Technology post-CELTA (2): Filling in the gaps CELTA left

TeachingEnglish.org.uk

TeachingEnglish.org.uk: one to bookmark, now!

Your CELTA course (CELTA: orginally, "Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults") is a short and intense month-long course and inevitably leaves a few gaps in the knowledge that you will require as a language teacher — and as a job seeker (see previous post in this series).

One of my jobs for the last 10 years and counting has been passing on jobs vacancies to trainees who have taken their CELTA course at IH Barcelona. Most of them (approx. 300 a year) are TEFL jobs in Spain and I'd say 75% or more of employers specify that they want people with experience of teaching young learners and/or Cambridge exams — which CELTA really didn't prepare you specifically for.

So here are a couple of websites that I always recommend people that cover some of the same areas your CELTA course did — and some it didn't.

1. | Teaching young learners
The first is TeachingEnglish.org.uk (image above), which is produced by the British Council and the BBC, and which is great if you finish up teaching young learners, which the site divides into teaching "kids" up to 12, and teaching teens, with lesson plans, activities, articles etc. on both.

One Stop English

OneStopEnglish.com: your first stop site for many areas of English language teaching

You then have OneStopEnglish.com, which comes from the publishers Macmillan, which is also great for ideas and resources on teaching young learners (with resources again divided between children and teens), and many other things as well.

You have to pay for full access to it (details for individuals and for schools, and notice also the 30-day free trial option) but it's a site I always recommend (full disclosure: I've written articles on using technology for the site).

Both of the above two sites have the advantage over many things you'll find on the digital dungheap (aka the internet) that they've been produced by experts in the field.

TIP Where you're finding things elsewhere on the web, it can be helpful to ask yourself the question "What would [name of your CELTA course tutor/s] have said about this? How many ex-trainees have told me that works wonders?!

Technology isn't always the answer: one of the things I must have recommended most often on our post-course support group is reading books like these to help fill in those gaps.

And of course you also have workshops and courses that will provide you with useful ideas and knowledge (and look good on your CV). One of the most important things to do post-CELTA and for as long as your career in ELT lasts: go on learning to teach.

2. | Preparing learners for exams

Cambridge English exams

CambridgeEnglish.org: your go-to exams site

If you teach in a language school, particularly in Spain, but in lots of other countries around the world too, Cambridge exams are hugely important. The obvious go-to site is cambridgeenglish.org, which tells you pretty much all you need to know.

If you're going for an ELT job interview, at the very least know what's on the exams and what PET and FCE are and be able to explain the different levels!

3. | Technology

It's not about what the teacher does with the technology!

Something else your CELTA course probably didn't tell you: it's not a question of what you do with technology!

We'll come back to this in another post in this series but it's been my experience that CELTA doesn't really point you in the right direction as far as technology is concerned.

My big "problem" with CELTA is that it — rightly — focuses on teaching you how to teach, whereas I'd suggest that 21st technology really needs to be in the hands of the learners, not the teacher, for it to be used most successfully.

Your CELTA course probably taught you that your classrooms ought to be learner-centred, didn't it? So why are you hogging the keyboard and displaying your PowerPoint? That's the equivalent, if you ask me, of your Mum posting stuff on Facebook for you and you only being allowed to watch!

For a website, or rather a blog, where you can find lots of ways your learners could be using technology, let me suggest my own blog here — or you could follow me on Twitter for more ideas on that 😉 !

But we'll come back to this one…

4. | Teaching 1-2-1
One other area that CELTA probably didn't cover was teaching one-to-one, private lessons (which you may well find yourself doing to make ends meet, as they tend to be considerably better paid what you get per hour in language schools).

You could Google that (though first I'd always search for results on TeachingEnglish.org.uk and the results on OneStopEnglish). But you might again want a book for that specialised area and there's Peter Wilberg's One to One: A Teacher's Handbook (LTP; Amazon) or Priscilla Osborne's One to One (Keyways Publishing, Amazon) for that.

Did CELTA not prepare you for any other key areas? Tell us in the comments!

Coming up in this series

  • Technology for autonomy
  • Technology for becoming a better teacher
  • Technology for learning English
  • Technology for teaching English
  • Technology for filling in the gaps post-CELTA
  • Technology for finding work in ELT

How good do teachers need to be with technology?

For reasons I won't get into now, I needed to remind myself how to create a presentation using Prezi, the zooming, "bold reinvention of presentation software".

To do so, I took one idea that had seemed to go down well when scribbled on a whiteboard in a recent workshop and put it into Prezi (without doing too much zooming, which is the way to prevent Death by Prezi).

What do you think?
As teachers, as 21st century educators, do we need to be experts with technology, a bit geeky, people who know how to operate technology in all shapes and forms?

Or can we get away with being frankly a bit "hopeless" with it — technologically challenged, if you prefer?

Please, do leave your comments…

Things I take to class #1: A large family-sized jar of enthusiasm

The first of the 10 things I take to class…

You can't buy jars of enthusiasm, obviously, but if you could I like to think that the contents would look like the jelly beans in the photo above.

In the presentation I made at APABAL, the large family-sized jar of enthusiasm was the first thing I said I take to class, referring specifically to any class in which any use was going to be made of technology.

Of course, if you're already comfortable with classroom technology, are a big Facebook or mobile phone user you're probably already fairly enthusiastic about technology (possibly over-enthusiastic!) but if you're not terribly confident of your own technological prowess, a shot of enthusiasm is essential.

You can't buy it, but you can acquire it — which is best done by forgetting about your learners for a moment and just playing with technology for your own enjoyment.

Try any one of the following:

  • Explore your mobile phone: what else can you do with it, apart from what you already know how to do. Be curious! How do other people do that? Never be afraid to ask them!
  • Do the same with a digital camera. All those buttons you never use, what are they for? What do they do? How do you take better photos…?
  • Create a blog and blog your photos (a "photo a day" project is great!). You can make a blog entirely private, but if you share the photos with other people you'll start to want to make them better? If you don't want a blog (but try it anyway!), post the photos on your Facebook page…
  • If photography's not your thing, start to teach yourself how to do simple blackboard drawings and blog them…
  • Prezi your Grandma or GoAnimate your son… They have a birthday coming up so make them a cool presentation!

If you persevere, soon enough you'll start to think "I can do this!"; and not long after that you'll start to think something more useful to you as a teacher: "I could get my learners to do something like this…!"

10 things I take to class
One | Two | Three | Four | Five | Six | Seven | Eight | Nine | Ten

Springsteen: We learnt more from a 3-minute record…

A further idea suggested in my talk a week ago…

Because, among the first quotations I ever collected, there were a lot of Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen lyrics, I couldn't not include at least one in my talk.

You can go to conferences, find great ideas for using technology on the internet (see for example, some of the Blogs I learn from, in the sidebar, right), but in the end, technology is very, very much a question of learning by doing. I've learnt, really learnt, far more in the hours I've spent actually using it than I have in the hours I've spent listening to people talk about it and would suggest the less you know about technology, the more important it is that you start "messing about" with it.

Keep it simple!

In a seminar, someone once asked me for advice on how and where to set up a "virtual reality house", in which her students would invent and take on imaginary characters and do everything they did in the entire year, every task, in that way; they would "be" those characters.

I suggested that (a) it would be brilliant if it worked; that (b) Second Life would be the obvious platform, much though I loathe it; that (c) Edmodo or a blog, though not "virtual reality", would probably give far fewer technical headaches; that (d), vitally, we should always keep things simple; that (e) probably the way to go would be to try out the idea, but not commit herself to doing so for the entire year, at least not until she had got feedback from the learners.

But I very much liked the idea and think learners would too, partly because it is so obviously creative.

Here's a simplified version…

Task

Have your learners take a series of photos of [motorbikes, cars…] and match these to their owners, who they also have to create

Examples of photos taken by learners: what kind of people would ride/drive these…?

Commentary

The photos should be shared and commented on (an Edmodo group is perfect for that, but Facebook and Google+ would work equally well, with far less privacy) before we start to invent the characters. If in the comments we brainstorm ideas on "who would ride/drive something like that?", we're starting to create ideas that can then be used to flesh out the characters.

Once we have enough photos, have pairs pick a single photo and work on the character, who should also be shared and commented on.

Your job is to provide the language necessary as well as the ideas; if you work hard face-to-face in providing the language, you'll have less "correction" to worry about in the end-product.

If the idea "works", try getting your learners to take another series of photos [coffees, cars, shoes…] and match these to the same series of owners and/or add new "owners".

Related post
Learning to use Edmodo (or any other technology)

Introduction | One | Two | Three | Four | Five | Six | Seven | Eight | Nine | Ten

Learning technology: Just do it… today!


A kid came to school the other day wearing a "Just do it… tomorrow" T-shirt. The first task I suggested yesterday in my talk at the IH Barcelona ELT Conference was intended for those teachers who don't feel very confident that they can use technology; the paraphrased "quotation" I suggested for them was "Just do it… today!".

The task
Take any piece of technology and teach yourself how to use it… properly!

Commentary
Technology isn't going to go away, it's only going to become more important, your learners are only going to become more technologically savvy, so if you're not that confident, get confident, by doing one of the following, or something similar. Believe me, I wouldn't suggest them if they weren't in fact easy.

  • Learn to use a digital camera (or the camera on your phone) and take photo a day for 365 days;
  • Photograph your breakfast every day (Pixlr Express is a wonderful tool for some quick and easy editing, which will improve your photos, give you greater satisfaction… and self confidence;
  • Create yourself a blog and save quotations you come across on it (for blogging, Blogger, Posterous and Tumblr are all really easy to learn to use);
  • Blog your Mum’s recipes (she's probably got them on scraps of paper in a notebook, if she's like my Mum);
  • Do both things: learn to take decent photos and set up a blog, and include your breakfast photos (or whatever hobbies you have)
  • Start a blog for reflecting on your teaching (which you can make totally private; share with a colleague; share with several colleagues… or with the whole world if you prefer [here's how with Blogger]);
  • Digitally audio record your own children (especially fascinating if you're a language teacher and you start when they are very small and still learning their own language); for tools, SoundCloud, Vocaroo and Voicethread are great places to begin; for recording, Audacity is also a great program, though it has a steeper learning curve;
  • Post the audio on a blog (share it with your Mum, etc); if you want to use a blog for posting audio (aka podcasting), I'd recommend Posterous or Tumblr, not Blogger, as you will find that they make it easier to post the audio files.

What you'll get for the time you invest is a little knowledge and a great deal of confidence that you too can use technology. If you don't think you can, it's confidence, not knowledge that you really want.

The operative word in my task is "properly": it's not enough to point and click with your camera: you actually want to take better pictures, ones to be proud of, for which you'll need to find out what else you can do with it, what all the buttons and menus do, what all the options are (for which I can highly recommend the tutorials on Digital Photography School).

The idea is not that you do things for class; though, in teaching yourself, some of the wonderful things you could do with photography or blogging (etc) are certain to occur to you.

Introduction | One | Two | Three | Four | Five | Six | Seven | Eight | Nine | Ten