Saturday, March 31, 2012


The conference finished and we are all back home and back to work. I spent one evening going through Youtube and found quite a few videos of interviews with some of the presenters at the conference and decided to save all the videos in one post. It might be of some use to some of you too!

Scott Thornbury
Nik Peachy
Penny Ur
Herbert Puchta
Paul Maglione
David Heathfield
Vicky Saumell
Ronaldo Lima Jr
Sirin Soyoz and Adam Simpson!!!

Day 2 of the Conference

This is only the second day of the conference but there is already a sense of community among the participants. It is so nice to go down to the restaurant for breakfast I meeting people to discuss the sessions that we have been to and sessions that are still to come then to get together to travel to the Conference Centre.
 You know who is going to the conference because of the name tags we are all wearing. So this morning when we tried to find a cab to get to SECC, we saw two more conference participants who were also going to the centre. As there was only one taxi, we shared it and had a great chat on the way. Even on the way to the centre you can network. Isn't it great? 
 And now we are all at the plenary session listening to Diana Laurillard giving a talk about using technology in teaching.
The Plenary Session with Diana Laurillard can be viewed here:

Closing Plenary - Fish!

Gavin Dudney started the final plenary and said that 50 000 people visited the site yesterday, 400 000 page views with Turkey surfing the site most.
And then it was time for Derek Dick (Fish)
His songs have been translated into 7 languages and have been used in the classrooms and even have been a university thesis topic.
Derek said: As a kid I hated English lessons (they were reading and writing back then). As an adult Scotsman, I understood that you need to learn English properly.
Derek sang some great songs (Brother 52, Family Business, etc) We danced like butterflies and balerinas and sang the Russian way. Great singer with great songs and ideas!!!
There was a raffle at the end of the plenary session. The prize was an iPad and the winner was Sophia R. from Toronton. 
After that on the way out of the conference centre everyone got a bag with a can of drink and chocolate. Now it is time to do the touristy part! :)
Complete session can be viewed here:

Singing, Chanting and Rapping

This workshop with Jane Harding da Rosa was very inspiring, it also made us all feel energetic and put us all in a good mood.
 Jane started by rapping: "I like it, I like it a lot." That was amazing. This could work as such a great warmer activity. In this first part Jane used affirmative and interrogative sentences plus short 'yes' answers in Present Simple. This could also be used as a drilling activity for this tense. She also suggested another option with it going like "Why did I do it? I shouldn't have done it, etc." A simple idea and such a great one!
 Then Jane introduced a chanting activity to drill vocabulary (vegetables in our case). The pictures were shown quickly and Jane kept on pointing at the places where the pictures had appeared (almost dancing) and we had to remember what was in that place and as it was done very quickly we were all chanting involuntarily. I loved this idea too!
 There were many other activities that were based on rythm and intonation. We all sang, chanted and rapped! Fantastic!
 Thanks Jane! 

12 Steps to Webinar Success

This workshop with Sarah Milligan was particularly interesting to me. I have never given webinars only attended a few but I would like to take online/blended teaching one step further.
The first question discussed was "Why give webinars?" Webinars are easy to access, useful for professional development, for collaboration with teachers around the world and they are fun! 
Webinars are similar to f2f meetings in a way that they are synchronous and have the same aim. They are different because people are not in the same place and they are audio and internet reliant. 
There are a few platforms for organizing free webinars, such as Skype, Elluminate, Wiziq and Join the meeting. 
The rules for webinar success are the following:
1. Decide on the type of session you are giving. Is it a presentation, workshop or training?
2. Get the message across. Make sure that your participants know that the webinar is available. To do this you can use Eventbrite.
3. Prepare and remind participants (and then again)
4.  If you have a guest speaker, let the person practise the speech online beforehand.
5. Manage your participants. (Post  a set of rules, give and take back control.)
6. Have the sound checked before the webinar. 
7. Materials should be readable and not with a lot of text on each slide.
8. Go slow! Try not to speak or go through slides fast online due to your participants' web connection speed.
9. Interaction and tasks. (Introduce-Demonstrate-Interact-Give tasks-Give feedback)
10 Share details and hand-outs with your participants.
11. Give Feedback.
12. End on time.

The Last Day of the Conference

It is the last of the conference today and quite a few people have already left Glasgow. The conference centre feels empty as I am walking around the exhibition hall and the centre itself.
All the exhibiting companies are packing their stuff and OUP are giving away cups of chocolate.
 There isn't the usual gathering of participants outside the centre and it makes me feel sad to realize that this is the end of this event. Tomorrow the place will be empty and the last participants wil have left by tomorrow evening in the hope of meeting next year at the conference in Liverpool again. 
 We have exchanged email addresses and promised to keep in touch. Isn't it funny how quickly we make friends and how difficult it is to part?

Sound Advice or Pronunciation Practice

The talk by Suzanne Cloke was about tools to use when teaching pronunciation, something that many of our learners are struggling with.
 I will not go into the statistics because I would like to share the advised sites with you. Suzanne advises to practice pronunciation with students systematically. She did it over 10 weeks for an hour and half with two groups of her Italian learners. As listening and pronunciation go together, by the end of the course her students imrpoved their listening skills by 95% and their pronunciation skills by 91%.

With her learners Suzanne used:
 But the most interesting sites are: - a site where students can watch and listen to the videos in slow motion by clicking on the snail icon for better understanding of the sounds and repeat them; and where students can shadow speeches. I use this technique as well with my students so I was really happy to hear that it helped Suzanne's students.
I hope this will help your students too!

6 Key Questions for Teachers and Trainers at the Crossroads

This was a fantastic talk given by Jeremy Harmer. It was actually quite a funny one too. Jeremy Harmer has such a great sense of humour.
 During his talk Jeremy read 6 statements and we had to stand up if we agreed and stay in our seats if we disagreed. The blog entry will be very long if I go into details of what has been discussed during this session. So I thought I will just post the questions and then if you are interested we could discuss them through comments.
 So the questions are:
1. Does a good teacher have to be tech savvy?
2. Does correction work or not? Is it just a waste of time?
3. Is testing our students a good thing or a bad thing? Is it something that we have to live with?
4. Is CLIL the future of learning English?
5. How do teachers create rapport in the classroom?
6. Does drilling work? If it does, then why aren't there any sessions on drilling?

The Plenary with Steven L. Thorne

Steven shows a picture of his tiny daughter sitting in front of the computer and typing something being very concentrated. As Steve says she has managed to send out some emails to his contacts from his email account. :) This is the proof for what he said previously: Technology use starts early! Funnily enough my younger son also manages to do such things on the computer that it makes me wonder where he gets this knowledge from. Is this perhaps some kind of inborn ability that modern children have? How else could they be computer-literate while still 2 or 3 years old?
 Is it possible that our children are going to learn a language by just using the Internet? Could it be easier for them to learn a language by playing games? In many of modern games they have to collaborate with other gamers from around the world and the language of communication among them must be one. So if it is English, would they learn it more easily if the learning takes place online in communication with other people who share the same interests?
 What we do as educators matters but when we teach a language to our learners, we teach them what we find appropriate or what the course books tell us we should teach at each level. Steven used here Mark Twain's quote about learning French: "I was discouraged when I arrived in France and discovered that there is no intermediate French."
 Well, then maybe social media and gaming also matter in language development and maybe have more influence on our learners because the learning happens now and is more real-life. So then maybe we should start incorporating gaming and social media into the curriculum to make the experience of language learners more relevant to them?

Complete session can be viewed here:

Building your PLN

As a big fan of PLNs and PLEs, I got up early today to get to SECC by 8am for Nik Peachey's 'How to...' session. The conference centre is so quiet at this early time in the morning that it feels a bit strange.
-Personal Learning Network is really about people who you learn from and connect to, - says Nik Peachey at the beginning of his 'How to...' talk. 
The big question to think about before building your PLN is "What do you have to offer?" According to Nik if you have something to offer to people around the world, then you should start building your PLN and the first step is to start blogging. Nik suggests using Posterous to new bloggers.
In terms of using Twitter, Nik says that using TweetDeck is the easiest option for sharing/tweeting on Tweeter as the interface of Twitter itself is a bit confusing. These are just the basics of your PLN. 
It is also important to use a social bookmarking site to share links that you find useful wit your network and also to learn about new sites from people you are connected to.
Start sharing with your network when you find something useful. could be used for this purpose as everything you have collected from around the Web is compiled on one page and people from your network can easily see it. The more you use this site the more it understands what you are interested in and suggests similar sites that match your interests. This way you might discover and share even more.

Zooming into the Reading Class: Prezi

Although I have been using Prezi for quite a while, I decided to go to the session mainly because when I met Hakan in the morning he said that even for people who know how Prezi works the workshop will still be interesting. And he was right!
I actually only used Prezi for presentations or summaries but Hakan Senturk's workshop made me see other possible uses of this great web 2.0 tool. Hakan uses Prezi to develop his learners' reading skills and I think it must be enjoyable for his students.
Hakan creates pre-reading and while-reading tasks in one Prezi. He showed us one of his creations which was based on Vikings text. What I loved the most about it is the fact that Hakan thought out quite well how to define unkown words: for some words he just added the definitions above the zoomed-in word, or (this I loved!) he just added a youtube video with the action verb illustrated. It makes it so much easier for learners to understand what this or that action is.
Brilliant! Thank you Hakan! :)

Does CELTA Provide for New Teachers' Needs?

The talk by Ruth Hamilton caused a lot of debate around what teachers need to be able to do when starting to teach.
 Actually it was quite interesting to hear different opinions around what a teacher has to be able to do or maybe should know. Some participants argued that teachers should know grammar and should be able to explain it to their learners which is true. Some other people argued that grammar was not as important as being able to understand what your learners are trying to say and helping them with the vocabulary. This is also true. But I think that a teacher should be able to do both not just one, and it quite difficult to give preference to one over the other.
 The results of research carried out by Ruth were quite interesting. In reply to 'What are the needs of a newly qualified teacher?' teachers said that it was support they needed most. In contrast teacher trainers and employers didn't find it as important and said that classroom management was very imprortand for new teachers. Surprisingly teachers themselves didn't find it as important. The research also discovered that the teachers didn't mention the importance of basic teaching skills as important. However, trainers and employers found them very important.
It was found out that teachers out of the CELTA course were not adequately prepared for teaching different class types such as young learners and didn't know what the reality of the job was.
I am not sure about the first two points but maybe the reality of the job should be added to the outline of the CELTA course.

Taking the Stress out of Writing Long Essays

The talk is being given by Rachel Clark and Madeleine du Vivier and is focusing on 4000 word writing assignments in DELTA Module 3 course.
Actually while I was doing my CELTA course I found the writing assignments quite daunting although they weren't as long. So I imagine how stressful it may be to write the assignments for the DELTA course.
Apparently as failing rates were high due to failure to complete the writing assignments, there was a decision to change the approach to setting the task and helping course participants. Some of the changes have been:

1. Make candidates aware of what is required
2. Encourage independence
3. Provide a written record
4. Make Cambridge ESOL guidlelines more accessible, etc
 Now  to make the task completion easier course participants are advised to address the various stages of the assignemnt separately to make the task manageable. This can also be applied to university assigned long essays.
 I am planning to do the DELTA course soon and I hope this talk will help me.

Apples or Oranges?

I was especially intereseted in Przemyslaw Stencel's talk about real versus online classroom as I myself find that online teaching has so much more to offer to the learner than traditional teaching.
 Przemyslaw compared the question about what is better online or real teaching/learning to the question what is better: apples or oranges. It might be quite difficult to compare apples and oranges or give a prefernce to one type over the other as this will depend on where we are when eating these two kinds of fruit. In the same way it is quite difficult to compare the two types of teaching/learning. Przemyslaw said that it is not as such about what we like it is more about our approach.   
 I think despite the advantages that online teaching offers, there will always be people who will prefer traditional teaching. One of the reasons could be that they are used to this style of teaching and do not want to change. I am sure there are many other reasons for this.
 But think of learning itself for a moment. When does it happen? As Przemyslaw said learning occurs when learners have motivation, opportunities, an active process and the ability to transfer learning to a real-world situation. Well, who says that the Virtual  Learning Environment doesn't offer all this? 

Facebook - a friend or a foe?

This talk focused on some of the applications of Facebook in teaching.
At first Evelina Miscin gave us some social networking vocabulary to discuss in pairs and to decide what they are for and what they do. We had a lot of fun doing this task. Some of the abbreviations were hard to understand. Social swarming and social networking fatigue are easy to understand. But how about MoSoSo and SoLoMo? Can you guess what they stand for? We had a hard time trying to work out what they were and failed. :(
 Having discussed the advantages and disadvantages of Facebook, we came to the conclusion that the advantages outweigh the disadvantages and that it is OK to use Facebook to involve students outside the classroom as long as the activities we introduce meet the learners needs.
I personally use Facebook to share various activities and news with my students and I think that Facebook is more of a friend than a foe. As long as we create a separate group for our students to make them feel comfortable so that they communicate with each other without anybody else seeing their posts, I think Facebook helps.

Full session can be viewed here:

IELTS in Virtual Reality

This talk was given by Iffaf Khan who designs and teaches IELTS courses online. As an IELTS teacher I was very interested in this talk as I cannot imagine how effective an online IELTS course would be. 
Iffaf's centre use Second Life as their VLE and she says that they have many students who study the course with them and then take the exam successfully. She said that students can choose which and whose sessions to attend throughout the course and when I asked which teacher gives them feedback on their writing, she said that whichever teacher delivered the preparation for that section. That would increase the workload of that particular teacher, I thought, but Iffaf said that their teachers are all very enthusiastic about what they do and that's not a problem for them.
To be honest, at first I thought that students will not consider the use of avatars to be very serious but Iffaf assured me that students don't have any problems with that because they know what Second Life is exactly and thye enjoy it.
I wonder if this would work in my teaching context.

Global Business Etiquette

Nikolina started the session by asking participants to work in pairs and draw/discuss what culture is. This kind of appraoch made everyone to interact and get to know the person sitting next to them.
Nikolna compared people with trees: if we relocate to a different country, we may lose our roots if not protected. I agree with her. She also suggested that when we live in a different country we become more aware of our own culture. This may be true, but in many cases I think this will depend on who we communicate with when living abroad. If we communicate mostly with people of our own nation, then we will be more aware of our own cultural identity. But if we communicate with people of different nations, we integrate into this multi-culturness.
The next task we had was to identify our culture with a colour. It was quite interesting to see that people identify the same features with different colours. Could this be a cultural notion?
Nikolina's advice was: Be conservative in what you give and liberal in what you receive.

Full session can be viewed here:

First Plenary

The Conference has started and now we are listening to the first Plenary Session by Adrian Underhill.
Adrian started with a great joke about IATEFL conefrence going in between Sting and Fish performances and put evrybody in a good mood straight away. 
His advice to teachers that I loved was 'Give up trying to be interesting; instead try to connect!'
Adrian Underhill played the guitar at the beginning and the end of the talk! 
The songs made everyone laugh and I think everyone is ready to go to the talks and workshops of the day.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Pre-Conference Thoughts

IATEFL 2012 is soon to commence and I am having a problem.
 I have spent quite a few days looking through the Conference Program trying to decide which sessions I would like to attend. The answer? All of them!
 Well, that's impossible you would say. I know that. So I tried to narrow down my choices to at least three for each time slot and then to choose from those three. Failed. I cannot choose sessions that I wouldn't want to attend. They all seem so interesting to write a report about and useful for professional development.
 I suppose while on the plane to Glasgow, I will have to make the decision. 
 However, what I know for sure is that I am really looking forward to this great event and to meeting colleagues who I have only had a chance to know virtually.

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Practical Side of E-Moderation

Our third synchronous meeting was about the practical side of the job and this is the summary of what we discussed.

Challenges implied
  • managing intercultural differences
  • managing different personalities of participants
  • managing different levels of tolerance
  • creating a link between cultures
  • encouraging lurkers
  • help CPs overcome their anxieties of participating in an online community
  • manage impolite behavior
  • be open and welcoming yourself
  • establish rules of interaction
  • keep in touch with CPs whenever they stop participating or their behavior changes
  • encourage CPs to participate by assigning them small roles to carry out
  • provide a lot of support – “be there” for your CPs
  • be accepting
  • when dealing with “misbehavior” be firm yet kind
  • assign tasks to encourage participants to share
  • keeping up with posts and tasks
  • keeping discussions on-topic
  • communicating effectively with participants
  • providing feedback in time
  • following up participants´activity
  • motivating and stimulating CPs

  • facilitating CPs' learning

  • keeping the group threaded discussion flowing and communicating ideas
  • reformulating questions 
  • use a variety of activities : small group discussion, debates, polling activities,one-on-one message exchanges...

  • provide some helpful pointers when necessary
  • offer sufficient support, give simple,short and clear instructions/guidelines
  • summarise and weave texts
  • keep track of CPs' confusion, concern for the topic being discussed 
  • Using Moodle or any new VLE can seem daunting to CPs not familiar with e-learning - TE courses may be their first experience with a VLE
  • CPs have a limited amount of time - they need to focus on learning, and technology can't be their main focus
  • CPs might lose motivation if they feel technology isn't working as it should - and even withdraw from the course
  • It might not be clear whether certain problems can be fixed by E-moderators - or whether they ought to be referred to the development team
  • Familiarise yourself with the site you're working in and the different Moodle tools is good for Moodle 1.9 (the version we're using now) and for Moodle 2.1 (the next version TE courses will be using)
  • Refer to the Help & Support section in your course
  • Use tools such as screencasts and screenshots to make the technology transparent to CPs
  • Share concerns with other moderators in the E-moderators' forum, and read other people's posts on it
  • Tell the wonderful people on the TE development team if something isn't working as it should - they'll be able to make the course even better for other groups smile
  • Remember, even as an E-moderator, it's impossible to break anything smile

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Grades and Reports Thread Summary

This week was both hard and easy. It was easy because I know how wikis work both on Moodle and on Pbworks or Wikispaces. It was hard because as team leader I needed to coordinate my team work and make sure that the wiki is ready for peer-review by Wednesday. Luckily Chau and Nida were quick to respond and do their part of the tasks. However, I got a bit panicky when Nil did not reply and did not attempt the second part of the task. I thought we will have to finish it for her, especially when I got a message from Elvina asking me to make sure that the coding for all wiki pages is there. But then on Monday Nil completed the task and we were done 3 days before the deadline! :)

The forum for this week was more or less easier to keep track of as I think all the participants were busier with their wikis than with the forum. However, the thread for Grades and Reports was quite busy and all the post were quite helpful in forming an opinion about usefulness of keeping an eye on activity reports and grades.

Elvina summarised this thread nicely and I would like to keep it for future reference.

"This has been a quite fruitful thread. Some of you have even attempted creating a sample of what a record might look like and have weighed the task and what it takes. Sorry for the long wrap-up, but the topic is worth it as having a clear idea of this, will be fundamental when moderating a course.
You have identified how useful the Grades and Activity Reports are both for CPs and eMods. They help

Course Participant
Keep track of progress (Hang, Nil, Chau, Dave)
Tasks done and pending  
Keep track of exercises (attempted, done); resources viewed (Anna). This helps  the mod to keep a record of individual progress and to act accordingly
Provide a sense of accomplishment (Hang)
Adds motivation to move one, whether grades are good or not

Keep track of performance (Nil)
Activity reports can help the CP see if they are meeting the assessment criteria, if tasks are marked by the system

Keep track of logs, time spent online (Nil)

Gives the mod an idea of time spent online in each unit.
Objectivity (Nil)

Reflects quantitative data: time spent online, logs, number of posts, marks received.
Time consuming (Nil)

Requires time to keep track of each participant´s activity
Keep track of deadlines (Anna)

Can tell the moderator when a task was completed

The group has also agreed that the existing Grades and Activity Reports are insufficient to represent the CPs´activity. Anna even gave it a go in creating her own sample spreadsheet..
Having a spreadsheet allows you
to represent a lot of information -- to create a data base of assignment grades, task fulfilments, contributions to forums etc, in a very readable and obvious manner
to record the information you need to make judgments about how CPs are going and the extent to which they need more support or challenge.
However, there are some challenges implied here:
creating your own spreadsheet may be time-consuming as you have to go through each unit compiling important info to be included;
these spreadsheets should be adapted to reflect the real activity in each unit. Adding a row with comments may be really useful, as well as adding a column with additional activities
Additionally, the group also identified several ways in which the Grades and Activity Reports could be misleading:
Views vs time. There isn't any clear indication of the quality of the time spent viewing (Anna, Hang, Chau)

Quantity vs quality. It does not tell us about quality of contributions. The number of forum posts may be high, but the content may be of little value, and vice versa. Therefore, certain statistics provided by Activity Reports should not be overestimated. (Nida)

Grades vs feedback. A quiz/task/assignment can be givne a quantitative score. However, comment from the moderator could be more useful if following assessment guidelines (Marie).
Grades vs. learning. Depending on how the administrator has set up the grading system in exercises and quizzes, perfect scores could be the result of a trial and error process and not reflect “learning”.

Grades vs assessed tasks. While it is useful to have a summary of participant activity, we can´t rely solely on the grades and activity reports info to assess participants. We need to consider quality of forum and wiki contributions and assignments.

Passive participation. It would be difficult to interpret the progress of a passive student (a lurker). CPs could also keep track of progress using other resources such as the task checklist or calendar (Chau)

And finally, some suggestions were given on how to customize the Grades and Activity reports for moderation purposes:
· The moderator could comment on performance at the end of each unit. The journal could be a tool for feedback.
· Provide a tutorial for CPs to learn how to use the reports
· Provide an additional assessment criteria to make up for the gaps in assessing quality in the activity reports
It may be useful to start thinking how you´d customize your own assessment guidelines for a course, as this will be the assignment for Unit 5."