Uses for Flickr in the Language Classroom

I’ve been familiar with Flickr since soon after its inception, but I for some reason never liked it.  Maybe I was turned off by the interface, or maybe by its social aspect.  But I am beginning to realize what sort of possibilities exist for it as an educational tool.  I thought I would keep an ongoing list here.

  • A photo scavenger hunt, either taking pictures of a list of things, or finding an ideal list of those things on Flickr (or interpreting a list of more abstract words through pictures that express those ideas).
  • Using images as a starting point for a story-telling activity.
  • Translate a poem using images and language.
  • “Pre-activities,” e.g. pre-writing (brainstorming) or pre-reading (prediction, activating vocabulary) and so on.
  • Take photos around my town of familiar locations and let the students write the caption and description (say 50 words) for the photos.
  • Create photo books with text explaining what the image is.
  • Keep a journal with photos.
  • Create a story out of their images.

As a teacher of EFL to young learners, it’s very hard to give a 10 year old with a 250-word vocabulary (mostly fruit names and animals) the means to express themselves.  But as my colleague Anthony states, Flickr “can be beneficial particularly in the early stages of second language acquisition because of its universality and capacity to connect cross-culturally…”

I could see elementary learners easily being able to create simple stories out of photos.  Just today in 5th grade we had a Skype class with a classroom in Alaska, and our students gave short presentations on what their school schedule is like, using days of the week, time, names of subjects, and simple greetings and connecting words like “first” and “next”.  Prior to the lesson, I took some photos around the school and put them up on my Smugmug account (in a password protected gallery) for the teacher in Alaska to show his students. Students here had designed their own “ideal” class schedules in groups, using some flashcards, construction paper and glue.


Now, I think if I had been savvy enough, those two activities could have been combined or expanded.  Students could have made their schedule, then taken photos of those classes, and then posted them (or had me post them) to a Flickr account that told the story.

YouTube & t1m3c0d=s

Update: YouTube now has this functionality built-in.  Some of the below information is now rather moot, although the information on embedding in WordPress may still be useful.

Case in point:

Screen Shot 2013-03-15 at 6.21.55 PM

Any student or teacher who plans to link to youtube videos in powerpoints, blog posts, wikis, emails, or other forms of new media, will probably encounter the need to link to only a specific portion of a video.

For example, let’s say I want to link to Cookie Monster singing about his love for the first letter of the word “cookie” but the youtube video I find actually starts a few seconds before the song.  Or let’s say for dramatic effect, I want the video to start right when he starts singing the good part.  Well, I can do that just by adding an extra string at the end of the YouTube link.

Here’s my original Cookie Monster link:

I want the video to start playing at around 17 seconds, so I’ll add &t=17s to the end of the link. Check it out!

Apparently, instead of an ampersand [&] you can also use a hash [#] to separate the time string from the original link.

So now when I want to link to the scene in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode “Q-Less” in which Commander Sisko punches Q in the face, I can skip the first 2 minutes of dialogue set-up and just get to the part I like.

The only problem with this is when I want to embed this video in a blog post here on WordPress. Apparently, adding the &t= language to embed code doesn’t work on WordPress. For it to work here, you need to use the start function. The syntax here is different because you must calculate your timecode in total seconds, so to link to 2m16 into the video, I need to add this to the end of my link:


And that gets me this:

And for the lazy, just use which will set the link for you without having to remember all the fuzzy URL stuff.

For a lot more tricks, check out this useful page at techairlines.

State Department EFL Resource

Thanks to a link by Roberto, I found this 14-part teacher training course for teaching English around the world.  It is commissioned by the US State Department and is titled “Shaping the Way We Teach English: Successful Practices from Around the World.”  Each part consists of a video that takes a different look at how to effectively teach American English abroad.

It reminds me of a resource that I encountered as an undergrad, the Annenberg Learner series of videos for foreign language teachers.  The video library “Teaching Foreign Languages K-12: A Library of Classroom Practices” is especially useful because it contains interviews with real teachers and shows clear video of real classroom practices which can be a model for other teachers.

Visualizing a Semester of Learning

During the fall semester of 2012 as student pursuing a masters degree in applied linguistics, I made the wise choice to keep learning journals, thanks to the advice of Professor Kate Kiss.  It helped me manage my weekly workload and maintain a trail of retraceable thought processes that I could later go back and revisit.  I’m a visual person, so I decided to throw those learning journals at, which creates beautiful frequency-weighted word clouds from text input.

Applied Linguistics 601: Linguistics:


Applied Linguistics 605: Theories and Principles of Language Teaching:605cloud

My History With Blogs

I’m starting up this weblog as a project for a class I am taking, and this week I have spent a lot of time reading and reflecting on the potential advantages and shortfalls of blogs and how we choose to approach them.  I recall when I was a high school student, around 1999-2000, I kept a “blog” of sorts although back then no one called it that.  It was a file I maintained on my free 25MB webspace, a webspace that, terribly, still exists in a zombie-like state.  It doesn’t deserve to go on living, but that’s the way the internet works.  My 14-year old self was not thinking 15 years into the future when he published those pages, but there they still are in all their cringeworthy glory.

Luckily, my “blog” was something I was smart enough to take down after a while, as it very naively contained some of my most private thoughts and angst-ridden teenage experiences.  I still have the .txt file, and it’s nice to go back and take a peek inside the mind of half-life Sean.

In 2006, a friend emailed me about that old page, and interestingly, his memory sieved it as a “blog”:

Remember that blog that you had your senior year of high school? I read that thing religiously and laughed my ass off.  Then, writing about 60 or 70 pages worth of final papers and such, I realized that that website had a huge impact on the way that I write.  I think that’s a compliment.  I think it had something to do with the way that you so easily conveyed your thoughts onto a typed file; thoughts that would be incredibly difficult to vocalize.

So, I guess I was onto something.  Here is my response:

I appreciate what you said about my THOUGHTS page on that old, now essentially-abandoned website.  It’s funny that you called it a blog, because in the days that I wrote that, I don’t believe the word “blog” existed yet.  In fact, I still hate that word, and personally find the idea of a blog to be generally useless, unless it fulfills some personal or communicative role that is genuinely necessary.  I guess people seem to be really eager to create BLOGS because BLOGS are easy to create and every cool person on the planet has a sweet-ass BLOG that is referenced and trackbacked and featured in the BLOGOSPERE and causes CNN and the New York Times to write about how amazing and world-changing the BLOGGING WORLD is, yet most people don’t have much of anything interesting to say, and so, outside of the legitimate purpose of communicating with family and friends about genuinely interesting parts of one’s life, BLOGS tend to be pretty ***king frivolous, unnecessary, and in my opinion, stupid.  If I ever create something similar, I’m going to call it a GLOB because that’s a really hilarious anagram of BLOG and is therefore an appropriately incisive parody for me to employ in my own critical approach to life.

Of course, writing that in 2006, I guess I had conveniently forgotten about the travel blog I kept during my round-the-world trip in 2004.  And a year after I wrote this reply, I created a fairly meticulous blog that I have maintained through to today.

And here I am again, starting up a new blog, because one part of me has fooled another part of me into thinking that the things I have to say might somehow matter to someone out there on the series of tubes that Ted Stevens called the internet.  So, obviously there is something to this.  Let’s see if this one strikes a balance.

Something Approximating an Origin Story

My friend Ryan wrote this as the first comment to this blog.  I think it deserves to be framed, but here it is as its own post.

I piled a million pesos up and purchased a straw hat.  Six years later I used that straw hat to search for gold.

I found gold and it was American, by god it was American.  I was a great man, at least in Taiwan.  For the good of mankind, I stole an island and became a space pirate looting and pillaging the stars from my island, which had no air.

I never stole any air.  I lived to loot and pillage spacetime for approximately eight minutes.

Does it make any more sense to you than it does to me?  If so, post a comment.  In any case, I think it’s a lovely story.