I am delighted to present you with the first interview for 2016, with one of my favourite educators ever, James Taylor!
Today’s guest is an invaluable ELT colleague and friend: an English teacher, blogger, co-founder and former President of BELTA Belgium, TEFL Commute podcast co-producer, iTDi mentor, ELTChat moderator, conference and webinar speaker. He is very active on social media and we all learn such a great deal from him on a daily basis.
James joined me from Brasília, where he now lives.
Enjoy this amazing interview and listen to James talk about everything from ELT, life experiences and travelling around the world as a teacher, podcasts, books, music and more!
A huge thank you, James!
(And thank you, James for coming up with the brilliant post title!)
Today’s interview is with a person I have never met with in real life but I feel we have known each other forever – Doug Peterson! I am thrilled to have Doug on the blog for many reasons.
Doug is an educator from Amherstburg, Ontario Canada. He is a sessional instructor at the Faculty of Education at the University of Windsor. He has taught Data Processing, Computer Science, Accounting, General Business Studies, and Mathematics at the secondary school level and was the Director of Business Education at Sandwich Secondary School in Lasalle, Ontario. He was also a Computers in Education Program Consultant with the Greater Essex County District School Board and before that, the Essex County Board of Education. In the middle of all this, he managed the Information Technology Department for the Greater Essex County District School Board. Most recently, he is teaching the Computer Studies teachable option at the University of Windsor.
His formal education includes a Bachelor of Mathematics degree from the University of Waterloo and a Bachelor of Education degree from the University of Toronto. Ontario Ministry of Education and Training qualifications are in Data Processing, Computer Science, Accounting, and Mathematics.
Doug and I have collaborated on a number of occasions, either blogging or exchanging information on social media. I have learnt so so much from him and I really love his blogging skills! Doug can come up with a new blog post practically every day, and each time it is interesting and definitely worth reading and learning from. You can read more on his blog, Off the Record.
I first heard Steve Wheeler in an online plenary for RSCON in 2011 and was very impressed. I then followed him initially on Twitter and then on other social media too. I learn so much from him and read his blog, which is one of the richest ones in education – both in quantity and absolutely quality.
I was honoured to interview him earlier tonight for my blog and I thank him very much for his time and valuable insights!
It has been quite a while I have wanted to interview DimitrisTzouris, a great educator in Thessaloniki, Greece. Dimitris does great things with technology in education. We initially connected on Twitter five years ago and then on other social media. Last March we finally met in person. And today, our first interview!
Here is our interview on a Google Hangout we did – and many thanks to you, Dimitris, for the interview, for everything you teach us every day, for being a great example of a learner (and for helping me with the Google Hangout!).
It is an honour to host once again on my blog: Dimitris Primalis. A huge thank you to Dimitris!
Dimitris Primalis has been teaching EFL for 20 years. His experience covers a wide range of groups including young learners, teenagers, adults and exam prep classes. He has written 5 test books for Macmillan and works at Doukas, a Microsoft Mentor School in Athens, Greece. Dimitris and Chryssanthe Sotiriou won the 2013 IATEFL Learning Technologies SIG scholarship.
Teachers by definition are asked to bridge social, racial and cognitive gaps. Yet, creating gap activities can help students bridge communication gaps and develop their speaking and writing skills primarily as well as listening and reading (depending on the activity). Technology can revive this old technique whilst developing 21st century skills like the “C”s (creativity, collaboration, critical thinking and communication). In the context of flipped classroom and using a Learning Management System (LMS), such activities can be used even more efficiently by assigning watching, reading or listening at home. Thus, classroom time can be exploited for more language production as you will read below.
What exactly are information gap activities?
According to wikipedia: “An information gap task is a technique in language teaching where students are missing information necessary to complete a task or solve a problem, and must communicate with their classmates to fill in the gaps.It is often used in communicative language teaching and task-based language learning. Information gap tasks are contrasted with opinion gap tasks, in which all information is shared at the start of the activity, and learners give their own opinions on the information given.”
Why try them in class?
1. motivate learners to use language meaningfully by sharing info in order to solve a problem
2. require collaboration through pair or groupwork
3. are open ended and there is no correct or incorrect answer
4. encourage creativity by stimulating students’ imagination
5. involve students and urge them to communicate with peers in L2 so that they can bridge the gap
6. integrate skills (a combination of speaking, writing, reading and/or listening depending on the task)
1. Split viewing/listening for speaking/writing activity
Choose a video that narrates a story. Divide the class into two groups: the viewers and listeners. Ensure that the latter are your audio type learners or the ones whose listening skills are developed. In the former group include the visual types as well as the weakest students.
Give viewers a couple of key words. Ask them to leave the classroom and try to anticipate what the story is about.
Listeners listen to the narration/dialogue and the sounds (unplug the IWB so that there is no picture) and take notes.
Then listeners go outside, share notes and exchange ideas on what the story is about.
Viewers come into the classroom and watch (sound off) taking notes. Allow them a couple of minutes to exchange notes and ideas.
Invite listeners into the class and ask them to form pairs or groups with viewers. Each pair or group should have at least one listener and one viewer. Ask them to join forces, compare notes and try to come up with the story. The only rule is that they will have to use L2 throughout the activity. This can be a speaking activity or depending on the time available, it can be a group writing activity.
Each group reports to class their version. As follow-up students have to write the rest of the story.
I have tried it with an old black and white film “Rebecca” ( 01:34-03:56) has stimulated students interest and inspired them to produce interesting stories. The viewers saw the man ready to jump but the listener heard the woman’s voice shouting “No…Stop!!!”
1. Let the director of studies know beforehand that student groups will be outside the classroom for brief periods of time. Alternatively, do the activity with another colleague so you can have listeners in your classroom and she can have viewers in hers or vice versa.
2. Stop viewing or listening when suspense heightens. It does not have to be at the same point.
3. If the film or video is based on literature, ask students to read the next chapter of the book/reader to find out what happened next.
Flipped classroom: if there is a LMS or a wiki, you can upload the mute version of the video and the audio version in mp3 form and ask students to do watch/listen (depending on the group they are in) and take notes. This saves time for more communication and interaction in class.
In the second part of the post you can read about jigsaw reading.
Thousands and thousands of educators around the world use Facebook to connect with others around the world. Some have two Facebook accounts – one for personal use and one for professional. Some can balance the two in one account.
To be honest, I had had a Twitter account for three years and flatly refused to open a Facebook account. It was not that I found anything intimidating about it – I just thought of it as just another distraction. Why open a Facebook account when I can already connect to educators via Twitter? [Now, this isn’t a comparison post between the two. One works for some, the other works for others, some educators (like myself now) use both in different ways.]
Until my Facebook mentor, James Taylor (as I like to call him!) explained it to me in detail – the advantages and disadvantages of it, the uses and so on. What did I find great about it in the end?
First of all, if it works for you (like it eventually did for me), it can be a super tool for professional development. It allows you to connect with educators all around the world – you can read their profiles, see who they are connected to and adjust your saftey settings, if you do not want just anyone friend you/ You can approve all the people though.
What I really like about Facebook is that it is very visual. You can see photos right away, add links and anything you like. It is very colourful and pleasant to read, most of the times.
There is no word or character limit (the character limit on Twitter can be a bit of an issue) – however, I find you can write as much as you like, but again, being laconic (as much as possible) can be an asset.
I absolutely love the fact that you can join groups related to topics that interest you. You can hold chats there, post relative links and photos, they can become great communities to share and learn!
Another thing I like are pages. I have pages related to my new business, where I can post information, new events and developments and the people who have ‘liked’ my page can always get updates. Similarly, I can get updates on the pages of others I have also ‘liked’.
There are surely so many other uses for Facebook for teachers and I am still learning – feel free to link any posts you have written or leave more ideas in the comments below.
Note (23.08.2015): As of two weeks ago, I no longer use Facebook – no issue with it, but I realised that with work and studies getting busier and busier, something needed to go. It is up to each educator, to choose which one(s) they will be using and for how long! It is enough even on one social medium, or five minutes on one selectively – we can always learn anywhere!
I decided to take up his blog challenge – here it is!
When we had our school in Greece, we had 11 classrooms – not to blow our own horn, but in each classroom the teachers had all the equipment they needed. The school also had a computer lab and a room with an interactive whiteboard. Therefore, the equipment could be moved easily if needed, or the teachers and their students could easily be moved to the room they wanted to use, easily. We did this out of respect to our teachers and students, to make everyone feel comfortable and content to teach and learn.
When I moved here in Switzerland, I started teaching at various places until I could get enough work – in schools, companies, banks – you name it. Some places, had the works as far as equipment was concerned, some were okay in some I had to teach in my coat and gloves (yes, you read correctly). Thankfully, only a couple of places match the last description.
An example of an excellent teaching environment is the public college I started teaching at here last year, the Kaufmännisches Bildungszentrum Zug – the admin people, secretaries and teachers are amazing to work with and the classrooms…wow, the classrooms!
– Whiteboards (three or four of them that you can shift on the walls)
– Poster paper (huge rolls of them!)
….wait till you hear this…
– 3D projectors!!! I LOVE THEM!
A great place to teach – a place that respects its educators and students. Shouldn’t all schools be like this? Some aren’t, understandably due to their restricted budgets, some because the people who own them do not care.
Let’s hope we see lots of great working environments in this blog challenge set by Tyson!
Today’s lunchtime ELTChat was about yet another very interesting topic. It has happened to all of us – a lesson goes wrong, the opposite of what we expected. How do we handle it?
We started off with what kind of bad lessons there are:
– Losing the students; when they do not co-operate or understand
– A tech glitch that throws the planned lesson completely off track
– The lesson not meeting our expectations, leaving the students and ourselves confused
– When something exciting has happened before the lesson and the students find it difficult to concentrate
– In general, our lesson plan going completely awry
How do we know?
– The students have a confused / glazed over look
– The student in one case informed the teacher, quite rudely, that she did not want to do the task designated
– In another case, a student ran out of the class crying
And here came some really great replies: What do we do in these cases?
– We reached a general consensus that it is better to switch activities and after the lesson, sit down and reflect on what went wrong. It is not advisable to do away with the said lesson plan, but it is even better to adjust/change it, in order to use it more effectively in the future.
– It was mentioned that it is a great idea to have fillers up our sleeves to manage in such situations, when something does not work.
– It is generally better to sometimes admit in class that something did not work / was not suitable and perhaps even discuss with the students what went wrong / what could be done better next time.
– Having the confidence to stop is a great thing; acknowledge an idea is not working and just move on. Keeping yourself calm is also important, as it can be a difficult moment.
– Leave space to customise for each student / group of stiudents. It is essential to be flexible with our lesson plans.
Lessons that do not work can leave inexperienced teachers lacking in confidence. What would we advise them?
– That it is okay when a lesson fails – it can prove to be a learning experience. What happened? What was the lesson plan like? Which group were you teaching on the given day?
– There was a very nice quote: “Making mistakes shows you are trying!”
– A bad day can happen to anyone.
Before I get to the point of this post, I need to say two things:
– A great number of posts and articles have been written about teaching with Skype, but this experience was so helpful and eye-opening for me that I feel the need to share it : )
– For some who might not know, I used to have a school in Greece and had to leave my wonderful students behind when I moved to Switzerland.
So here goes…
Vassilis is a wonderful person and student that my sister first and (a little bit later) I have taught ever since he was eight. (He is now…gulp – twenty-three!) He is a graduate student of the Business and Economics University of Athens, Greece, in the Department of Informatics. We have kept in touch even after I left (as with a great number of our students) and one day he was telling me that he wants to do a post-graduate abroad so he needed IELTS and that he missed our lessons together. We talked about it and in the midst of nostalgia for our lessons with him in the past I blurted out, “I can teach you if you like.” “How?” he asked. I had to think fast. “Via Skype.” “Do you think it’s gonna work?” “We can try and see!” I answered.
So, that’s how we started : )
How can you use Skype?
– The video feature is great, but not that necessary. It is wonderful to see your student’s face, expressions and feel like you are in the same room with them, but with Vassilis we rarely used it. Perhaps at the beginning of the lesson it makes the lesson more personal – it is great to see each other!
– It was mainly useful for us for the audio, and you can practise speaking extensively with the student – with Vassilis, I listened to him, corrected him on the spot when needed and used the chat box on the bottom right of the Skype screen to write notes for him, or synonyms to vocabulary he used.
– The chat box: It can be used as a virtual blackboard to write simple notes, which you can hand over to the student simply by pressing Enter. Using the Send File feature (which you can find on the button with the plus sign) you can share PDF or other files, pictures if you are doing picture description with your students – they open the files and the conversation goes on while various things are done in the meantime. Sometimes I immediately shared files with Vassilis if I felt I had to give him more material on something. Emoticons can also be used for reinforcement!
– Sure, there can be tech glitches (choppy sound or video, connection cuts out and so on) but investing in a good internet connection is one of the things I have never looked back on for all it has to offer. Or simply enough, you can just hang up and call again! It usually works.
Skype can be used in so many more ways in education and I am looking forward to using it even more! I have also included some fantastic posts on using Skype below.
Aviva Dunsiger uses Skype with her class to communicate with other classes. Here is one of her posts on using Skype, Does It Matter? where she reflects on her students’ experiences on a topic, after Skyping into another class.
If any of you have written a post on teaching with Skype, I will be very happy to include a link to your blog here. If you have used any more features of Skype I do not have here (and I am sure there are lots more!) please let me know. I’d love to learn, as I am sure I can use more features in the future and make use of its full potential!
Yesterday was a super day – professional development at its best, educators’ paradise!
In the morning, the International Teachers Development Institute, known as iTDi, had organised a great set of webinars, co-ordinated by presenters none other than the super Shelly Terrell and Steven Herder. Speakers included Chuck Sandy, Luke Meddings, Scott Thornbury, Jonh Fanselow and Marcos Benevides. Great speakers, fantastic educators and people we could all listen to, free of charge, from the comfort of our own homes or workplaces. It is amazing and I still wonder at what technology has helped us all do!
After the iTDi webinar, followed TeachMeet International, another webinar organised and co-ordinated by a fantastic educator in Croatia, Arjana Blazic and a super one in Belgium I hope to meet in the future, Bart Verswijvel. Sonja Lusic-Radosevic, a colleague of Arjana’s (the two of them have created a fantastic website for Croatian students, Moja Matura) was the tech sepcialist and took great screenshots of all the speakers!
The great and original thing about TeachMeet was that each speaker had just three minutes to speak. We heard some fantastic people speaking and learned a lot. It was great for me, as I realised I can speak in three minutes (as I can be a big chatterbox! Ha ha!).
Both were fantastic experiences, full of energy and inspiration. It is great and all of us as educators are so fortunate to have these events going on.
So whenever you find out about something like this, be sure to let your colleagues know as well! Not all of them may join, but some have taken the plunge into social media, never looking back.