

Of course there are many ways to get machine text from printed text. You can scan it to yourself and convert it from the pdf to word. You can scan it into an optical character program and get text from that, or convert its image to text using One Note in the Microsoft Office Suite. But I find these methods to be a bit messy. There could be a weak part of the scan that requires you to make a lot of adjustments in your word processor to correct the area that is not rendered correctly. Reading it into your computer can be a good way to get it into text quickly, plus you have the affordance of an audio recording if you think to make one at the same time.

Discrete speech recognition

I  used to work in software development in speech recognition. There are essentially two kinds of speech recognition, discrete and continuous. The former is the kind you encounter in phone router systems where the machine might prompt, is this an emergency, yes or no. You might answer, “no, it’s not an emergency, i just want to …” and the SR engine picks out the word ‘no’ and acts accordingly. Or you can be sitting at your computer and say FILE, and the file pulldown activates. You can then say new, open, or any number of choices available at that point which the system is now ready to act on. This is the kind of SR I worked with. Our software, called Tracy Talk, the Mystery (Harashima, 1999) held dialogs with language learners and gave them prompts they could read from the screen. The SR engine acted on proximity to the expected responses and carried on with the dialog accordingly, so the users, in the role of private detective, had the impression of conversing with the characters in the mystery. The SR engine was robust and could be tweaked, so our conversation simulations worked fairly well.

Continuous speech recognition

At the time we were developing Tracy Talk, continuous speech recognition, which works on natural language input, was not well developed. Dragon Systems had the best tool available. It was not free and it had to be trained by the user. Users who bought the package and worked with it over time could get it to take dictation pretty well.

For anyone with an awareness of the state of continuous SR last century, the developments in the past 20 years are amazing. Nowadays you can speak text messages to Google Glass or into your cell phone, and with some clunky exceptions, you can almost send as-is (it works a lot better than auto-correct :-). You can download Dragon as a free app on iPad and speak to it with very good results.

Dragon on the iPad

Dragon is the best software I’ve found on iPad for converting speech to text accurately and almost painlessly. I now use Dragon to create exercises where I read texts from our books and render soft copy from them that way. The problems I find with using Dragon on the iPad are (1) that it’s not seamless for me to correct the text, I can’t see the text as I’m recording it, and (2) having to export the text before I can use it.

First of all, making corrections to the text you have just recorded requires some dexterity with finger pointing and activating the keyboard exactly where you want it to appear in the text, especially if the text has gone to the bottom of the screen. I find it difficult but doable. This leads to the second problem, getting the text from the iPad into something I can work with. For me, real work requires a keyboard so I like to create exercises on my PC. To get from Dragon to a PC I use email, but of course I have to be connected if I want it right away; either that or I have to create multiple texts and leave them on my iPad and get them later when I am back online.


Text to speech on PC

The iPad is wonderful for having all you need, mic and apps, in a single device the size of a mousepad. But if you are willing to work from PC with a mic attached (I like USB mics best) then there are several tools you can use. One is which allows you to speak into a mic on the left and renders the text on the right. You can copy what you get into whatever you are using to process text and work with that more seamlessly than if you start on iPad and end up on PC.

A tool I like even better is Dictanote,, because it combines speech to text with the functionality of a notepad, which allows you to make corrections as you speak in a way that the other applications don’t. Dictanote lets you  speak into your word processor and  make corrections on the fly. A problem I had initially with Dragon was that I was unable to signal carriage returns, so paragraphs of text tended to run together and were hard later to tease apart. I have since found that if you keep handy a set of voice commands, you can invoke pronunciation; Google it or see for example The process is not intuitive, but with Dictanote i can simply join up text or enter the carriage returns on the fly where I need them a lot more easily than I can with Dragon on the iPad. There’s a full set of text processing tools available, even an autocorrect tool, though it doesn’t know when users are trying to say the name of the product :-). Still, you can do preliminary work right in Dictanote and copy your text from there into your word processor pretty much the way you want it.


Yet another advantage of using continuous SR engines is that while you are recording into them, you can create a simultaneous recording using Audacity. This is why I like to speak into Dragon on my iPad while recording that speech in Audacity on a PC via a USB mic. It makes good recordings for EFL learners because I speak distinctly for Dragon and if anything too slowly for Audacity, but it is an easy matter to go back into the recording to remove gaps and close up the utterances.

Pedagogical implications

Why would I want to do that? Suppose you want to have your students work from a text in their textbook. You can ask them to read it and do the exercises there and we all know that control over the class is hard to achieve when they are silently reading, or not. However, if you make an mp3 available to them, then play the mp3 as they follow the text, you can see they are on task, and they like the voice reinforcement. Then with the text you have rendered you can do some interesting things. You can find their vocabulary words in it, you can create text manipulation exercises, you can simply have it on the board and search it for things you want to point out to them in conjunction with exercises they may be doing.

I find it most expedient to paste the texts I create in this way into Google Docs. I label the texts consistently; e.g. Unit 4 ‘texts’, IELTS 3 ‘texts’, and then I can search for ‘texts’ in my Drive and find all my texts created in this way. This way I can easily pull them up in class. I share them so that anyone with the link can VIEW the text, and I share that link with my students, so that they can search the texts on their own.

Getting text from unclear speech

But where the reading technique comes into its own is where there is no text to work from, where you want to get text from an audio recording, especially an unclear audio, such as our ATC broadcasts.

In our context, we can render the unclear audio to text by listening to it, parsing it mentally, saying it back into the SR engine, and then creating text manipulation exercises from it that force students to attend to certain details in the text / speech. We have created Hot Potatoes exercises where the audio is embedded in the exercise and the students can play the audio, complete the exercise, and get a score. In a Moodle context, HP will pass the scores to the LMS. In the Bb Learn environment we have not cracked this given limited time and resources available to us at KBZAC but we think it is possible (if you know how, please get in touch). In our context, I find that I can have students do the exercises in class and then call me over when done and let me record their scores from their screens. It’s a crude way to work but it is effective. It is the only way I have found to get a class of 20 cadets simultaneously on a listening task, each at his or her own pace, audibly and simultaneously engaged in listening and answering questions based on what I want them to listen to.

Making Hot Potatoes exercises with embedded audio

To make the HP exercises, you need to have your mp3 (or sometimes we use mp4) and then embed that into the HP module. The text rendered from speaking the text into an SR engine is then used to create the kind of exercise you wish to develop. The students can play the embedded video or audio at their own pace and complete and submit the exercise.

A Hot Potatoes exercise created in this way will have multiple files associated with it; at minimum the HP html file and its associated media file. The components of the exercise can be saved to a scorm package in HP which in effect places the parts needed into a folder which runs as a zip or rar file (zipping your files to a zip or rar packet is another way of doing the same thing, except that Bb Learn accepts scorm).

To Illustrate, we can use this HP exercise, which has both an mp3 and an mp4 embed
Sukhoi aborted carrier landing video and model speaking mp3 (voice: Vance)


The trick is to put some HTML into the Head of the HTML document that will play the files you place in the folder where the HTML file resides. Here the code looks like this:

Play this model speaking sample</br>

<audio controls>
 <source src="sukhoi.mp3" type="audio/mpeg">
 Your browser does not support the audio tag.

<video width="320" height="240" controls>
 <source src="Sukhoi.mp4" type="video/mp4">
Your browser does not support the video tag.

If you’re not too familiar with HTML (and this is HTML5) you can simply copy the code above and paste it where indicated in the dialog boxes shown below (for your HP exercise, of course, and where the mp3 and mp4 files have to be changed to the file names of the files you are using (to replace the file names shown in bold in the example above).


You can also embed a sound file from an online source, as in this example, from mp3s given as samples of a program that records pilot speech from John Wayne Airport simulations. You embed media from the Internet using the <iframe> tag.


Here is the code:

<iframe width="100%" height="150" scrolling="no" frameborder="no" src=""></iframe>
PilotEdge CEO & Founder Keith Smith giving a full IFR clearance, with pilot readback, for KSNA-KCRQ

The credits are simply to acknowledge the source of the file on the Internet.

Here is where the embedded code is placed:


Getting Bb Learn to track student results from Hot Potatoes

In Nov 2014 we were actively pursuing getting these materials into Blackboard. At the time I gave a PD session to my colleagues where I work. The slide show from that presentation explains what we were able to find out about uploading the Scorm packages to Blackboard and getting the system to track the results. We didn’t reach our goal, but the slideshare explains the process we followed and how far we got:

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Organizing students around wikis and training colleagues to do likewise

At KBZAC we've been using wikis to serve as CMS's or content management systems for some of our courses. This has proven popular with teachers as have PD (professional development) sessions I've been running to help those for whom the concept is new learn how to set up and develop their own class wikis.

In thinking through the design of the PD sessions I decided to start teaching and while doing that demonstrate in the wiki what I wanted everyone to follow along and do. Then at the end of the session I would clean up the wiki so that it would serve to explain to anyone who had missed that session what we had done using the tools we had covered for that session.

The result was, which was also the topic of a presentation I gave on Sunday Sept 21 at the online Fall Blog Festival. That presentation (downloadable mp3, WizIQ recording, and slide show) is archived here:

The slide presentation explains most concisely what it was all about (enjoy) ...

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Getting the most out of Socrative

Socrative lets you set up multiple choice or open ended questions which you can use to poll or quiz the class. You make your quizzes available one at a time through your room.  If requested, Socrative sends a comprehensive report on each student's performance to your registered email.

As with many hybrid tools it’s best if you can set them up and manage them on PC whether your students will be using them on iPad or PC. When you create an acct you are assigned a unique 6-digit room number. This room is where your students go to take your quizzes, which you deliver through your one room (so, one activity at a time).

On the PC students go to and use the student login button. They don’t need an acct beforehand, they simply click the Student button and then enter your room number, and your activity will be pushed to them when you start it. 

On iPad there are a free teacher app and a student app.  The students run the student app and then JOIN your room number. I have found in my office that I have been unable to access my room as a student on an iPad though a PC in the same room can connect just fine, so iPad need for bandwidth is something to keep in mind.
A great affordance of Socrative is that teachers can share quizzes. When you opt to assign your quiz a SOCrative number, then others can import that quiz into their account and use it as if it were their own. That is, Socrative makes copies and stores them in each teachers’ account where each can push their copy of the quiz out through their room. Thus we can organize to prepare materials for a shared course, and use each other's materials.
To import a quiz into your account go to Manage Quizzes > Import Quiz > Import Shared Quiz
Insert the SOC-code number, and that quiz is yours to edit and use as you wish.
We have experimented with using Socrates in class and come up with the following recommendations
1.     When you set up quizzes, you can indicate correct answers or not. If having the students work individually in class, there is a pitfall. If you give correct answers as quiz feedback, then the student who attacks the question first might broadcast the answer to the rest of the class, and students don’t really do the exercise, as might happen when working from a book or paper handed out in class.

Solution, indicate only the first question answer as an example, but not the others. No student will then ‘know’ the correct answer and the exercise might be done with more integrity.
2.     Another approach is to go over the activity in some other medium and then run the Socrative Quiz as a SPACE RACE. In this activity, you indicate the answers to all questions, and the team space ship advances only when a correct answer is given.

I found using this approach that the competitive nature of the exercise suppressed cheating (though in some teams, one member did all the work).

Only ten teams are possible, so you might have to pair the students BEFOREhand. This can get complicated as our students don’t necessarily fall right into place, and in team members each might try to use his / her computer thus bumping other teams from the game, so take time to set up the activity, assign teams, and be clear what roles team players have.

I also found that in this format some students requested to review the exercise, so I re-ran it as a normal quiz. For the quiz each correct answer was indicated, so this time those who wanted to review were able to get feedback on their work (on their own, while I was free to direct the next class activity)

Socrative is reviewed, along with Kahoot, and FlipQuiz, here for their game components 

And Rehab Rajab reviews a few apps, including Socrative, and lists sources where she replenishes her information on the topic here:

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Live Stream of Hangout on Air from TESOL Arabia, Dubai, March 14, 2014

TESOL Arabia Live Stream

At 1000 a.m. GMT, 1400 in UAE, Vance Stevens gives a presentation at the TESOL Arabia conference in Dubai UAE. 
Extending Google+ Hangouts to way beyond 10 participants
At the conference I intend to set up a Hangout live and invite conference participants to join it. Of course anyone in our online PLN is welcome to join us as well.
The live stream will be set up during the presentation, which was proposed as a workshop to be held in a computer lab setting, starting at 1000 GMT (2pm in Dubai).
You could set this up by TELLING people
Or you can set up an online space where you provide the above information plus
  • The embed to the live stream
  • The embed of the Etherpad chat below that 

The embed the YouTube video above, streamed during the event, and now it should play the recording

Meanwhile you can find all you need to know about how to join us at this link below:

During the simulcast you can chat with Hangout participants here

Saturday, March 8, 2014

The iPads are coming! Preparation ...

Where I work we have been anticipating imminent delivery of iPads for the cohort of young freshmen college students air college pilot cadets where I teach. Last Sunday March 2 we had a discussion during our regular weekly Learning2gether time on how we could go from teacher professional development to boots on the ground: suddenly your students each have iPads in your classroom, and what do you do?

At some point, Rita Zeinstejer recommended Joyce Valenza's excellent collection of Digital Storytelling Tools here:

and I asked those present if they had heard Valenza's "Wizard of Apps", a skit done by students and filmed on location in the library where she works, which debued at the 2009 K-12 Online annual asynchronous presentation conference

The iPads did not arrive last week but they appear to be even closer over the horizon, maybe in days, so I've called for another brainstorming session and decided to blog it here so that we can invite comments from those who might benefit from some of the resources listed here and who might, in comments, add more.  Please do!

Of course, as we develop our expertise we'll be able to hold more Learning2gether sessions that are less about "what do we do now?" and more about what we did and what we learned.


Here are some other resources my colleagues where I work have been looking at:

Another fire hose opens up at There is a huge body of material here.

These are the apps that our students will download onto their iPads during the setup process. 
Any suggestions for using these?

Apps Store
Face Time
Garage Band
iTunes Store
iTunes U

Photo Booth

These apps are recommended for our students as "must have" to download in addition to the above bundle

DropBox                                                    Free
Tense Buster                                             Free
Spelling City                                              Free
Road to IELTS                                          Free
Showbie                                                    Free
Lockdown Browers                                    Free
BBLearn                                                    Free
HCT Mobile App                                       Free
PDF Reader                                              Free
Adobe Reader                                          Free
Neu Annotate PDF                                  10AED ($1 U.S. = 3.68 AED)
Dictionary Apps
Google Translate                                     Free
Collins Mini Gem English-Arabic             20AED
Oxford Word Power Dictionary for
Arabic Speakers Learning English          115AED
Wordflex                                              50AED
Note Taking Apps
Penultimate                                             Free
Mobile Notetaker                                   Free
Notes Plus                                              38AED
Noteshelf                                               22AED
Evernote -   Free
One Note                                                Free
Sling Note                                              11AED
Photon – Flash Browser                          20AED

These apps are specified as "Recommended" for our students as opposed to 'must have'
Explain Everything                                  12AED
British Council (series of Apps)
Haiku Deck
Action Words
Voice Record

My colleague at work gives the following advice about using DropBox
  1. Use on the web to manage DropBox (on a PC or Mac) rather than doing this through the app
  2. You'll work in two spaces
    1. A folder in your DropBox which you share with groups of students
      1. You put documents here that all students can access
      2. Any student can erase documents here so be careful; keep backups
      3. You can easily copy from back up space back to here to replenish everyone's shared DropBox despite what anyone might inadvertently delete IF you keep a mirror backup handy.
    2. Folders that individual students share with you
      1. Students submit work to you through their individual shared folders
      2. Such folders are private only to the student and anyone s/he shares it with (i.e. the teacher)
  3. How to start your students off in dropbox
    1. make a list of their e-mail addresses, one per line, ready to paste
    2. create a folder where you can push items out to students
    3. Share the folder with them as shown in the screen shots below

Students will now get an email inviting them to set up their dropbox at the email address you have sent their mail to. 

Presumably this is an email address where you can easily identify your students. If they are not using DropBox at this address already then they can set up a DropBox account dedicated to their class work. This will create ideal conditions for working with them (pushing files out and getting files submitted back), but I haven't tried it yet, so I'll let you know the pitfalls (I've been told they lie in wait for the unwary).

Once this is set up you can send PDF files to the folder shared with all students, and they can use Adobe Reader to mark them up and then share them with you through their teacher share file.  You can then mark them up with your corrections and feedback.  Paperless!

Wait, there's more

Nalini Malhotra gave colleagues and I a series of PD sessions on apps she finds useful for the following skill areas.  The trick here is to check out each app and discover its affordance for that skill. There are some duplications in from the list above, but categorized by Nalini in her lists:

Assessment and course management
  • Socrative
  • Bb Mobile Learn
  • Showbie 
  • Edmodo
  • iFiles
  • Tense Buster
  • Grammaropolis (not free)
  • Action Words
  • Elementary Pearson Grammar app
  • ESL Tests
  • Make Dice Lite
Vocabulary and spelling
  • Vocabulary Spelling City
  • Notability
  • Word: 4 pics 1 Word
  • Opposities
  • Bluster
  • iSpeak Word Wizard
Listening and speaking
  • Haiku Deck
  • Natura HD
  • Voice Recod
  • British Council LearnEnglish weekly radio show podcasts
  • Oxford Bookworms
  • VocabKitchen (processes online texts)
  • prompts
    • Think About
    • Write About
  • Mindmapping
    • Mindmeister
    • Popplet lite
  • Timeline
  • My Journal
  • T-Charts
  • Venn
  • Book creator
  • Ask3
  • AWL Builder
  • IELTS writing
  • IELTS Skills
  • Writefix
Tools / Utility apps
  • TedEd
  • Knowmia Teach
  • Educreations
  • ShowMe
  • Explain Everything
  • Outline
  • Skitch
  • Side by Side

What else should they have? (comment to suggest more apps please)

Rehab Rajab reviews a few apps and lists sources where she replenishes her information on the topic here:

The apps she reviews are iMovie, Notability, Explain Everything, Socrative, Nearpod, QRafter, BookCreator, and ThinkLink, and these resources are copied from her post:
There are plenty of websites that review Apps and sources to get information about new Apps and what teachers are doing with them, here are a few that I really like:

And Socrative, Kahoot, and FlipQuiz are reviewed here for their game components