Mastering the Mystery Skype

smartphone-call

Here is a great selection of materials from Microsoft (in fact, it is a small online course in its own right) about an interesting feature they added to Skype to help education. You can find other teachers around the world and connect your classrooms so that the learners can play a guessing game (guess where in the world they are, or play ‘Mystery animal’ or something similar if the location is too obvious). There are a lot of useful materials and tips: for example, you can download a pdf with students’ roles. Even better, there is a template for the teacher’s professional development bingo – I’m definitely going to use this one!

I think this feature is just asking to be used in ELT: let me know if you decide to experiment!

 

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Out of the Zero-Learning Zone

squirrel-escape

Here is a great overview article by Jim Knight about professional development – it’s actually a manual on how to avoid stagnation! It covers the reasons why are we sometimes stuck in a rut, what is it that we fear, and how we can get out of the ‘Zero-Learning Zone’. The author offers a lot of techniques to try, from design thinking to doing a hope audit (that’s a new one for me), and after reading this there can be no more excuses – would you agree? 🙂

Online teaching 14 of 15: training the trainer

macbook-graphs

I think I’ve found several weeks’ worth of reading material about online teaching: the website of the Online Learning Consortium looks very promising. For example, this report on Virtual Classroom training focuses on the components a good training programme for instructors should have – and what it usually includes in reality. Apparently, too little attention is given to the real experience in the virtual classroom (as a student and as a trainer) and too much to the technological side of things. The authors also urge to pay more attention to the pedagogy of online synchronous learning and how it – and the materials – should be adapted to the new medium. Interesting!

P.S. Note that the materials there are behind a registration form; so far it hasn’t turned into a paywall, but I have opened only a few reports.

Online teaching 7 of 15: corporate training

businessman-training

This article is mostly about corporate training and how it can be transferred from face-to-face sessions to the virtual environment, both synchronous and asynchronous, but it has excellent advice for language teachers as well: which activities lend themselves well to the new medium, and which should be left out, how you can use features of the software for more interactivity, when it’s time to go into presentation mode and how you make sure that your audience is not bored to death. My favourite tip for getting quick feedback from the listeners: change your status from the green tick to the red cross if you haven’t had experience with a concept. Sooooo simple, and yet so effective!

Questions around communities of practice

tree-community

You must have heard of Communities of Practice before: it’s people doing something similar (not necessarily together), sharing knowledge and supporting each other. This literature overview by Catlin Tucker dots a few ‘i’s’ for me and yet brings up even more questions: a community of practice has to be something recognised by all its members, and there have to be some results, a repository of resources developed over time. So, when teachers form a community in the teachers’ room and share resources, is this a community of practice yet? Or should we provide a more formal structure for that, a way of communication, and some place to store and organise professional knowledge? (And when does an informal community of practice become too top-down for its members to enjoy?)

So, if you’re reading this, do you consider yourself part of a community of practice? How is it different for you from a group of people sharing a common interest?

Development all around

swirl-CPD

There are countless articles and blog posts online about all the great opportunities for continuous professional development for Internet-savvy teachers. Lana’s post about ‘no size fits all’ CPD begins with a similar idea – yet there is a very important difference: she stresses the downsides or ‘pitfalls’ of each development path, e.g. online courses should be used selectively, reading won’t help if you don’t get rid of your hidden biases…

Very useful, especially when you start to panic that there is too much learning out there and no time to do it all!

Prime your classes with Flipgrid

web-cam

Here is a wonderful article by Michael J Shehane about using Flipgrid in the language classroom. The advice he gives is invaluable: for example, what pitfalls of making Flipgrid videos are the most likely and whether it makes sense to discuss them with students; how you encourage students to do their Flipgrid homework without any conflict or contention; how exactly Flipgrid videos can help you achieve the learning objectives. The best I’ve read about Flipgrid so far!

Could be worth exploring this kind of ‘priming’ for teacher training – what do you think?