It's Valentine's Day next Saturday, so here's a crossword on that theme. You can download a PDF version here, and access an alternative online version here, in case you have problems with the one below.
If you're a teacher with an interest in e-learning, you're probably familiar with the word MOOC, which stands for 'Massive Open Online Course'. A couple of years ago MOOCs were being tipped to revolutionize the world of higher education. That hasn't happened yet, but it does look like MOOCs are here to stay.
If you are interested in finding out more about MOOCs while improving your English, here's your chance. The British Council has partnered with Futurelearn to develop its first MOOC, Exploring English: language and culture. It is free for the public, and the next six-week course starts today (2 February). You can sign up here. And you can read an interview with Chris Cavey, lead educator for the MOOC at the British Council, here.
Here's a presentation I did for the new intake of FC (= Continuing Education) students at the EM Normandie, some of whom will be taking the e-learning version of our Master's Degree. Click on the logos and screenshots for more information. You can download the PowerPoint version here.
BACKGROUND Germans are celebrating the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. German Chancellor Angela Merkel led several events Sunday, including the placing of a rose in one of the few remaining sections of the Wall to commemorate the 138 people killed in Berlin alone as they tried to flee the Soviet-allied state. In a speech at the main memorial site for the Wall, Merkel said that "the fall of the Wall has shown us that dreams can come true." She called the Wall a "symbol of state abuse cast in concrete" that "took millions of people to the limits of what is tolerable." Read more >>
Today The English Blog is celebrating its tenth anniversary. Yes, it's exactly ten years to the day since I wrote that first post! Anyway, to mark the occasion I thought I would organize a little competition. It's very simple. All you have to do is send me an email giving the total number of posts (including this one) there have been on The English Blog since the beginning. The winner will be the reader who gets closest to that figure. In the unlikely event of a tie, the entry received first will be the winner. And the prize? A copy of the brand new Collins English Dictionary ("the largest single-volume English dictionary available"), which retails for £45 (read my review here).
The competition closes at midnight French time on Friday 7th November, so get counting!
The project that has taken up most of my time over the past couple of years (apart from the blogging) is the EM Normandie's iTunes U site, which was officially launched in September 2103. There are now 20 video lessons in the Learn English With Photos collections on iTunes U. You can also view the videos on YouTube, but you won't get the transcripts, glossaries or word puzzles.
I'm pleased to announce that the EM Normandie is now present on iTunes U. I've been working on this project for over two years, so I'm glad it's finally seen the light of day! Although most of the resources are in French, my Learn English With Photos collection and course are proving very popular (nearly 250,000 downloads before the official launch!).
The teenage killer of Ann Maguire winked at a friend as he walked over to the Spanish teacher’s desk, where he stabbed her seven times and returned to his seat “as if nothing happened”, a court heard . William Cornick, known as Will, was 15 when he killed Maguire in front of terrified pupils during a lesson at Corpus Christi Catholic college in Leeds on 28 April, having talked about an attack on her for three years. Full details of the murder and his motivation can now be revealed for the first time. Full story >>
VOCABULARY If someone is jailed, they are put in jail, a place where people are put after they have been arrested, or where people go as punishment for a crime. • He was jailed for drink-driving.
COMMMENT The suggestion in both cartoons is that Cameron is playing a very risky game with the EU, which could end in disaster. The fact that he is blindfolded implies that he does not know where he's going, politically speaking.
IDIOM A high wire (or tightrope) is a rope or wire that is stretched high above the ground, and used by circus performers. Metaphorically speaking, a high-wire act is something that you have to do very slowly or carefully, because it involves a lot of risk. • The university press is not allowed to either make or lose money—that's a high-wire act.
A U.K. women's rights charity behind a popular pro-feminism T-shirt has vowed to investigate claims the shirts are produced in sweatshop conditions. The shirts, which are a collaboration between the Fawcett Society and Elle magazine, sell for £45, or more than $70 each, with all the profits going to the charity. But a Mail On Sunday investigation revealed the shirts are produced on the island of Mauritius by migrant women. They are allegedly forced to sleep 16 to a room and paid just $1 per hour — around a quarter of the country’s average wage. Full transcript >>
In March 2012, about a year after getting an iPad, I decided to start another blog: iPad English. The idea was to talk about apps and other ways in which the iPad could be used for learning English. It seemed like a good idea at the time, and I reviewed quite a lot of apps over six months. However, maintaining two blogs was just too time-consuming and iPad English is now 'on hiatus', as they say. Having said that, I'm teaching classes this year in which all the students have iPads (provided by the school) so it may be time to revive iPad English ...
Among other things, the iPad is a wonderful tool for language learners. I've already posted several articles about iOS apps for learning English on The English Blog, but having recently become the proud owner of a new iPad (I had an iPod Touch before), I thought it would be fun to start another blog where I could talk exclusively about ways in which teachers and learners of English can use Apple's magical device. So, if you've got an iPad, or are thinking of getting one, head on over to iPad English (www.ipadenglish.net) and join the conversation.
BACKGROUND Winds as cold as -4C (25F) will bring last month’s record mild spell to a shivering halt with Bonfire Night expected to be the chilliest this century. After the record mild spell, the mercury will plummet by 12C (53F) with Britain going from hotter than Spain to colder than Sweden. Temperatures are expected to hit to -4C in Scotland and the North by Wednesday, with cold winds and rain forecast across much of the UK. It would make it the coldest November 5 since daily records were kept in 1999. Read more >>
THE CARTOON The cartoon by Paul Thomas from the Daily Express combines two news stories: the record low temperatures forecast for Bonfire Night, and soaring UK energy bills. A young boy is asking for a 'Penny for the Guy' (an old Guy Fawkes Day custom), while beside him an old lady has a sign asking for a 'Penny for the heating bill'. The Guy is an effigy of Guy Fawkes, an English Catholic who was a member of the failed Gunpowder Plot to blow up parliament in 1605. The Guy is traditionally burnt of top of a bonfire on November 5th to commemorate the event. See here for an earlier Paul Thomas cartoon on the same theme.
NOTE When I was a young boy back in the sixties, it was common practice among children to make a Guy and go round the streets asking for 'a penny for the Guy' (we used to push ours round in an old pram). The money would then be used to buy fireworks. However, in these days of health and safety, the custom has almost completely disappeared.
If the timetable for exactly when countries need to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions has always seemed a little vague to you, well, we just got a deadline: 2100. That's according to a new report by the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, an international organization of scientists dedicated to studying climate change. Using data from previous reports, the 116-page "Synthesis Report" warns global greenhouse emissions need to drop to zero by 2100 to avoid irreversible damage to our planet's atmosphere. Full transcript >>