Teaching with technology training session

September 5, 2012

I’d like to share the ideas and the links that I used in a practical training session on how teachers can use technology to do 3 things:

  1. to build up and manage their PLN (personal learning network)
  2. to connect with their students outside of the classroom
  3. to supplement their class material / with web resources

The teachers had just finished a 200-hour in service teacher’s certificate course but some felt that the sessions on using technology had not been practical enough. So, this “hands on” technology session was organised (nice example of teachers taking responsibility for their own development!).

I set up a quick web page using the fantastic Check This  for the participants to use throughout the session – it was to be completely paperless, with the teachers working online during the 4 hours.

To get teachers started I had them set up accounts on Twitter  – the best place to start building an online PLN.  Once set up, the teachers then found 10 TEFLers to follow.

To help the teachers think about managing online PLNs, I had them take the first steps in setting up a Netvibes account. Netvibes, which is one of  most attractive and user friendly sites for receiving web feeds, will suggest dashboard links for you to follow, based on topics that you suggest, even if you are not registered a user.

We then found some TEFL blogs to follow via Twitter and the teachers added the links to their Netvibes dashboard.

We also briefly explored ways of using Evernote to store, produce and share (with students) teaching materials and web content, and Scoop It for book marking and finding online teaching and learning resources.

To show the teachers how simple setting up a class webpage can be, I had them make a Check This page for their students and then post there a resource for learning English that they’d found on Twitter. Check This is just so simple to use!

Finally, the group used a collaborative Google spreadsheet to make notes on ways to use 7 different web tools  in class. All the tools were ones that I’ve come across via my own online PLN, including Bombay TV, Animoto and the BYU Corpus of Contemporary American English.

Despite initial problems with web connections and setting up Twitter accounts, the session went quite well. The aim was really to help teachers see that using the web for teaching purposes needn’t be intimidating and that getting started is quite straight forward.

Note: If you were to do a session like this, I’d suggest getting the Twitter accounts set up beforehand, as it took longer than planned…but we got there in the end.


UPTC 2012 Slides and Links

May 27, 2012

I was invited to give some talks at the annual teachers’ conference at La Universidad Panamericana in Aguascalientes, Mexico. The conference title was ENGLISH TEACHER DEVELOPMENT: A HUMANISTIC APPROACH.

The event was really well-organized and a real privilege to be part of. The teachers that attended were great fun too. It was also nice to meet one of my online PLN face-to-face for the first time and also great to extend my PLN further by making new connections.

I gave three sessions: one plenary titled Taking Responsibility for our Own Development; and two workshops, one on teaching using a Dogme framework, and another on using classroom observations as a tool for professional development. Prezi presentations and links for all three talks follow.

Plenary: Taking Responsibility For Our Own Development

In my plenary talk, after quickly looking at how humanistic approaches had found their way into our classrooms through various techniques, methods and approaches, and after considering the weaknesses of various models of teacher development, I argued that the best kind of teacher development would naturally be humanistic in nature. We explored a number of practical steps that teachers could take to kick start their own development, including conducting focused classroom observations and developing an online PLN. Participants were very responsive to the ideas proposed. You can see the Prezi presentation here:

Or see it on Prezi, here.

Web links:
Here’s Brian Tomlinson’s article on the dangers of in-service teacher training, from the Teacher Trainer journal.

And Tomlinson’s article on materials development TD sessions here, from Humanising Language Teaching Magazine.

Here’s a link to Russel Stannard’s Teacher Training Videos, which is where the original idea for using screencasts for grading students’ written work comes from. There are also plenty of other fantastic videos about using technology in the classroom on Russel’s site.

Here’s a link to the International Teacher Development Institute.

Links to books:

Here’s a link to Michael Wallace’s Training Foreign Language Teachers.

Ruth Wajnryb’s book on classroom observation provides a comprehensive, practical guide to using classroom observations as a teacher development tool.

Also, the first edition of Jim Scrivener’s Learning Teaching had an excellent collection of focused observation tasks, but I couldn’t find the observation tasks in the the latest edition, so I just tweeted him to find out why:

That’s what I was getting at in my talk when I said that the world is flat!

For an extensive overview of teaching methodology, read Richards and Schmidt.

I also mentioned that David Nunan’s Second Language Teaching and Learning was a must read for anybody want to their classes more student-focused.

Dogme ELT – Preparing Class Materials-Light
I ran a workshop on teaching using a Dogme framework. The first part of the session was a micro-lesson sequence involving a dictogloss task about an embarrassing travel experience. I read my anecdote out loud twice, allowing the he participants to take notes the second time. Participants then worked in small groups to reconstruct the text. We then briefly looked at the uses of the past progressive for providing background information, and finally students told each other about their own funny / embarrassing travel experiences.

In the second part of the session, we analysed the dictogloss sequence using the following criteria: Was is productive? Was it communicative? Did it integrate language skills? Was there a focus on form? We then moved on to look at the rationale and principals behind Dogme ELT and looked at Dale Coulter’s excellent ideas of using lesson skeletons to prepare for Dogme classes. The final stage required participants to design a lesson skeleton for an interaction-driven Dogme activity.

The participants really seemed to enjoy this session and I got a lot of good feedback.

See it in Prezi here. And you can click this link: Dogme Handouts, for the handout containing the interaction-driven tasks that I used in the final stage of the session.

Scott Thornbury on Dogme.

Thornbury and Meddings book,Teaching Unplugged – the link also has downloadable parts of the book in PDF.

Dale Coulter’s Language Moments blog.

Martin Sketchley’s e-book on incorporating Dogme into your teaching.

Initiating Classroom-Based Action Research Projects: Observation Tasks
The third talk was a workshop on using classroom observation as tool for professional development and it drew heavily on Ruth Wajnryb’s book on observation tasks.

The session started with the participants reflecting on their experiences of classroom observation before we brainstormed and discussed the different aspects of the learning and teaching process that could be the focus of observations. The participants then analysed a series of observation forms before planning their own observation plan.

The session went well but the participants initially struggled to see the idea of observation as anything other than an assessment tool. Hopefully by the end of the session, they were beginning to see the potential that observation tasks hold for teacher development! Here’s the Prezi slide show:

See it here on Prezi.

Ruth Wajnrib’s Classroom Observation Tasks

Jim Scrivener’s Learning Teaching

Organising Class Material with Evernote – ELT Library January Blog Challenge

January 25, 2012

I’d been thinking about writing a post on Evernote and a couple of other web tools that I’ve been using lately when I came across the ESL Library January blog challenge, which is about how teachers use bookmarking tools. So, here’s short post on how I’ve been using Evernote to organise content for some classes that I’m currently teaching. You can also see a screencast that I made using Evernote here.

Evernote allows you to create Notebooks for storing information that you find online. When you come across something interesting, you can clip it to Evernote. The easiest way to do this is by clicking the Evernote icon in your tool bar. Here’s what Evernote looks like (Click on the image to see a larger version):

What I really like about it though, is that in addition to web pages, I can also store other kinds of notes. Notes can be added as text, photos, or voice recordings and they can sit along side the web pages that have been clipped. In practical, classroom teaching terms, I can have a clipping of a news report that I want my students to watch, a clipping of a picture gallery related to the report, and next to them both, the corresponding worksheet that I will use in class (which I had previously typed up in Evernote!). I might also have a document with vocabulary that has come up in class there too which I can easily access and add to. All those things together in the same folder for easy retrieval!

Here’s one of the worksheets that I mentioned:

I can also share these via email, Twitter etc. This is handy for sharing worksheets, for example, with students.

The desktop version of Evernote means that I can see my clippings when I’m off-line, while the Android Evernote app allows me to take photos, record voice notes or type in notes on my phone and save them directly into the corresponding Evernote folder. Here’s an Evernote Snapshot of (not the neatest!) board work (to be used in planning the next class), taken via the Evernote app on my phone:

Of course, Evernote is completely searchable and searches will even recognise text in photos!

There are also some other Evernote related products that, from a teacher’s point of view, are really nice. One in particular is the Clearly extension. This changes any webpage into a text-only version, getting rid of menus, ads and other stuff that you might not want your students to look at. It also makes them easy to print out or copy and paste. Here’s a comparison of a news article from the BBC before and after the application of Clearly:

So there you go, that’s Evernote, which, so far, has been pretty useful.

Blended Learning – The Best or Worst of Both Worlds?

October 7, 2011

At a talk /workshop on blended learning in Mexico City recently, Pete Sharma referred to some research which claims that learning outcomes on blended courses are superior to those on either 100% face-to-face or 100% online courses. The piece of research (which is actually an analysis of existing research), from the US Department of Education, is here.

The report states the following:

The corpus of 50 effect sizes extracted from 45 studies meeting these criteria was sufficient to
demonstrate that in recent applications, online learning has been modestly more effective, on
average, than the traditional face-to-face instruction with which it has been compared. It should
be noted, however, that this overall effect can be attributed to the advantage of blended learning
approaches over instruction conducted entirely face-to-face. Of the 11 individual studies with
significant effects favoring the online condition, 9 used a blended learning approach.

The authors speculate that the reason for these findings might be:

additional learning time and materials as well as additional opportunities for
collaboration, that has proven effective

There’s also loads of other research available online that apparently backs this up. To be honest though, my experiences with teaching on blended courses in EFL have been mixed. What about you? I’d love to hear any comments on teachers / learners experiences of blended learning.

Here’s what I’d like to know:

In your experience
…are learners on blended courses more highly motivated?
…what new challenges do teaching blended courses present for learners and teachers?
…are learners really taking advantage of the additional flexibility of blended courses?
…when it comes to designing and planning classes, are there any particularly good models to use?
…what can teachers do to make the blended experience more engaging / productive / effective?

Teaching with Technology

March 11, 2011

I made 3 very short screencasts about 3 online tools that you could work with in the classroom. The first one is the Corpus of Contemporary American English. This is searchable database of thousands of texts which gives useful info about word frequency and collocation patterns. Watch the video here:

The second screencast is about the website GoAnimate. Here you can make cool looking text-to-video animations. Watch the screencast here.

The third online tool has been around for a while but it’s still really great and fun. Animoto allows you (and your students) to make eye-catching slideshows with audio. Watch the video here.

I hope these are useful.


Kubbu – a fantastic free e-learning tool

November 4, 2009

I ran a workshop at MEXTESOL 2009 titled (not by me, in my absence, and without my knowing) Continuous Assessment and Technology.

My objective was to share some free, user friendly internet tools that I have been using with my students and to show how teachers might be able to use them as an additional way of keeping track of learner progress.

The tool that seemed to impress most was Kubbu – a free e-learning tool that I heard for through Larry Ferlazzo’s blog.


5 different activity types to choose from!

If you haven’t used Kubbu yet, it’s great for designing simple quizzes, matching games and crosswords which can be either post on a class website or blog or sent directly to learning email accounts.

There are 5 different activity types to choose from. Here’s a matching game:


A rather cool matching game


Add your students' contact info and mail exercises and games straight to them

What I really like to too is that everything can be easily printed and used in class – the crossword generator is particularly useful in that crossword grids are automatically generated in a matter of seconds (anyone who has ever tried to write a crossword using word processing software will appreciate this function!).

Kubbu also makes it easy to track learner progress but providing statistical breakdowns of student performance – you can see, for example, how many times a student has done an activity, how long it took them and what they scored.


Well done Guillermo!