When the topic “Environment” comes up in ESL textbooks, what is usually discussed? An emerald forest with a turquoise river flowing through it? A peaceful lake? Cleat water? Fresh, clean air that one wants to breathe? Or do textbooks usually mention factory pollution, smog, and rivers overflowing with trash? You’ll probably agree that the second set of pictures is more likely to be found, and this was our dilemma at IELI. Our low intermediate Communication class has a unit on the environment entitled “Our Fragile Planet”. The topics that are covered include animal and plant extinction, deforestation, flooding of coastlines, the green house effect, etc. After reading, listening to, and talking about all these depressing issues, students have a speaking test related to the unit content, so they had to listen to their classmates discussing our dreary future, and most of them are bored. We were wondering how we could make this speaking test more positive, hopeful, and interesting. The light came last summer, when we hosted a group of Chinese university students who enrolled in a three-week American communication and culture program. These students had to complete a multimedia project using glogs, or digital posters. How many of you are familiar with glogs?
A glog, which is short for graphics blog, is a visual learning platform. It can also be described as a digital poster. How many of you are familiar with glogs? What is interesting about glogs is that they are interactive and are a nice change from PowerPoint. I’ll show you several examples of glogs in a few minutes. Students can include text, pictures, sound files, and videos in a very creative way.[Describe glog on the right if the audience is not familiar with glogs. ]
Glogs are available by signing up on glogster.edu.
Let’s go back to the multimedia project that students in the American Communication and Culture Program were asked to complete. Students had to work in pairs to create two glogs. The first glog had to be on an aspect of American culture they had recently learned about or were interested in. They had to research the information. In other words, they could not choose a topic the group was familiar with before coming to the US. For example, several students wanted to do something on music, but they couldn’t present on Rihanna or Taylor Swift because these two singers are very popular in China and all students knew about them. A group chose to research jazz after attending a jazz concert; they had never listened to jazz music before their arrival in the US. Students had to include some text, some pictures they had taken, and a sound file or video they had created. Interestingly, several groups chose to research sustainability at UNT, and they all presented the information in a very positive way. Let’s look at a couple of examples.
In thisglog, the students chose to focus on the color green at UNT, which symbolizes the football team and sustainability. Students interviewed an instructor and asked her to give examples of sustainability at UNT.
Let’s look at another glog. In this one, the students specifically chose to talk about sustainability, and what is remarkable here is the language they used, “the value of sustainability blows us away,” and the visuals they used with the blue sky and the green grass. We’re very far from the depressing, grey vision of a gloomy future. Anyway, these glogs were an inspiration to create a new type of speaking test in our intensive English program. We would ask students to address environmental issues by creating a multimedia project that would promote sustainability awareness and personal action.
This project was conducted in a low intermediate Communication class. This class meets for 100 minutes a day 5 days a week and covers reading, listening, vocabulary, and speaking skills. The project consists of 4 steps, which are first, giving information about a sustainability issue; second, organizing a tour of a local facility that uses sustainable measures, such as a tour of a LEED certified building; third, and this one is pretty obvious, assigning the project; and finally, assessing the students’ presentation.
Now, let’s look at the first step, providing concrete information about a sustainability issue. We chose to talk about sustainability at UNT because students can personally experience positive sustainable efforts on campus and we have a lot of resources available at UNT thanks to our Office of Sustainability. After students learned about environmental issues and human impact on the environment through reading and listening practices, they attended a lecture conducted by a representative of the office of sustainability at UNT. She talked about how the university is working to be more sustainable in how it uses resources. In the class that followed the lecture, students completed a post-reconstructive cloze in pairs. The purpose was to ensure that they had understood the main points of the presentation and to reinforce vocabulary. After the lecture, students participated in a tour of one of UNT’s LEED certified buildings. We chose the football stadium because it has received the highest LEED certification possible, platinum, it’s a facility that is typically American, and it’s near wind turbines, which is another sustainable measure that UNT uses and which was discussed during the presentation. The tour was conducted by a student worker from the Office of Sustainability.
Of course, if you can’t find speakers or don’t have access to sustainable facilities, you can use online resources. Here, I have listed some short video clips on several sustainable measures at UNT. You could also divide the class in groups of 3 or 4 students and assign a different online reading to each person in the group. The UNT website has information on sustainable buildings and grounds, energy, recycling, and dining services among others. All this webpages promote positive actions and results. Then students would be responsible for summarizing the information they read about and completing a worksheet in group. You can probably find a gazillion resources online.Create a handout for reading and reporting to group members?
After student received information on sustainability issues that they could relate to, they were given the assignment.[Show the student handout and go over assignment.]Students were asked to choose an issue that personally affects them to raise sustainability awareness.They were asked to describe a problem in their home, school, hometown, or country to promote personal action.Of course, recognizing a problem is not enough, so students had to provide concrete solutions.
After students received the assignment, they had to learn how to create glogs, and honestly, this was probably the easiest part of the entire project, so if you have never used Glogster, don’t worry! Students were given a step-by-step handout telling them how to log in and how to create glogs. [Show Noel’s handout.] Students had no problem designing glogs and including text, pictures, and videos. The only problems we encountered were with logging in and the “finish” button. When we created student IDs, we gave each student a number and used lowercase and capital letters. However, students could not remember their IDs or the number, or in many cases, even if they did, they couldn’t log in because they had not paid attention to the capital letters. This is why I suggest using lower case letters only. Students can always change their password later on. Another problem that some students had was forgetting to click on the “finish” button when they finished their glog. We had a few frustrated students who had to redesign their glog. One more suggestion. It’s a good idea to ask students to email you their glog a few days before their presentation. First, it will motivate students not to wait till an hour before the test to finish their glog. It will also create accountability, and it’s a way for the instructor to check whether students need to spend more time on their glog.
This project culminated in the presentation of the glogs. Students were asked to speak for 3 minutes, and like in every other presentation they have to give, they had to catch the listeners’ attention and have an introduction, body, and conclusion. Unlike a typical presentation, they had to explain the information they included in their glog. They had to describe the pictures and use the video in some way. Now let’s look at three glogs that students created. Each one has some good elements.
In the first one, the student included everything he was supposed to. He identified the problem through the use of a video and pictures and offered solutions through the use of text and pictures. What I find interesting in this one is how he used the video. He used this very short clip, about 10 seconds long, to introduce the topic. Although it is Arabic, one can clearly understand what the problem is. The information is logically presented.
Let’s look at another one. Here the student chose to talk about air pollution in Beijing and used the China Open as an example. She used some humor, and she contrasted apocalyptic pictures with some beautiful pictures. The video here was also in the student’s native language. Let’s look at one more example.
Here the student looked at some positive action that his government and companies have taken. He didn’t include everything he was supposed to – there is no video or mention of the problem – but it is directly related to the tour of a the LEED certified stadium that he participated in. You will notice that these three glogs have very short texts. The reason is that it was a speaking test; it wasn’t a writing test. Students were specifically told to include few words because we didn’t want them to present information, not to read information.
Because this project was a speaking test, the students had to be assessed. Instructors used a customized grading rubric [Show the rubric.] They graded the students on their vocabulary, content and organization, pronunciation and intonation, grammar, delivery, fluency, and visual aides. Discuss:Vocabulary: FYI, L. HelixonContent and Organization: plagiarismDelivery: memorization of speech, natural deliveryVisual Aide: It’s important to include this category because some students didn’t have a glog or had terrible glogs that had taken them 5 minutes to complete maximum.
After the presentations, we realized that we should have mentioned a few more points before students created their glogs and were assessed on their speaking skills. Some glogs didn’t have a title or had information that was not presented in any logical way, so it would be a good idea to remind students to include a title that specifies what the problem is and where it is found. We also found that many students used videos in their native language. While we would have liked them to choose video clips in English, it’s understandable that they first looked for videos on a complex topic in their native language because they were at a low intermediate level. If students choose videos that are not in English, I suggest that they describe it and turn the sound off during their presentation. Talking about videos, it would also be a good idea to tell students that they won’t be able to show the entire video. If students have three minutes to present their glog and show a two-minute video, then they can’t speak much. Remember that this project is a speaking test, so we want students to speak.We assigned this project for the first time in early October. Responses from both students and instructors were overall very positive.It created an interesting change from the typical PowerPoint presentation. Students were interested in finding out what their classmates had come up with. Students were able to use their creativity to discuss a problem that personally affects them and think about positive solutions. This project also raised their social awareness. Many students could relate to their classmates’ videos or pictures, and we saw many heads shaking in agreement. What I found interesting was that some students coming from more dictatorial countries didn’t hesitate to criticize their government. An instructor mentioned that students with strong speaking skills could not just rely on this strength; they actually had to prepare something, while students with lower speaking skills could shine with their glogs. One point worth mentioning if you’re not familiar with Glogster is that glog accounts are not free. Prices range from $10 to $125 per year and depend on many students and instructors are using it.Now I’ll be happy to answer questions you might have.
Going green with glogs TexTESOL 2013
Going Green with Glogs
Intensive English Language Institute
TexTESOL Houston 2013
“Short for graphics (or graphical) blog,
glog is the name used to describe a
publicly accessible graphical blog. A
person or organization's glog is actually an
interactive multimedia image that looks
similar to a poster, but readers of a glog
are able to interact with the content.”
American Communication and Culture Program:
Create a minimum of two glogs, or digital posters, with a partner on the following
1. One aspect of American culture you are interested in
2. A cultural/social activity you participated in
Include some text and pictures as well as a sound file or a video You must write your
own words. Do not copy anything from the Internet! You should create your own
video or sound file. You may interview some people and record the conversation.
Ideally, you will also include pictures that you have taken.
“I can see the sustainability
of green in everywhere in
UNT from our dormitory to
the road to rubbish bin even
to toilet paper. Can you find
some other examples in our
daily life about UNT to save
After two weeks
campus, the value
blows us away.
Intensive Language program: Speaking Test
1. Provide cncrete background information about a sustainability issue
2. Organize a tour of a local facility which uses sustainability measures, such as a tour
of a LEED certified building.
3. Assign the project: Create a glog on a sustainability issue that personally affects
you. Use text, pictures, and video to describe a problem in their home, school,
hometown or country. You should give sustainable solutions for the problems.
4. Assess glog presentations using a customized rubric
Step 1: Concrete Background Information about
Sustainability at UNT
1. Guest speaker from the Office of Sustainability: Environmental
Sustainability Efforts in at UNT and across the U.S.
• Handout to introduce main point of lecture and pre-teach vocabulary
• Ideas to think about before the lecture
• 30-minute presentation, recorded for future use
• Post-listening: Post-reconstructive cloze
2. Tour of platinum LEED certified football stadium
Step1: Concrete Background Information about
Sustainability at UNT
3. Other Resources
o UNT dining services and sustainability:
o UNT recycling: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_8Fl5lQwtRw
• Reading and Reporting to Group Members
o Built environment and grounds: http://sustainable.unt.edu/built-environment and
o Energy: http://sustainable.unt.edu/energy
o Recycling: http://sustainable.unt.edu/recycling
o Dining services: http://sustainable.unt.edu/dining-services
Step 2: Project Assignment
For your next speaking test, you are going to create a glog (digital poster) on
an environmental sustainability issue that personally affects you, and you will
present this glog to the class. Your glog must use text, pictures, and video to
describe an environmental problem in your home, school, hometown, or
country. It must also give sustainable solutions for the problem. For example,
in Texas we use too much electricity (more than any other state in the U.S.),
and much of this electricity comes from coal power plants. One possible
solution is to use more solar power in homes and businesses.
You need to work by yourself (no presentations by two students working
Step 3: Glogster Training
• 30-minute training by instructor or student assistant
• How to log onto Glogster
• How to create a glog
• Create user IDs and passwords that students can easily remember. Use
Yes: tomwangieli No: TomWangIELI or IELIStudent12
• Remind students to click the “finish” button when they finish their glog
• Ask students to email the link for their glog to their instructor one or two days
before their presentation.
Step 4: Glog Presentations
Your presentation should be 3 minutes. Think about these questions when you are
planning your presentation:
• How are you going to catch your audience’s attention?
• What are you going to say in the introduction?
• What are you going to talk about in the body of the presentation? You should
present the information that you include in your glog. You should also describe
the pictures and video.
• What are you going to say in the conclusion?
• You can use 3” by 5” cards for notes, but do not read your presentation to the
• Make eye contact with the audience throughout your presentation.
• Practice giving your presentation several times.
Step 5: Assessment
• Customized speaking rubric
o Content and organization
o Pronunciation and intonation
o Visual aides
Tell students to:
• clearly identify the topic. The glog should have a title (what and where).
• Identify (1) the problem and (2) offer suggestions. The problem should be at
the top or on the left of the glog, and the solutions should be at the bottom or
on the right.
• Choose videos in English if possible. If the video is in another language,
students should turn the volume down and summarize the clip when
presenting their glog. They should show more than 20-30 seconds of the