10 do's and don'ts for ELT teacher trainers using technology

Too long creating materials
How to really mess up a class: spend too long preparing materials, and not give yourself time for other, possibly more important things. See also (6), below.

In the summer here at IH Barcelona we have a ELT trainer training course (this year, July 27-31), on which I have a session on technology.

These were my 10 technology do's and don'ts from that session, here slightly expanded, intended for language teacher trainers, but I would say most the same things to language teachers, too.

  1. Do keep up-to-date with technology. You want to be at least aware of how it's developing and what new tools are coming along and what possibilities they might have for teacher training and language learning (and try the most promising of them out!). Following sites like Edutopia and MindShift is a good way to keep up, with an RSS reader like The Old Reader a useful tool to keep your head above water in the avalanche of new information.
  2. Do get beyond the photocopier and printer, PowerPoint and the projector. None of that is 21st century technology, which puts technology in the hands of everyone (like your learners), not just in the hands of a select few (like the teacher), as might have been the case when technology meant chalk and a blackboard eraser. A long time ago, I disabled my own photocopy code, and have never since taken a photocopy to a language class; would your trainees become better or worse teachers if you at least restricted access to photocopiers (you could of course actually smash the photocopiers!) ?
  3. Do take advantage of mobile devices. In most of the classes I come into contact with here in Barcelona, whether with language teachers or language learners, there are now almost invariably more smart devices than people. We shouldn't be leaving such things in bags and pockets for the entire class! You want to design tasks, and get your trainees to design tasks, that will incorporate smartphones for creating things like audio (aka podcasting), video and images (with Instagram opening up some fabulous possibilities).
  4. Do model good use of technology to trainees. You can't expect them to have their learners use mobile devices if you stuck with PowerPoint and Google Images. You want to show them how collaborating on shared Google Drive documents, for example, is so much more useful, and more powerful a tool for language learners to use, than sticking with Word.
  5. Do have learners not teachers using technology. Both with language teachers and language learners, I like not to touch the technology in my class at all, ever. Instead, I put someone "on keyboard", for the classroom computer but it goes way beyond that: you want learners collaboratively creating text and images, audio and video of their own for the purposes of active learning, rather have you displaying content you've selected for them to passively listen to and watch.
  6. Don't allow your trainees to waste a vast amount of time creating materials. In our computer room, I observe so many people on CELTA courses going so wrong on this one, spending hours trawling Google Images at the expense of more important things, such as language analysis and good task design: do your trainees actually know the language they are going to be teaching and the likely problems that will come up? If they don't, they would probably be better off with their noses in Practical English Usage (and see 7, below) or Scott Thornbury's How to Teach Vocabulary (Amazon) rather than trawling through hundreds of images on Google (which in any case is probably going to provide them with the wrong kind of images). See also the image from my IWB, which begins this post.
  7. Do encourage the use of technology for autonomy and independent learning. If you are training teachers, apps like the Macmillan Sound App and the Practical English Usage app are brilliant. If you have teaching practice with them, having the trainees discreetly video at least parts of their lessons on their mobiles is also great (I recommend having a peer filming on the phone of the person teaching, who can then watch him/herself afterwards, in private). With language learners, we want to be encouraging them to use apps like Memrise outside the classroom [see also this task]; and we want to persuade them to do simple things like change the language configured on their phones to English, and do the same for any tool they are using.
  8. Do take advantage of social media. A WhatsApp group or a private Google+ Community works well with trainees. Many of the trainees I come into contact with seem to have the former set up way before any of their trainers suggest they might. The latter we use for post-course support groups (now with 3000+ people!). Both are also great for trainees to see tools they could then use with their own language learners, with Edmodo being another option, especially with young learners. See also (9), below.
  9. Do encourage the use of technology for professional development. Whoever you are training, however much teaching experience they have, as teachers we all need to go on learning to teach. You can take formal courses, perhaps online (at IH Barcelona, or with publishers like Macmillan, or things like EdmodoCon or the EVO sessions or IATEFL Online); but there's so much informal ongoing professional development that can be done on places like Twitter (assuming you follow the right people and — especially — unfollow the wrong people) or some of the IATEFL SIGs. Technology isn't really for teaching, and while it's great for learning, it can also help teachers become better teachers.
  10. Do step outside your comfort zone. Word and PowerPoint never let you down, do they? I'd better stick with them…! Er, actually, don't do that! That's the equivalent of a language learner knowing the simple present plus everything  in the word list in their first coursebook, feeling safe with that and not wanting to learn anything else new. Try podcasting! Try Google Drive!

If you were in a foreign country, you wouldn't just order chicken and chips, would you? You'd try out the local dishes, wouldn't you? And you might ask the locals, or find out online (like, on social media!), what other things you might like, mightn't you?

Technology is still a foreign country to many people old and experienced enough to be teacher trainers. But Word and PowerPoint are chicken and chips and you know what Dr. Seuss would say… !

July courses: Success with technology in language learning

Teacher serving in a restaurant aka a classroom

They pay you to teach — but in fact you're a restaurant manager, a cook and a kitchen slave. In the digital age, are there magic ingredients, recipes, that will make your "restaurant" a success?

Enrolment for the July courses we run for the Generalitat de Catalunya's Departament d'Ensenyament starts this week and is open May 14-29.

We've running 4 courses this summer, three in Barcelona and one in Lleida, with me as tutor on courses (1) and (4) below:

  1. Technology for project work in the English classroom (Barcelona, July 1-7)
  2. Improve your language analysis for teaching purposes (Lleida, July 1-7)
  3. Making the most of your ELT time in Primary (Barcelona, July 6-10)
  4. Success with technology in language learning (Barcelona, July 8-14)

Success with technology
The two technology courses are designed to be hands-on as far as possible — so be prepared to have your fingers on keyboards or smartphones for up to about 75% of most of the sessions.

I've mentioned recipes and magic ingredients there in my question in the caption below the image above. We'll be using various bits of technology (we stay as jargon-free as possible 😉 !) to discuss those but I'll say now that I'm not sure that such things exist — certainly not ones that will apply to all teaching circumstances. What I hope you'll come away with will be "recipes" that you can try out and adapt in your "kitchen".

To a considerable extent, I don't like to go into these courses as the tutor with a fixed "menu": as the teacher, you're the person best-informed to decide what is going to work best in your classroom. But I'll advance this: I'm a big believer in the teacher not using technology and handing it over to the learners to use for language practice.

Both of the technology courses are really about how we can do that.

Note that these are closed courses for school teachers in state schools in Catalonia. Enrolment is via XTEC.

See also
We offer other ELT summer courses at IH Barcelona, including CELTA and DELTA (the latter already full) as well as other professional development courses.

How to get the maximum from an online course

E-learning

We have 5-week online teacher development courses starting April 13, although my own Technology for Language Learning course lasts a week longer.

I have fairly extensive experience as an online learner, as a tutor and as technical support and one of the questions that always seems to come up is how to copy and save everything that has been said on the forums.

While doing the spring cleaning, I've just come across my answer to that on the support forum on the previous edition of the technology course:

From experience as an online learner I'd suggest that:

  • Copying and pasting everything said on the forums is a waste of time. Inevitably, a lot of what gets said isn't going to be particularly valuable afterwards. By "valuable" I mean what you take away from the course — the things that you'll really use afterwards in your classes
  • What is worth doing is selecting and saving (only) the most interesting things somewhere (in a Word document, a Google Drive document or on a blog, which could be a private one). Sometimes they're only little things — ideas, questions, not whole messages or paragraphs; sometimes they're things the tutor has said, sometimes things your peers have said (and perhaps even things you said yourself 😉 !)
  • The important thing is that process of selection: not copying and pasting everything but copying and pasting and editing — because that's where you start to construct knowledge
  • Vital also is to participate fully on the forums: don't just lurk, participate! And don't expect the tutor to tell you everything: a good online course shouldn't just be a lecture, it should be a dialogue, an ongoing conversation
  • Apart from what is said on the forums, it's also a great idea to save the most interesting links somewhere (my personal favourite tool for that is Diigo)

To get the most out an online course you probably want to start doing all that from Day 1: do it during the course, not afterwards, when it will quite possibly have become a mammoth, impossible task.

The other thing I really recommend is writing a "learner diary" blog, which can be either totally private or else shared with classmates. I've never been convinced by them for language learners, but as learner diaries for language teachers they can be great.

Copy and paste the "important bits" there, and reflect on them. You don't need to write a lot!

8 tips for providing technical support in class

Provide help with language, not with technology

This is a "muddiest point" from my workshop last Friday. At the end of the session, someone asked:

Learning training: isn't it a lot to take on board for learners to become familiar with X, Y, Z apps? How do we "prepare" them for it? Any tips?

Nowadays, do you need to teach people how to use their smart phones? It does depend on age, but in my experience you don't, and especially you don't with anyone under the age of approx. 25.

My #1 tip would be…

  • DON'T you provide the technical support — that's NOT your job!

Other tips:

  • Do find out right at the start of term which of your learners are "good" with technology. Make sure they're on board and willing to help others (in English!), if the need arises
  • Do have a technically-savvy person in each group when you do groupwork
  • Do have people in the class listening for the alert "Technical!": when someone has a technical problem have them either work it with a partner or else call out "Technical!" and have other people, from other groups — not you — go and see if they can help
  • Don't constantly be asking people to download new apps, however cool they might be. Instead, get a lot out of a few — like Spreaker, for example, for podcasting; or get a lot out of something like Edmodo or Instagram, using it for a lot of different activities.
  • Do keep tasks simple! Don't waste time — yours or that of your learners — with things like editing sound or video. If that is necessary, rather than edit, re-record — that's so much better for language practice!
  • Do these things both with adults and with young learners. It's amazing what the latter know about technology — often instinctively, without you having to provide a step-by-step guide!
  • Do practise with the technology you are going to use before you have learners use it; but you're doing that not so that you'll be able to solve every difficulty that might arise but so that you'll feel more confident that it will work and, believe me, if you do feel confident, it will, especially if you don't intend to provide the technical assistance yourself

Vital, I think, is to remember this: you are there in class to provide help with language, not with Photoshop or PowerPoint or Prezi…

See also | This brilliant school-wide technical support project my son experienced.

Any other tips, anyone? Do add them in the comments!

6 generic, productive activites with YouTube

 

One learner watching, two listening

One YouTube clip (no sound) + one watcher and talker + two just listening and asking questions = so much language

In my workshop at IH Barcelona on Friday, I suggested the following generic activities to be done with YouTube clips.

I'm a huge fan of Kieran Donaghy's Film-English.com, with its brilliant selection of YouTube and Vimeo clips and accompanying lesson plans, but sometimes you just see other clips that look just so amazing for class — except that you don't have a lesson plan.

Below, generic ideas that lead to the production of a lot of language without your requiring any more material than the clip itself.

1 | Commentators and listeners
With this one, you put learners in 3s, and have two sit with their backs to the video (sound initially off) while their partner provides a running commentary, with as much detail as possible, as in the illustration, above. The example I gave:

Here's another Simon's Cat clip and a more detailed outline of such a lesson, with a similar activity here.

Look for videos (like Simon's Cat) which have plenty of action in them, the more bizarre the better (Mr Bean, someone suggested in the workshop), as in this crazy ad.

2 | Brainstorming a better list
Everyone loves lists, don't they? YouTube does too!

But before you get your learners to watch (and before you start typing up and photocopying a True/False exercise for them!),  give them the topic, and get them to (1) brainstorm their own list in small groups; then (2) watch and check off which things on their list are mentioned; if they then (3) list everything mentioned in the video they can then (4) compare lists: theirs, the video's, and those of other groups; and finally (5) discuss who produced the best list.

Here's the hilarious video I suggested as an example:

Here's another example, with a fuller outline of the lesson. Look for "how to" videos, or just about any video with a title starting "7 things…", "10 ways…" etc.

3 | Summarise and present
The brilliant Joe Hanson [ YouTube channel ] has lots of clips this idea will work with:

I suggest having the learners watch at home, with each group picking a different video (their choice), and working on their summary outside class (think Edmodo small groups, WhatsApp, shared Google Drive presentations, etc).

What they're then doing in class time is making the short oral presentations (I suggest 60-90 seconds, maximum 3 slides), with Q+A time at the end to ensure maximum participation of the whole class.

Look for videos with lots of information and/or presenting ideas, with TED being another site with videos this will work with.

4 | TED feedback
If you watch videos on TED, you're probably familiar with how their rating system works. If you choose to rate one of their talks, you get a pop-up window with a selection of adjectives you can use:

TED ffeedback

With any video — not necessarily from TED — you can do the same thing. It works particularly well with videos that divide opinion and reaction in your class (like this one, for example) and if you allow your learners to come up with their own adjectives to "rate" it.

If you then pool the adjectives they're come up with and have them pick which 3-5 best describe it, you've got the basis of a class debate.

5 | Video clips as storytelling prompts
One of the things apart from YouTube that we looked at in the workshop was digital storytelling. I'll return to that in a separate post, but mentioned that video clips that tell stories are great as writing (or speaking) prompts for kick starting ideas (and language) to be included in digital storytelling projects.

In Friday's workshop I suggested this Springsteen song but they tell me Taylor Swift is kind of more popular now 😉 :

The Taylor Swift song has worked well (thanks, Kim) with teens who (1) brainstormed a list of what they guessed would be in a Taylor Swift love song clip; (2) checked that off in a first watching (sound on); (3) listened to the lyrics on a second watching; (4) in 3s, used the song for a dictogloss activity, with their versions then being checked against the actual lyrics; (5) debated what exactly happens in the story — clip and lyrics; before (6) recycling the language that had come up in class into their own collaborative stories (some produced in text, some in audio form).

Look for song video clips that tell stories, which then also give you a text (the lyrics) you can then exploit in the usual ways.

Here's another brilliant song clip story, with an outline lesson, and another with Norah Jones.

6 | Football (etc.)
One not mentioned in the workshop, but football is always a winner in class, isn't it? My son (one of my key sources for video clips for class) showed me this amazing Facebook page with sports clips the other day.

Generic lesson plan? Pick the right clip (look for controversy!) and you probably don't need one! With certain learners, they'll talk endlessly (possibly not always intelligently 😉 ) on the subject…

Personally, out of choice, I'd dump my coursebook and just talk about football…!

See also

More from the workshop coming. See also these links.