The Day Sting Came to Our Classroom – A Lesson Plan on “If I Ever Lose My Faith in You”

As I have mentioned in other blog posts, I love teaching with songs – and students love it too, even if they have never heard the specific songs before! I must admit that very often I use songs I personally love – and today’s is one of them. Sting is one of my favourite artists and the particular song is super too, I think.

I have also realised that I have a lot of lesson plans with songs and I will share them more often in the future!

The song I have chosen and have used with my students in Greece and now here in Switzerland is If I Ever Lose My Faith in You. Depending on the context and country, it could be slightly controversial – but the activities I have created are pretty neutral. I hope you enjoy them and if you have more ideas, feel free to share in the comments!

Here is the video:

And the lesson plan.

Tesol Macedonia-Thrace Northern Greece – The 21st Annual International Convention – Teach and Seek

tesolmacthr header

There is a wonderful conference coming up in Thessaloniki, Greece, on March 29-30 – organised by the hard-working and tireless team of an amazing association, called TESOL Macedonia-Thrace.

First of all, here is the dream team:

  • Chair – Roger House
  • Vice Chair/Treasurer – George Topalis
  • General Secretary – Anastasia Loukeri
  • Membership Secretary – Nathan Pratt
  • E-bulletin Editor – Margarita Kosior
  • Convention Secretary - Fani Dafnopatidou
  • Member-at-large – George Raptopoulos
  • Member-at-large – Emmanuel Kontovas
  • Member-at-large – Efi Tzouri
  • Member-at-large – Elsa Tsiakiri
  • Member-at-large – Aspa Georgopoulou

convention_poster_2014_b

The two-day conference has a lot of exciting events:

Plenary Talks

  • Kieran Donaghy – Using Film to Teach English in a World of Screens
  • Dr Terry Lamb – Perspectives on 21st Century Language Learners
  • Carol Griffiths – Using Narrative as a Strategy to Teach Language
  • Vicky Loras – The Human Touch

I am so honoured to be doing my first plenary talk ever, and in Thessaloniki as well, where I lived for almost four years and went to university!

Pecha Kucha Session

An event not to miss on Saturday evening! There will be not one, not two, but SEVEN Pecha Kucha sessions! I am so excited about this. The MC for the Pecha Kucha will be Margarita Kosior, who is also the E-Bulletin Editor for TESOL Macedonia-Thrace.

The Pecha Kucha presenters are:

And there will be lots of workshops and talks during the two days of the conference. Here is the Preliminary Programme 2014, so you can choose your sessions.

I am looking forward to it – this is going to be a conference definitely not to miss!

Thank you so much, everyone at TESOL Macedonia-Thrace!

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Presentations in English – The Students Take the Floor!

I would like to introduce you to a group of 9 talented young ladies : )

Some Saturdays a month I teach them at our local college, the KBZ. They attend a seven-hour course in English (and other subjects, such as Finance, Correspondence in German, Computing and others), in order to be qualified PAs (Personal Assistants) in companies, to CEOs, chairpeople and directors. I truly admire them because apart from three days a week of courses, homework and studying, they also work, do a lot of activities, have families, personal lives, hobbies and even so, they are always full of energy! Our course starts at 07:35 am and finishes at 13:45 pm.

This course will go on for two years, and they will sit an exam. Their English exam includes a lot of parts, such as reading comprehension, translation (German into English and vice versa) and they will also be asked to make a presentation. Today, we prepared our first presentation! I chose a very broad, general, simple topic, as their first. I wanted to give them almost no directions apart from the topic, which was: Who is the ideal employee? They gave me so many ideas for other classes as well. I love when the students take ownership of the learning process! This is all theirs, and I would love to share their work with you all (having obtained permission first).

The only other thing apart from the topic that I did was provide them with materials, so they could present any way they liked.

materials kbz

I split them in pairs and a small group (unfortunately two were absent today and hope they feel better soon!) and gave them about 25-30 minutes to prepare for an 8-minute presentation. As they were preparing, I went around with a notepad writing down all the amazing language they were using, making small corrections and helping out if needed. I cannot even begin to describe their enthusiasm as they came up with ideas, what materials to use and who would say what. So in the end, we had three amazing and varied presentations. Let’s have a look in the order that they were presented:

The Flowchart

These ladies took blank sheets of A4 paper and made a flow chart, which they attached to the wall with magnets. I loved how they followed their own way of presentation – via the use of questions. They tried to find the ideal employee by asking us questions, and made it clear that the answers would come from us – which I thought was a great way of approaching such a broad subject.

Here is their flowchart:

marliessandra

The Board Display

This group of three ladies chose the chalkboard to write down bullet points, which they then analysed (each one took a bullet point in order, explained why they had chosen it and also gave us examples! I loved this way of presenting as well.

Here is their presentation:

mayachriskim

The Poster Presentation

These two ladies used the poster paper. They brainstormed any words or phrases they could think of when taking the ideal employee into consideration, and wrote them in different colours, which made the points stand out. It was colourful and a great visual aid for their presentation! Then they stuck the poster to the wall with magnets and explained each point, which they also illustrated with examples.

andrearenata

I can’t wait to explore many more topics with them and other types of presentations as well. I am so grateful because they are so motivated and willing to learn, that is absolutely contagious for me too! I will be sharing more on the blog.

A little message for them – and for all my students:

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Really Value Your Network

Vicky Loras:

Doug Peterson is one of the reasons I am delighted to have joined social media and will never look back – I learn from amazing educators like him, and I am grateful for the motivation I get from him. Thank you so much, Doug!

Originally posted on doug --- off the record:

I’ve never met Vicky Loras but she has opened up so many doors for me.

I think I probably got started with social networking like most people  I was curious about Twitter or Facebook and started an account.  Then, I read a post “Top 10 People to Follow on Twitter” or the like.  You end up following the “A” Crowd which turns out to be a cadre of people flogging books or their next presentation and not much else.  I liken it to an elevator that doesn’t go to the top floor.  It wasn’t satisfying so I turned to the person next to me, found out his name and followed him.  It was more satisfying and from there, it just kept snowballing.

So often, I read people bragging that “I gots a PLN” and it’s always interesting to ask just what that means.  “You know, I talk to people on…

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Feat No 23: Behind the scenes… behind it all!

Vicky Loras:

The Loras Network has moved! Read Eugenia’s post to see what happened all this past week!

Originally posted on Eugenia Loras:

What a week! What a long, hard-working, stressful yet blissful week. During the two-week Sports Break here in Switzerland, our family is working out… by working.

We have been in the process of looking for new facilities the past 3 months as it would be much more professional and practical to each have permanent separate offices. Many of our lessons are simultaneous and have increased recently.

Literally, last minute, on Friday 31.01 we found the best possible facilities, received the keys and managed to move everything out of the old and into the new during the weekend. That means that as of today we are ready to welcome you to our offices at Uptown, General-Guisan-Strasse 6, Zug in the Premium Business Center.

The main entrance is on the side of their vast parking lot. You can almost always find parking space there. There is also free parking in the “Hertizentrum”…

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Interview with Péter Medgyes

Péter Medgyes

Péter Medgyes

Péter Medgyes is Professor of Applied Linguistics at the Eötvös Loránd University of Budapest. Previously, he was a school teacher, teacher trainer, vice rector of his university, deputy state secretary at the Hungarian Ministry of Education and the ambassador of Hungary posted in Damascus. Professor Medgyes is the author of numerous books and articles, including The Non-Native Teacher (1994, winner of the Duke of Edinburgh Book Competition), Changing Perspectives in Teacher Education (1996, co-edited with Angi Malderez), The Language Teacher (1997), Laughing Matters (2002), and Golden Age: Twenty Years of Foreign Language Education in Hungary (2011). His main professional interests lie in curriculum studies, language policy, and teacher education.

A huge thank you to Péter for this honour!

Vicky: Professor Medgyes, first of all I would like to thank you for this interview – I have admired your work since I was in university!

Professor Medgyes: Thank you very much, Vicky. But frankly I’d much prefer if you called me Péter. It’s far more informal. My students call me Peter too.

Vicky: Thank you so much, Péter! Let us start from the beginning of your career. You started your career as a school teacher. How did you enter the field of education?

Péter: My mother was dismayed when she learnt that I’d decided to become a teacher. “Oh no! You don’t want to become a slave, do you?” she cried. What she hinted at was the low status of teachers in Hungary at that time. Trouble is that teachers are still not given the credit they deserve. Teachers of English were a little better off though, because English was considered a trendy language. The Beatles, jeans, American movies – you know what I mean.

Vicky: What has changed since then? What challenges, if any, remain?

Péter: Well, if English was trendy 30 years ago, it’s since become the unparallelled lingua franca. We can’t breathe without English in our wired-up world. It’s no longer a foreign language, but some kind of a second mother tongue for billions of people. It should become part of basic education all over the world. Kids start to learn English at an ever younger age. CLIL is introduced in more and more schools.

Vicky: How did you move on to the field of academia?

Péter: I taught in a comprehensive school for some 15 years before I became a teacher trainer at university in Budapest. Truth be told, vanity played a part in my decision to move on. But then I’ve never lost touch with school-life. My research has always been rooted in the classroom. In the early 2000s I went back to teach in the same school where I’d started out. I thought, well, with all the experience that I’d accumulated over the years, I’d be a much better school teacher than I was. Sadly I didn’t – I forgot how to teach teenagers, so I quit after a couple of years.

Vicky: You have been very much involved in the topic of native and non-native teachers. Do you believe the distinction is still necessary today?

Péter: The native/non-native issue is a tricky one. Dividing English teachers into natives and non-native is pretty arbitrary. Yet the fact remains that I’m a native speaker of Hungarian and a non-native speaker of English. Having said that, it’s true that the demarcation line is getting more and more elusive these days, due to the fact that the English language competence of non-native teachers is rapidly improving. Thanks to a number of things in the contemporary world.

Vicky: I agree. Now let us move on to your writing and other activities. Have you got any projects in the works? Could you tell us a bit more about them?

Péter: Together with Marianne Nikolov I’ve just finished a longish report on language pedagogy research done in Hungary in recent years. It’s due to be published in ‘Language Teaching’ in the autumn. At present I’m busy working on compiling an anthology of papers and conference presentations I’ve produced in the past 30 years. Each essay is introduced with an imaginary interview between me and a reporter in which I speak about how those pieces came about and lots of other things. Some kind of retrospection.

Vicky: Very interesting projects! I am looking forward to reading more of your work. Now what would you like to advise new teachers, who are reading this interview?

Péter: Huh, this is a difficult question! As a teacher trainer all I can teach my students are visible and tangible things. However, whatever really matters in education is hidden and intangible and so it can’t be taught.

Vicky: What exactly is hidden and intangible?

Péter:  The spark in the students’ eyes. Once I notice that spark I know that I’ve done a good job. I’ve managed to pass on the ultimate secret of teaching – love. Love of your job. Love of your students. No more – no less.

Vicky: This has been a great interview. Thank you ever so much for this, Péter! I wish you the very best.

What is the best thing about being an educator? Inspired by Roseli Serra (@SerraRoseli)

Where I imagined myself a long time ago...

Where I imagined myself a long time ago…

This post has been inspired by an amazing lady and educator in Brazil, Roseli Serra. Roseli is a teacher trainer and developer, e-moderator and ELT consultant. She included this question in her Eleven challenge, which I have used as the title of my blog post.

I love Roseli for her enthusiasm in her teaching and everything she does in life! She blogs at http://roseliserra.blogspot.com.br/ and I cannot wait to meet her in person. Thank you for the inspiration, Roseli!

If you asked me this question over twenty years ago, I would have: a) answered: How should I know? I want to become a lawyer. b) shrugged my shoulders and answered great, I think, if a teacher likes what they’re doing or something like that.

When missing Law School for a fraction of a fraction of a percentage meant me getting into studying ELT at university, I thought my world was tumbling down.

Little did I know what a journey this would become!

What do I love about being an educator? I could fill numerous blogposts with this topic. Here are a few reasons why I love my work:

  • I have the opportunity to grow and learn every single year. We are so fortunate to have so many conferences, workshops, webinars, other teachers we can learn with and from, in person or online.
  • I can teach students of all ages, all walks of life and every culture I can imagine, especially in my new context in Switzerland. I learn so much from them, be it about their countires, their interests, the things they learn in other departments. I cannot thank my students enough for every single thing they teach me, and above all how to be a better teacher and person.

    ...and here I am today!

    …and where I am today!

  • I can explore new ways of teaching. I love how we can be versatile, change what we do one year into something else the next, experiment (in the positive meaning of the word) and grow and move ahead. In this way, we can also see what works and what doesn’t. With whom does an idea work, and with whom not.
  • Some people may see it as an issue, but I love the fact that we are one of those professions that spills into our free time as well (as long as it is on a healthy basis). There are so many ideas around us that we can use in our classes. We see a lesson plan in any object we see, any idea we get from watching a tv programme, a song we listen to – a lot of us do this and get great ideas from everywhere!
  • I love that my students feel comfortable enough to take initiative and give feedback. Initiative helps us vary our lessons, as they may email me an idea or bring me an idea they have in thenext lesson for us to use. Feedback helps me improve my teaching, see what has worked and what I need to rethink.
  • No exaggeration – but I thank my young and teen students for making me feel like a mom with lots and lots of kids! I am sure a lot of us feel like this. Lots of us care for the kids, apart from teaching then the tenses – and we want to teach them values as well…this, among pulling out a tooth here and there, touching their foreheads to see if they have a fever, laughing and having fun, getting and giving lots and lots of hugs!

So, here I am today! Away from courtrooms and objections , but in a place I love and cannot imagine myself without.

An Interview with Marjorie Rosenberg, IATEFL BESIG Coordinator

Marjorie Rosenberg

Marjorie Rosenberg

Marjorie and I met two years ago, at the IATEFL BESIG Summer Symposium in Paris. What impressed me about her was her enthusiasm about her work and her willingness to help out and run what was a great conference. She is extremely supportive to our teaching community and we are all very fortuntate to be connected with her. It is a huge honour to have her here on my blog. Enjoy our interview!

Vicky: Marjorie, thanks so much for this interview. It is an honour to have you on the blog!

Marjorie: It is an honour to be here!

Vicky: Let’s talk about your journey into education. It has been a really interesting one. Could you tell us more about it?

Marjorie: I actually studied music in Buffalo, New York and wanted to be an opera singer.  While finishing my Master’s I took teaching qualifications as well and taught music in public schools for several years, before moving to New York City, where I continued with music by running a small opera company with a friend and working in advertising as my so-called ‘day job’.  I then took a chance and moved to Europe to audition for the opera houses and, as I needed a job, I began teaching English in an adult education institution. Bit by bit, this became my new vocation and I continued my training in the field of ELT by taking numerous courses and going to conferences. Ideas I learned in those early days have proved to be the staples I still use in the classroom.

Vicky: What a great story! Can you tell us a few things about your teaching currently? Where do you teach and what levels are your students?

Marjorie: I now teach English at the language institute of the University of Graz. This institute offers language courses for all students at the university, meaning the students come from a variety of fields, and in some groups, from a variety of countries. This makes class discussions fascinating as students are experts in many different areas and can contribute new perspectives to the conversation. As a balance to university life I very much enjoy teaching adults and have corporate clients in our local bank.  I have been teaching there as well some 25 years and work with people in different departments such as Human Resources or Project Management. The levels of the two groups are fairly similar, at the university I have students ranging from B1 to C1 as I teach both general English and a CAE preparation course and at the bank my students are mostly B1-B2.

Vicky: So university teaching, and Business English! Speaking of Business English, I first met you at the IATEFL BESIG Summer Symposium in 2012, in Paris. How did you become so involved with IATEFL? You are now the co-ordinator of BESIG.

Marjorie: I have been involved with teaching associations since the early 1990s when I first joined TEA (Teachers of English in Austria). I was quite active in the group and was Chair in the early 2000s. I attended my first IATEFL BESIG conference in Graz in 1995 and joined IATEFL at that conference. As IATEFL BESIG runs an annual conference every year, I found myself becoming a regular attendee and in 2008 joined the committee as one of the events organisers.  I had organised events with TEA and this seemed like a great opportunity to get more involved with BESIG.  In 2009 I was elected as one of the joint-coordinators and in 2011 as sole coordinator. Through the SIG-coordinators’ meetings I became more and more interested in the workings of IATEFL and when an opening became available on the Membership Committee I applied and began in that position in 2013. This has been a lot of fun as my job has been to organize the IATEFL webinar series which meant contacting people in the ELT field and setting up a program. What I am also proud of is that we have made the program quite diverse and at the end of last year, I officially applied for a Fair List Award for gender diversity in events in the UK.  This was for the for the IATEFL webinar series. IATEFL BESIG had won one for our Pre-Conference Event in Glasgow in 2012. The other aspect of IATEFL I find so important is the chance to meet people around the world, like yourself, who are active and interested in setting up sharing communities of practice. In addition to supporting initiatives like the Fair List, I have also contributed to the lesson plan bank of the Disabled Access Friendly website, a non-profit organization which promotes awareness of those with disabilities through ELT.

The Fair List Award Ceremony, IATEFL Annual Conference, Liverpool 2012, photo by Sue Leather

The Fair List Award Ceremony, IATEFL Annual Conference, Liverpool 2013, photo by Sue Leather

Vicky: What especially have you been able to do as BESIG coordinator?

Marjorie: I am very glad that we have continued and expanded our online events. Carl Dowse, our last web coordinator, began the idea of our weekend workshops.  These are online webinars run every month and are open to all. We then post the recordings for a week and afterwards they are moved into members’ area for them to view at any time.  We have been able to reach a number of members around the world with this. And what is so fascinating is seeing how people connect in the chat box on the web conferencing platform and exchange ideas with each other. This helps as well to build a global community.  We also began a scholarship for a ‘BESIG Facilitator’. This scholarship is set up to allow a BESIG member to travel to the annual IATEFL conference in the UK and the idea behind it is that the recipient will continue to work with BESIG when they get home.  Our first award, for example, was to Mercedes Viola who has been a valuable member of the BESIG Online Team, was appointed to ElCom team of IATEFL last year and was just co-opted to be joint web coordinator with Claire Hart. Another idea to enable more teachers from other places to attend conferences was to offer highly reduced rates to teachers from specific areas to our annual conference rather than awarding full scholarships to only a few. This has been very successful and we were able to have a large number of teachers from former Yugoslavian countries at our conference in Dubrovnik, Czech and Slovak teachers in Stuttgart and now teachers from Hungary and Poland in Prague. We also worked together with the local teaching associations and they put people up in their homes as well.  And the last initiative that we began in the last few years is our business English writing competition. This is open to all those who have not yet been published commercially. Winners then have their work published on the Cambridge University Press website, Professional English Online, and have the chance to win prizes. This extends our reach around the world and offers opportunities to budding writers of business English materials.

Marjorie with Mercedes Viola at the Annual IATEFL conference in Brighton in 2011

Marjorie with Mercedes Viola at the Annual IATEFL conference in Brighton in 2011

Vicky: What do you enjoy about being a SIG coordinator?

Marjorie: This has been (and continues to be) a very interesting experience.  I discovered for myself how important it was to be able to delegate to the right people while trying to keep an overview of what is going on in the SIG.  Another exciting aspect has been the creation of our ‘sub-committees’, the BOT which was started by Carl Dowse to help out with the online events and the BET, which was actually my idea. Although we have been holding annual conferences for over 25 years, we hadn’t published conferences selections recently and and it was thrilling to see the first BET publication, the Stuttgart Conference Selections in eBook format on both the BESIG and IATEFL websites.  And the Prague Conference Selections will be coming out in a few months conference selections. But what is so interesting about getting these sub-committees together is that we have the chance as a SIG to involve more people in the running of the SIG and also develop talent. Committees often tend to consist of people who have been in ELT or IATEFL for quite some time whereas these sub-committees brought new people into the fold. They get an idea of how the SIG works and when it is time to find people for the committee we have some who have already been involved in helping out.  The other part of the job that I like a lot is working with other SIG coordinators. It isn’t always easy coming in as a new coordinator as the job can be quite overwhelming and as I have been doing it now for a while it has been a pleasure to mentor some of the newer coordinators. There are so many little things that don’t need to be done from scratch and passing on the information can ease the transition from just being a committee member to actually being responsible for the SIG. In addition, it has been quite interesting working on a revision of the SIG handbook, looking at how the committees work and setting up guidelines for committee elections.

Vicky: You engage a lot and successfully in social media. How did you start using them, and how do you think they help educators?

Marjorie: I have to admit that I am a digital immigrant and have been learning how to use technology since I began teaching. But my first foray into active use of social media was when I finally took the plunge and got a smart phone. I was lucky in that two friends on holiday in Greece who were smart phone experts gave me lessons at the taverna every day at lunch so that by the end of the holiday I could use the apps on my phone. Through this I discovered the wonderful opportunities offered by groups like ELTChat which I take part in when my schedule allows. I also got on Twitter during that holiday and find it extremely useful for announcing events such as our upcoming PCE in Harrogate, our writing competition or the IATEFL BESIG conference I am organizing here in Graz. When I joined MemCom I began posting on Facebook pages to let people know about the webinars and in the meantime belong to a number of groups, mostly teaching organisations and associates of IATEFL.  LinkedIn is another of the social media sites I belong to and I find that the conversation threads in the groups are very useful for professional development. But perhaps one of the most important parts of using social media is the chance to develop a PLN (personal learning network). Although I have been attending IATEFL conferences for a number of years, I have to say that last year in Liverpool was a truly new experience for me. I got to meet people from my PLN, went to their presentations and expanded my knowledge of what is going on the in the ELT world in a way I hadn’t been able to do before. And through social media and the PLN, we can stay in touch throughout the year.

Vicky: You write a lot of class materials. What kind and what level are your preferred ones to write?

Marjorie: I think at this point I have written for everything except for primary school although years ago I recorded a cassette with children’s songs in English. Here in Austria where I live, I wrote a series of books for lower secondary and am just finishing a series for upper secondary technical high schools. I have been writing for Cambridge University Press for almost ten years, starting with a book of photocopiable activities for business English.  A few years ago I wrote two of the personal study books for the new Business Advantage Series, write regularly for the website, Professional English Online and just finished two projects for CD-ROMs to be used with coursebooks for the revised FCE and CAE exams. I have also written a book on banking for Pearson and revised a BEC Vantage book for Cengage-National Geographic.  Last year at IATEFL I was thrilled to launch ‘Spotlight on Learning Styles’, my first methodology book published by Delta Publishing in the Teacher Development series. This had long been a dream of mine to do and working on it was an incredible experience.

Vicky: Do you have any other projects in the pipeline you would like to share with us?

Marjorie: There are several projects in the pipeline at the moment, although some are at very early stages. However, at the university I have just finished the second semester of a project with some sixty students on their learning styles by making use of learning styles questionnaires, self-reflection sheets and a final survey. I just brought the stack of papers home yesterday and am very curious about the data.  This will be published as a chapter in a book put out by the university and I hope to be able to present on it at an upcoming conference. The other project which is going on at the moment is a module for ‘From Teacher 2 Writer’ on how to write activities for different learner types.

Vicky: How would you like to close our interview?

Marjorie: I would like to say that it is really wonderful to have the chance to be interviewed by someone I so admire in the field of ELT. Vicky, you were one of the winners of our ‘best first presentation’ award at the IATEFL BESIG conference in Paris and what I love about the field of ELT is the support we give to each other. This has been an important part of my reasons for becoming involved in an organisation like IATEFL. The very first webinar we organized was with Professor David Crystal and it was truly inspiring seeing that we were reaching people across the globe who would normally not have the opportunity to take part in such an event. This inclusive atmosphere and sense of community is essential to me and one of the main drivers for working within the IATEFL organization.

Vicky: Thank you so much for your kind words – they give me a lot of strength! And a huge thank you for this wonderful interview.

Publications:

In Business (2005). Cambridge University Press

Business Advantage Intermediate Personal Study Book (2012). Cambridge University Press

Business Advantage Advanced Personal Study Book (2012). Cambridge University Press

English for Banking and Finance 2 (2012). Pearson

Revised Pass Cambridge BEC Vantage (2013). Summertown Publishing

Spotlight on Learning Styles (2013). Delta Publishing

Friends 1 – 4 (on authoring team) (2002-2005) textbook, workbook and teacher’s book for Austrian lower secondary schools

TechCon 1 – 4 (on authoring team) (2011 – 2014) textbook, teacher’s book and teachers resource pack for Austrian upper secondary technical schools

She has also written articles for English Teaching Professional and The Teacher Trainer and TA journals and newsletters.

She writes regularly for the Cambridge University Press website, Professional English Online (2011 – present).

Love for Learning in a Library – An Interview with Efi Tzouri and Maria Vrachliotou

Maria Vrachliotou

Maria Vrachliotou

Maria Vrachliotou and Efi Tzouri are two amazing ladies, who work at the Library of Serres, in Northern Greece! They captured my heart and many other educators’ on social media and around the world, and have captured children’s and parents’ hearts with all their outstanding work. 

Efi Tzouri

Efi Tzouri

When I first saw the things that they do at the the Library of Serres in photos on Facebook, I felt so inspired and every time I am so excited to see the activities they do with the children!

Congratulations to you both, Efi and Maria!

Vicky: Efi and Maria, thank you so much for this interview on my blog. We have never met in person, however, there is a possibility we will meet up soon!

Efi: Thank you very much for the invitation. It is an honor!

Maria: Thank you for inviting us to your “digital world”.

Vicky: My pleasure! Let’s start with something I ask everyone I interview – I love to see how they got involved in education. How did it come about for you?

Efi: I used to work at summer camps for children after having graduated from school. There I realised, first of all, that working with children is more than exciting, and second and more important that sharing your knowledge is like opening a door to a world of imagination. I decided to study English literature because I would be given the chance to open this door.

Maria: It came naturally and with no planning at all. After the renovation of our children’s library, by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation through “Future Library”, I wanted to commit myself to something creative, so I preferred to work with children. All our library activities have educative and creative characteristics and promote reading, knowledge and fantasy!

Vicky: Both stories sound so interesting! You are both involved in an amazing programme for kids, which takes place in the Public Library of Serres, in the north of Greece. How did this start and can you share some snapshots of what you do?

Efi: I became involved as a volunteer in the first summer campaing which took place at Central Public library of Serres under the support of “Future Library” . I participated in various activities and projects which, as Maria mentions, promote creativity, cooperation and above all imagination. I feel really lucky that I met Maria who supported me, trusted me and believed in me.

Maria: Since 2011, our library is a member of Future Library, a network supported by Stavros Niarchos Foundation. FL’s main role is to promote creativity and innovation in all public and municipal libraries of the country. Consider Future Library as a great project consisted of partial subprojects, such as: renovation of library spaces (children’s libraries, medialabs), educative seminars for librarians, summer reading campaigns, just to name some. The programme for kids you refer to is the summer reading campaign that every summer takes place in our library and is devoted to those children and youngsters who stay in the city during vacations. All activities aim to promote creativity, love for books, knowledge and of course, FUN! My main role in all this is to manage the whole campaign, from finding the volunteers, to creating the program and promoting this initiative wider to the public. I also supervise the summer campaign at 11 libraries in north Greece and Thrace, helping them with problem solving and promotion tactics.

The children in action

The children in action

Vicky: What other plans are there for the future at the library?

Efi: We live in an era that people cannot make plans for tomorrow. My personal “plan” is to continue dreaming about a world in which children will be happy and will have free and entire access to knowledge. I will keep doing my best on making kids’ faces smile. The most important thing in order to make plans for the future is to cooperate with people who have the same dream;to make a better world.

Maria: No plans for the future. I only wish that we will keep on providing services of high quality to all and we will adapt to the changes and the needs of our users.

Vicky: I absolutely agree and hope for the very best. I am sure this kids will continue to ejoy learning and coming to the library! Going on to another subject now, there is a lot of discussion about whether libraries are becoming obsolete, what with the emergence of electronic books and such. As you both work in a library, can you give us your insights? Where does the future of libraries lie?

Efi: Technology is constantly being updated in order to serve the needs of young people who keep up with the latest mobile applications and digital tools and love to be informed, to chat, to make friends through social networks. In a Facebook generation ebooks definitely make the process of education more attractive. Libraries should and must follow this whole new perspective of receiving knowledge and updating their services in order to attract more young readers.

Maria: Ebooks represent and amazing educative tool in the hands of librarians. They can “talk”, excite the senses, use multimedia applications and be easily accessible. They shouldn’t be considered as a threat, but as a means to promote reading and support traditional books, that due to their material lack some of the above characteristics. Ebooks should be embraced and not rejected. After all, they are a part of the future. They still are books…Imagine a future world where ebooks where the norm and suddenly, printed books appear as a way of alternative reading. I am almost sure that the reaction of readers would have been the same: negativity, suspicion and rejection. The duty of librarians is to help readers to become accustomed to new “technological expressions”.

The Public Library of Serres, Northern Greece

The Public Library of Serres, Northern Greece

Vicky: You share and interact a lot on social media. Do you think social media help educators and the field of education in general, and if yes, how?

Maria: I see social media as a way of communicating easily and instantly with people around the country and the world. In the library we use them mostly as a promotional tool of our work and activities, but also as an informative tool on books, reading and library news. For educative matters I think that Efi could share her experience with us.

Efi: Digital and literacy tools created a totally new perspective on how education is delivered to learners. On line courses and conferences give a great chance to access knowledge. On line communities have been created in order to share, collaborate, exchange ideas and help educators discover their skills, improve their work. I have the feeling that nowadays educators should feel more optimistic, creative and strong than ever because their passion to share their knowledge and their efforts to pass it to learners can be supported, enhanced and evolve by the use of such a powerful tool that is called social media.

Vicky: What is one of your dreams for the library of Serres in the next few years?

Efi: One of my dreams is to continue giving children the chance to smile and making them feel happy. Despite the fact that the current situation is not at all positive, I will keep on working with love and patience, as Maria says. Staying together, helping each other, collaborating, creating and innovating make us think positive about the future.Things will change to better ones  in the end.

Maria: The last years my main concern is for my library to find resources that will give its staff the needed space to provide better services for all and to follow the technological advances. I fear about the future of libraries in Greece, but I will keep on dreaming and hoping as I know that the personnel of the libraries work everyday with love, patience and many times, with personal sacrifices, in order to keep a high level in services, especially now that everything undergoes a serious crisis.

Vicky: I hope everything goes very well for education in general, and for your wonderful library! Thanks so much for this wonderful interview, Maria and Efi – see you soon!

Efi: Thank you so much dear Vicky! It was a great pleasure!!

Maria: It was nice to “digitally” talk to you. Hope to see you soon in person. Thank you!!!

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A Reason to Move to Switzerland

Vicky Loras:

Another great post by Doug Peterson about internet speed and more…thank you for mentioning us, Doug!

Originally posted on doug --- off the record:

Other than to learn English at the Loras Network … Read my interview with Vicky Loras here.

You may come for the learning, but you’ll stay for the internet access.

Akamai has an interesting interactive visualization that they call “The State of the Internet“.

Select your metric for comparison and roll over the various countries to see the results.  As a basis for comparison, I ran an internet speedtest here.

My results….

Online life as I know it.

What’s the average for Canada?

Hmmm….

So, when Vicky says life is nicer in Switzerland, maybe this is part of her logic.

It’s an interesting activity to move over countries and look at the speeds that are reported.  What a great start for talking about digital divides.  How about testing and comparing speeds at your school?  Overall, it’s an interesting collection of data which could be used so…

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