Wednesday, May 20, 2009

E-tivity 10


OK. After all this serious stuff this semester, for our last lesson let’s have some fun! This week we’re going to explore (no panic!) YouTube. YouTube is the largest online video sharing tool. It is probably the fastest-growing tool on Web 2.0. You might be asking yourselves, as you often have in this course, ‘cosa c’entra con l’inglese?’ Well, let’s see if you can figure out how it may be useful for your language learning, and have some fun along the way!


Purpose: To start reflecting on the potential of YouTube for language learning.

1 – Understanding Music

2 - Music and Pronunciation

3 - Comedy and Culture on Youtube

4 – Reflect. What do you think are the consequences of this tool? Do you think it has been / can be useful for your English language learning?

Respond: Of course you're welcome to do some reflective blogging on the use of YouTube for your language learning ;-)

Timeline: None - you're free now!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Comedy on YouTube

Comedy is another fun, but useful way to use YouTube. Understanding what is funny in other cultures is a way to help you better understand that culture.

Go watch this video on YouTube. As you watch, does it make you laugh? What does it tell you about Britains and British culture?

Feel free to comment with other videos you find entertaining.

I particularly enjoy these:
the Medieval Helpdesk
the I-rack

Music & Pronunciation

Ok, and what about pronunciation? Sometimes singing a song can be much, much more difficult than understanding the lyrics. Below is the famous first hit by Amy McDonald entitled This is the Life. Besides the fact that I love the music ;-) it's really hard to sing the refrain! So, try reading through and pronouncing the words. then watch the video and sing along (a bassa voce if you're too embarassed!). Then let us know if you're up to the challenge :-)


Oh the wind whistles down
The cold dark street tonight
And the people they were dancing to the music vibe
And the boys chase the girls with the curls in their hair
While the shy tormented youth sit way over there
And the songs they get louder
Each one better than before

And you’re singing the songs
Thinking this is the life
And you wake up in the morning and your head feels twice the size
Where you gonna go? Where you gonna go?
Where you gonna sleep tonight?

And you’re singing the songs
Thinking this is the life
And you wake up in the morning and your head feels twice the size
Where you gonna go? Where you gonna go?
Where you gonna sleep tonight?
Where you gonna sleep tonight?

So you’re heading down the road in your taxi for four
And you’re waiting outside Jimmy’s front door
But nobody’s in and nobody’s home ’til four
So you’re sitting there with nothing to do
Talking about Robert Riger and his motley crew
And where you’re gonna go and where you’re gonna sleep tonight

And you’re singing the songs
Thinking this is the life
And you wake up in the morning and your head feels twice the size
Where you gonna go? Where you gonna go?
Where you gonna sleep tonight?
Where you gonna sleep tonight?

Understanding and Interpreting Music

I'm sure all of you are familiar with Coldplay's famous song Viva la Vida. But do you know what it's about? There has been a lot of discussion about the meaning behind this song. Coldplay has yet to give their own explanation, but the YouTube comment function on the video as well as various other forums have had a great debate about it. So...tasks always at hand...

  1. Have you ever thought that music could also teach you about grammar? This song tells a story and as such makes use of the past simple, 'used to' and 'would'. Before listening to the song, see if you can guess what form of the verbs is used in the first two stanzas. Click here to see the lyrics and do the task.
  2. Rhyme is also very helpful in figuring out what singers are saying. Do the second part of the same task by listening to Viva la Vida and trying to complete the lyrics. If you can't figure it out, search for the lyrics on the Net ;-)
  3. Finally, go read what some Internet users have had to say about what the song means. Complete this (very easy) reading task by clicking here and then make a comment to this blog post with your own interpretation of the song.

Have fun!


Monday, May 18, 2009

And the winner is...


Only 14 students have voted so far, but here are the results and the reasons given for this choice. Well done Group 2!


  • I think that the definition of 'phishing' is the best one because, though it has some grammar mistakes, it is not copied and is clear. Moreover, it is concise and easy to read.
  • This definition is concise and clear. It gives all the main information to understand what we're talking about and at the end it gives the possibility of knowing something more about it through some links.
  • I chose this definition because when I read it I immediately understood what phishing consits on. I didn't have to go back and read again some sentences as I sometimes had with the other definitions. This is probably because who wrote the it tried to use their own words. The structure of sencences is simple; this is important because these concepts are not always easy to undertand so a grammatically clear text can help the reader a lot.
  • I appreciated the links they put at the end because they included a concise explanation of what they are about.
  • I chose the definiton of 'phishing' (Group 2) because it is very clear, precise and concise at the same time. The girls from Group 2 managed to give enough information without being too long-winded. They put some useful links where to find further information and details about phishing. Also, they put a few links concerning the ways in which recognize and prevent the phishing trap.
  • It is the clearest definition among all those published in this blog, as it describes clearly and in detail what phishing is about. Students, who dealt with it, managed to refrase both information and definitions found on the Internet, without citing Wikipedia or other online sources. As a result, a good explanation of the term phishing. The Examples and the links provided advise other students about phishing and how it is possible to prevent damages, caused by hackers.
  • I chose the definition of 'phishing' because it's clear, exhaustive, but not too long. I also like that the students who wrote this definition used their own words without simply copying and pasting from the original.
  • I think the best definition is 'phishing' even if it contains some grammatical mistakes that could be avoided. However, this definition is clear, concise and easy to read. It goes straight to the point immediately, and gives essential information without being too technical.
  • I think that "Phishing" is the best definition of the list because the concept is explained clearly, concisely, and the paragraph is well-structure. It starts from a more general view, and then goes into details explaining the technique and the victims of this online fraud. Finally, it gives some simple cricks to avoid falling victims to phishing. Particularly I appreciated that the definition mentions the origins of the word too. Even if with some lexical imperfections, the whole concept is well paraphrased and analysed.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

E-tivity 9

Personal Learning Environments

Two buzz words in education, and indeed in the media today, are “lifelong learning” and “informal learning”. Both relate back to the fundamental idea that we do not stop learning when our formal education is over. On the contrary, studies (Cross, 200) have shown that only 20% of our learning actually takes place in institutional contexts whereas the remaining 80% takes place outside of the classroom in different periods of one’s life. I would argue that this is even more relevant in the case of language learning because if you do stop, you will forget, and if you don’t learn outside the classroom, you will make little improvement.

One possible solution to help support students in their lifelong informal learning process is what is called a Personal Learning Environment (PLE). A PLE is not a new tool (don’t worry!) but rather “a new approach to using technologies for learning” (Attwell, 200). There is still no universally agreed upon definition of exactly what a PLE is. Some do not limit the concept of PLE to technology, but offer a generic definition that could include anything we do or use to learn: “a combination of the formal and informal tools and processes we use to gather information, reflect on it and do something with it, which is essentially what we mean when we talk about learning” (Martin, 2007). Others, limit the definition to the toolset used to aggregate and connect what we learn: "A Personal Learning Environment (PLE) is a collection of free, distributed, web-based tools, usually centred around a blog, linked together and aggregating content using RSS feeds and simple HTML scripts" (Fitzgerald, 2006). The fact that there are very different definitions of the concept is “reflective of infancy of the concept, and the practical applications of the read/write web itself” (LTC wiki, 2007).

As you probably know from e-tivity 5, you've been in the process of building this toolset for the past two months, your blog being the hub for your PLE. However, a PLE is personal: "It [...] recognises the role of the individual in organising his or her own learning. Moreover, the pressures for a PLE are based on the idea that learning will take place in different contexts and situations" [...] (Attwell, 2007). In other words, how do you learn and in what contexts? I don't know how much you've organized your own learning so far, but upon graduation (not too far away!) you will have to, of course only if you want to keep on learning.


Purpose: To develop a mindmap of your personal learning environment.


1 – Reflect on what you do to learn languages. This will include both your formal instruction (e.g. classes, textbooks, professors, colleagues, etc.) as well as anything outside of it (e.g. travelling, listening to music, surfing the Net, etc.). Make a list of all of the different activities, sources of information and tools you use. Try to categorize them in some coherent manner that makes ense to you.

2 - Develop a mindmap of your PLE based on your reflection and categorization in the first step. Remember, it's your personal learning environment. Just to give you some ideas, here are a few links to some PLEs:
a first draft of mine
Michele's (the one who gave me the idea)
Ray Sim's
The mindmap of a student last year (Martina Garbinato)

3 - Produce a mindmap of your PLE either on paper or using the FreeMind software that you can download for free onto your computer. If you produce it on paper, please scan it or take a digital photograph of it so that you can upload it onto your blog. If you use FreeMind, please put a link to it on your blog.

4 – Write a blog post about your PLE, building it, what you think about it, etc., including a picture of it or link to it.


I would like you to focus on developing your PLE so there’s no respond part this week. Just come prepared to talk about your PLE on Wednesday for our last lesson.

Timeline: Wednesday, May 20.

N.B. A personal learning environment is yours, there's no right or wrong, there's just the way you see it.

Vote for the best definition!


According to Wikipedia, a hacker is someone who makes substantial changes to both the hardware and software of computers. More precisely, hackers usually create or change software and hardware in order to improve them, make them work faster, add new features, or even make them do something completely new.

The word ‘hacker’ originally had a positive meaning but during the 90’s it acquired a negative connotation. In particular, 'hacker' started to be associated with the word ‘cracker’, which refers to a person who severely damages computers in different ways. It’s easy to understand why the two words have been wrongly mixed up: any good cracker needs to be an expert hacker first. This is the reason why people have been confusing the two words thus making a success of the word ‘hacker’ - with a negative meaning - in popular press.

Further readings:
  • about the verb - To Hack -
  • hackers' taxonomy:

subliminal advertising

"A subliminal message is a signal or message embedded in another medium, designed to pass below the normal limits of the human mind's perception. These messages are unrecognizable by the conscious mind, but in certain situations can affect the subconscious mind and can negatively or positively influence subsequent later thoughts, behaviors, actions, attitudes, belief systems and value systems. The term subliminal means 'beneath a limen'" (retrieved from

Subliminal messages influence our brain in a fraction of second and work on a subconscious level. As a matter of fact, they attract the brain's attention using invisible images and sounds hidden in anything you're reading or watching. The result of a study conducted by University College London (UCL) on subliminal messages shows that subliminal messages or images reach the retina and have "an impact on brain activity in the primary visual cortex, part of the occipital lobe". The wider implication for the study is that the "techniques such as subliminal advertising, now banned in the UK but still legal in the USA, certainly do leave their mark on the brain" (retrieved from

trojan horse

The Trojan horse, also known as trojan, in the context of computing and software, describes a class of computer threats (Malware) that appears to perform a desirable function but in fact performs undisclosed malicious functions that allow unauthorized access to the host machine, giving them the ability to save their files on the user's computer or even watch the user's screen and control the computer.
When a malicious program is disguised as something innocuous or desirable, users may be tempted to install it without knowing what it does. This is the technique of the Trojan horse.
For a malicious program to accomplish its goals, it must be able to do so without being shut down, or deleted by the user or administrator of the computer
Trojan Horses (not technically a virus) can be easily and unwittingly downloaded.
(source: WIkipedia)
Trojan in American English is also the name used for condoms or rubbers!!
(source: Professor Sara Guth)

Trojan Horses are not viruses but softwares which can enter in your computer disguised as a normal program or an application. It is very difficult to understand why people create viruses, malwares and Trojan. We guess they create them in order to make a challenge with operating systems!
There are also creators of Antivirus programs who hire hackers to create Trojans and viruses and send them throught the net, with the final aim to sell the antivirus!

email spoofing

Email spoofing is a fraudulent email activity in which an email header is forged in order to make the message appear as originated from a source different from the actual one. It often affects the security of your site, and aims at getting sensitive information from the addresser, such as passwords. If you receive an email from a person you don't know, don't open it: it's probably a virus! In this case we suggest you to use a regularly updated antivirus software and don't trust any attachment containing vague and strange messages.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Feedback e-tivity 7

Sorry, I forgot to upload this file. For those of you who weren't in class (and for those of you who were), you will find both my feedback on your peer feedback and my corrections. I've noticed that those who attend the Thursday lessons regularly are making fewere and fewer mistakes - nice to see you're actually learning something ;-)


Facebook Beacon


Beacon is a part of Facebook's advertisement system that sends data from external websites to facebook. Beacon is a software that:

- notifies activities or purchases made on facebook's partner websites;

- notifies activities or purchases made in facebook to partener websites;

- shares your account information with targeted advertisers;

- allows targeted websites to publish advertisemets in your facebook page.

It is possible to prevent these third-party sites from using your personal information by clearing al Facebook cookies from the browser after having explicitly logged-off.

We found out in the Merriam-Webster online dictionary that 'beacon' means lighthouse or also a light in the dark so it is a kind of ironic use of the word.

Useful links:
How to block Facebook Beacon! unfortunately IT IS IMPOSSIBLE to do it from an Italian Facebook profile.

Online Identity Theft

Online Identity Theft. A definition.

We talk about online identity theft when somebody steal somebody else's personal bits of information, such as name, address, phone numbers and banking and credit card information, taking them from the Internet tools. Thieves can use the information they access (i.e. email addresses, bank accounts and log-in details) to commit fraud in the name of the victim.
Internet criminals can obtain personal data in many ways, for example they can:
* Infect the victim's computer with softwares that secretly monitor the user's activity;
* Mess up the victim's computer with popups and viruses;
* Take over a victim's computer and use it to attack other people;
* Hit a victim with spam and scam emails;
* Hack into the victim's wireless network.
Victims understand their personal data are being stolen because:
* Their computer becomes slow, it is infected by a virus and some files are corrupted or lost;
* They start to have problems with their bank accounts or credits cards;
* They or their friends receive strange emails.
Online Identity Theft. Details.
Identity theft is a crime whereby criminals impersonate individuals, usually for financial gain. In today's society, you often need to reveal personal bits of information about yourself, such as social security numbers, a signature, name, address, phone numbers, and even banking and credit card information. If a thief is able to access this personal information, he or she can use it to commit fraud in your name. With this information the thief could do things such as apply for loans or new credit card accounts. They can then request a billing address change and run up your existing credit card without you knowledge. They can also use counterfeit checks and debit cards, or authorize electronic transfers in your name, to wipe out your your bank account (Beal, 2006).

Identity theft can also go beyond this type of a monetary impact. Thieves can use your information to obtain a driver's license or other documentation that would display their photo but your name and information. With these documents thieves could to obtain a job and file fraudulent income tax returns, apply for travel documents, file insurance claims, or even provide your name and mailing address to police and other authorities if involved in other criminal activities (Beal, 2006). Let's analyze online identity theft considering its categories, techniques, consequences and the way we can protect from it.

According to the non-profit Identity Theft Resource Center and other sources, identity theft can be sub-divided into five categories (Wikipedia):

  • business/commercial identity theft (using another's business name to obtain credit);
  • criminal identity theft (posing as another when apprehended for a crime);
  • financial identity theft (using another's identity to obtain goods and services);
  • identity cloning (using another's information to assume his or her identity in daily life);
  • medical identity theft (using another's information to obtain medical care or drugs).

Identity theft may be used to facilitate crimes including illegal immigration, terrorism, and espionage. Identity theft may also be a means of blackmail. There are also cases of identity cloning to attack payment systems, including online credit card processing and medical insurance.

Some individuals may impersonate others for non-financial reasons - for instance, to receive praise or attention for the victim's achievements. This is sometimes referred to as identity theft in the media. (Wikipedia)

Online identity thieves usually use some techniques for obtaining the personal information they need. Indeed, a criminal needs to obtain personally identifiable information or documents about an individual in order to impersonate them (Wikipedia). They may do this by:
  • stealing mail or rummaging through rubbish containing personal information (dumpster diving);
  • retrieving information from redundant equipment, like computer servers that have been disposed of carelessly, e.g. at public dump sites, given away without proper sanitizing etc.;
  • researching about the victim in government registers, internet search engines, or public records search services;
  • stealing payment or identification cards, either by pickpocketing or surreptitiously by skimming through a compromised card reader;
  • remotely reading information from an RFID chip on a smart card, RFID-enabled credit card, or passport;
  • eavesdropping on public transactions to obtain personal data (shoulder surfing);
  • stealing personal information from computers and computer databases (Trojan horses, hacking and Zero day attacks);
  • data breach that results in the public (i.e. posted on the internet) or easily-obtainable (i.e. printed on a mailing label) display of sensitive information such as a Social Security number or credit card number;
  • advertising bogus job offers (either full-time or work from home based) to which the victims will reply with their full name, address, curriculum vitae, telephone numbers, and banking details;
  • infiltration of organizations that store large amounts of personal information;
  • impersonating a trusted company/institution/organization in an electronic communication to promote revealing of personal information (phishing);
  • obtaining castings of fingers for falsifying fingerprint identification;
  • browsing social network (MySpace, Facebook, Bebo etc) sites, online for personal details that have been posted by users;
  • changing your address thereby diverting billing statements to another location to either get current legitimate account info or to delay discovery of fraudulent accounts;
  • using false pretenses to trick a business (usually through a customer service representative) into disclosing customer information (pretexting). (Wikipedia)

Online identity theft may cause several consequences for the victim. Some of these consequences include:
• cost, time and hassle involved in resolving the issue;
• a bad credit rating and/or loans refused;
• final demands for products and services not purchased;
• wrongful accusation of criminal activities;
• difficulty getting a mortgage;
• unwarranted receipt of summons, court actions and county court
• difficulty opening a utility account. (Nik, 2006a)

To protect our identity online we should follow this ten-point guide.
1. keep your wits about you at all times (operate with caution and appropriate scepticism);
2. question why a Web site is asking for information about you;
3. never give any online security details to anyone unless it is completely necessary;
4. Look after your password (change your passwords regularly, avoid standard passwords and do not use the same password for every secure site you are registered with);
5. never click on links in emails;
6. keep up-to-date (keep your security software, such as anti-virus, up-to-date at all times);
7. remove the spies (check all files on your computer at least once a week using anti-spyware and adware applications);
8. keep your connection secure;
9. if it seems too good to be true, it probably is (don’t open emails or go to sites that claim you have won a prize. If an email looks suspicious and is unsolicited delete it and don’t open it);
10. know where to go for help should you be a victim of online identity theft (there are wide range of organisations and groups that people can turn to for advice). (Nik, 2006b)
In conclusion, we should be very careful about the data we share on the Internet because there are many individuals ready to take advantage of our good faith. In spite of this, we shouldn't simply avoid using the Internet and in general the new technologies since "the Internet is quite a safe place to do business too, and, as long as precautions are taken, keying in credit card details on an encrypted webpage is probably safer than, say, calling personal numbers out over the phone to some unknown sales clerk [...]. However, ID theft has been the subject of different legal characterisations in OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development) countries, leading to different enforcement schemes. While the US and Canada consider it as a serious crime, EU member states classify it as fraud". (Acoca, 2008)


Acoca, B. (2008). Online identity theft. OECD Observer, 268. Retrieved May 6, 2009 from /Online_identity_theft.html

Beal, V. A.(2006). Defend yourself against identity theft. Retrieved May 6, 2009, from

Nik. (2006a, February 14). What is ONLINE identity theft? Message posted to retrieved May 6, 2009

Nik. (2006b, February 14). What can users do to protect their online identity? Message posted to retrieved May 6, 2009

Wikipedia. (n.d.). Retrieved May 6, 2009, from the Wikipedia Wiki:


PHISHING is an online fraud that, unfortunately, is becoming more and more common. It consists in the attempting to obtain personal details and sensitive information, such as usernames, passwords, credit card numbers or pins numbers and secret codes, in general. The technique of phishing is based on the
mass sending of fake e-mails or spam messages with the intent of stealing the above mentioned details. The victims of phishing usually receives a bogus e-mail that ask them to connect to a fake Website almost identical to the legitimate organization's one (i.e. Visa, E-Bay and many others) and they insert their personal data. Easier done than said, the criminal organisation immediately steals their information to carry out illegal transactions.
Using phishing filters, don't clicking on suspicious links or attached files are some simple tricks to not fall victim to phishing.
The origin of the name phishing comes from the lingo of hackers who usually replace 'f' with 'ph'; moreover, the analogy with the verb "to fish" is clear: the aim of hackers perpetrating identity theft is to fish ingenuous people's passwords and user names in the big ocean of the Internet.

Click here to have a more complete and exhaustive definition of phishing
How to secure your computer : firewalls and antivirus and anti spyware softwares
Why phishing works
Phishing Scams in Plain English
Do Security Toolbars Actually Prevent Phishing Attacks?
Blogsecurify: Social Media Security

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

E-tivity 8

Critical Awareness on the Web
So far in this course we have discussed issues such as evaluating the sources of information you find on the Web and being aware of advertising that appears on sites such as gmail. Although I am a strong advocate of the Web as a social networking tool, communication tool and research tool (especially for language learning!!!), I say this (as I said last Thursday) with a 'grain of salt'. As you all become more and more avid 'prosumers' of the Internet, it is important to maintain a critical awareness of what you are accessing on the Web. It is important to understand the social, economic, political and other consequences of particular technology design, use and regulation both for individuals and communities. A critical approach to new technologies and online practices means that learners and teachers become aware of the power relations involved, e.g. the purposes of oppression or liberation that new information and communication technologies can bring about.

Purpose: To develop our critical awareness when accessing the Web.

1: Using all of the 'skills' we have learned so far, search for definitions of the following terms and be prepared to explain them to your peers:
  • Group 1: online identity theft
  • Group 2: phishing
  • Group 3: e-mail spoofing
  • Group 4: trojan horse (in online contexts obviously!)
  • Group 5: hacker
  • Group 6: Facebook Beacon
  • Group 7: subliminal advertising
2: Prepare a 'definition' of your term using relevant language and hyperlinks. Post this definition as a comment to this blog post. If you are all in class, you can do it in class. Otherwise, you will have to work on Google Docs or a peer's blog.

3: Read this article about privacy and Facebook (a tool I see most of you use avidly!): One Friend Facebook Hasn't Made yet: Privacy Rights

4: Write a reflective blogging post: Have you ever considered what happens to the information you put on the Internet? Do you think the solution is to avoid the Internet? If not, what can you do to protect yourself? We have spent a lot of time discussing how to attribute authorship to others who have posted their work on the Web, but what about you? Consider these issues and write a blogging post reflecting on a critical use of the Internet.

The usual :-)

Timeline: Sunday, May 10 (task), Wednesday, May 13 (respond).

P.S. Here's a pretty good site in Italian ;-)

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Feedback and some clarifications

Hello all,

Several of you were absent yesterday and/or today and others have written me some emails with questions about what you are supposed to do so I'm going to give some info here.

Feedback on E-tivity 6
What can I say but excellent :-) As you can see by the feedback from Group 01 and Group 05, you are definitely making improvements in your written work. From the contents I found in your blogs, I can see that you are making progress in your ability to critically think about referencing, sources, what should be done, how and when, etc. And from the comments you're making in (almost) all cases it appears you are learning to help each other out and are becoming a community of learners so keep up the good work ;-)

Today in class, rather than focus on your work from task 2 in E-tivity 6, I decided to focus on language. So,
  • if you weren't in class, please download the feedback above, reflect on it and sent a comment to this post if you've got questions about it;
  • if you were in class, the links above will show you the complete versions for Group 01 since in the photocopies I made for you in class, many of the corrections were missing;
  • if you would like me to check your work from task 2, E-tivity 6, send it to me in an email.
Working on E-tivity 7
I'm hoping that some of the problems we encountered in class, e.g. some of you not being able to edit the original .doc are resolved if you are working with Firefox, and not from one of our labs! If this is not the case and you're still having problems, let me know.

You are welcome to work on the task individually, but by Sunday I'd like there to be a complete corrected version of the original .doc shared. You can either highlight the pieces of text you edit and change so that your peers know you've done something to the original or check the history function to see if your peers have corrected something before you. The main aim of the task is not necessarily to get a corrected version (I've already got that!), but to get you focussed on the kinds of issues that come up when you are trying to reference and follow a specific style. I would encourage you to blog about this (frustrating) experience.

As always, write a comment here if you've got questions and doubts.


Have a happy May Day :-)