I love the TeachingEnglish facebook page because it has helped my blog a lot, so I really wanted to see Ann and Paul talk about how they do it. I’m also a TeachingEnglish associate blogger for the website, which is a great opportunity.
Paul and Ann are talking about how they are hoping to reshape the TeachingEnglish website to offer better resources for CPD.
Paul starts by sharing the CPD framework the British Council developed. On the site at the moment, you can click on your level of development and that will give resources specific to your stage in your career. They suggest what skills you should have at that level and give you ideas on how to develop them. For example, starter teachers have resources on pairwork or developing rapport, whereas higher-level teachers have resources on things like materials development.
Ann talks about their huge success on facebook. They have over 2.2million likes and a 1.5million weekly reach [which is phenomenal!] They started it with the idea that it is not just to promote British Council materials, but a place for people to see what is available in the teaching world in general. The facebook page has it’s biggest audience in India, then Egypt. A lot of people follow it from South-East Asia and Latin America. The people who share resources tend to be European-based, but the discussions are international.
They tried to learn from what is successful in CPD today. Here’s what they focussed on:
- social media and blogs: it’s crowdsourced, and the validity is from how useful ideas are and how much they’re shared.
- action research groups: people often go to a workshop given by an expert, but this is only effective up to a point. Paul’s teaching centre set up action research groups where teachers worked with others who were interested in the same areas. They found it was far more motivating for the teachers.
- free and paid-for online training opportunities: for example MOOCs.
- government-/institute-funded projects: for example in Malaysia, where there are teacher-led projects.
They compared this with what was offered on the TeachingEnglish website, and found it quite different.
The words in the image above show what people are looking for.
The notion of ‘experts’ is changing, and now there are many of them, in the form of bloggers sharing their experience in class, for example.
Voluntary participation allows teachers to decide to what extent they want to be involved, how much work they want to do, etc.
They decided that organising things into career paths might be a more useful way of organising the information. For example, you want to develop your ability to teach teenagers or to write materials. You use the site as a scaffold to work towards your goal, through a series of challenges and goals and expertise to get you there. There may also be an element of gamification to help make it more interesting.
They have come up with a system of four different rooms, with a series of challenges. Here’s a slightly blurry example of the ‘research’ room:
You start off with the ‘research’ room to develop your goals, followed by the ‘classroom’ room where you try them out. The ‘classroom’ is not just for teachers: for example, if you’re a manager it might be about how you observe lessons and experiment with this. As you complete the challenges, you collect badges which show how much you’ve done. Then you have the ‘training’ room and the ‘research’ room, which collates all the resources you might need for that topic, since it can be a bit difficult to find what you need on the TeachingEnglish website at the moment. You’re encouraged to reflect on and share what you’re doing.
The idea is that it will work like a good staffroom, but in a virtual context. It’s trying to make the best of what comes from social media, but draw it together in a way that social media might not do. It’s big challenge, but it’s worth us trying to do it as Ann and Paul said.
It’s not up yet, but will be started small and developed over time. They would like feedback on the idea so feel free to contact them.
I think this looks like a fascinating initiative, and I look forward to seeing how it develops.
Update: here’s an excellent illustrated post about an interview Ann and Paul did during the conference where they also talk about their ideas.