Category: Blog

Schedule office hours and meetings in Google Calendar

Google Calendar’s Appointment Slots feature ( – login with your UIC email address)  is a great way to have students sign up for meetings without the hassle of a paper sign-up sheet. Creating a block of appointment slots is as easy as adding events to your UIC Google calendar. Then, just share the link given in any slot to allow students to see all the possible options and sign up.
To make appointment slots even easier to use, you can set a large chunk of time, say two hours, and have Google automatically break it into smaller (5, 10, 15, 30, 45, or 60 minute) slots. If you want more than one student to sign up at a time – for paired oral exams, for example – you can create multiple slots at the same time. And, if you teach more than one class and want to offer different possible meeting times to different classes, you can simply create individual calendars for each class and create and share your slots accordingly.
Check out this video tutorial for a great demonstration of how to set up appointment slots and add them to Blackboard.
For more information on appointment slots, see here:

Visuals for Foreign Language Instruction

Visuals for Foreign Language Instruction ( is an online database of over 450 free illustrations designed specifically for use in foreign-language classes. These illustrations depict places, objects, verbs, and situations and can be customized to fit any language or task.

Distraction-free video viewing

ViewPure ( is a free, easy-to-use website that allows you to view YouTube videos without distractions. You can either search for your video or enter a link and remove all of the clutter – ads, recommended videos, comments, and more! Once you’ve got the “purified” video, you can use the new web adress just like a regular YouTube link, no special account required. Great for showing videos in class!

Web-based dictation tool for most any language ( is a free and easy way to go from audio to written text. Available in a multitude of languages including Korean, Lithuanian, Spanish (of many varieties!), Greek, and almost every other language taught in LCSL, this web-based transcription tool is surprisingy accurate when used with good quality audio and even uses context to automatically correct its errors. Other than simply dictating notes, can be very useful for creating a transcript of an audio podcast, a YouTube video, or even a film clip, from which you can create activities like dictations, quizzes, and worksheets – just play the audio and use your computer’s microphone to capture the sound.

Visual representations of data with Google Forms

Google Forms ( are a tool that you might already be familiar with, but they’ve just unveiled some new features that make them even more useful for teaching. The new Google Forms automatically create colorful visual representations of the data they collect, making them great for in-class use. One or two question forms could be assigned as homework allowing you to both prepare for discussion and integrate these visual representations into your lesson. You could ask students which character they found most sympathetic or most deceitful or to choose the elements of a text that make them doubt the narrator. You could also ask them to sort different aspects of the culture they’re studying as similar to their own or completely different, or you could ask them to rate their agreement or disagreement with a series of statements about a character, a story, or a cultural practice. The whole class’s answers to all of these can then be collected and presented as colorful, easy-to-read, dynamic graphs and charts that provide a wonderful starting point for discussion.

Online whiteboards for student collaboration

Limnu ( is free service that allows you to use your computer like a whiteboard. Just as with a real whiteboard, you can draw, insert images, and add sticky notes to your Limnu boards. This can be particularly useful for making tutorial videos or in cases where you simply need a whiteboard but don’t have access to one.

Limnu boards are also collaborative. You can invite people to edit your boards or allow them to edit as guests via link. This can be a great way to have students collectively brainstorm or add comments to images or notes.

With a free account, Limnu boards expire after 7 days, but Limnu offers free premium access to educators (, which allows you to keep your boards forever. This means you can post your boards to Blackboard or add them to other websites for your students to access.

Visit our sample Limnu board to give it a try! (Click Guest Login at the bottom of the page.)

Interactive timelines – no dates required!

Hstry ( is an easy-to-use tool for creating interactive timelines. Unlike other timeline tools that use dates to organize events, Hstry doesn’t require or even use dates. This means that you can use Hstry to have students summarize and retell events from a novel or a film in their own words, to write stories using course vocabulary, or to create self-presentations. Additionally, you can post any media (text, audio clips, YouTube videos, pictures, etc.) in a timeline. There is also an option to include small quiz tiles with ungraded multiple choice questions that allow you to give instant feedback and check comprehension, and “Did you know” pauses for supplementary information.
Hstry allows for sign-in via UIC Google Apps and has step-by-step instructions for everything including setting up the timeline and
account management that anyone – instructor or student – can follow.
With Hstry, you have multiple options for sharing with your students. You can create and manage a class in Hstry where you can post class timelines you create and have your students, who must create a Hstry account, post their timelines. Alternatively, Hstry timelines can be shared through a link or embedded into most areas of Blackboard, which does not require students to create an account.

Student polling without student devices

Plickers ( is a real-time polling and quiz tool that doesn’t require students to use mobile devices. Like the popular tools Socrative, Poll Anywhere, and Kahoot, Plickers lets you create and display multiple choice questions to the whole class and have students respond individually. These tools are great for things like gauging student opinions as an introduction to discussion or doing quick comprehension checks of a grammar point or vocabulary lesson. Unlike other tools, however, with Plickers only one mobile device is needed – the teacher’s – as students respond by holding up paper answer cards (printable from the Plickers website) that are scanned in the same way you would take a picture and their answers are instantly fed into Plickers for the class to see.
Watch this short video to learn more:
Want to give Plickers a try but don’t have a mobile device or don’t want to bring yours with you? The LCLC has Plickers-compatible tablets that we can lend you!

Emoji for class discussion

Emoji can be a great way to get students to express things they may not immediately have the words for. For example, you could ask students to read a news article in German on the Syrian refugee situation and summarize their reaction. When their response is this 😞 😢 ✌️, you would then ask them to explain out loud or to a partner why they chose these symbols – for example, I’m frustrated by the situation; I am sad/heartbroken for the refugees; I want peace. Or, as an introduction to a vocabulary lesson on adjectives, you could show students an image of a couple sitting in a cafe and ask them to pick two emoji to represent how each person feels, then draw these emoji on the board. Using student emoji you can present vocabulary like “sad,” “in love,” “angry,” “tired,” etc.
Students can find emoji in their phone’s note taking app, email program, or text messaging app. Or if you’d prefer students not use their phones, you can pick and project a small list of emoji from websites like or

How to locate FREE educational resources

OER Commons ( is an easy way to find all kinds of FREE educational resources. In addition to complete grammar, vocabulary, and culture units that you can use to supplement (or even replace) your textbook materials, OER Commons lists numerous individual resources. Maybe you’re looking for a verb conjugation reference for your Arabic students? OER Commons has that. Or maybe you want to find a few German folk songs to teach your student? OER Commons has that, too. A quiz on the French Revolution? An Italian reading comprehension exercise? A video tutorial on Russian folk dance? All of these and much, much more can be found on OER Commons!