CPD: Surviving the 21st Century

EdTech Wordle

Recently I went to the Cambridge Seminar for Business and Academic English in Amsterdam. There were several talks throughout the afternoon, but the one that really caught my interest was the one by Nick Robinson; 21st Century ELT Teacher’s Survial Plan. It was all about how technology is impacting on our jobs already and how it’s likely to in the near future.

Buzz words:
Big Data, BYOD (Bring your own device), cloud computing, digital classroom, efficacy, blended learning, flipped classroom, convergence, adaptive learning, m-learning, ed-tech, mooc

What I took away:
Technology trends affecting ELT are…

  1. constant connectedness; this can be seen in 3G, 4G, Wifi and cloud computing.
  2. devices; There is a plethora – computers are being replaced by tablets, e-readers, smart-phones etc. And there’s convergence = one device can now do the job of several old ones (nowadays a phone can also be a music player, video player, games console…).
  3. video; now eclipsing text as the dominant form of communication online, think about all those user-generated videos on YouTube, which seems to be replacing Google as the go to search engine.

Key trends in ELT are…

  1. mobile learning; using mobile devices to provide motivation and create context. As well as actually communicate!
  2. the digital classroom; “paperless classrooms” (not virtual ones), print vs. digital coursebooks.
  3. the flipped classroom; Input is provided as self-study to do at home and class time is used for collaborative communicative activities (homework in class and classwork at home, therefore flipped).

-Think mobile/tablet first
-Be aware of device trends (and what your students might have access to or with them in class)
-Assume everyone has connection to the internet during classtime and exploit this
-Plan how to use video as a way to deliver content

Action points:

  • I want to try and incorporate mobile learning into my classroom with some ‘device slots’/activities (the challenge is how to keep students focussed and on task, I’m a bit worried that there is a huge potential for distraction!).
  • I have one in-company course where all the students come to class with their company (internet-connected) iPads. How can I use this to our advantage? What about using an e-textbook?
  • I need to explore more the concept of the flipped classroom, I have a feeling that I’ve been doing this for a while now without realising what it’s called and that there is a whole movement!
  • I will continue to work out how to use my new iPad in class more effectively.
  • I would like to research the controversial Sugata Mitra and his Hole in the Wall project.

Over to you:

  • Are you actively working on modernising your teaching practice?
  • What have you done?
  • Does it work for you?
  • Are you worried that technology might one day negate the need for real live teachers?
  • I’m looking for a great iPad dictionary, can you recommend one?




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CPD: Collecting feedback from students

Recently I listened in to All About Feedback From Students, a webinar led by Michael Griffin (you can tweet him @michaelegriffin) as part of the Belta Sundays series.

This is a subject that’s been on my mind a lot recently. I know that it’s very important to gather quality information and feedback on my teaching. However, I wanted to be more confident about how to proceed and what to do with the information I receive, especially as I work for myself.

Michael reviewed why we should collect feedback, how and what to do with it once we’ve got it. Discussion in the chat box was encouraged and other participants contributed some good ideas.

The main things I took away were:

1. Anonymity is not always crucial when asking for feedback, sometimes it’s more useful when you know who it’s coming from. I liked this point especially because I work with a lot of one2one classes or small groups so it’s not very easy to guarantee anonymity. In addition, an interesting idea is that this way students are encouraged to accept responsibility for their comments and not just complain for the sake of it (does this happen much? It hasn’t really in my experience…).

2. Asking students for feedback is like a pressure valve. I like the metaphor.

3. What to ask about is always a sticky question for me. I usually do the classic, what did you like/didn’t you like/can you suggest for improvement thing. But a good idea might be to ask about what’s new in class or about what we’re trying to do with a particular group (new method, new coursebook…).

4. We could train students to give effective feedback. I think this is the most interesting thought that came up. How can we communicate more clearly what we expect them to do?Can we help them see the difference between ‘what I like doing in class’ and ‘what’s useful for my learning’?  (I’m now thinking that question over myself, what is the difference and how might student’s distinguishing between them impact on the feedback they give…hmmm…).

5. Many of my students ignore end of course emails requesting feedback, so perhaps they don’t realise its value. Or what it’s for. Or maybe in the past they didn’t see any outcome from giving feedback so don’t realise it’s useful.

Action points:

  • I will try to be much more explicit about why I am asking for feedback. I’ll ditch email feedback requests and come up with a class activity. I think it’s time to start a discussion.
  • I will try to gain their trust by asking for feedback at regular and measurable intervals throughout the course and acting on it (when sensible!) so they see the impact their ideas can have.

Things to look up/try out:

  • linoit.com – A way to collaborate with students on collecting and discussing feedback online.

Find out more about my CPD Series here.


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Continuing Professional Development

I started this blog when I was studying for the Delta, it seemed like a good idea, the right thing to do. But I have really struggled with knowing exactly what I want to share here.

I have read some amazing academic style blog posts put out there by inspirational teachers, very well researched and put together. I thought about blogging like that, but felt a little intimidated. In addition, I believe that there should be some kind of peer review or editorial support for that style, something to back up the authority of my voice. Maybe one day I’ll contribute to an ELT journal, but LanguageLego is not the place for me to write that way.

I have tentatively put some information out there that I thought might be useful for other teachers. However, I continue to feel uncomfortable with the idea that maybe I’ll come across as saying ‘look at me and how I teach, how cute am I??’

Then, I thought the blog could be my teacher diary. But I find that kind of self-reflection too personal to share. And I prefer making hand-written notes in my little red book in the car after a lesson. It’s always on hand to add to or read over (or ignore, as often happens!).

So, LanguageLego has languished unloved for rather some time.

But I’ve had an idea!

It springs from a combination of factors:

1. I have been teaching for 10 years this year – whoop whoop!

2. I have the Delta under my belt.

3. I am not employed by a school. I run my own business, which I would say falls somewhere between free-lancing and running a school.

4. I really miss being supported and inspired by fellow-teachers in a staffroom while I attempt to grow as a ELT teacher.

5. I have discovered the amazing online global ELT community, which I find most vibrant on Twitter (although there are some fabulous blogs out there too).

So here it is:

For now LanguageLego will be my CPD (continuing professional development) scrapbook, a place for me to collect my thoughts. I will post my adventures in CPD here, mentioning what I did, how it went and my reactions.

I hope that this will motivate me to schedule in some form of CPD regularly as well as to digest and apply what I learn, but that it might encourage someone out there who is new to teaching or might be feeling a bit lost (without a staffroom).

So I’ll close with a big wave to all of you out there, also doing what I do, don’t stop studying, growing and sharing!






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Delta Conversations

Just popping by to say that last week I was pleased to be featured on Sandy Millin’s excellent blog. She has been putting together an informative series cataloging teacher’s experiences of studying for the Delta diploma. If you are thinking of doing the Delta I strongly recommend you go along and have a look at how different people have tackled it.

Delta Conversations: Roya

Meanwhile I’m working hard behind the scenes at English Voice. Currently designing some leaflets to promote my new offer: Financial English in collaboration with Cambridge.

What projects are you working on?

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Instagram for EFL


Today I stumbled on something marvelous. After updating Instagram on my phone, I discovered that you can now make and share short videos.

One of the first videos I watched was a girl reading a list of words.

Fascinating right?

Well, sure, you’d be forgiven if you just went huh?!

However, the key to my interest is the hashtag: #dawnsaccentcollection

If you have instagram I highly recommend you search for the tag. There are several videos made by people all over the UK and some in the States, all reading the same list of words. It’s a great study in accents for anyone with a general interest, but we’re language teachers.

I’m excited! Are you?

Off the top of my head classroom applications:

  • Students choose two and compare the accents of one or two words of their choice. Use phonetic chart to analyse what’s going on.
  • Teacher chooses a word that includes a troublesome phoneme (specific to the class in question). Student’s watch 3 or 4 videos with varying accents and try and find a version that they are comfortable with pronouncing.
  • Kick off a discussion on varieties of English
  • Students record their own lists and share them using the hashtag
  • Oh! Doing an activity using this material on an interactive whiteboard. Swoon!

What are you going to do? Please leave your ideas in the comments box.

I can’t wait to see how this progresses in the next days/weeks. And yes, I’m now going to figure out how to record a list myself!

PS: If you are having trouble let me know. Although you should note I’m not the right person to give you technical instructions! I can point out that video doesn’t work on Androids operating older versions of Jellybean. However, Instagram can be accessed on a normal computer at http://www.instagram.com You will need an account to log in and access content (maybe one of your students already has one and can help out).

PPS: Did you know I just started a company in the Randstad area of the Netherlands? I’m now taking on students here. Do me a favour, like me on facebook!

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Introducing English Voice

Finally it’s here!

English voice chalk

English Voice

For the past few months I have been working on setting up my own company in order to work freelance in the Netherlands. It has been a bit of a journey – getting registered, connecting with an accountant and finding some initial contracts.

And the website! I took on the challenge of putting it together myself. It has been a long road but I think I am now ready to share it with the world.

What do you think world?

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Delta Module One Exam

Ever thought about taking your TEFL education one step further? Have you been checking out the Delta?

I completed the Delta in 2011 and can’t believe how fast time has gone by since then. I am in the process of tidying up my Delta notes, both hard copy and digital to make room for my Celta Trainer in Training things. I came across some documents that I think could be useful to others…

Here is a visual representation of what is involved in the Delta Module One Exam. I put this together while preparing for the June 2011 session, if you know of any changes please me know and I will update the spider diagram. Click on the image to zoom in.

Delta Module 1 Exam

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