What I learnt on #eltchat today (Materials / Online Professional Development)

@ayearinthelifeof in the classroom (taken from #eltpics)

Today marked my second attempt at joining in with #eltchat on Twitter. For those of you who don’t know what this is, a brief explanation. #eltchat is a conversation between English Language Teachers (ELT) around the world. The sessions take place every Wednesday at 3-4pm GMT and 9-10pm GMT on Twitter, the social networking site. It’s an invigorating way to explore issues in ELT. This week’s topics were:

  • What principles do you follow when you prepare your own teaching materials?
  • How can we convince colleagues that online professional development is as valuable as face-to-face?

From rereading the transcript (the discussion goes so quickly), these are the issues which came up, in no particular order. Feel free to comment on any I missed out!

Principles when preparing your own teaching materials

  • The learner should be central.
  • Materials should be professionally presented. Play with layouts, fonts, etc.
  • Materials don’t have to mean paper worksheets: they could also be online, videos, presentations, art, mindmaps, realia…
  • Materials can and should generate activities.
  • Never do something yourself when your SS can do it for / with you.
  • They should be fun, meaningful, practical and motivate SS.
  • Try to include visuals, rather than just words.
  • They should suit the skill / language point of the lesson, rather than just looking interesting to the teacher.
  • They should empower SS to use the language and make connections.
  • Materials should be sensitive to the nationalities / cultures you teach.
  • Materials should be as relevant to the SS as possible. You can ask SS which topics motivate them.
  • Space should be available for learners to take notes, perhaps with the back of the sheet completely blank. Avoid the temptation to do all thinking on paper.
  • Open-ended materials can fuel whole lessons.
  • Materials should be applicable to a real-life context.
  • Inspiration can come from anywhere.
  • They should be flexible.
  • You can use your own materials to escape the confines of a coursebook, while still covering the syllabus. Or approach it differently, maybe by teaching a unit backwards.
  • Use your materials to remind SS that they don’t have to be doing the same thing at the same time.
  • Don’t forget about interaction!
  • Design materials which make SS think, not just repeat.
  • Think about trying the same materials out with different students.
  • How much time do you spend planning v. using materials?
  • Keep your materials: organise them on your computer, blog them, share them with your students / colleagues…
  • Remember the level of your students: important for the tasks and the instructions.
  • Trigger laughter and / or curiosity whenever possible.
  • Consider SS who may have difficulty with your materials e.g. dyslexia, dyspraxia. For example, use coloured paper for those with reading difficulties.
  • When using authentic materials, fit the task to the students, rather than worrying too much about fitting the text to them.
  • Reflect, edit, adapt, recycle – don’t give up!
  • Play!
  • Take a risk!

Convincing colleagues that online professional development (PD) is as effective as face-to-face

  • Tell them about all the amazing people you meet / blogs you read / ideas you get / fun you have. Highlight how much you can learn in how little time.
  • A big problem is where to start: blogs may be less overwhelming than Twitter.
  • Show them a sample of online PD, so they can see what is going on.
  • Time is a major issue: many teachers feel PD should take place during work hours, and find it hard to see the reasons for continuing it outside. This is also often connected to the fact that online PD is unpaid.
  • Be a stuck record: your colleagues may join in to shut you up!
  • People struggle with information overload: we need to find ways to deal with this.
  • You could deal with links by favouriting, bookmarking and coming back to them at a later date.
  • Not joining in with online PD could mean you don’t really enjoy teaching / joining in with online PD could reinvigorate your teaching when you feel close to burnout.
  • It empowers you. You are participating and engaging with ELT.
  • Lead by doing: show your colleagues how much your online PD has helped you.
  • Share with your colleagues. Send them links that they might find useful. Start a wiki. Use google bookmarks. Post to an Edmodo group. Demonstrate, demonstrate, demonstrate!
  • Perception: Twitter is not just for geeks / socialising; You can control your own PD (when, where, how…)
  • It changes your practice and your expectations as a teacher.
  • Mentor: show someone round and help them take their first steps in Twitter / the blogosphere. Help them move from being digital visitors to digital residents.
  • Introduce online PD gradually to give others time to adjust.
  • Almost everyone ‘lurks’ for a while before they dive in to contributing on Twitter. This is a good time for adjustment, but many of us commented that people often give up before taking the plunge.
  • Recommend people / blogs for newbies to follow.
  • The school’s webmaster may block sites, making it harder to join in.
  • Access can also be an issue in terms of the availability of PCs, internet etc.
  • You end up doing things you never would have imagined doing before [like summarizing a discussion involving people from all over the world] 😉
  • Technology v. pedagogy: emphasise the latter if people are reluctant. Don’t forget that technology is difficult for many people.
  • Feel the fear and do it anyway! If you keep talking, someone will start listening.


I would like to reiterate that this is my summary of the discussions which took place today. I have used the words of some of the participants directly, but in no way claim them as my own – I wanted to make it a little simpler to find out what was going on, so have avoided crediting everyone. To find out exactly who said what, and to experience the full joy of an #eltchat, read the transcripts here.


15 thoughts on “What I learnt on #eltchat today (Materials / Online Professional Development)

  1. I agree wholeheartedly with Marisa and thanks from me too!

    These bullet points are (a) quicker to read than the whole transcript and (b) very clear and accurate, both for those of us who took part and those who didn’t I’d say. Just what every pushed-for-time-and/or-ideas teacher needs and especially interesting for trainee teachers.

    Great too that this very idea emerged from #ELTchat itself!

    Sandy, you’ve helped set an important precedent. 🙂 yay!


    Long live the summaries 🙂


    1. I’m glad the summary was useful for you. I enjoyed doing it as it helped clarify some of the ideas we discussed in the session. For anyone interested in doing a summary in the future, it took me about 30 minutes per chat (maybe it would take slightly longer if you weren’t participating in the sesssion).


  2. Hi Sandy,

    Loved your summary and I am actually going to post a link to your blog as well as the ELTChat page so our teachers get a clear idea of how things work. Maybe they´ll feel a bit more comfortable and join in when they´re back from their summer holidays.



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