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Can conferences change the way you feel about your work?

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This is a re-post of an article I wrote for the WizIQ Blog on April 2, 2015 (published by Sylvia Guinan). As many of us will be heading to IATEFL Birmingham next week – and those unable to make it, will be attending sessions & interviews online – I thought you may find it interesting. So here it goes 🙂

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Image credit: ELTpics by Dace Praulins

Attending conferences can be a rewarding professional experience in so many ways; networking, professional development, travelling and fun. But can it really change the way we feel about our work, and to what extent?

As a regular conference-goer, presenter and, more recently, organiser, my answer is YES.

Here are my top five reasons:

1) Self-efficacy

Self‐efficacy refers to a person’s belief that he or she is able to accomplish a specific task. According to Psychologist Albert Bandura (1977), it is the mind’s self-regulatory function that tells us when to try and when to stop. If someone doesn’t believe something is possible, they are more likely to give up early or not attempt the task at all. When used in the context of teaching, it refers to teachers’ belief that they are able to affect students’ learning positively.
However, do you agree that this is not a belief all educators hold?

Teachers with low self-efficacy usually cite students’ family problems, lack of resources, adolescence or cultural differences as the reasons why they can only have a marginal effect.

Whether you think you can, or that you can’t, you are usually right – Henry Ford

Believe it or not – and with no intention to generalise here- I have rarely seen this type of teachers at conferences.

Why?

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Image Credit: TESOL Greece Annual Convention, March 2016

Maybe because people who invest in their professional development have realised that in order to have a positive effect on students’ learning, they first need to improve their own skills and knowledge; maybe because the sessions they have attended or the people they have met, have given them a boost to keep trying.

Let’s face it: our pre‐service education may have been sufficient to get us into the profession, but not for the reality of educating a diverse group of students. And even years of experience may not be enough to address challenges shaped by the rapid changes in cultural norms, technology, economic security and family structures.

 Conferences are essentially knowledge communities where people pool knowledge and inspiration towards a common purpose. They allow teachers to get a good sense of what’s going on in their field and, in my opinion, provide a powerful tool for strengthening their self-efficacy.

2) Networking

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Image credit: Newfrontiers

This is one of the most popular reasons people cite for attending a conference. Social media can offer tremendous opportunities for networking but I don’t think they can substitute in-person communication.  There’s power beyond learning in meeting peers, managers and presenters in person and an incredible amount of sharing can happen. Conferences can also be great for socialising and even making friends. Some of my best friends are people I once met at a conference. Having said that, not all the people we network with can be our friends so a distinction between networking and friendship/ personal and professional, is an important one to make.

3) Opportunities

 Whether you are job-hunting, looking for a collaborator for a class project, publishing a book, or wishing to get involved in a committee, opportunities abound at conferences, especially if you network. Almost every conference-goer I have spoken with has something to share about the great opportunities that arose or the deals that were struck in a conference lounge over a cup of coffee or a glass of wine.

 Of course, I’m not suggesting that conferences can create opportunities. It takes a lot of hard work, time and commitment for this to happen. But people like doing business with people they know personally and conferences can get the right people, in the right place, at the right time. This means that you may be there when the opportunity arises.

4) Creating Content

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Image credit: Doug Belshaw

Tweeting snippets of sessions, posting photos and most importantly blogging, are great ways to create content. You also help other educators who can’t make it to the event, to follow along.

 A few years ago, people went to conferences, learned lots of things but all the learning was restricted to those attending. With the advent of social media this has changed. Just look around a conference room and you will note people tweeting or ‘facebooking’ using conference hashtags.

 How can this change the way we feel about our work?

 My answer is that it is the reflection and the active involvement that can have a positive impact,  with the added effect of using social media to inspire others. By creating a permanent record of  your conference reflections, you become an active part of the event, you get your name out there and you contribute to the learning of others.

And this is leadership :-)

 If you are not convinced, at least make sure you bring something back to share with your colleagues at work. This may involve putting your notes together in a handout, organising a short seminar on activities you found useful etc. Directors of Studies should also encourage and promote this. Schools can’t afford to send all their teachers to a conference so why not ask those attending to share what they learned? Plus, having the extra responsibility to bring something back will encourage your team to be more engaged and present at the event.

5) And what about presenting?

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#ETZ15 Istanbul

 I would need a whole blog post to cover this so I am not going to go into much detail here other than to say that presenting can also have tremendous impact on the way you feel about your work. You don’t need to be a professional presenter or a teacher trainer to give it a try. I know you may be reluctant and that various questions may cross your mind: Do I have anything worthy to be presented? Do I have the skills to present in front of an audience? What if people don’t like what I say? What if no one comes?

 These doubts are absolutely normal, and we all went through these, but it is my firm belief that practitioners’ ideas are worth sharing. They don’t need to be groundbreaking, innovative or impressive to make an impact. If you have learned something through trial and error, if an activity or method has worked for you, go ahead and submit a proposal. It can be a very rewarding experience and may also affect your students’ perceptions with regard to your work.

Just bear in mind that presenting just for the sake of it can have the opposite effect. Don’t just do it to get yourself out there :-)

And some tips:

Image credit: Digital ELT Ireland 2014

As a regular conference-goer, here’s my top five. What would you add to the list?

  • Post-conference parties are great places to network, socialise and have fun after a long day at the conference but you need to realise that you are not really “off duty”. Potential employers, clients, trainees, or collaborators might observe your behaviour. Be aware of that.
  • Use the conference handbook to pick sessions and plan your day ahead of time. This will ensure that you don’t miss out on interesting presentations. Do not only go to your friends’ or acquaintances’ sessions. While there is nothing wrong with that, are you making the most of your conference experience? Challenge yourself by attending at least one session that you disagree or are a skeptic about the topic. Pick topics that are relevant to your current or future projects. For example, at this year’s IATEFL I’ve decided to focus on emerging research in EdTech and on practical EAP sessions (English for Academic Purposes). Last year, it was leadership that drew my attention. Make your own decisions and plan ahead.
  • No matter how well you plan ahead, there’s no way to take advantage of everything a conference offers. That’s what social media and recorded sessions are for. If you are having a great conversation, don’t cut it short to go to the next session. If you feel you’ve had too much input from the previous session, just take a break and reflect on it. If you want to get a glimpse of the city, take some hours off. You can’t do it all and that’s OK.
  • Take advantage of the exhibition area. You can find out a lot about new course books, methodology books and other materials, often at very good prices. What’s more, most exhibitors are former EFL teachers so they really look forward to networking with you.
  • Conferences can be really expensive and time-consuming so, unless they are part of your job, there is no way you can attend all of them. Be selective. You may decide that you can only afford one out-of-town event a year or every two years. That’s fine. It is not the quantity but the quality that matters and there are always fantastic local opportunities to benefit from.

What are your views on this? Do you think attending conferences can change the way we feel about our job? What are your tips for making the most of the conference experience?  Sylvia and I look forward to your comments.

References:

Bandura, A (1977). “Self-efficacy: Toward a Unifying Theory of Behavioral Change”. Psychological Review 84 (2): 191–215

 

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DIGITAL IDENTITY: The promises & perils of existing online

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Picture1Digital Identity refers to the persona an individual presents across the Internet. 
More and more people are becoming active users of technology, contributing rather than just consuming online content. This is a powerful opportunity, but if they lack adequate media literacies, managing their online selves may be challenging.

What does it mean to exist online and what opportunities and dangers this may entail? In spring 2015 I gave two relevant talks at IATEFL Manchester and TESOL Greece. Here’s a brief interview to British Council Manchester online and here’s a live-streamed talk by TESOL Greece.

WHAT IS DIGITAL IDENTITY

Digital Identity is the sum of all digitally available information about an individual, irrespective of its degree of validity, its form or its accessibility (Williams, 2010). It comprises everything that can be found about us; from the content we create or share to what other people post about us; from the profiles we make to the conversations we have. It is also shaped by what can be inferred about us; our likes and searches, our purchases, our friends lists say a lot about us. And as the bits of data grow and combine, a complete picture of us emerges. A picture that is becoming increasingly accurate and traceable, due to the rapid growth of available data and the big data capacities to process it (Rose et al, 2012).

Does this sound scary? Well, it might but fear has never been a source of security. Instead, understanding what it really means to exist online and what opportunities and dangers it entails, makes it all worthwhile.

THE PROMISES

Participatory cultures & self-expression

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Existing online gives people more opportunities for self-expression. Rather than passively consuming content, we can create, curate and share; we can experiment with art, photography, poetry; we can adopt different writing styles to express our opinions and concerns. According to Stern (2007) all this gives people the opportunity to “have a voice”, an opportunity that may be rarer offline. Connecting with like-minded people and forming communities of relevance to our niche interests, can also lead to greater knowledge and richer intellectual exchanges. Personally, I would feel isolated without my online knowledge communities. Whether I have met these people face-to-face or not, I learn from and with them on a regular basis and they never stop to inspire me to become a better educator.

Self-reflection

Online expression is more conscious and intentional because we have more time to think. I agree with Diane Boyd (2007, 2014) who says that Digital Identities “have to write themselves into being”. We write all the time when blogging, commenting, updating our statuses, tweeting, texting, chatting. Why is this important? James et al (2009:26) suggest that our need to write our digital identities into existence can encourage reflection, which can in turn “nurture greater awareness of one’s roles and responsibilities to oneself, to others, and to one’s community’. All these, of course, are potential opportunities and depend on how seriously we take our online expression. Just posting nonsense, doesn’t make us reflective 😉

Feedback

Either positive or negative, feedback helps us to develop and grow. In the past, opportunities to get feedback were determined by physical space. Personally, I could only get feedback from those within easy reach such as family, friends or colleagues. Would you agree that getting immediate feedback is now just a tweet or blog away? This is a massive opportunity especially if feedback is constructive  and genuine.

Personal brand
Your personal brand is all about who you are and is in many ways synonymous with your reputation. It refers to the way other people see you as a teacher, blogger, trainer or representative of an idea or organization. What do you wish your online communities to associate you with when they think of your name? Do you know that employers will google you before they even invite you to an interview? Online spaces allow you to build and cultivate your brand BUT establishing a good reputation online is not easy. It involves much more than simply getting your name out there. Watch this space for practical tips on this.

THE PERILS

The performative element

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Photo by easegill

People perform roles all the time; we are teachers, colleagues, employees, wives, husbands so our behaviour is essentially shaped by the roles we perform; however, forming digital identities with an eye toward attracting or entertaining a digital audience, may undermine the opportunities mentioned above (James et al, 2009). When people share in order to be liked or appreciated, self-promotion may become more valued or urgent than learning or reflecting, and this can be potentially harmful. In brief, it’s OK when we share happy moments or professional achievements with our connections but where do we draw the line between sharing and showing off?

 

Tethering & Digital Distractions 

Tethering means connecting one device to another, but Turkle (2008) coined the term to describe the nearly constant sharing of information and connectivity to others online. More and more people are becoming so increasingly attached to their networks that they need to continuously signal their current locations, activities and moods. This may set the stage for an over-reliance on (positive) feedback, which can undercuPicture4t autonomy and create fragmented identities (James et al 2009). And as multitasking is an abiding myth, it may also distract them from what they are doing be it attending a lecture or having an interpersonal, face to face interaction.

As a teacher, I find managing digital distractions in class increasingly challenging. Whether we embrace new technologies wholeheartedly or not, let’s face it, digital distractions can interfere with the learning experience. This does not mean that technology should or can be banned from the classroom. Mobile devices are here to stay whether they are supported by the teacher or secretly used by the students. The debate, therefore, should not be on whether we allow them but on how we can prevent them from becoming a distraction.  As part of my Digital Citizenship & Literacy research project, I’m currently working on this area and will be presenting around Europe over the next months.

Digital Identity as the currency of the digital market

It is common knowledge (or at least it should be) that all the “free” services that we enjoy online, are not really free. We pay with our own currency aka our personal information. This can be used for good purposes, but it can also ‘be unscrupulously traded and abused’ (Saxby, 2011).

It is beyond the scope of this post to elaborate on the implications of this, but I want to believe that not all implications are negative. Consumers will “spend” their personal data when the deals are right; and as we (the consumers) are becoming increasingly aware of this, stakeholders will inevitably need to face the challenge of establishing a trusted flow of this data.


Though research is still emerging with diverse understandings about the promises and perils of existing online, there are some important questions we should be asking: How can we make the most of online opportunities without harming our reputation and credibility as educators and professionals? More importantly, what are the pedagogical implications of these promises and perils and how should they inform our teaching practices and curricula?

References

Boyd, D. (2007). Why Youth (Heart) Social Networking Sites: The Role of Networked Publics in Teenage Social Life. In Youth, Identity and Digital Media, ed. D. Buckingham, 119–142. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Boyd, D. (2014). It’s Complicated. The Social Lives of Networked Teens. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

James, C., Davies, K., Flores, A., Francis, J., Pettingill, L., Rundle, M. Gardner, H. (2009). Young People, Ethics, and New Digital Media. A Synthesis from the GoodPlay Project. The MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts. Last accessed 20/3/15 http://tinyurl.com/petoc2c

Rose, J., Rober, B., Rehse, O. (2012). The Value of Our Digital Identity. The Boston Consulting Group, Liberty Global Policy Series. Last accessed 20/3/15 http://www.libertyglobal.com/PDF/public-policy/The-Value-of-Our-Digital-Identity.pdf

Saxby, S. (2011). in Digital Identity: An Emergent Legal Concept. Sullivan, D. South Australia: University of Adelaide Press

Stern, S. (2007). “Producing Sites, Exploring Identities: Youth Online Authorship.” In Youth, Identity and Digital Media, ed. D. Buckingham, 95–117. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Turkle, S. (1995). Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet. New York: Simon and Schuster.

Turkle, S. (2008). “Always-on/Always-on-You: The Tethered Self.” In Handbook of Mobile Communications and Social Change, ed. J. Katz, 121– 138. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Williams, S. A., Fleming, S. C., Lundqvist, K. O. and Parslow, P. N. (2010). Understanding your digital identity. Learning Exchange, 1 (1). Last accessed 20/3/15  http://centaur.reading.ac.uk/17011/1/Williams_2010_Understanding_DI.pdf

 

 

 

 

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Digital Citizenship through past and upcoming presentations

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Digital Citizenship has been the main focus of my work over the past few years. I explored it through my MA research thesis and have given talks at various conferences around Europe.  My last talk (“Digital Citizenship & ELT: A match made in heaven” ) took place at Digital ELT 2014, in Dublin; an annual event, organised by IATEFL LTSIG and MEI, and supported by ELT Ireland.

The following interview was originally published on Sylvia Guinan‘s blog after Digital ELT 2014. Sylvia, inspired by the event, revisits collective visions on digital learning and takes a look at predictions and trends on the future of education. Here is the original article featuring Gavin Dudeney, Caroline Moore, John Whipple, John Whipple, Nellie Muller Deutsch, Peter Lahiff, Christine Mullaney and myself. A must read!

And below are my replies to her questions:

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Photo taken by Sylvia Guinan at Digital ELT 2014

What did you talk about at the Digital ELT Ireland conference and how can it influence where learning is going?                        

I talked about Digital Citizenship and suggested ways it can be integrated into an ELT curriculum. Digital Citizenship is an educational approach that involves literacies, skills and competences for effective digital participation. It aims at educating people to make informed decisions about the content they consume, create or share and critically reflect on the impact this may have, both on themselves and others. In my presentation, I suggested that technology integration should not be a tool-oriented approach and I challenged the existing paradigms in technology education that merely invest in technology equipment but take its responsible use for granted. Our students might be particularly confident users of technology but this doesn’t mean that they can use it effectively. If we want them to develop these skills, then, it stands to reason that the best way is to simply teach them.

Can you describe one major highlight from 2014 that makes a difference to you as an educator and/or has wider significance for ELT in general?

I think that the way we connect as educators is evolving. I’ve always been a proponent of Personal Learning Networks (PLNs), and on a personal level my own network has been a source of inspiration, support and learning for me. However, at times, I felt that ELT PLNs were becoming ‘mutual admiration societies’ where no criticism or debate could be encouraged or tolerated. Also, lack of netiquette or filter by some, self-promotion or cliques by others, made me wonder whether the whole idea was soon going to decline. Networks are ecosystems; to be sustainable all the elements should be healthy. I am happy to see we are gradually taking PLNs to the next level and becoming more conscious and mature about the way we connect and share.

What are your professional plans for 2015 and are there any important trends in digital learning that we should watch out for in 2015?

I plan to write a book on Digital Citizenship drawing on my thesis and ongoing research. Hopefully, this will start in 2015. As for important trends, I think there will be less focus on ‘cool tools’ and more focus on pedagogically-sound, well-researched ways these can be used. Learning (and teaching) is not about mastering 100 tools, it’s not about bells and whistles; it is about making informed and wise choices. It’s high time we moved beyond the hype and invest in what really matters.

A big thanks to Sylvia for the interview and for giving me permission to re-post it here.

 

logoThis weekend (14/03/2015) I I am giving a keynote at the 2nd Educational Technology Summit in Istanbul. The summit will bring together educators, technology companies, entrepreneurs, managers and other stakeholders who will raise new questions and share best practices “in an age shaped by the widespread use of new technologies in education” (ETZ 2015). My speech – “Digital Citizenship: A Burning Issue in EdTech” – will stress the importance of integrating digital literacies and competences into the curriculum and suggest ways educators can be involved. Big congrats to Işıl Boy, the executive committee, and everyone else involved on organising #ETZ15. We need more events like this one.

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We need pedagogy, not just cool tools

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Rubik Apps
Creative Commons License Photo Credit: César Poyatos via Compfight

Whether we have fully integrated technology or not, few of us can deny that learning technologies can revolutionise language learning and teaching; we can find information at the click of a button, create content and share it with the world, communicate and collaborate beyond the boundaries of our classrooms, have a Personal Learning Network and be inspired to become lifelong learners.

There are plenty of options available; various blogging platforms, voice recording tools, LMS software (Learning Management System), social media, you name it; and there is also a lot of information about them. Colleagues who have tried a tool might write a blog post; educational technologists might give reviews on new tools. All this is valuable and I have personally learned a lot out of it. However, what happens when this information comes out in the form of lists such as “100 must-have digital tools for teachers” or “50 tools every teacher should master this summer”? What about blogs whose only purpose is to present “cool tools” day after day? Isn’t all this a bit overwhelming?

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Through discussions with colleagues and trainees, I can only say that such information can hardly help teachers decide what to choose and what to reject. Some of their comments include the following:

  • “There are too many tools but too little time”.

  • “I’m not trained, I can’t decide”.

  • “They all look the same to me”.

  • “New technologies seem to appear everyday. I just can’t keep up”.

Does this ring any bells?

I don’t think that what those teachers need is a reminder that they should soon master 50 or more tools. Education has never been a matter of quantity. I guess what they really need is training and clear criteria against which to evaluate and choose technologies; they need to be able to make informed decisions about whether or not to integrate them into their classrooms. They also need to be reassured that if their goal for students is language learning then technology is just a means to an end, not an end in itself.

I feel that just presenting tool after tool is a rather narrow perspective about the potential of Educational Technology.

The hype to use the latest and greatest digital tools – rather than the meaningful use of technology – is like driving a cool car without any vision for where we want to go.

Let’s take the focus off the tool; Instead, let’s focus on:

  • the pedagogy behind the tool and use it because it addresses our students’ cognitive needs, not because it is available or exciting.

  • developing critical thinkers with the ability to find, reflect on, curate and synthesise information.

  • developing lifelong learners who will be able to create and use their Personal Learning Networks to self-educate and grow.

  • educating digital citizens, that is, responsible members of an increasingly global and interconnected world who know their rights and responsibilities; people who can make informed decisions about the content they create or share and its impact on themselves and on the other members of a digital community.

Cool tools might still be welcome to our classrooms but this won’t make them more appropriate for learning.

If you are interested in the topic and you are around Thessaloniki, Greece, on the 15th of December, come along and join us at the TESOL Macedonia – Thrace Christmas event where I will be talking about “Evaluating and Choosing Educational Digital Tools and Apps ”.

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My IATEFL Workshop

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After a fascinating TESOL Greece International Conference last weekend, I’m now getting ready for an event I have been looking forward to for a whole year: IATEFL Liverpool! I’m so excited because it’s my first IATEFL ever and because I’m going to attend amazing talks, see friends and meet colleagues face-to-face.

My session is on Tuesday 9 and that’s another reason to get excited. It’s on Internet safety and how it can be integrated into the ELT classroom. If interested, find the details below:

From the IATEFL app

If you come to my session, I would highly appreciate your feedback and insights as this is the topic I’m currently exploring for the purpose of my MA dissertation. If you can’t come but want to share your insights, concerns or experiences in regard to this topic, your contribution would be more than welcome 🙂

I want to wish all presenters good luck with their sessions and thank IATEFL for organising such a great event 🙂

 

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#ELTchat Summary: From Teacher to Teacher Trainer

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Valentina Morgana by @vmorgana via eltpics

A couple of weeks ago, the seemingly popular topic of moving from Teacher (T) to Teacher Trainer (TT) was hotly discussed by the #ELTchatters. Entering into a New Year means reflecting on our future dreams or ambitions. This topic was proposed by Sharon Noseley (@shaznosel) as she felt she needed to reach out to her fellow chatters for their advice as on-line information offers courses and training but no real ‘concrete’ guidance.

Am I ready to be a TT ? What do I need in order to be a trainer?How can I judge if I’m ready?

So what did the experienced TTs have to offer the teachers who lurked and took in valuable advice that Wednesday night??

Qualifications & experience required

Most chatters referred to Marisa Constantinides very informative blog  ‘Oh, To be a Teacher Trainer‘! This blog mentions a quote from H.G Widdowson (1984):

“teachers need to be trained in practical techniques, but also must be educated to see those techniques as exemplars of certain theoretical principles…”

These words changed Marisa’s focus on teacher education and added a new perception of what training and educating classroom teachers meant. Similar reflections were added by the #ELTchatters.

There was a mix of opinion regarding formal qualifications; some believed an MA was essential to give the TT in depth knowledge in order to take the step from teaching learners EFL to training teachers of those learners.  Marisa_C & @SophiaMav said that there are universities that offer MAs with a Teacher Education focus e.g. The University of Warwick & The University of Manchester. @Marisa_C also added that one of the best courses for teacher development is Marjon’s in Plymouth, although this is not an MA. @Frances Eales shared the point that IH and BELL have courses for people with a wide variety of backgrounds and offer core skills and project work. Also, @evingiddens suggested World Learning/SIT Graduate Institute @SIT_TESOL_Cert offers a Teacher Trainer License.

MAs seemed a popular choice and @shaznosel informed the group that at the university she works for in the UK, she was told in order to get involved in TT at universities, a MA not just DELTA is required. @Marisa_C added that she prefers TTs with MAs because of the reading and the research this involves. So if you are considering this path, do remember that quite a few MA courses will also give you credit if you already hold the DELTA (@Shaunwilden).

@Shaunwilden said that there are so many different types of teacher training that there is not a one course fits all. It was clearly established by @elawassell  that DELTA is a minimum for Cambridge if u want to be a CELTA trainer – but they also ask for TT experience., which should include some indication that you had done workshops, observed etc. @dalecoulter asked what do they consider as ‘concrete’ training experience? Which was confirmed by @Marisa_C as documented because too many teachers add the title “teacher trainer” next to their name without any real experience. There are also those who started TT a few years back (no offence intended!) that had not done any formal teacher training. @MarjorieRosenbe, for example, has been doing teacher training for the last 25 years but didn’t do formal training.

So how can teachers actually gain experience to apply for a TT position?

@Marisa_C suggested that doing a workshop at a conference does not make you a teacher trainer; however, presenting  is a very good beginning  and she advised us to get started!! @MarjorieRosenbe advised teachers to stay in the classroom as it helps in teacher training. @dalecoulter suggested that working as a director of studies at summer camps was a good way for him to gain experience, as they include seminars, observations and feedback (w/criteria).

It seems a course and experience go hand in hand as @OztrkOzge pointed out she started her  MA after 2-year-teaching experience but courses made her wish that she had had more experience as the experienced teachers were much more successful.

@cuppa_coffee always thought that teacher ‘training’ was about techniques, methods and that “education” was about issues, context and evaluation. It was agreed that every situation is different and @seburnt summed it up by stating experience and qualifications are viewed differently in different contexts.

In the classroom by @SueAnnan via eltpics

Skills required and reflections of experienced TTs

The chat naturally progressed to the WHAT and HOW teachers develop the skills needed to train. The ‘what’ consists of the content to be shared and the importance of keeping up to date with new methods or approaches, technology etc. The ‘ how’  is an ever-changing process, knowing what works and what to ignore and finding effective ways to process  tasks and successfully deliver the core ideas to Ts . A number of issues were debated: How to plan teacher training courses? Observe lessons? Give feedback ? Resources? Locality? Culture? Time? Personality? Psychology?

@Shaunwilden asked the million dollar question: Can any teacher become a teacher trainer?

The ultimate response was NO!!

@Marisa_C made the point that TTs should have a wide and varied teaching experience plus the ability to develop trainee’s ideas, not their own, to which @eltknowledge added that in the beginning, it’s easier for a trainer to suggest their own ideas, but the skill is in helping trainees to develop their own.

@MarjorieRosenbe felt that qualities like understanding but setting limits would be a starting point for her; she also added that flexibility and openness are also at the top of the list. @dale coulter mentioned organisational abilities especially regarding the administration load and @DanielaArghir added that good organisational skills will help/let you concentrate on the actual training. @shaznosel believes you should be open to other Ts ideas and opinions and be able to “listen” to them. For @toulasklavou good TT should really love their job, learn from it and care about the trainees and for @Shaunwilden similar teacher skills are required for TT such as empathy, listening, understanding.

@kevingiddens added that mentoring and learning skills related to TT (positive regard/emotional intelligence) must be part of the process and @FrancesEales stated the need to to be able to deal with people tactfully but firmly. @Marisa_C also mentioned counselling skills, ability to analyse and support in a developmental rather than prescriptive way.

@Shaunwilden argued that lots of psychology is involved in TT, especially in the feedback stage and added that he found this a challenge when dealing with CELTA trainees for the first time. @shaznosel agreed that it must be difficult to tell someone their weaknesses and @FrancesEales added that you need to be emotionally and physically quite resilient to cope with people’s emotional stress. @Marisa_C totally agreed and added that she had trained a good number of drama queens !

Inspiration plays a role too…@Marisa_C mentioned the importance of being able to inspire one’s trainees and to have  outstanding class teaching presentation skills. @shaznosel added to this point that an inspiring TT means inspired teachers which means inspired ss!

@Marisa_C and @cuppa_coffee  discussed an interesting concept- the need to apply  Knowle’s model of Andragogy. Here’s a link to help understand this theory http://www.lifecircles-inc.com/Learningtheories/knowls.html

@FrancesEales thought observation is the most challenging skill/art and is still learning how to do it better and ask for feedback from ‘trainees’. @Marisa_C added the importance of handling feedback that builds on trainee’s reflection and ability to improve rather than destroy. This led to a very important point, the teacher as a reflective practitioner

@cuppa_coffee argued that a good TT is a reflective practitioner, critical thinker, and coach and @DanielaArghir mentioned reflective Ts make good TTs to which @Marisa_C agreed; she added, however, that although more recent courses are good at producing reflecting teachers, this is not always the case. @rapple18 suggested that there’s a strong case for building on reflection as it seems to be more upfront in TT than class teaching. To which @Shaunwilden added “you’re right there is a helluva lot of reflection in TT”. @shaznosel finally said that if we were not reflective, nobody would be chatting on ELTchat, thus Ts who are motivated and passionate about teaching may want to move onto TT!

Advice and best practices

Road crossing signs by @sandymillin via eltpics

It seems obvious from the above comments that as a T considers Teacher Trainingas a career move, the T sets themselves apart from their fellow colleaguesand learners. This move depends on the culture and context of where the T works. so , back to the original question:

Are you ready to become a TT? How can you judge if you’re ready? Are you enjoying teaching? Are colleagues turning to you for advice ? Are you reading this summary? May be it is time to move on!

Some advice…

  • Staying in the classroom helps in teacher training. Plus,it is important as well, to try out methods in the classroom before training teachers to do them. Also  it is vital to establish rapport with participants in teacher training (@MarjorieRosenbe).
  • Teacher trainers should not impose their ideas on trainees but help them develop their own (@Marisa_C & @elttknowledge).
  • TTs need to be committed to continuous self-development, appreciate critical feedback and be able to act on it (@kevingiddens)
  • Learn about the laws in certain countries, there are things forbidden in certain institutions (@natibrandi).
  • Remember that you’re not dealing only with the language. Your trainees are not (only?) learners of language (@elawassell).
  • Videotaping can be as a great tool for feedback and reflection (@natibrandi, Marisa_C, @seburnt, @shaznosel, @eltknowledge). However, according to @eltknowledge it might be difficult to get trainees to agree to be videoed. @Marisa_C also added that it can be time-consuming to watch on the spot and shared that she nowadays tends to videotape snippets which can be emailed or upload for trainees to watch.

Opportunities

After almost an hour of frantic tweeting  and debate , some sound advice was begged for!

How can teachers get into teacher training? (@ shaznosel)

So you have all these qualities and qualifications, which doors do you knock and who’s willing to hear? (@Toulasklavou)

@Dalecoulter suggested that getting in contact with local teaching organisations and offering to do workshops can definitely help; for @Shaunwilden, getting involved in local events and being prepared to do some voluntary work would be a starting point to get experience. Finally @Marisa added that doing TT work for publishers can also be a great step to start a career in TT.

Teacher training is becoming a big industry with CELTA centres around the world training 12,000 candidates annually. But how can someone become a CELTA trainer?

@Marisa_C said that you can apply to be trained up as a CELTA trainer at any centre that accepts tutors in training but you need to pay for this; @Shaunwilder added that you also need to be a DELTA holder to become a CELTA trainer.

Clearly from our chat, TT is not to be taken lightly but can be rewarding and motivating..so if this chat sparked an interest in you as a teacher then follow the advice and go for it. As @Noreen said “You can set your heart on whatever you want, as long as you work hard”.

Links

As usual, some great links were offered. At last! Especially for those of us who have searched mindlessly on the net!! Some links proved to be direct and invaluable in terms of guidance and others proved humorous and allowed the T to think about such a big decision in their career..

Oh, to be a Teacher Trainer
How to move from being a teacher to becoming a teacher trainer
The roles of a TEFL teacher http://t.co/17u8m6X8
Become an SIT trainer
World Learning SIT TESOL

Note: This summary was produced in collaboration with the amazing Sharon Noseley and was my first  #ELTchat summary ever. Dear Shaz, thank you for being so supportive and involved. I really loved working with you 🙂

About Sharon: Sharon has been teaching EFL to all levels and ages for the past seventeen years. She works in a Foreign Language School in Greece and starts her day with Pre-Juniors and ends it with the C2 or business classes.She teaches EAP at the De Montfort University in Leicester in the summer. She also enjoys  working as an oral examiner for the Cambridge and ESB examination boards. Sharon has completed her Module 2 and 3 of DELTA and is currently working on Module 1…this has taken her four years!! Which proves you can study whilst working and bringing up a family but you may need more time! Teaching is her passion and she would love to move into TT in the future, to share that passion!!

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A week of Professional Development (and much more)

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This is a write-up on Berni Wall’s (@rliberni) professional development workshop which I attended in August 2012. As it seems, it turned out to be much more than this as apart from the learning that took place, it included aspects that are rather hard to find in traditional workshops. Some might say they are unnecessary or even pointless. To me however, it was exactly those aspects combined with instruction that made learning so powerful.

The journey begins

I’d known Berni from #ELTchat and had heard wonderful stories about her professional development workshop. It all sounded exactly what I was looking for; a week of professional development and experiential learning where everyone shares according to their experience and training. And so, I applied early in advance and was more than happy I got a place for the first week of August.

Having heard some scary stories about how cold and wet that particular summer had been, I packed my case with long sleeved shirts, sweaters and water proof shoes and set off for Kirkby Fleetham, North Yorkshire. It turned out that I was not going to wear any of those as the weather couldn’t have been better; sunshine on most days and no rain at all!

Arriving at Kirkby Fleetham

Berni and her husband, David, came to collect me and Hazen (a Syrian teacher who was also participating in the workshop) from Northallerton station, just 15’ away from Kirkby Fleetham. They were so friendly that just a short drive home was enough to make us feel comfortable and welcome. The next surprise awaiting us was the house: the Fleetham Lodge. An atmospheric, three-storey house with fireplaces everywhere! My room was on the third floor, overlooking the garden. It was bright and spacious and I loved it at once!

The Fleetham Lodge

Then it was time for dinner. A multicultural one! You see, the house was full of people; Hazan from Syria, Markella from Italy, Louise, Madeleine and Jake from London and of course Berni and David. We had a delicious English-Indian dish and we didn’t stop chatting and joking. It may sound strange but I felt right at home.

Our daily sessions

We had sessions both in the morning and in the afternoon with breaks for coffee and lunch. What was really inspiring was that the workshops were designed to involve us not only as participants but as presenters as well. That is, they were led by Berni but we were all invited to share experiences and ideas so we learned from each other. Our topics were all ELT related and included vocabulary, grammar, teaching approaches, writing, ESP, listening, speaking, motivation, using literature in the classroom and web 2.0 tools.

I talked about technology and speaking (my favourite areas) but felt comfortable enough to also share my insecurities about areas I feel less confident with: vocabulary and grammar. It’s not that I find my teaching ineffective, no; it’s more that I feel it’s less enjoyable, adventurous or motivating and want to do something about that. I got so much out of our discussions that I decided to change my approach this year and combine some of the ideas I heard with technology (more on this soon). Using literature in the classroom was another area that I was inspired to incorporate into my teaching!! Berni shares a great passion for literature and believes that it should have a place in ELT regardless of the learners’ level or age. It all depends on the way you present it and, of course, on how much you, the teacher, believe in it.

The Brontë experience

On Wednesday, we took a break from our sessions to visit Haworth, a quaint, hilly village in west Yorkshire also known as the hometown of the Brontës. Walking around Haworth was like stepping back in time; cobbled streets, boutique shops, apothecaries, tea shops. We then visited the Brontë parsonage museum, which used to be the house where Charlotte, Emily and Anne Brontë produced works of literary greatness including Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. Walking around the rooms and seeing their writing desks, beds, clothes, diaries, drawings and letters was like hearing the echoes of their voices and feeling the harshness of their short lives.


The day was lovely so we decided to walk out over the mystical and wild moors and get a feel for the background of the Brontës  books. It took us two hours or so to reach the house that is said to have inspired Emily Brontë  to write “Wuthering heights”. It is practically in the middle of nowhere and now derelict but it’s the epitome of the legendary novel and its heroes, Catherine and Heathcliff. An absolute gem and a definite must-see place!

The cultural immersion into the English countryside

And as if all this was not enough, we also had loads of cultural immersion moments due to the annual feast held in Kirkby Fleetham over that particular week. Berni had a number of responsibilities as a vice president but we couldn’t be happier to help with preparations in the village hall. This meant working with the locals for a while, doing some paperwork and meeting cheerful and friendly people.

On Thursday evening we went to the ABBA tribute concert which turned out to be a disco night event; people of all ages, from kids to seniors, were dancing and swaying to the rhythms of “dancing queen” and “mamma mia” and it was so much fun! Who would have thought I would have danced so much in my CPD week at Fleetham? Certainly, not me 🙂

Finally, on Saturday, we joined the 111 annual Kirkby Fleetham feast which opened with a traditional Irish dance and included a number of funny races, dog shows and competitions of best in show vegetables, flowers, fruit and crafts. Everybody was enthusiastic displaying their produce, taking part in races, winning trophies and socialising and it was a real pleasure to be part of it.

And much more…

What else? Curling up on the sofa with a glass of red wine and watching films based on the Brontës’ novels, cycling around Fleetham, enjoying amazing meals (David is one of the best cooks I’ve ever met), taking our coffee in the garden, playing with Artie, Orson and Maguire- Berni’s lovely pets, watching the chickens walking around the garden (yes, there are chickens as well) and most of all spending time with Berni and everyone else in the house.

This a short video that will give you an idea of what I mean 🙂

How hospitable and generous can a person be to open up her house to strangers for a whole week? What does she get out of it?  Probably the best person to answer would be Berni herself; I can only say a big thank you for an unforgettable week, in one of the most beautiful corners of the UK; to me, it was an opportunity to think, learn, share, set goals, re-evaluate my practices, meet great people and have lots of fun. Reflecting on it right now, I reckon it was the social aspect that made me appreciate the educational one more, and what motivated me to learn and share and get so much out of it.

What do you think? Can we separate instruction from the social aspect of learning? Is it true that learning is initiated in the classroom but it actually happens outside of it? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

 

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Hello blogosphere! Can I join you?

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This is my very first post on my very first teacher blog. Thank you all for dropping by :-). My blogging experience began 2 years ago when I first started a class blog for my students. Over these years, I and my students discovered what a wonderful educational experience blogging can be; we discovered that extending the walls of the classroom and opening up a window to the world can broaden your horizons and make you a more connected, reflective and active learner  (well, more about the benefits of class blogging on another post, perhaps).

I’d been thinking of starting my teacher blog for a year now but there was always a good reason to put me off. Among the most popular ones there was always lack of time, embarrassment about exposing my views online and, doubts about its effectiveness for me. You see, I’ve been writing and reflecting on a regular basis since I started my MA; working on assignments, researching, sharing views in forums and collaborating with coursemates have become part of my life. I’ve also been on Twitter for two years and enjoy interacting with my wonderful PLN. I participate on #ELTchat (a magic discussion among educators taking place on Twitter every Wednesday), sharing  and learning with like minded educators from all around the world. What extra value will blogging add to me as a teacher? What extra value will I add to the blogging world?

After lurking on the fringes of the blogosphere for too long I just felt I needed to make my thinking and learning more transparent. I felt the need to write about what’s going on in my classes, what worked or didn’t work, what tech tools I used and the impact this had on my students, what conventions and workshops I attended and the impact this had on me. After all, ideas can only take shape when you put them out there and share them with others…

So, as I challenge my students to reach new heights and challenge themselves, I’ve just decided to set myself a 12-month personal challenge of evaluating the impact of blogging on me as a teacher. I’m not setting the bar too high expecting myself to write groundbreaking stuff or very frequently. I do expect, however, that blogging will help me:

  • Crystallize my thinking
  • Reflect on my teaching and learning
  • Enjoy the experience
  • Share
  • Become a better teacher

Will blogging help me achieve all this? Will I end up loving it? Perhaps, but I guess you can’t truly know what something is like unless you get your feet wet, right? I’m well aware that having a blog is considered to be essential to teachers’ growth and improvement; but, just like we don’t use a “one size fits all” approach to education we should not expect all teachers to reflect, share and develop in the same way either. But I’ve heard so many wonderful blogging teachers vouching for its effectiveness that I can’t help thinking they just can’t be wrong. Here’s to a year of discovery and learning, then 🙂