Sunday, 17 April 2011

“Professional Development Beyond Conference Walls” - My Prezi & digital handout from TEDelt4

I’m now back home after a flying visit to Samsun on the Black Sea Coast of Turkey for the 4th Annual TED ELT Conference. My workshop was on using Twitter as a professional development tool, thus putting a twist on the conference theme of ‘English Beyond the Walls’ by talking about what teachers can do for themselves beyond conferences and seminars.

I started the session by asking everyone to write what they loved about teaching on a Post-It note and then had them all stick it up on the wall (so, you could say we started with professional development on the conference walls)! They then circulated, reading the notes and copying the other ideas they liked onto other Post-Its before adding them to their wall space. In effect, they were doing ‘paper tweets’ (and re-tweets) as they could only write a limited amount on each note. I also pointed out how they all had ideas to share and perspectives to offer.

I used the ‘Twitter in Plain English’ video to introduce the concept of tweeting (only one person in the room had used twitter before) and asked them to come with ideas for how teachers might make use of it. I sensed a bit of scepticism until I showed them the twitter stream on Tweet Deck and they saw that teachers around the world from Argentina to Australia were saying hi to us. If that warmed them up, the video and audio recordings I had collected prior to the session really impressed them and by the end of the session, there were several of them saying they would sign up for Twitter when they got home (only two so far but it’s early days)!

Overall, I’d say it went well. I learned from my session at ISTEK and set the desks up in groups of 4 which made the discussion parts much easier. Everyone seemed impressed by the huge range of different activities Twitter facilitates and the freedom of choice it potentially offers to those prepared to put the time in. The only problem was time - 50 minutes (45 actually due to late arrivals) is nowhere near enough to do justice to what a PLN can do for a teacher but at least we made a start.

Here’s my Prezi from the session and below, you’ll find a link to the Google doc I made to go with it:

Link to Google doc

Thanks to everyone who made recordings, tweeted in and attended!

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Final Stop on the Conference Trail - TED ELT & How You Can Help!

As half the world of ELT (or so it seems), heads off to Brighton for IATEFL 2011, I shall be off to the Black Sea coastal city of Samsun for the 4th Annual TED ELT Conference, this year themed as English Beyond Walls. Compared to the mega-event taking place on the south coast of England and the recent ISTEK Conference in Istanbul, this is a small affair - just one day with 5 plenaries and 12 concurrent workshop sessions. We will, however, have the pleasure of an opening plenary from Jeremy Harmer, whom I’m very much looking forward to meeting. Check out the official website if you want more information.


Having been blogging for nearly a year now and tweeting actively since last summer, I thought it was time I joined the ranks of those who have done a session on developing online PLNs. To fit in (loosely) with the theme, I named my workshop ‘Professional Development Beyond Conference Walls’ and I’ll be aiming to show how individual teachers can connect with each other regardless of geographical location and time zones.

As there will only be one computer in the room (mine!), I have some activities prepared to simulate the world of Twitter (I’ll explain in my post-session review but basically, it involves lots of Post-it notes) as well as networking information. These can be done within the walls but, in the spirit of the event, I’d like to take the workshop beyond the walls and this is where you, the people of my PLN, come in.

First of all, there will be the usual request for tweets to come in during the session and, in addition to this, I will be asking my participants to come up with teaching-related questions which will be tweeted with answers (hopefully!) coming in from you (my only concern here is that half of my PLN will be in sessions as IATEFL at the same time so I hope you’ll have your mobile devices or laptops with you and switched on)!

My second idea is a big ask but I hope some of you will find the time to help me out. I’d like to get some sound bites from you about what you use Twitter for and how your PLN has helped you develop as a teacher. It would be really cool if, instead of just quoting some text, I could get a short video or audio recording to include in my slides. There are various ways you could contribute: record a quick video with your webcam and upload it to YouTube or Vimeo; record yourself on Vocaroo or AudioBoo and send me the link; or record your video/audio and send it to me via Dropbox.

Any help would be gratefully appreciated! Hope those of you who are going to IATEFL have a great conference.

Friday, 8 April 2011

Getting feedback on my ISTEK workshop

Nearly a week has passed since my workshop at the ISTEK conference in Istanbul. After giving a few reflections on the overall experience in my last post, I thought I’d go back to the notes I made after the workshop, engage in some reflection and hopefully get some feedback from anyone in attendance who happens to be reading this.

For a recap of what the session was about, read my preview post and take a look at the slides below:

What went well

  • Good attendance - with so many workshops running concurrently, I thought turnout might be low so I was pleasantly surprised to see a full room. Thanks to all of you who came when you could have chosen any one of a number of other sessions.
  • The chance to share some useful ideas - it seemed many of the teachers present tended to focus on linguistic and stylistic errors when reviewing students’ writing so I hope my examples of giving feedback based on content led to some of them re-thinking their approach.
  • Timing - I managed to cover the majority of what I had in mind prior to the session with no need to cut large chunks out or rush towards the end.
  • Seeing the same ideas presented elsewhere - I always enjoy it at conferences when I can see a crossover or link between different sessions so it was great to see one of the keynote speakers Rob Bolitho also mentioning the importance of giving feedback in response to what was written rather than just focusing on the language used.

What I could have done better

  • Seating arrangements - I should have organised the chairs into groups to encourage more interaction in even numbers.This is a weakness of mine when doing group work in class as well and I should have been more aware of it.
  • Slight change to the activities - as always, I had a great idea after the session had finished! If I were to do it again, I would give a sample piece of work for the attendees to mark as they would normally do so and then build the discussion about what we look for when marking and why from there. By doing this first, there would have been more of a contrast when giving feedback based on content.
  • Questions - although my timing in terms of the stages of the session was good, I didn’t leave any time for questions at the end. I did manage to speak to a few people individually afterwards but it would have been better to share the discussion with the whole group.

Problems beyond my control

  • Hardly any teachers of YLs - even though my session was flagged in the programme as one for teachers who work with kids, a fact made even clearer in my abstract (also printed in the conference programme), most of the teachers in attendance were working with adults or university prep classes. That rendered my sample pieces of writing from 10 year olds a little unsuitable and alien for them!
  • No internet! - my session turned from ‘error correction’ to ‘connection error’ as the promised wireless internet was not available in the workshop rooms (there was a signal but nobody knew the password). I had my 3G modem as back-up but I wasn’t able to get a 3G connection, only a painfully slow GPRS one. Eventually, one of the pages I wanted to use, Cecilia’s guest post on feedback for Ken Wilson’s blog, loaded but my own blog posts on error correction did not. Neither did a Google doc I had set up with the intention of making collaborative notes as we shared ideas in the session and neither did a page I had created on, which I was going to use as part of the collaborative error correction activity.

So those are my reflections. If you were in my session and you have any comments, constructive criticism or feedback for me, I’d love to hear from you!

Monday, 4 April 2011

6 Reflections from ISTEK

I’m writing this already back at work in my school in Ankara after a great weekend in Istanbul at the 2nd ISTEK Schools International ELT Conference. The whole weekend was a great experience from start to finish with great speakers and thought-provoking sessions. I really enjoyed Lindsay Clandfield’s talk on ‘The Power of Lists’ and so, inspired by that and his newly-archived 6 Things blog, here my list of 6 Reflections from ISTEK:

1. The power of the PLN

This was the first time I had ever met anybody from my PLN in person and the experience was surprisingly normal. Had I not built up my PLN over the last several months, I probably would have briefly chatted with a few people along the lines of ‘where are you from?’, ‘where do you work?’ etc. I might then have briefly spoken to a couple of the better known speakers and that would have been that. Instead, upon seeing people, conversations were struck up straightaway with hellos and nice-to-see-yous taking the place of introductions. I can honestly say that I enjoyed meeting everyone, all of whom were exactly as I expected (except for Ania who showed up as a brunette instead of a blonde)! The feeling of normality was such that it wasn’t even weird when Mike Harrison arrived and showed up in the room at 5.50am - that situation would have been seriously awkward with a complete stranger.


Caught in an unplugged sandwich

Thanks are also due here to Luke Meddings and Scott Thornbury for a great chat and indulging me by signing my copy of Teaching Unplugged, Nicky Hockly and Lindsay Clanfield for doing likewise with Teaching Online, Gavin Dudeneye who will help me supercharge my Android tablet device, Mike Harrison, Özge Karaoğlu and Marisa Constantinides for their kind mentions of me during their sessions and Işıl Boy for attending my session and also introducing my to a few Turkish ELT contacts around the conference venue. And thanks to everyone else who made it a great weekend, especially (goes without saying) Burcu Akyol.


University of Manchester well-represented!

2. “Good things happen to good people”

This is what the ever-optimistic Shelly Terrell told me after we had found her bag containing most of her digital life in the restaurant she had left it in the night before. Most people I know would have been in a blind panic to have lost their laptop, hard drive and files for upcoming keynotes and presentations but not Shelly. She just told me she had faith in people to do the right thing and was confident we would find it later. She even sat calmly though the morning plenaries before we went to find the missing bag in the lunch break. Sure enough, it had been found and put to one side by the cleaner in the restaurant. Shelly told me how she believed some good fortune would befall that lady for taking care of the bag and returning it. I think the good person who had the good fortune here was Shelly though - and don’t forget, you owe me a favour!

3. Always carry spares & back-ups

This comes partly from the above story as Shelly was not completely at a loss on Sunday morning as she had her iPhone and all her most important stuff backed up on an external hard-drive. It also partly comes from the stories of people not having enough photocopies for their workshops (like me!), running out of battery power on their mobile devices (me again!) or being in desperate need of an extra pair of shoes (like Işıl)!

4. Karaoke is actually quite fun

As you may have noticed from my pre-conference tweets, I wasn’t too keen on my forced participation in the karaoke but it was a good laugh in the end… And next year, I’ll try to be organised enough to get a Pecha Kucha ready!


Pecha Kucha and Karaoke night

5. There’s a lot of catching up to do

In many ways! On a conference level, I realised just how big the ISTEK event is in only its second year, much bigger than my own school’s event despite that being in its 4th year now. On a school level, I spoke to many other teachers of young learners based in Turkey who work with much smaller classes than I do and have much greater access to computers, both in class and as part of blended learning programmes - I still work in an environment with one class computer very much on its last legs… And on a personal level, I feel I’ve come a long way in recent years to now be involved in events like this one and the recent VRT but I still feel like I’m feeling my way around. I’ll reflect on my workshop in more detail in another post but I saw enough elsewhere to make me want to make some changes for next time.

6. I can’t wait for next year!

The conference was great and it was a shame the weekend had to come to end and I had to dash for the airport in the knowledge a whole year will pass before it comes round again. I hope I’ll be there again next time, either giving another session (if they’ll have me back!) or just in attendance. Counting down the days already - ISTEK is the new Christmas: It comes but once a year and it’s definitely worth the wait!

Still to come: reflections on my own workshop and a round-up of the other sessions I attended