Did I tell you I worked in tobacco fields? by Vicky Papageorgiou




I had a wonderful childhood. I come from a middle class family, in some ways typical, in some other ways quite unconventional. My brother and I grew up surrounded with love. We lived in a small pack. Our grandma raised us since she lived with us. My parents worked hard. Every summer, and after  schools closed, we would spend our holidays somewhere near the sea. Every August though, we did something different. Totally different for two city children.

In Western Greece, there is a small village up on the mountains very close to the borders with Albania. It is called Oinoi. Pontic Greeks live there, immigrants who moved back to Greece  from Asia Minor in the beginning of the century. Ionians. Very tough and rough people. But generous.

I have family there, not related to them by blood but still family. From the age of 8 and until I was 15, my parents would send me, my brother and my grandma there for about a month. Or less. Every year! Why? To help them out with farming. They needed hands. Working hands. And they could not afford to pay for them.

The mother and the father of that family would wake up every day at 4 o’clock in the morning to go to the fields. Did I tell you what they cultivated? Tobacco! A lot of acres. They would return home at around midday, with their baskets filled with tobacco leaves and  all of us the children (5 in total) would follow them and go under a poorly set up shed, would sit on the ground, cross our legs, and would start work. We had to lay the tobacco leaves in a certain position and ‘sew’ them together. Afterwards, hung on tiers we would let them wilt in the large barn . Until the merchants would come to buy them. And that would mean that then the family could make it through the winter.

We used large needles to ‘sew’ the leaves. For years that family could not even afford machines which would do that. We had to do it by hand. Also, for years they did not even have electricity out in the shed. Only in the house. We normally had to stay up until 8-9 p.m. in the shed to finish working on the day’s harvest and hang everything in the barn. And we used gas lamps for light late in the evening.

My grandma would spend the day cleaning up their two-storey house, kitchen, yard, etc. And she would also cook for all of us. Every day a different dish. Because the family that hosted us normally fed on freshly baked bread, feta cheese, tomato and olives. They rarely cooked. They did not have time to cook. Nor had they ever had the luxury to learn how to. They were rough mountain people. The women did not know how to cook the complex dishes that my grandma prepared (I come from a family of cooks and restaurant owners – but that’s another story in itself).

So, anyway, in this way the rest of us could concentrate on working hard with the tobacco harvest. Have you ever touched tobacco leaves, by the way? They stick on your hands! So much so that your hands get seriously rough in the end that no hand cream can soften.

I could talk for hours or could write whole pages about these summers I spent there. Working hard daily (weekends included) but having fun, incredible fun every day. We worked for hours, never complained and learned how to live in the countryside and appreciate it as well.

Did I mention we were never paid? There was never a matter of payment . Because they were family. Though no blood related. And because our parents wanted to teach us a few valuable lessons. Volunteering being the biggest one. Giving without necessarily asking to receive back.

Why am I telling you this story? I am a strong advocate of volunteerism. I have been working pro bono since I started working, after the age of 18. In multiple ways. And I did it consciously, it did not just happen because I needed to acquire certain skills, I needed to train. Ever since I remember myself, I felt the need to give back to the community and so I contributed in various ways. I made sure I worked and earned enough money to pay my bills and survive and then I did pro bono work, too. The people who know me also know I am a hard worker. And a dedicated one. I also like to believe I have a strong work ethic and so I  do not differentiate between pro bono and paid work. Both of them are done with the same diligence.

I believe that volunteering can help people develop skills, but it also promotes goodness and it can also improve human quality of life. Volunteering may have positive benefits for the volunteer as well as for the person or community served. It is an altruistic activity and there is nothing superior to being able to give to others without the expectation of gaining anything back (UN volunteers, 2006). Not because it makes you ‘feel’ superior! But because it makes you feel humble.  Because a true volunteer is someone who put themselves in someone’s shoes. Not someone who looks at them from above!

Now, what triggered all this? I work in education. You already know that. What I am sure you also must know is how much I value open education, open access, open data. ‘A lack of access to information hinders learning, stifles innovation and slows scientific progress’, says Erin McKiernan (McKiernan, 2014). Today more than ever we need open educational resources. They are important for developing countries, for students who may not be able to afford textbooks, where access to classrooms may be limited, and where teacher-training programs may be lacking. They are also important for young or older researchers who cannot afford the publications which are under a pay wall. Also, OERs are to their greatest degree digitized and so they represent an opportunity to have one’s own materials enhanced (Anyangwe, 2011).. The material can be modified, transformed by other faculty around the world, so the modifications and additions can be countless and can lead to a work stronger than the original. The possibilities are utterly immense.

imagesBesides their increasing importance for developing countries, they are also important in wealthy industrialized countries, where they can offer significant cost savings. Cost savings are directly linked to open data and OER generally (Salomon, 2008). For these resources to keep the cost low though, they largely depend on volunteers (Eve, 2004). Volunteers who will write, select, edit materials, curate the websites, etc. And this is exactly the point I am trying to make.

I am one only of a great number of people who work tirelessly (dedicating their non-existent free time a lot of times!) and without payment trying to provide free education and open educational resources within the ESL world. In hard times like the ones we are living in, keeping education and educational resources open benefits teachers, research and  students worldwide. By doing so, we serve a not elitist and cost free education and training for thousands of citizens. Besides the downsides of such a venture (quality of materials, quality of peer review, etc.), the benefits outweigh the drawbacks and this is why OER should remain open.

However, what is free tends to be considered of lower quality as well. While in some cases it is true that quality is not optimal yet at all instances, we need to keep in mind that the movement of keeping educational resources open is still in its beginning, relatively  anyway, and has a long way ahead of it. Yet, one more thing to consider is that we should shift the focus on the openness of the resources and services and not on the fact that they are offered for free. The fact that they are available to everybody so that education is not limited to the few. We are building a more democratic society in this way as well as a more inclusive one. Even with all the downsides this might entail, I would still stand up for it and I am!

This text serves as my response to people who recently seem to not have respected or appreciated our work as volunteers in this sector.


· Anyangwe, E. (2011, October 25). Exploring open access in higher education. The Guardian.  Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/higher-education-network/blog/2011/oct/25/open-access-higher-education
·         Eve, M.P. (2004). Open access and the humanities. Available from : https://books.google.gr/books?id=O7UkBQAAQBAJ&pg=PA127&lpg=PA127&dq=do+open+access+journals+depend+on+volunteering&source=bl&ots=0rNKuP8qE7&sig=OUufnMolsMYP0ESXPj3nvUL2BEY&hl=el&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjZytjNlL_WAhWqK5oKHU-4Ato4FBDoAQglMAA#v=onepage&q=do%20open%20access%20journals%20depend%20on%20volunteering&f=false
·         McKiernan, E. (2014, August 22). University research: if you believe in openness, stand up for it. The Guardian.  Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/higher-education-network/blog/2014/aug/22/university-research-publish-open-access-journal
·         Salomon, D. (2008). Developing Open Access Journals: A Practical Guide. Available from https://books.google.gr/books?id=CLSoAgAAQBAJ&pg=PA53&lpg=PA53&dq=do+open+access+journals+depend+on+volunteering&source=bl&ots=N4EpPhhVp1&sig=dRpdlcSwJd08u8T_L7fGuyIPa44&hl=el&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjq4PT9kr_WAhWKO5oKHXDBA9sQ6AEIbDAJ#v=onepage&q=do%20open%20access%20journals%20depend%20on%20volunteering&f=false
·         UN volunteers. (2006, September  5). The power of volunteerism. [blog post]. Retrieved from https://www.unv.org/volunteerism/power-volunteerism



«Creativity in the Twenty-First Century Book Series»

Interested in creativity research? submit your book proposal to this series, Creativity in the Twenty First Century http://www.springer.com/series/13859
«Creativity in the Twenty-First Century Book Series» repositions «creativity» as a boundary-crossing discipline that is essential to learning and teaching, social-economic dialogues, academic discourses and cultural practices, as well as technological and digital communications. The series serves as a timely platform, bringing together like-minded scientists and researchers around the world to share their diverse perspectives on creativity and to engage in open and productive inquiries into promoting creativity for a more peaceful and harmonious world. Researchers and practitioners from all continents are invited to share their discipline-specific insights, research orientations and cultural practices, as well as to pose new questions on what creativity is, how to promote it, which directions to pursue, who should participate, and so on.
The book series is led by emerging eminent and senior scientists, researchers, and educators in the fields of creativity, psychology, the cultural sciences and education studies. They create networks of sharing and spread innovative publishing opportunities within the communities of practice. They invest considerable time and effort in deepening creativity expertise, structuring creativity programs, and organizing creativity activities for the communities of interest. The book series aims not only to «glue together» like-minded scientists (community of practice) to share benefits of creativity theorizing, research and practice, but also to encourage non-experts (community of interest) in all societies to become supporters and spokespersons of positive engagement in creative learning, teaching and dialogues.

Book proposals for this series may be submitted to the Publishing Editor: Lawrence Liu
Email: Lawrence.Liu@springer.com

Interview with Shelly Terrell

For over a year now, I have started interviewing several people of the ELT world for the ELTA Serbia newsletter and I am now going to share these interviews on my blog. I hope you find them interesting. My first interview was with the lovely Shelly Terrell. Here it goes.

Interview with Shelly Sanchez Terrell

by Vicky Papageorgiou

(This interview appeared first on the ELTA March-April 2016 issue



Shelly Sanchez Terrell is an international speaker, teacher trainer, elearning specialist, and the author of The 30 Goals Challenge for Teachers and Learning to Go. She has trained teachers and taught learners in over 20 countries as an invited guest expert and has been recognized by the ELTon Awards, The New York Times,  NPR, and Microsoft’s Heroes for Education as a leader in the movement of teacher driven professional development. Recently, she was named Woman of the Year by Star Jone’s National Association of Professional Women, awarded a Bammy Award as a founder of #Edchat, and named as one of the Big 10: Most Influential People Transforming EdTech by Tech & Learning (2015). In 2015, she founded Edspeakers to help spread diverse voices at education conferences worldwide.


Url- http://ShellyTerrell.com

Twitter handle- @ShellTerrell


Vicky : Hi! First of all, I would like to say that it is a pleasure to have you as a guest.

Shelly : It’s my pleasure. Whenever I can meet up with friends, even virtually, I try to make the time.

Vicky : I know that you are extremely busy every day trying to juggle an amazing number of tasks successfully so I‘d like to ask you to describe a typical day of yours.

Shelly : I have two types of typical days. If I’m not traveling, my day consists of at 1 to 3 virtual trainings with teachers either via a webinar or learning management system (LMS), grading, updating websites, phone call meetings for consultations or projects, conducting interviews, and hours on social media (Twitter, FB, Instagram, Voxer, LinkedIn, GooglePlus, my blog, etc.) for my various passion projects and as one of the social media managers for American TESOL. Most of my day is spent creating and designing content. Typically, I write at least one blog post or article a day, create a lesson plan, and do some graphic design. I also help at least one or more teachers find resources.

I travel at least 100 days a year and usually more. When I travel, I do most of the rest above in addition to giving keynotes and workshops in countries worldwide.

Vicky : Can you tell us where you are teaching/working currently?

Shelly : Currently, I work for American TESOL as an instructional designer, social media specialist, and instructor for the course I designed, ESLTEC.com. I also work as an ESL Specialist for the U.S. Embassy and Georgetown University. I also manage the various projects I’ve founded, which include The 30 Goals Challenge for Teachers (30Goals.com) and Edspeakers.com.

Vicky : You initiated the movement called ‘30EduGoals’ and hundreds  of teachers followed you and started writing, reflecting on their practice and blogging because of you. How does it feel really to be able to have an impact on so many people from different cultural backgrounds and different countries?

Shelly : I feel really blessed to be able to inspire and help teachers worldwide. Teachers are what help shape the world. I still pinch myself and am in awe that teachers complete the goals and share their passion with me daily.

Vicky : Your book is already a big hit. Do you have any future plans for a new book?

Shelly : I also published Learning to Go with The Round. I’m working on a few projects including a digital citizenship book, Byte-Sized Potential in a Digital World of Possibilities. This one involves lessons to help students learn science, math, and English, but also impact their world through social media. I’ve already tested out some activities with teachers worldwide and give some free templates on my blog, TeacherRebootCamp.com, such as the student epic selfie adventure and creating hashtag movements. I am working on a lesson book based on the use of emoticons and emojis for writing and literacy. I also do creative writing and am working on finishing my second novel.

Vicky : I also know you are a visiting lecturer in Venezuela (or is this a permanent position? – You have to enlighten me here). How easy is it to teach in another country? What can be the possible problems?

Shelly : I love the teachers in Venezuela. I have many close friendships there now. VENTESOL has adopted me into their family and I’m thankful especially to VENTESOL President, Mary Allegra, who has created the many projects to have me visit and work with such a dedicated group. I am fortunate the U.S. Embassy and VENTESOL have continued to bring me back to help them develop and design online courses at the universities, train teachers on how to integrate technology and mobile learning, and help institutions develop their own textbooks.

Vicky : When DO you find some free time for your private life with such a busy schedule?

Shelly : I have to make time and will often send myself Google calendar reminders to take time off. I’ve learned to let go of perfection in my work and be satisfied with great work but having a life. When I travel to other countries, I take time to visit with friends and go on adventures. When I’m with friends, family, or loved ones, I put down my phone and other digital devices so I can give the moments the attention they deserve. Of course, this is a learning process and in the beginning I wasn’t so great at taking time for myself. I’ve realized it is really important so I keep up with my health, spirit, and passion.

Vicky : Thank you so much for your time!


Conference on Creativity in Language Learning and Teaching Research

The Conference will be held on 23 September 2016(The Open University, Milton Keynes).

Proposals – which should be a maximum of 250 words long and accompanied by a short title and a 100-word bio note – should be emailed to creativity.research.llt@gmail.com by Friday 6 May 2016.

You can find more details here : Conference on Creativity in Language Learning and Teaching Research

CALL for Special Issue on: Deploying Creative, Disruptive and Gamified Interventions for Lifelong learning

From now on, I will occasionally share some calls for papers for various issues, journals, all of them related  to creativity, Art in ESL, etc.

The first one is a CALL for a Special Issue on: Deploying Creative, Disruptive and Gamified Interventions for Lifelong learning. You can find the actual call here : http://globaloperationsdivision.net/capitalising-creativity/


International Journal of Continuing Engineering Education and Life-Long Learning

Special Issue on: Deploying Creative, Disruptive and Gamified Interventions for Lifelong learning

Possible (sub)topics are:

  1. Fostering Creative mindsets through Serious Games and Gamification strategies
  2. Capitalising Creativity
  3. Fun and positive mood as the common elements in Creativity, Games and Learning from a Lifelong Learning perspective.
  4. An Analyst, an Insightful or both?
  5. Context-aware real time creativity and disruptive innovation in Lifelong Learning
  6. Collaborative Creativity in Education
  7. Collaborative Global Dual Ecosystems for Open Work/Learning Flow Competencies
  8. Designing, developing, sharing and repurposing games as a creative process
  9. Assessment and Feedback Progress Indicators as metrics for creative learning analytics
  10. The role of emotional intelligence in creative thinking
  11. Incidental creative learning in games / gamification
  12. Game Authoring Environments for creating, sharing and repurposing games
  13. Mapping creativity-related learning attributes to game mechanics, dynamics and aesthetics.

 Deadlines for submission

 Submission open: November 1 2015

Submission deadline: February 1 2016

Final feedback and acceptance: May 2016

Expected publication: September 2016


Authors are not restricted to these topics but submissions must provide relevant related topics within the remit this special issue.

Authors should prepare their manuscript according to the Instructions for Authors available from the online submission page of the International Journal of Continuing Engineering Education and Life-Long Learning. All the papers will be peer-reviewed following the IJCEEL procedures.

Any specific instructions for submissions

Papers will be submitted directly to the Guest Editors. To submit a paper, you can send one copy in the form of an MS Word or PDF file attached to an e-mail to the Guest Editors (their names and contact details can be found in the actual call – the link is provided in the beginning).

Please contact Dr. Piet Kommers (Kommers@edte.utwente.nl) with any queries concerning this special issue.

[EdTech Insights] How to Choose the Right MOOC

A new post I wrote is among the Top Stories today on the EdTech Review India , so I am sharing it with you. You can find it here : http://edtechreview.in/trends-insights/insights/2101-choosing-massively-open-online-courses?utm_source=EdTechReview%E2%84%A2+Weekly+Newsletter&utm_campaign=b6b5cb0c6e-Newsletter_2015_September_1_9_4_2015&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_94aed71205-b6b5cb0c6e-105661749


When choosing the right MOOC to attend, the main points to consider are:

  • The course length and estimated weekly workload  – You can check this out before the course begins.
  • Who the instructors are – there is often a short biography of the course instructors. Knowing who your teachers are and their academic background is important. It might also a great motivation to choose a course, especially if it involves popular online teachers! More important is perhaps to check if they are experienced in online teaching or if this is the first time they are putting together a MOOC. This might give you an idea of how well organized and planned the course will be.
  • The course syllabus – You want to make sure this is what you are really looking for before you begin a course.
  • The course format – will it be delivered by video, audio, written text etc? Although, sometimes it finally proves not so terribly important, a lot of people are attracted to the variety of ways a course is delivered.
  • Don’t judge a course by its videos. Some online courses are amazing with their graphics and animations and artfully shot sequences, while others just show a professor in front of a camera. Test out a class for a couple of weeks to be able to evaluate the instructor’s commitment and knowledge. Just because an online course environment is not very hi-tech, it does not mean that the instructor(s) are not going to make it worth  to attend it.
  • Course Schedule (Scheduled MOOC versus Self-Paced MOOC) – Some courses allow you to join the course anytime that you want to, while  others need you to follow the university semester program. Keep into consideration any other commitments that you have and try to decide wisely between the two types.
  • Determine the amount of time you have to devote to a course – Even though courses allow you to generally work at your own pace, there are still requirements that have to be met in order to successfully complete the course. Especially if you are seriously considering to complete all the assignments offered so that you can claim a certificate at the end of the course. Think about how engaged you can be and then determine how much time you’ll have to spend on the course each week. Most courses today give you an estimated amount of time needed to devote each week. Check that out before you join.
  • Tangible portfolio – In other words, keep in mind you need to prepare a collection of materials that validate your skills and reputation. So, go with a portfolio that will let you increase your chances of getting hired in the future. Choose a course or a series of courses that will help you create a project in the end that showcases what you learn to a prospective employer.
  • Remember: there is no consistency between classes. The various platforms hosting the courses might set the framework and provide support but  it’s the professors and schools behind each course design the curriculum, create the content and set the class requirements. Make sure you pay attention to its assignment policies, once you’ve registered for a class. Different Universities, different instructors, different planning. Some courses do not ask you to submit anything until the very end. For others, you might be asked to engage to submit some work even in the end of the second week. Not to mention the professors who are trying out classes for the first time, so the result is that policies may change  as the professors learn what works.

Remember though! Whatever you do, make sure you enjoy the trip!

Be Creative! – An Interview with Vicky Papageorgiou (@vpapage)

My interview to Vicky Loras!

Vicky Loras's Blog

Vicky Papageorgiou Vicky Papageorgiou

Our February interview is HERE! This time, with a great educator from Thessaloniki, Greece – Vicky Papageorgiou! Vicky and I met in person last year for the first time and she is the amazing generous person you can see on social media, engaging every day and sharing great content.

Vicky Papageorgiou is a foreign language teacher (English, Italian, Greek) with approximately 20 years of experience with mainly adult learners. For over 15 years she has been preparing students for English language exams of various exam boards. She holds an MA in Education (Open Univ. of Cyprus) and an MA in Art (Goldsmiths College, UK) and she is currently studying at University of Wales Trinity Saint David for her PGCE in Technology Enhanced Learning. She studied in Greece, Italy and the UK but also participated in an international project for the McLuhan program in Culture and Technology for the University of Toronto, Canada. Her fields of interest are Inquiry-Based Learning, ESL and Art, translation, use of video. She is currently based…

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Never say never

Never say never. Joanna’s first painting!!!

My Elt Rambles

This is going to be short and sweet and of course non ELT-related. Even if someone tells you that you can’t do something, but you feel you can, do it. This is what my painting looks like. I have no idea what the colours are any more. I do not know how well they match. I used what I learnt about colours, my teacher helped me and I made something, even though I thought I couldn’t! Yes, there are loads of imperfections, and of course it could be ten times better but.. who cares? I did it 😀 Here is my first painting, and as I am colour blind, this is ‘my mountain’ and I kinda climbed it! Yay!

2015-05-19 13.16.41

Till next time…..

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Writing for the Witness Project of the Online Edition of The Guardian


One of the first writing activities we embarked on with my AMC College 1st year Speech and Language Therapy students (Intermediate Level) this year was participating in the Witness Project of the Online Edition of the Guardian https://witness.theguardian.com/

What is the Witness Project

As they explain on their page, ‘GuardianWitness is the home of user-generated content on the Guardian. You can contribute your video, pictures and stories, and browse all the news, opinions and creations submitted by others‘.In other words, it’s a place where the readers can contribute their own written material along with a video or a picture.

The contributions fall into 3 main categories : a. assignments, b. live news tie-ins and c. open suggestions. The main requirement is that you post your own material (photo, video, etc.) or have permission for what you post. Also, posts are reviewed by their team and suitable contributions are published on the Guardian Witness. So, permission is required for your post to appear on their pages. Finally, some of what the Guardian’s team consider the best pieces might be featured on the Guardian site – on an appropriate page each time.

How the students participated

My students browsed through the page’s topics, picked the topic they were interested in, chose one of their own pictures or videos to write about, or took a new picture or video. The Project’s topics vary and change on a regular basis (there are new ones every 7-10 days and not all of them have the same duration – some of them are open for 10,20,25 days, etc.). There are , in fact, so many that it is difficult for someone NOT to find something interesting.


The objective was for the students to practice writing short grammatically correct texts. The most important objective though was to motivate them to write something that they could choose themselves using a medium such as photography or video, quite popular among young people, and not only. Even though it was a short project, it could increase the students’ engagement in writing.


The procedure

  1. We checked the topics and decided which students would work individuallyand which in pairs. Also, we decided which topics they were going to write about.
  2. The students had a week to produce and deliver their work.
  3. After deciding on the topics, we needed to discuss the kind of help they needed: a. brainstorm ideas? , b. did they need help with new vocabulary?c. help with the content and structure of the assignment.
  4. Some of the topics themselves included specific questions that the writer should focus on. This served as a kind of guidance and I insisted that the students use it. Also, there is a word limit on the text you submit every time, which was also convenient for all of us.
  5. The following week, when they brought their material back in the class, we all looked at their work. We talked about the way it was written, the language, the photo chosen etc. Any mistakes which could cause any misunderstanding, were corrected.
  6. In the end, after all of their posts were submitted and accepted, a Pinterest Board was created and all of them were pinned on it along with some photos of them working on their projects in class. 



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Anticipated problems


As was mentioned earlier, once you submit your work on the Witness Projectpermission is required for your post to appear on their pages. A few of the students’ work did not get permission (the reason is not known, it could be a problem with the email verification or even a problem with the photos submitted). So, we needed to work on a different topic with 2 of them. Since, there is no limit in how many posts one can submit, I suggest that each of them writes at least 2.

I hope you enjoy their work. I know that my students did!