Offline (doku) wiki writing

Here are some screenshots of my next little experiment using PirateBox:


This time with an another program (Server for PHP) that serves up a wiki (DokuWiki).

The main task has been described in a previous post.

I plan to also use the opportunity of the students getting to know the DokuWiki interface to practice some prepositions of place such as shown in the following screenshot. i.e. on the top right, next to, below:


If there is any interest in detailing how to get this set up on your android phone do leave a comment.

Thanks to Dan for helping me test the set up and thanks to you for reading.

The browser rulez or another reason why PirateBox is boss

One thing that is easy to miss when considering the benefits of PirateBox is that it works via the web browser hence whatever you can run in a browser you can run in PirateBox.

An ex-colleague of mine made up a great vocabulary game that we use a lot in one of the places where I work. It is a 6 by 10 grid of words that is normally used as an end of course revision activity. Students are given various definitions for rows and columns that they have to cross out e.g. Col 1 cross out all the words to do with sporting equipment, Row 1 cross out all the words containing /ai/ sound etc. At the end they have 6 words not crossed out and they are asked to find the common link to these words. Inevitably everyone has more than six words left!

As I mentioned my main reason in using PirateBox is cutting down on paper so this game as it is used a lot is a great candidate to Box-ify (stop groaning at the back). A google search on HTML5 bingo brought me this program HTML5-bingo on GitHub sweet now I just needed to modify it to a 6 by 10 grid with the words I want.

The three files we need are js/script.js, js/data.js and css/style.css

To get more than the default 25 squares generated I found that I needed to adjust the variable i in script.js to whatever number I wanted:

for (i=0; i<24; i++)

so I modified it to i<60 (it is 60 and not 59 due to commenting out the freesquare, see below).

I  commented out //shuffle(JSONBingo.squares); since I did not want to randomize the squares.

I also commented out:


since I did not want a winner sign to pop up if some rows or columns were filled.

I also did not want the free square in the middle so I commented out the first line after if (i==12) { that starts with $('#board').

Next I needed to adjust the CSS so that my 60 squares would appear this meant adjusting the width of the #board to 768px.

Then I added the 60 words to the data.js files e.g.
var JSONBingo = {"squares": [
{"square": "regards"},
{"square": "paddle"},

Voilà, though the above took some fiddling, I was done in a couple of hours. Now I have this resource for ever. Plus I can adapt it to other words quite easily. Have a look at this screen capture which shows me crossing out words found in emails and terms in electronics:

The only issue is that on handheld devices the squares don’t all render so I need to spend more time figuring out why. But it works perfectly on a laptop computer. I used it as a whole class exercise where one of the students had a laptop which I connected to the projector. The following class I simply copied over the files onto the desktop computer and projected it from there (so admittedly no need for PirateBox in this case!)

By the way if anyone can help me figure out why it is not rendering properly on handhelds, do let me know.

Thanks for reading.

TESOL France 2014 – thoughts, poster, handout and links

TESOL France 2014 flew by again over the weekend (14-16 November). This year I presented a poster on using PirateBox in class. I felt there was quite a strong interest in this and pleased that some may take up the challenge of using it. I know of one teacher in Germany,  paulw @josipa74, who has set up the open-wrt version on a portable router. Hoping to read about more take-ups in the future. The poster handouts went quickly and I had more which I had forgotten to replace!

I had an interesting question about the security of PirateBox for Android from one conference attendee, he was concerned with technically able students being able to look at other folders on his phone. It was a good question that I had not thought of it before. I guess any system is open to security holes, I should pose this question on the PirateBox forums. Oh and I won the poster prize competition (many thanks to Kevin Stein ‏@kevchanwow for great feedback on poster and Ela Wassel ‏@elawassell for letting me know via twitter as I could not make the closing sessions).

Stephen Krashen and Carole Read were plenary speakers. I caught Krashen’s non-plenary talk (see presentation 1 notes below) on the Friday where he amongst other things repeated his click-bait assertion that EAP teaching was a dead duck. What I found surprising is that he did not really angle his talk for a hall full of teachers who I assume wanted to know about pedagogy. There seemed to be a lot of headnodding and ELT amens and hallelujahs after certain assertions amongst the crowd. There were certain notable dissenters such as Hugh Dellar, for example.

By contrast Carole Read’s plenary on Saturday (see blog post below) was oriented to teaching concerns, in particular on teacher  development, and was harmless enough though there was some language that skirted on and even at one point referenced NuLP, Neurolinguistic Programming.

On the Friday I went to a talk on spoken discourse analysis by Carole Ann Robinson where she described using out of context language and asking her high level students to put back the context they thought was appropriate. Inevitably a lot of context will be culturally loaded and as a colleague pointed out with French students such tasks would have to be set up very carefully and would necessarily be limited by the French context. Nevertheless there were some good activities to consider using limited language as prompts.

On Saturday before lunch I attended a talk on the TOEIC exam by Miles Craven, which was good though I wished the presenter had spent more time on the examples he used in the book he was selling. Some of them I had not really considered and would have liked to have seen more details on it.

The talk I attended after lunch on Saturday on team teaching by Paul Wheal was very interesting from what I managed to gather as I had missed the first thirty minutes (blame the lunch). It was on how he taught and corrected English in parallel with a content expert who was delivering the subject matter. There was a nice video interview with the subject-matter expert exploring the benefits and challenges of team teaching.

The final talk I attended on the Sunday was a panel discussion and presentation of a national survey of working conditions of English teachers/trainers in France. The numbers seemed to back up what the audience already perceived as the grim present and future prospects for the industry here. I may do a separate post on this.

As ever I am very grateful to all the hardworking volunteers who make this conference possible, thank you!

For more reading on TESOL France 2014 check out some of the posts below by Fab Englishteacher ‏@fabenglishteach:

Review- Carol Read’s Plenary: Reflections on how to become a highly efficient teacher

Workshop Review -Esra Girgin Gümüstekin – Teach Empowered

Workshop Review : Sophie Handy – Top Tips For Teens

My TESOL FRANCE workshop –: L1 – How to avoid it and ways of using it in the language classroom.

Stephen Krashen has put up notes of his three talks:

Presentation 1: TESOL France – Compelling Comprehensible Input

Presentation 2: TESOL France – Animal language

Presentation 3: TESOL France – controversies

Judith Dubois @judyldubois has written about:

My Encounter with Stephen Krashen

Mark Hancock  @HancockMcDonald  ponders why some teachers like to hear about the demise of teaching:

Stephen Krashen at TESOL France

and reports on:

Carol Read at TESOL France

TESOL Times Magazine interview with Stephen Krashen

Cutting your PirateBox jib

This is a post that will be used as further reading/handout to a poster that will be presented at the 2014 TESOL France colloquium this November [update: you can find poster in this post]. It outlines some necessary steps to help customize the look of your PirateBox as well as some additional programs that will come in handy.


Before going to the chocolate factory (Google) store to download and install PirateBox for Android, you need to make sure your phone is rooted. Rooting a phone means that you are able to alter the permissions on the files of the phone. Usually you also have to unlock (the boot loader) of the phone before rooting though some phones come unlocked (note this is not the same as unlock to a particular telephone carrier). The following link is a good jump point to find information on rooting and unlocking your model of phone – How to Root Any Device.

Okay so you have unlocked and rooted your phone, and are now ready to download and install PirateBox for Android.

PirateBox settings

Once downloaded go into settings and untick Enable Updates and tick Content to SD. See the following screenshots:

enableupdates content2sd

Then start PirateBox once. Unticking Enable Updates option makes sure that any new version of PirateBox does not overwrite any changes you make in the configuration and HTML files. Updates will continue to update the core program only.

What the Content to SD option does is copy the configuration and HTML files you need to customize PirateBox to your phone’s sd card under a folder called piratebox/. There is also a separate directory pb-store/ where there is pb-store/uploads/ which keeps the files you want to serve, and pb_store/chat/ where chat logs are saved.

Aside – the simplest change you can do is use the SSID Name option to change the name of the wireless access point from “PirateBox – Share freely” to whatever you want, here is a screenshot of mine called un-originally enough “”:


Editing files

You can either edit the files on your phone or on your computer or both. I do the main edits on computer and any small edits on phone. Make sure you have copies on your computer in case you wipe your phone files somehow.

The files you need to customize are located in piratebox/html/ folder and piratebox/html/i18n/ called list.xhtml and respectively.

Most of your edits can be done in It is up to you how much customising you want to do. You will most definitely want to customize the welcome message. This is at the bottom of the file starting with


as you can see in the screenshot below, the one on the left is the original welcome message the one on the right my edited one:


If you know a little about image editing the header logo might be worth altering. The image files are located rightly enough in piratebox/html/images/. For example this is the logo I edited, note the English part  is like that to fit into existing dark header background:


I would also recommend commenting out the upload feature so as to preclude any potential issues with students trolling you with inappropriate images. You need to edit the index.xhtml file (located in piratebox/html/).

You comment out html code like this <!– code –> , that is open with left angle bracket, exclamation mark, dashed line, dashed line then your code and close with dashed line, dashed line, right angled bracket, as seen in the next screenshot below (the blue highlighted bit):


Also you can change the upload.title in file to something like:


Additional tools

Other tools that are useful is the camera on your phone, CamScanner app and FX File Explorer app (both free). CamScanner is a handy way of converting any pictures of text you take into pdf and FX file explorer is great for copying, pasting, editing files.

Imagine a scenario where you, at the last minute (perish the thought!), read a great lesson blog post with a text that you want to use but no time to make any photocopies and for some reason can’t download the text. So you take a picture of the text from the computer screen and save as pdf using CamScanner and then copy & paste to your pb-store/upload/ folder using FX File Explorer. Bingo you got your file that students can now access.

I am sure there are things I have not explained well and things I have left out, so do please let me know in the comments. You can always checkout the PirateBox forums as well, in particular the Piratebox for Android sub-forum.

I will put up the poster as an update once the conference is finished. And if you happen to be drifting by Paris for the conference do come say ahoy and witness more poor nautical puns at my poster session.

Thanks for reading shipmates, arrr!

Piratebox, a way to share files in class

There are many options for teachers to share files with student devices in class. Most of these however require a connection to the internet.

Piratebox is a system that allows one to set up a local file share and communication network. Users in range with wifi enabled devices can connect anonymously.

I followed these instructions to install the required software on my Huawei U8220 phone running a modified CM7.2 rom [but see update 4 below]. Note that this set-up uses ad-hoc mode which means other Android phones will not be able to see the Piratebox  network. To use infrastructure mode this set-up can be followed. However I have yet to succeed in setting up my phone to use that set-up.

Today in class for the last hour I decided on the spur to run a version of the lesson idea on the descriptive camera. The problem was how was I going to do the jigsaw reading? Projecting the texts and asking each A and B in a pair to look away whilst the other read was an option. But since I had setup Piratebox on my phone already why not use that?

I checked how many in class had phones with wifi, six had. Unfortunately by the time I had instructed four of them on how to connect to the Piratebox network the fifth student’s battery had died and the sixth student’s Blackberry could not see the network. I decided to plow on by getting the five students without phones to read off the projector!

Close up view from an ipod touch when connected to Piratebox

Close up view of files in Piratebox download folder

Although the management of this part of the lesson was far from ideal the process of getting the four phones connected to be able to download the text from my phone intrigued the class’s engineering brains. The lesson topic itself also generated some interest.

Note: in ad-hoc mode Iphones and Symbian OS phones work  (i.e. they can browse and download files, but not upload files), Android and Blackberry phones can’t see the Piratebox network. I hope to keep tinkering and get infrastructire mode setup on my phone and also to set up Piratebox on my OpenPandora.

Update 1:

Planning to use Piratebox more frequently to share files in class so very simply customised the landing page thusly:

Screen shot 2013-09-04 at 10.42.57 PM

As you see I have called it EnglishBox and used the advice to use a portforwader so students would just need to type in the url field.

Update 2:

I have a new phone so am using this set-up. Note if it doesn’t work to follow these instructions.

Also note that there is a new version that may work with CM7 roms called PirateBox reloaded.

Here is current landing page:


Update 3:

A big update – latest PirateBox Reloaded works now with latest version of Android – KitKat 4.4.2, nice! This is now certainly the easiest way to get this working.

And here is screenshot of version EnglishBox Reloaded:


Update 4:

PirateBox for Android now available on Google Play.

Note that to use a different DNS name you need to edit the conf/handler.xml file. And change this line:

<param name="filehandler.domain" value="" />

I changed to

Update 5:

Jochen Ruehl (the developer of PirateBox for Android) has done a demo audio media plug-in which works very well, i.e. you can now stream audio files on PirateBox for Android (reminder you can also play audio files without this plugin, stream means you could place audio you don’t want downloaded). He is looking into possibility of streaming video media as well. Below are two screenshots showing the Media tab. It lists any audio media you may have on your Android phone.

AudioMediaAddon1 AudioMediaAddon2

There is also the possibility of adding a wiki though I can’t seem to get that working right now. Stay tuned for a completely new PirateBox for Android post which will be related to a poster I am giving at the TESOL France 2014 conference this November.

Here is the post about customising your PirateBox.