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 TheConsultants-e.com 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?

Robert

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!

Robert

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!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Methodology Pills for Induced Reflection No. 18 Language & Skills Lesson Planning Guidelines

One of the most common complaints on the CELTA course is that of trainees finding it difficult to plan coherent lessons. Thornbury (1999) says that this is due to the fact that novice teachers lack experientially-derived lesson schemata. Although this is more often than not the case it is also due to the fact that many teachers come to the course with different levels of experience and as such they need to both learn and unlearn behaviours which may not have been the most appropriate to address their students' needs.
With the above in mind, I decided to make a screen cast on lesson planning while on the University of Cambridge CELTA course for which I am a tutor and assessor. The idea is that of giving trainees general guidelines which will help them get started with their planning of receptive skills lessons or language lessons by looking at the PPP and Guided Discovery frameworks. While on the course trainees also look at Text-based, Test-Teach-Test, and Task-based Learning frameworks, but focus on PPP or Guided Discovery for their Teaching Practice as 'it is better that they become proficient at executing and automating a limited repertoire' (Thornbury 1999).

Please note that these are guidelines and therefore I do not claim them to be the only frameworks available, the best ones or anything along those lines. The idea is to provide trainees with the basics for lesson planning while constantly underlining the fact that whichever framework they choose should always revolve around their making of informed decisions while planning to address the students' needs. This screen cast is designed to support trainees before, while and after the course by providing a checklist they can refer to until they feel confident enough to unleash their creativity by adapting, meshing, re-creating, designing whenever necessary these frameworks.

Methodology Pills for Induced Reflection No. 17 Lower & Higher Order Thinking Skills

Lower and Higher Order Thinking skills have been a recurrent theme in all my conversations and reading lately and so I thought it was a good idea to create a PowToon on it. I drew on different sources from the internet and so all the content is traceable and obviously not mine! This video has helped me consolidate and what I knew and also think more carefully about LOTS & HOTS so I hope you find it as useful!


Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Methodology Pills for Induced Reflection No. 16 Skills Assignment

This is the latest of my public videos created with Powtoon. As with Pill No. 15 Focus on the Learner, this Pill is about the Language Skills Assignment CELTA candidates have to complete while on the course. Again, I wanted to try and provide trainees with a quick and concise visual coverage of the assignment as I believe that exposure to the same content in different formats and media can help increase retention and trigger reflection and renewed understanding. Hasn't it happened to you that sometimes you are listening to the same talk or lecture or watching the same film for the umpteenth time and you realise that you hadn't noticed x detail, or hadn't thought about that was said and then you find yourself thinking or reflecting about it all? Well, I do hope this short video has a similar effect!

Methodology Pills for Induced Reflection No. 15 Focus on the Learner

It's been a very hectic period and so it's been almost a month since the last time I blogged. Well, I'm now enjoying my Christmas holiday and so it means more time to do the things you like, in my case, catch up with blogging and creating those materials I'd been thinking of but had not had the time for! 

This brings me to this post on my Methodology Pill No. 15 Focus on the Learner. I really wanted to create a quick video which would help trainees on my CELTA courses think and reflect and check the different parts of the assignment in a short, visual way. I have also created a podcast which addresses the assignment, we have a session at the end of which the assignment is set and also they are reminded of it throughout the course at different stages, but I believe that being exposed to the same material in different formats can help increase retention and also touch different learning preferences. I'm very visual and so I personally find these videos help me, more than anyone else, continue to think and reflect on the contents of the assignment itself. I hope it is useful even if you're not on a CELTA course. I think the main ideas can help you remember to reflect on our own students as we (including mysefl first and foremost!) sometimes forget about them when we get tangled up in a heavy work load and teaching commitments.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Methodology Pills for Induced Reflection No. 14 Lesson Planning Check List

It's been three months since my last post and it's been this long because unfortunately, one of my siblings fought against cancer and lost! This led to our family coming closer and since we are all over the world, it's also meant traveling a little. Anyways, on a much happier note here is a post on a short video I created on Nov 3 on Lesson Planning.  This check list suggests taking into consideration all the different resources which I have created so far e.g. the different Methodology Pills available in my YouTube channel and my Lesson Frameworks eBook which I can send you if you email me asking for it.

Bye for now and I hope you find this video useful!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Methodology Pills for Induced Reflection No.13 Productive Skills - SPEAKING

Right, here's the last one to complete the productive skills suite. As can be seen from the summary at the end it actually follows a PPP framework which we have said before was more appropriate for language based lessons. Now, you may be asking yourself why and here's a plausible answer. Speaking is a language skill and as such if you think about the what you would cover in a purely speaking lesson then, then you start realising that the sub skills we want to help ss develop are usually embedded inside functional language and so being language systems it seem appropriate to approach it through a PPP framework. Obviously this also means that it can be approached from a guided discovery angle as the sub-skills work you want to do when dealing with speaking (connected speech, appropriacy, specific areas of pronunciation, target audience, etc) is more easily done when embedded in a text, spoken or written. Ok, so here we go - enjoy!



Saturday, August 24, 2013

Methodology Pills for Induced Reflection No. 12 - Productive Skills (Writing)

Right! So, here's another methodology pill on Productive Skills - WRITING- this time. It's been an incredibly busy time but it seems I get a lot more done when under pressure! This framework is obviously a suggested framework for a writing skills lesson so if you've been helping your students develop their writing skills in English doing something totally different, there's nothing to worry about. You may want to try this approach and see how it goes. Remember: Variety is the spice of life and so if you realise your teaching has become a bit of a routine why not liven it up? Of course, I speak from experience so no judging anyone here.

The whole idea behind these video clips using PowToon is that of simply providing trainees, teachers and anyone interested with a quick way of checking they're following a cohesive and coherent framework in their writing lessons.  This framework is in line with the input session on writing I do on our CELTA courses. Ok, I think that's it! Enjoy!