Monday, January 26, 2015

MA in Digital Technologies for Language Teaching - My progress report

It's been over 2 months since I last posted anything here so I think it is long due! We just finished the first semester of my second MA in Digital Technologies for Language Teaching with the University of Nottingham and we're about to start the second one! So far, so good I'd say!  I'm really happy as the course has been challenging and also very interesting and above all practical. I'm hyper by nature so if it wasn't I would probably be bored out of my wits, but the tutors have been great, supportive and have also pushed me a little so I'm 100% satisfied about my decision to do this MA.

Now, as part of my studies we had to keep a reflective bloog which was initially private. I have not made it public so that if you feel like reading my reflections on the literature related to the world of technology and its assessment, integration, and implementation in language teaching then all you need to do is click here for my Reflective Blog.

Also, one of the aspects of the course so far that I have enjoyed the most is the creativity and flexibility - IMHO - as regards the work required. For instance, part of the assessment included writing an essay and part of the criteria against which we wanted to be assessed against. We were also encouraged to think outside the box and we were also allowed to choose how to present the essay beyond the traditional writing by incorporating media in as many forms as appropriate. I found this extremely motivating and so I presented in its traditional writen form, but also embedded it into a wiki while using Tellagami to introduce it, PodOmatic to present the Abstract and the main body of the assignment in the wiki to include video and links to different sources such as Dropbox, etc.  I wish I had had more times as I had other ideas which I think would have been great to include but doing it while working full time and wearing all the different hats I do proved limiting in many senses.  I can't wait to get onto the dissertation stage, which I have already started working on to save time!

Anyways, I hope you enjoy and find my reflections useful if you're considering to implement technology into your teaching in a more informed way.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Methodology Pill No. 25 Planning a Writing Skills Lesson

Hello again,

This entry is about how to plan a writing skills lesson and the reason for it and the accompanying videos is that often trainee teachers and sometimes also teachers cannot identify the main stages of a writing lesson. Writing, like all the other skills, needs to be approached by looking at what specific sub skill(s) we want to focus on in the classroom as simply saying 'We'll do some writing today' or 'We'll write a letter today' is enough.Needless to say, we need to exactly which are of writing we are going to focus on in that given lesson e.g. genre or text types, accuracy, fluency, coherence, cohesion, punctuation, layout, paragraphing, etc. Often when observing writing lessons either on teacher training courses or as part of the internal teacher training development program, stages are not clearly identified and this usually means there is not enough of clear scaffolding for students to complete the tasks successfully and benefit from going through the process.

Now, there are different ways to approach writing depending on what you want to achieve with your group of learners, what level they are, what their immediate writing needs are, the course syllabus and the time available.  Here I just want to offer a set of suggestions on what stages may be followed when approaching Writing skills in the ESOL classroom as found in the literature available.

I created both a longer video which addresses all the stages one by one and also give ideas for each stage - ideas which I have tried and tested over the years :-)...

and a shorter one using PowToon for those on the go and which may help you quickly revise those ideas you are already familiar with.

Bye for now and I hope your find this post helpful.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Methodology Pills No. 23 and 24 - Planning Receptive Skills and Language Focused Lessons

It's been almost 6 weeks since my last public post so I think it's time for one more before my few followers think I'm gone! I started my second MA in October and so I've been rather busy with work and study and family troubles :-(, but I'm back!

This entry is about Planning Receptive Skills (reading/listening) and Language Focused (Grammar, Vocabulary or Functions) lessons while on a CELTA course, but the suggested stages and ideas given here are certainly applicable to receptive skills lessons in general and beyond the course. The main idea behind this entry and accompanying video is that of supporting my trainees on the course by offering a few ideas for each of the different stages. It became more evident than ever on my last course that if we want to get the message across and we want our students to 'see' what we mean, then the best way to do it is by 'showing' them what we mean.  With this in mind and a few questions posed by my trainees, I created this Methodology Pill No. 23 so I trust it will be useful not only while on the course but after it.  The video is also up on my YouTube channel and it is public so I'm simply linking it here for ease of access.

The Methodology Pill No. 24 Planning Language Focused lessons aims at showing different ideas and examples for the different stages of any of these lessons. Something to take into account is that all the suggestions made are while adopting a Guided Discovery approach so very different from the traditional PPP (Presentation Practice Production). Again, the reason for this video was also in response to my trainees' request for extra ideas and a way to be able to access these ideas other than through their notes.

I hope you find both screen casts useful.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

University of Nottingham MA in Digital Technologies for Language Teaching - Here we go!

I have started a second MA, this time on Digital Technologies for Language Teaching with the University of Nottingham and the course program the tutors and the online facilities are excellent.  We're using the latest version of Moodle which is pretty slick and I love it already. I'm also using it on the course I tutor on, the Cert ICT by TheConsultants-e and it's great to be able to use it both as a students on the MA course and as a tutor on the CertICT program as this gave me an enhanced understanding of the Moodle platform when I first did it a couple of years ago first when I did the CertICT myself and then when I started tutoring.

Anyways, we've started with socialisation tasks using Popplet, and it's great to do this because I hadn't used it for over 6 months now so it's great to get back to it and see how much such a simple tool can be used to establish relationships, build group rapport and all done in the spirit of technology being harnessed to reach a very clear pedagogical aim.  I love it already and can't wait to get into the nitty-gritty of my course program.

Needless to say, my posts from now on will be heavily influenced by my studies while on the course. All the same, this doesn't mean that my Methodology Pills will stop from coming along!  On the contrary, I hope they will get even better with all the new stuff I will be reading about and studying and learning!  Yay!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Methodology Pill No. 22 Lead-ins & Warmers

It's been a month since my last post so time does fly fast! It's now two weeks since the Aug CELTA course finished and although it's by no means less hectic than before, I've managed to set some time aside to do this Methodology Pill which became evident on the last course my future and now ex-trainees would appreciate.

The idea is that of giving a few ideas and examples of lead-ins and warmers via examples built around a real text found in a popular course book, in this case - Cutting Edge Elementary page 21. I've used this text before and thought it would make sense to use a real teaching text as an example.  Now, I don't claim to own any of these ideas as some I've picked up through my 20-year long teacher career in 8 different countries and from different colleagues so I just put them all together in this video as examples of what can be done. Of course, there are lots of possibilities and combinations so the sole aim is to get you started with some tried and tested examples which can enhance the learning experience of your students.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Adobe Voice - storytelling in minutes

It's been a while since my last post, but it's been a hectic summer with our summer intensive CELTA courses going on, finishing and completing the admin for the Trinity CertICT I moderate and getting started on my second MA (in Digital Technologies for Language Teaching with the  University of Nottingham :-) which rocks big time :-) so here we go again...

I've got AppsGoneFree in my iPad and it's great because every day you get a short listing of apps that are free for the day. I always make sure I take a few minutes to browse through to see if there's anything that would capture my interest for the classroom for students,  trainee teachers or my own professional development. One very nice and super easy to use app I came across recently was Adobe Voice. I initially thought it looked cool but I didn't give it much attention until last week when I was trying to find a way to make a quick video to help my trainees with the Guided Discovery and Receptive Skills Frameworks, which they always struggle with at the beginning.  I decided to give it a look and so I went and watched their tutorial video and voila, I realised it was easier that I thought.  In minutes I created two 3 and 4 min videos for the topics above:

The feature I liked the most is the simplicity with which you can choose your images and record the audio. All you have to do is type in a key word and lots of options come up. For the audio, press the record button and then say what you want to say. I must admit that I had to record several times so that I would have clear and complete thought groups on what I wanted to say but the fact that each stage is individual means you don't have to worry about editing the audio as you can re-record each time your slide from scratch and when the app puts the whole video together it does it seamlessly!  OK, I think it's now for you to go and enjoy using it!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Searching Google more efficiently using 'Search Operators'

Right, it's been a while since my last post and as usual it's been manic here. I know I haven't got many followers ;-) but I do feel bad for those of you following me whenever I get caught up in all the different things I do, like this time, and then do not post regularly :-(! 

Anyways, one of the topics I was discussing with trainees the other day was that of how to run searches on the internet in a more efficient way other than simply writing a string of words and hitting enter. At the same time, I was to update a task on the course I tutor on and which initially led me to the creation of this blog some years back (the CertICT) and so after getting some ideas from colleagues, suggestions from trainees and trolling the internet, I came across several options which I then decided where too 'textual' and not very engaging for my taste!  I like colour, visuals, sound and the like and manage to retain information longer if I'm exposed to these so I created the Powtoon below with the info I found. Hope you like it! ;-)

Monday, March 17, 2014

Internet access? Posts app will help you if blogging on the go

Hello everybody,

I just came back from my annual leave so I'm back blogging :-)! Anyways, today's post is rather a self reflection entry on my trip to Nepal and how not having always access to the internet made me think about how much access I do have when at home. Of course this is not a criticism of the availability of internet in Nepal as it is widely spread. I simply didn't always have it because I was travelling around the country! I was still moderating the CertICT by via my iPad and so this was not an easy task - doable but not easy-peasey! 

One of the things I noticed and quickly had to adapt to was making sure I was writing entries, making comments and doing things in general more efficiently and faster than when I'm home so not a bad consequence of the limited access I had! In this respect I found my iPad app Posts(Version 1.1(24) was a great help as I could prepare the posts there and save them as drafts offline for latter posting. This was sometimes frustrating as even if entries had been prepared in Pages a slow connection meant I couldn't always publish my posts in the Moodle. I'm using MoodlEZ (paid for app for Moodle at USD2.99) and although it generally works well when at home, in Nepal it was hard to use because of how long it would take to have all the features active on the screen. Again, I believe this was really more due to the low speed of the connection than to the app.

I also realised that technology has permeated our lives in ways we could not have dreamed of a decade ago. I wonder how positive this is and whether we can actually make sure it is positive somehow! Along the same lines, it reminded me of how important it is to make informed decisions when planning IT integration into our lessons, training sessions and in general whenever we are in the classroom. I think that less is more as they say and in this light I'll keep an even more critical eye on how I use IT to ensure it is more quality IT than quantity IT. Would you agree?


Sunday, February 2, 2014

Methodology Pill No. 19 - Planning Lessons for Young Learners

Hello everybody,

In this methodology pill I explore the planning of lessons for a young learner audience. I work as main tutor on the University of Cambridge Young Learner Extension to CELTA course (Age range 8-13) and so the aim is that of helping trainees get their head round how to plan lessons for young learners. Now, these are simply guidelines and needless to say I do not claim that this is the only way to do it - extremes are never a healthy approach and there are many other ways of doing so approach the screen cast with a flexible mind!

I was curious myself as a trainer to find out more about how to approach lesson planning and design for young learners and this led me to re-read 8 books on Teaching English to Young Learners (they're listed in the video). I then summarised the main ideas about the stages and lesson patterns discussed in the literature and put together a table - the one I talk about in the video - with the aim of trying to provide some general guidelines which trainees could make use of. I then, look at a suggested plan of action for the planning and delivery of a 2 hour lesson (here at out centre lessons are 2 hours so on any Teaching day of the course there are 3 trainees delivering 3x40min lessons with a 10min break after the second one). I also make comparisons between the PPP framework for adult lessons and how the similarities between the stages appear although under different names and also through a different approach in YL classes.  These comparisons are made to try and help trainees see similarities and differences.

You will notice that this analysis is done for the young group on the course, that is, our Juniors (8-9 yo) and that the materials we are currently using with them (Footprints 1) also condition or have an impact on the way the lesson is conducted as these materials suggest a specific set of stages for the lessons. Once again, please note that different centres do it differently and yet this does not mean anyone is right or wrong! This is the way we have  been doing it at our centre and the results and feedback have indicated it works, students are happy and show they have improved their English while on the course and so I want to share this experience with you. I hope you find it helpful and if anything that it makes you reflect on your own way of doing things! After all, reflection is a powerful catalyst for change!

Thank you!


Saturday, January 25, 2014

Blogging Services Compared

I've just come across this post by Richard Byrne in his Free Technology for Teachers Blog and I felt compelled to share it through my blog too as I think it's very clear and informative besides the fact that I'm a blogger too! Thanks Richard!

I'm sure you will draw your own conclusions after reading his post and table. I'd say it is rather straight forward as Blogger offers far more possibilities and options to you as a blogger, and the only fee incurred in would be if you wanted some custom domain mapping which sounds fair as it would require extra work.

I've been using Blogger since 2008 and my experience has been very positive. As you may have read at the top of the main page this blogging experience started as an experiment, grew and continues to grow as a personal repository of tools I come across, try and experiment with, and then mention here reporting on what I found out. I now have 19 followers and so I think it's no longer just a repository of tools I find but I somehow feel obliged to them - thank you so much for following my blog! 

Ok, I'm sure you'll find Richard's post interesting and informative, and that if you want to get into blogging then that you go for Blogger!