Improving Your English Tip #3: Write Photo and Drawing Captions

It has been proven many times that photos and illustrations help people remember things quickly and easily. So why not use the power of visuals in improving your English communication skills? How? Write English captions on photos and drawings you have!


Start with your treasure box of old printed photos. You can write your captions lightly at the back of the photos. If it’s an event, try to remember when it was, what happened, and why that photo was taken. Who are in the photos? What are they doing? What are interesting objects did you notice in the photos? Answer these questions of course in English and write at the back of the photo paper.

Other sources of photos are your family photo albums. The good thing about photo albums is the space provided to put descriptions on.


If you don’t have many photos or drawings to write captions on, scour the internet for millions of them that other people have taken and drawn. Use these available masterpieces to practice on, which might actually turn out better as you don’t have emotional attachment to the work and your can write the English caption for the piece more objectively or creatively. Some sites where you can browse images are Flickr, Picasa Web Albums’ public photos, iStockphoto, and shutterstock. If you like to keep up with news worthy events, you will appreciate the editorial photos at gettyimages and describing these in English may really become a challenge for a non-native speaker.


What about illustrations? Drawings? Of course you can also use these in this type of learning activity. Photos and illustrations represent real world objects, events, or thoughts. So it does not matter if you are practicing your English language with a photo or a drawing as long as you can describe what it represents in your own words in English. Check out devianART for artworks other people have created and describe how the artworks captivate you .

Lastly, turn this English writing activity to a speech activity by finding a partner whom you can describe the photos and drawings aloud.

The Death of Link Building and Its Impact on SEO

With Google’s Penguin and Exact Match Domain (EMD) updates this year, many SEO professionals and small business owners are scratching their heads as the “fast and easy” SEO strategies are now old-school tactics that will not work anymore.

These “fast and easy” SEO strategies are the low-quality backlinks that are easy to acquire and replicate when you have diligent link builders working on the links, or you have acquired automated link building tools. Low quality SEO strategies include article directory publishing, link wheeling, blog commenting, forum posting, social bookmarking, and profile linking.

To make matters worse, the EMD update came in a few weeks ago pushing the rankings of most EMD webpages lower in the search results, and pushing the rankings of branded non-EMD webpages higher.

Imagine the impact on the organic traffic and sales if you have a small business website, which has low quality backlinks, has an exact match domain and has backlinks from exact match domains. It is terrible.

But if you have a quality website throughout these updates, then you are probably celebrating.

Link Building is Dead

As Rand Fishkin pointed out, the 2012 Google updates mean the end of building links. It is the time to earn backlinks by creating quality content, by building a brand, by building people’s trust.

This sound like hard work, don’t they? But c’mon, these ideas are not new. Many small businesses became successful even before the internet technology came in because of these old concepts. We are just moving and implementing these ideas online.

What many SEO professionals frown upon these Google updates is the reality that they are NOT ready for the challenge Google has given them. They are not ready to be creative for their clients business. They are not ready to build a brand for their clients. Worse, their clients are also not ready.

Business Sense + Creativity + Social Sense + Tech Skills = Quality SEO

When you look at the equation above, the four attributes are an odd mix. However, SEO professionals must possess these qualities now to stay in the game. Without one, you and your client will forever be gone in the search results.

  1. Business Sense – Clients want to make money. That is given. However, you have to start looking at the big picture in your client’s business. Understand the client’s business model, their competitors, their vendors, their target market, and down to services and products that can supplement their business. Understand what makes money for your clients. Especially spend a lot of time understanding the target customers and their interaction with your client’s services or products. When you understand your client’s business better, you will be able to find solutions on how to brand them and connect that brand to their customers.
  2. Creativity – Become a publisher for your clients business. Understand what your target audience want and produce content that they will find resourceful, informative, or entertaining. Find ideas through your client’s customers or from the employees themselves. Become a researcher. Follow the news. Act like a journalist. There is nothing wrong if you have to go to the library to get inspired for your client’s website content.
  3. Social Sense – Actors need an audience. Businesses need customers. Socialize online or offline to attract the right people to your clients business. Start following industry leaders. Befriend vendors. Talk to salespeople. Attend tradeshows. Trigger word of mouth marketing.
  4. Tech Skills – The SEO industry has many technical concepts. It is a must for anyone doing SEO to learn these technical details and ensure these details are implemented on the websites. Stay updated with the latest industry news.

With all these four qualities in mind and the direction Google is taking, are you ready to become an SEO professional that help clients build quality websites? Can you help your client build a brand?

10 Good Books to Read for Teachers

The following article is a guest post from Ryan De Guzman, a fellow writer and colleague. Visit his own blog Nevermore Nonsense to read more of his posts.

Admit it, shaping the minds of the children is one of the highest calling there is. It is the enormous responsibility teachers are bearing in the classroom daily. And since big jobs demand big relaxations, here are seven of the best books that pay tribute to that profession; best enjoyed on those weekend breaks from the class.

The Freedom Writers Diary: How a Teacher and 150 Teens Used Writing to Change Themselves and the World Around Them. (The Freedom Writers, 1999)

A non-fiction authored by The Freedom Writers, a group of students from Woodrow Wilson High School in Long Beach, California, and their teacher, Erin Gruwell. Everything started when Gruwell first met her band of “unteachable, at-risk” students, and next is a story about violence, drug abuse, and racism, and how each student changed and overcame those obstacles. These are their memoirs.

Get this:  This inspired the 2007 movie Freedom Writers, starring Hilary Swank.


Teacher: Anne Sullivan Macy (Helen Keller, 1985)

We all know how Helen Keller, a deafblind girl who worked her way to become the acclaimed author, political activist, and lecturer, through the help of her teacher. Well, Anne Sullivan Macy is that teacher.

The fantastic book tells the story of how the Irish-American teacher from Massachusetts conquered hindrances in her life to become Helen’s savior, instructor, and constant companion. Written by no other than the famous student herself.

Get this: Anne herself was also blind due to untreated trachoma.


Tuesdays with Morrie (Mitch Albom, 1997)

This modern literary classic undoubtedly put teachers and professors alike in the pedestal. Told from the perspective of one of his students, Morrie Schwartz is a retired, 78-year-old sociology professor from Brandeis University dying from Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Being reconnected after 16 years, Albom, now a flourishing sports columnist for the Detroit Free Press, visited and met with Morrie during the last 14 Tuesdays of his life. The old mentor recounted the past, and imparted his student lessons about life, death, and the gem of acceptance, essential things that university life will never cover.

Get this:  This non-fiction masterpiece topped The New York Times Non-Fiction Best Sellers of 2000.


To Sir, With Love (E. R. Braithwaite, 1959)

This autobiographical novel delves into racism and challenges the rules of conventional education, set in post-World War II Great Britain. Ricky Braithwaite is a British Guiana-born engineer struggling to find a job to no avail due to anti-black attitudes.

Once he found one, he faced with a group of utterly disconcerted, semiliterate, and semi-articulate students. Trying a new approach and with an ironclad persistence, he treated the students with much respect and eventually won their hearts.

Get this: The novel also tackles interracial marriages, another sensitive issue during the 1950’s.


Anne of Avonlea (Lucy Maud Montgomery, 1909)

We all had read (or watched) how Anne Shirley survived and made her way with the Cuthberts, and changed everyone in Green Gables. Now, follow the redhaired, freckled, and bright heroine as she expanded her sphere of enlightening from their humble farm to the local school of the town of Avonlea.

But teaching is not easy as she constantly faced repulsions and withstood prejudices from the community.

Get this: As with the first book, Anne has a lot of run-ins here; one including selling her neighbor’s cow, having mistaken it for her own.


Goodbye, Mr. Chips (James Hilton, 1934)

Set in Great Britain as it marches towards World War II. Mr. Chirping was a teacher to an all-boys British public boarding school, who needed to prevail over his apprehensions of teaching to a big class of 500 boys and married a young woman along the way.

The opening “When you are getting on in years… you get very sleepy at times, and the hours seem to pass like lazy cattle moving across a landscape.” will move you as it is poetic and foreboding as the entire book.

Get this: Hilton admitted that he modeled Mr. Chirping (or Chips)’s character after William Henry Balgarnie, schoolmaster at The Leys School, where the author attended college.


Pnin (Vladimir Nabokov, 1957)

A clash of culture and language disguised in a soft-hearted, funny, and otherwise convoluted facade of being a stranger in a strange land. Timofey Pnin is an old Russian professor teaching (in his native tongue, that is) at the Waindell College in upstate New York.

Emigrating from Soviet Union to avoid what he calls “Hitler War”, he found the school and the country an alien landscape. And next is a succession of hilarious, yet sympathetic episodes of dealing with language barrier and the complexities of American life.

Get this: Pnin also turned up as a minor character in one of Nabokov’s novel, Pale Fire.


Wonder Boys (Michael Chabon, 1995)

Not purely a book about academic life, but a brilliant novel about a teacher’s life nonetheless. Grady Tripp is a Pittsburgh professor and author on the way of completing another masterpiece novel.

Everything is fantastic, but the night before the college-sponsored WordFest, Tripp’s world turned upside down when his wife left him and her mistress (the Chancellor and wife of the College Dean) turned up to be pregnant with his child. To make matters worse, one of his students, a promising writer as well, was involved in a crime of killing the Chancellor’s dog and stealing the Dean’s most prized possession.

Get this:  Michael Douglas, Tobey Maguire, and Robert Downey Jr. starred in a 2000 film based on this novel.


Chicken Soup for the Teacher’s Soul (Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen, 2002)

The Chicken Soup for the Soul series has helped countless with their inspirational anecdotes and moral values. Well, finally here’s one for the teachers.

The book is a compendium of essays and stories from teachers, educational consultants, administrators, counselors, and yes, former students. It unfailingly illustrates the importance of being a teacher, and why the principles they imparted will shape the future more than they can ever imagine of.

Get this: The Chicken Soup for the Soul series has already over 105 titles.


The Teacher Who Couldn’t Read: One Man’s Triumph Over Illiteracy (John Corcoran, 1994)

John Corcoran is fundamentally the Frank Abagnale Jr. of the Literacy World. He had gone through 12 years of schooling, graduated from college, taught high school for 17 years until he was fifty, and got away with all of this without ever learning to read.

Follow how the writer pointed out the flaws of American educational system, the fears he had due to past experiences, and how he conquered these insurmountable odds to be a popular teacher and a champion of literacy.

Get this: The scene where his primary teacher humiliated Corcoran for not being able to read is one of the most gripping moments.

10 Modern Philosophers and their Contribution to Education

The following article is a guest post from Ryan De Guzman, a fellow writer and colleague. Visit his own blog Nevermore Nonsense to read more of his posts.

Two and a half millenniums ago, Plato stated that knowledge is justified true belief, an influential notion that shaped educational theories across time. Since then, modern thinkers had never stopped seeking knowledge about the human psychology, development, and education. Here, are the ten greatest.

John Locke and the Tabula Rasa

Locke (1632-1704), an English philosopher and physician, proposed that the mind was a blank slate or  tabula rasa. This states that men are born without innate ideas, and that knowledge comes from experience and perception, as opposed to predetermined good and evil nature, as believed by other thinkers.

On his treatise “Some Thoughts Concerning Education”, he emphasized that the knowledge taught during younger years are more influential than those during maturity because they will be the foundations of the human mind. Due to this process of associations of ideas, he stressed out that punishments are unhealthy and educators should teach by examples rather than rules.

This theory on education puts him on a clash with another widely accepted philosophy, backed by another brilliant mind


Immanuel Kant and Idealism

They never lived at the same time, but history always put Locke and Kant on a dust up.

A famed German thinker, Kant (1724–1804) was an advocate of public education and of learning by doing, a process we call training. As he reasons that these are two vastly different things.

He postulated “Above all things, obedience is an essential feature in the character of a child…”. As opposed to Locke, he surmises that children should always obey and learn the virtue of duty, because children’s inclination to earn or do something is something unreliable. And transgressions should always be dealt with punishment, thus enforcing obedience.

Also, he theorized that man, naturally, has a radical evil in their nature. And learning and duty can erase this.


Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Emile

Plato said that each individual is born with skills appropriate to different castes, or functions of society. Though Rousseau (1712-1778), a Genevan intellect and writer, paid respects to the ancient philosopher, he rejected this thinking. He believed that there was one developmental procedure common to man; it was a built-in, natural process which the main behavioral manifestation is curiosity.

On his book, Emile, Rousseau outlines the process of an ideal education through a hypothetical boy of the titular name, from twelve years of age to the time he marries a woman. Critics said this work of his foreshadowed most modern system of education we have now.


Mortimer J. Adler and the Educational Perrenialism

Adler (1902- 2001) was an American philosopher and educator, and a proponent of Educational Perennialism. He believed that one should teach the things that one deems to be of perpetual importance. He proposed that one should teach principles, not facts, since details of facts change constantly.  And since people are humans, one should teach them about humans also, not about machines, or theories.

He argues that one should validate the reasoning with the primary descriptions of popular experiments. This provides students with a human side to the scientific discipline, and demonstrates the reasoning in deed.


William James and Pragmatism

William James (1842-1910), an American psychologist and philosopher, ascribed to the philosophy of pragmatism.  He believed that the value of any truth was utterly dependent upon its use to the person who held it. He maintained that the world is like a mosaic of different experiences that can only be interpreted through what he calls as “Radical empiricism”.

This means that no observation is completely objective. As the mind of the observer and the act of observing will simply just affect the outcome of the observation.


John Dewey and the Progressivism

Dewey (1859-1952), an American philosopher, psychologist and educational reformer, was a proponent of Educational Progressivism.

He held that education is a “participation of the individual in the social consciousness of the race”, and that it has two sides; the psychological, which forms the basis of the child’s instincts,  and the sociological, on which the instinct will be used to form the basis of what is around him. He postulated that one cannot learn without motivation.


Nel Noddings and the Ethics of Care

A notable American feminist, educationalist, and philosopher, Noddings (1929-Present) is best known in her work Ethics of Care .

The Ethic s of Care establishes the obligation, and the sense, to do something right when others address us. We do so because either we love and respect those that address us or we have significant regard for them. In that way, the recipients of care must respond in a way that authenticates their caring has been received.

The same goes for education. As teachers respond to the needs of students, they may design a differentiated curriculum because as teachers work closely with students, they should respond to the students’ different needs and interests. This response should not be based on a one time virtuous decision but an ongoing interest in the student’s welfare.


Jean Piaget and the Genetic Epistemology

Piaget (1896-1980), a Swiss developmental psychologist and philosopher, was recognized for his epistemological studies with children, and the establishment of Genetic epistemology. It aims to explain knowledge, on the basis of its history, its sociogenesis, and particularly, the psychological origins of the notions and operations upon which it is based.

Piaget concluded he could test epistemological questions by studying the development of thought and action in children. Because of this, he created Genetic epistemology with its own approaches and questions.


Allan Bloom and The Closing of the American Mind

American philosopher, classicist, and academic Allan David Bloom (1930-1992) is notable for his  criticism of contemporary American higher education in his bestselling 1987 book, The Closing of the American Mind.

He stresses how “higher education has failed democracy and impoverished the souls of today’s students.” For him, this failure of contemporary liberal education lead to impotent social and sexual habits of today’s students and that commercial pursuits had become more highly regarded than love, the philosophic quest for truth, or the civilized pursuits of honor and glory.

Rudolf Steiner and the Anthroposophy

Rudolf Joseph Lorenz Steiner (1 861-1925) was an Austrian philosopher and social reformer, and founder of Anthroposophy. His philosophy highlights a balanced development of cognitive, artistic, and practical skills.

He divides education into three developmental stages. Early childhood, where teachers offer practical activities and a healthy environment. Elementary, which is primarily arts-based, centered on the teacher’s creative jurisdiction. And Secondary, which seeks to develop the judgment, reasoning, and practical idealism.


Top 10 Greek Goddesses: The Beautiful and the Wicked

The following article is a guest post from Ryan De Guzman, a fellow writer and colleague. Visit his own blog Nevermore Nonsense to read more of his posts.

If there is one group that runs the Greek Mythology universe, it would be the goddesses. They are intellectually complex, physically splendid, and most of the time, morally volatile. There are quite a lot of them, but here are the ten that lead the pact with their elegance and  villainy.

1. Hera

The Beautiful

The Queen of the Gods. She is the Goddess of Women and Marriage, both wife and sister to Zeus, the chief god. Being the Olympian prima donna, she is of almost unequaled appeal. She even once competed toe to toe with the alluring Athena, and with the Goddess of Beauty herself, Aphrodite.

The Wicked

Historically, she is the most atrocious of goddess. She constantly posed as a villain for Hercules, also casted her son out of heaven, and always castigating Zeus’ mistresses. She might be a patron of matrimony, but her marriage issues with the chief god are few of the best highlights that shape Greek Mythology.

2. Pallas Athena

The Beautiful

The Goddess of Wisdom, War, and Justice; and patron of the Greek Heroes. The Parthenon was constructed in her honor.

The Wicked

Athena was born from the head of Zeus, fully grown and armor-clad. Given that, she mingled in affairs dominated by men (and won). She locked horns with Poseidon for the dominion of Athens (which she obviously nailed), joined the War of the Giants (threw an island to one of them), and turned one mortal into a spider out of hubris.

3. Aphrodite

The Beautiful

She herself is an epitome of Beauty, also Goddess of Love, Pleasure, and Procreation; and the mother of Eros (Cupid). She was born out of the sea foam in a shell, as famously detailed by Sandro Botticelli in the painting, The Birth of Venus.  Despite her beauty, a lot of unpleasant things came out, like…

The Wicked

inadvertently starting the Trojan War, the destruction of Hippolytos, and of course, the agonizing of the mortal Psyche (for loving her son).

4. Artemis

The Beautiful

Goddess of Hunting, Wilderness, and the Moon. She is twin-sister to Apollo. Given quite a boyish personality, Artemis’ myth is brimming with retribution.

The Wicked

She punished the hunter Actaeon by turning him into a stag then releasing the hounds on him, murdered her hunting companion Orion, and turned one of her cohorts, Callisto, into a bear.

5. Demeter

The Beautiful

The least volatile among the Olympians. She is the Goddess of Harvest and Agriculture.  She taught mankind farming and crop cultivation, thus marking the start of civilization.

The Wicked

Kind, but a Goddess and a mother nonetheless. Her grief for the loss of her daughter, Persephone, causes vegetation to wither and fall, inducing the autumn season.

6. Hestia

The Beautiful

Goddess of Hearth Fire and Domestic Life, eldest sister to Zeus, and the gentlest among the goddesses. Though she had no throne, she oversaw the sacred fire in Olympus, and every hearth on Earth is her altar.

The Wicked

Nothing so terrible about her, except that despite many suitors (the gods Poseidon and Apollo included), she decided to be a heart breaker and just swore to be a virgin.

7. Gaia

The Beautiful

The Goddess and Personification of the Earth, she was one of the first beings in the Cosmos. Her offsprings included Pontus (the Sea), Uranus (the Sky), and the Titans, who later descended the Olympians.

The Wicked

She also gave birth to the Cyclopes, Erinyes, and Gigantes; monsters that constantly pestered the Greek universe.

8. Rhea

The Beautiful

Daughter of Gaia and Uranus and the Mother of the Olympians. Technically a Titaness, but revered as the Goddess of Female fertility and Motherhood.

The Wicked

She tricked her husband, Cronus, by hiding their son Zeus in from him, so that he can  have his vengeance when he grows up, thus igniting the Titan War.

9. Persephone

The Beautiful

The Goddess of Springtime and Vegetation, she is the daughter of Zeus and Demeter. Ironically, she is also the Queen of the Underworld.  You might ask why. This is because…

The Wicked

Hades, God of the Underworld,  abducted  her at some point. Thus, dooming her to return to the dark realm every third of the year, ending the Spring season.

10. Nike

The Beautiful

The Winged Goddess of Victory.  During the Titan War, Zeus brought her to his aid for the dominion of Olympus. She assumed the role of the divine charioteer for the gods.

The Wicked

Nike never acquired a cult or myth of her own, though by Classical Times, most gods had their wings already shed, but she retained hers, thus her famous name (and in turn, that famous shoe brand).