Tag: Future Learn

7 Days 7 Ways: Continued Professional Development 6) Seminars & Workshops

7 Days 7 Ways: Continued Professional Development 6) Seminars & Workshops

So, day and way #6 in this series on CPD for ELT teachers. So far, most of my ideas for CPD activities were things you could do at home, or at least pretty close to home – most from the comfort of your own sofa! For example:

  1. Blogs (1st March)

  2. Reflection Groups & Learning Networks (2 March)

  3. Magazines & Journals (3 March)

  4. Peer Observation (4 March)

  5. Professional Organisations (5 March)

Now we’ve reached a point where you might just have to leave the house, and indeed travel a little further than normal. Today’s CPD ‘way’ is…

  • Seminars & Workshops

At certain stages of your career, taking a training course can help make significant progress as an ELT teacher. I, for example, did the Trinity College TESOL Diploma after I’d been teaching for a few years, to refresh and upgrade my skills and knowledge. Teachers just starting out on an ELT career could think about doing:

Teachers with some experience, might consider:

These are all internationally recognised qualifications, which clearly has advantages. The main disadvantages are that these courses can be expensive, and that you usually have to find an accredited examination centre to be able to complete them. They are also rather general in their scope and may not always be directly relevant to your own teaching situation; making them slightly less valuable for your CPD.

IMAG0611What you might like to do, then, is find seminars or workshops being offered closer to home. For example, the university close to where you live might be offering relevant seminar courses, or a publisher might be offering a workshop on implementing their latest materials. Some professional organisations also organise one-day workshops or blocked seminars over weekends, for example. The best way to find these, I would suggest, would be through membership of a national or local teaching organisation, and through a Google search – here, you can be as specific as you like in what you’re looking for and should aim to find something that really inspires you and you feel is relevant to your own stage of development as a teacher. 

For those of you are still hoping you can do most of your CPD in nyour pyjamas on the sofa…. 🙂 There are of course distance-learning courses, for example offered by The Open University. And nowadays there are really a lot of online courses and webinars that you can take part in.Check out, for example:

  • www.futurelearn.com“a private company wholly owned by The Open University, with the benefit of over 40 years of their experience in distance learning and online education. [They] have 84 partners from around the world. These include many of the best UK and international universities, as well as institutions with a huge archive of cultural and educational material, such as the British Council, the British Library, the British Museum, and the National Film and Television School. [They] also work with a range of internationally renowned organisations [to] offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.” (quote from their website)   I recently completed a FutureLearn course on “Professional Practices for English Language Teachers” and found it a really good way to refresh my ‘basics’ and get in touch with the latest research on methodology. I also made some contacts with other participants and was therefore able to extend my PLN.IMAG0668
  • www.evosessions.pbworks.com –  The Electronic Village Online (associated with TESOL) “TESOL experts and participants from around the world engage in collaborative online discussions or hands-on virtual workshops of professional and scholarly benefit. These sessions bring together participants for a longer period of time than is permitted by land-based professional development conventions and allow a fuller development of ideas than is otherwise possible. Sessions are free and open to anyone around the globe. It is not necessary to be a TESOL member or attend the TESOL Convention in order to participate. All you need is access to the Internet. Choose a session from this year’s offerings, listed below.  And please inform your colleagues about this unparalleled professional development opportunity!” (quote from website) These ‘sessions’ and discussions are available online and free to access. I’ve just had a quick look at one and am already excited to see more!!

I would like to end on a note of caution; We must remember not to fall into the trap of thinking that only ‘formalised’ training seminars, webinars or workshops are useful for our CPD! Nonetheless, we must remember them when we’re thinking of ways to develop professionally, as they really can give us a boost of inspiration and insight. Ad especially now so many are available for free, and/or close to home, we’d be silly not to make use of them!! 

Let me know if you do a webinar or online course you think others would benefit from – post the link / details in the comments below!!

If you’ve enjoyed reading this post, please tell others! If you haven’t, please tell me! 🙂

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My first MOOC – A Reflection

I have just completed my first ever MOOC! It was “Professional Practices for English Langauge Teachers” offered by the British Council on FutureLearn.com. The topic is not really important for this blog post, apart from the fact that one of the professional practices that was preached was reflection. So here it is, my reflection on participating in my first ever MOOC!

MOOCsDefinition

Actually, the “Professional Practices for ELT” turned out to be something different from what I was expecting. A lot of the points were very basic, almost like an initial training course for people interested in becoming ELT teachers, but the title and course description had led me to expect something else – professional practices in terms of activities to keep up professional development after having trained as a teacher and already working in the field. In the end, these CPD activities were touched on in just one week at the end of the course. I think this could have been made clearer in the title and course descriptions. Or maybe I need to get better at reading between the lines when it comes to interpreting course descriptions!
Not one to give up on things, I decided to continue anyway, and my perserverence paid off! Although a lot of things weren’t new to me, I did come to enjoy the opportunity to refresh my knowledge and get re-inspired as a teacher! The comments (“discussions” – more on that later!) also encouraged me to think about teachers working in other contexts, which often brought new insight, and sometimes I was able to give advice and tips to other teachers, which also gave me a good feeling of satisfaction at helping others. Also, the course and ‘instructors’ provided me with a lot of references and ideas for further reading (though mainly British Coundil, and not published research, which i would have preferred), as well as some links and concrete tips for classroom activities etc. So I can extend my learning beyond this course, which is always a bonus! For me, these are two of the biggest benefits of such enormous MOOCs – being inspired by colleagues that I would normally have no contact to, and collecting ideas, links and materials!
One other thing that I found hard to deal with was the lack of real discussion in the discussion forum. Early on I refelcted on my feelings towards the course, and I have to say I found it a bit de-motivating that so many people had already zoomed ahead and were commenting and discussing sections that were planned for weeks ahead, so by the time I got there (I kept up the suggested pace of the course), I felt like everything had already been said and I couldn’t really add much. I still left my comments, but there was very little discussion then, as people had apparently already moved on and didn’t reply to what I posted. In general, the ‘discussions’ mainly consisted of individual comments, where each person shared their thoughts, but didn’t necessarily spend time engaging with others’ ideas and what had already been posted. This meant that comments were often repetitive, and for my liking rather too superficial.
MOOC_for_Free_Education
I did manage, with the ‘follow’ function to find and get involved in a few discussions that went a little deeper, but considering the number of participants (around 16,000 who added a marker on the interactive map, so probably more over all), it was rather limited, I thought. Sadly, if I’m self-evaluating here, I think I ended up tending to be more superficial myself, and only reading some of the comments that had been made, ‘liking’ a few, but not bothering to write long responses as I felt they wouldn’t be read or responded to anyway. I think it would have been good if the weeks’ tasks were ‘unlocked’ as the course progressed, so that everyone would have proceeded at the same pace, and then participants could have been encouraged more to actually engage with each others’ comments and discuss, rather than simply posting what they think and moving on. Also, on reflection, perhaps the number of participants is just too high to enable good discussion and community feeling within the forums.
One thing that was interesting, at times amusing, and needed some getting used to, was the different way people wrote their comments and posts. Generally, the tone was friendly, using first names and trying to be constructive. Some posts were slightly more informal than I would expect in an “educational” setting, but maybe that has something to do with it being online and free…? (Discuss!). And so many participants from all around the world means that people are adhering to different cultural and social norms when they post comments online; some of the comments were, from a British perspective, overly adoring and flowery, and one or two seemed plagiarised/simply copied from someone else – apparently this is a sign of respect or agreement in some cultures (I learnt that from this MOOC!), but it caused a bit of a hoo-hah as you can imagine! Still, though it just served as a reminder of cultural diversity on the internet and intercultural communication strategies.

800px-Macro_Biro_writing2So what would I do differently next time?

 – Read the course description in detail, try to read between the lines, perhaps contact the course provider about the target audience if unclear.
 – Take a course on a topic I know nothing about, to see how it feels to be a real learner again. Even if the topic itself is not part of my CPD, the whole experience of being a learner is definitely an enriching one for developing as a teacher.
 – Set myself clear times for different tasks or aims, for example 20 mins for doing a task myself, and then 20 mins to respond to others’ posts and comments. (In attempt to lead by example, and not be part of the problem I’m complaining about! 🙂 )
 – Ask more questions (and more directly – so that participants from different cultures perceive them as such) in my posts and comments to prompt discussion.
 – Ask a colleague or two to join the course with me and set up times for us to discuss the points off-line, so that we can go into more depth. Alternatively: Try to make contact with a couple of people from the course who seem to be working at the same pace as me and find a way to discuss the week’s points outside of the MOOC’s forum, in a smaller group.
Actually, as I read these points of what I intend to do differently next time, i feel like I’ve actually written a list of points to bear in mind for people who are about to take their first MOOC! If you like, those are my tips for making the most of your MOOC experience!
And you can find even more tips here (I wish I had read this in advance): British Council Magazine How to Make Best Use of MOOCs

#ELT Things I like right now: July 2015

Here’s a list of things related to ELT that are making me happy right now, in no particular order. Just because.

(Well, actually because I’m drowing in end-of-term marking and need to #staypositive !)

 – Collins COBUILD Advanced Learner’s Dictionary

It’s availavle to buy here and the free online version is here. I got an inspection copy recently and am enjoying using it to plan my lessons, to check students’ use of words, and just in general looking through all the information, info-graphics, etc. it includes.  I’m not plugging it as better than any others on the market, but now I’m excited because I have a new dictionary, and I’m the kind of person who gets excited about things like having a new dictionary!

– Free online courses by Future Learn

A list of all the courses on offer can be found here.  These courses are really interesting, on a huge range of topics – so perfect for professional development when I don’t have the time (or money!) to travel to conferences or other training courses. And also because some of the topics not related to teaching English are just really interesting! I just started my first course a few weeks ago, my first ever MOOC! And so far I’m really enjoying it; especially the flexibility to fit it in around all my other commitments… and marking…!

 – The ERASMUS+ Staff Mobility Programme

I’m a big advocator of academic and professional exchange on all levels, am always encouraging more students and colleagues to take advantage of the ERASMUS+ Programme, and constantly on the look our for new exchange partners for our Dept. of English Studies (especially British unis, so if you work at one and are interested, let me know!! *shameless plug for Trier University*). This term, though, my students and I have been especially able to benefit from guest lecturers who’ve come over as part of the ERASMUS+ programme. I’m teaching a class on a topic that’s pretty new to me. I’ve been having a great time researching and learning all about it so that I can share this knowledge and understanding with my students, but just in case I’ve missed something, I’ve been able to invite three guest lecturers to run workshops for us, who are all experts in an aspect of the topic! Brilliant! Thanks ERASMUS+!

 – The Office Mix Plug-In for PPT

This free plug-in is available here. It allows you to do lots of cool things to create your own videos, for example recording an audio commentary to accompany a PPT presentation. This has been a god-send for me this term, since there are so many bank holidays in May in Germany and we lose a few lessons of various courses – this tool allowed me to send my students video versions of my PPTs so that we didn’t lose too much time. [I’m not advocating this as better than actual teaching, but it’s deinitely better than nothing! And might be particularly useful for MOOCs, blended learning, or online teaching.]

 – IATEFL Annual Conference 2016 in Birmingham

Info here. I’m working on my speaker proposal, and wondering whether I’ll be able to meet the scholarship application deadline…?! I’m already looking forward to the buzz I know I’ll get from presenting (If I’m accepted!) and from being immersed in such a productive, creative, supportive and energising atmosphere together with fellow teachers from all around the world. Will I see you there?