IATEFL Belfast 2022: Telegram App as a tool for remote training and teaching – Wendy Arnold

Wendy’s company is called ELT Consultants. She has spent most of her career working in low-resource contexts.

This is about a project which was run in Venezuela, with Dr. Juana Sagaray and Dr. Maria-Teresa Fernandez.

What Telegram is not!

It is not a replacement for face-to-face training. If you need a Plan B, or if you have teachers in very remote teachers where it is very difficult to get them to come to one place, then this is an alternative to be able to give them some CPD.

Context

Global South:

  • Developing countries
  • Excessive unemployment
  • Low per capita income
  • 77 countries, including China

(World Population Review 2022)

Venezuela is one of these countries.

Digital divide:

Gap between people who have access to affordable, reliable internet service (and the skills and gadgets necessary to take advantage of that access) and those who lack it.

Taylor, 2022

There might not be any internet service, particularly in rural areas. There might not be enough access to devices in the household. There might not be skills to access these devices.

This project in numbers

  • 400 pre-service and in-service secondary teachers
  • Nearly 9,000 students
  • 20 writers
  • 11 trainers (most of whom were also writers)
  • 10 modules
  • 10 workshops in each module
  • 3 months to deliver one module
  • Flipped learning: asynchronous one hour, synchronous one hour per week

Dr. Juana Sagaray was the British Council Project Manager for this project.

These were the statistics for technology usage in Venezuela:

There were also added problems with blackouts and lack of electricity. They needed an app which could be accessible.

Telegram had much lower data consumption than other apps (see the graph above).

It’s free.

It’s cloud-based – it won’t fill up your phone.

You can use it on any mobile platform, and on Mac, Windows and Linux.

It’s secure and fast. You can make it as secure as WhatsApp if you adjust the security settings on it.

You can do voice calls and video calls.

You can send photos, videos, messages and files of any format and size.

It synchronises across any number of installed Telegram apps on mobiles, tablets and computers.

Two APIs are free for developers to design a Bot API. Wendy first saw these bots being used to teach IELTS skills automatically. She thinks it could be used for FAQs, for example, though she hasn’t managed to develop this yet.

How are they using Telegram to train teachers

Quality assurance:

  • Design templates for all materials
  • Design PowerPoint for asynchronous content used in ‘flipped learning’ and PowerPoint for synchronous content
  • No animations in PowerPoints
  • Keep text to a minimum (CEFR A2)
  • Use icons and visuals
  • Made PDF of PowerPoint and screenshots of PowerPoint slides

Equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI)

  • Write scripted trainer’s notes to ensure that trainers in the future deliver the materials considering EDI
  • Refer to the Code of Conduct for learning online
  • Refer to Safeguarding for learning online
  • Poll teachers to ask for their opinions
  • Provide an option for Teachers who have missed a synchronous session to catch up

The project is designed to be loop input – whatever they do in the sessions should be something the teachers can do with their own students in the classroom.

How we use Telegram to train teachers

It’s best to use a desktop to train – it’s probably much harder doing it directly on a phone.

Keep the Telegram chat open on the screen so you can read what’s happening.

Telegram video chat ready to screen share.

Have your PowerPoint open on ‘reading view’.

This is what Wendy’s computer screen looks like:

Lessons learnt

Teachers need:

  1. A variety of ways to access the materials in both asynchronous and synchronous sessions (PowerPoint, PDF, screenshots – all of them!)
  2. Synchronous sessions no more than 60 minutes – unreliable connection, concentrating is harder for longer
  3. To be taught how to reflect on their own practice – a learner journal is used
  4. To complete tasks with allocated marks in order to complete module and get certificate

To get a certificate, they have to do 6 tasks, attend 7/10 live sessions or do the catch-up tasks, and do 2 assessment tasks. This incentivised teachers to complete the asynchronous work.

Teacher trainers need to be reminded:

  1. To increase interactions. Using chat box, audio recording and video recordings
  2. To summarise the asynchronous task comments submitted by teachers
  3. To offer the catch-up option to teachers
  4. And… (I wasn’t fast enough!)

Tutors and facilitators need:

Voices from participants

Teacher trainers said:

  • They have more tools to train and teach.
  • They noticed the enthusiasm and resilience of teachers.
  • The content was useful.
  • Negative: internet connection problems.
  • Negative: frequent blackouts.

The main thing they said Telegram was missing was Breakout Rooms. They said it has a real impact on teaching practice.

Participants said that 100% of them would recommend the training programme to their colleagues. They said the live sessions were a useful tool, dynamic, organised, excellent, well-planned and interesting.

The pre-workshop tasks helped them to reflect on the content. It helped them to get acquainted with what was coming up, and to practise what they would be exposed to later.

[This is an area I’m really interested in in general, so hopefully there will be more connected to it on my blog in the future!]

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