Technologically and linguistically adventurous EFL teacher, trainer, writer and manager

Posts tagged ‘blogs’

A blogpost of blogposts

I use Feedly as a blog reader to collate posts from the blogs I follow. I love the simplicity of the format, and being able to see at a glance what is waiting for me to read. I generally look at it for a few minutes each day, sharing posts that I think would be useful for others on social media and bookmarking them for future reference using Diigo.

Since I started reading posts on my phone this workflow has become a little more convoluted, and I often end up emailing myself things to bookmark for later as it’s not as convenient to bookmark from my phone. This post is a collection of many of those posts as I clear out my email folder, and could serve as a good starting point if you’re looking for blogs to follow. They show a cross-section of what I read, and demonstrate just how varied the ELT blogosphere is.

On a side note, if you’ve considering starting a blog but think ‘Nobody will care what I write’, remember that there’s room for all kinds of teachers and writers, and your voice is interesting too. You never know what will click for somebody else when they read what you write. The blog is also there as notes for yourself later – I’m often surprised when I come across posts from my archive!

Happy reading!

A robot lying on a lilo, with text below

Health and wellbeing

Lizzie Pinard summarised an IATEFL webinar on Mental health, resilience and COVID-19, adding her own experiences too. Lizzie also recommends Rachael Robert’s webinar on avoiding burnout for ELT professionals, and shares how she has been managing her workspace and mindset while working from home. I’ve been doing inbox zero for about two months now, as recommended by Rachael in a talk I went to in January, and it’s made me feel so much better!

If mental health is important to you (and it should be!) here’s my list of Useful links on Mental Health in ELT.

Activities for very young learners and young learners

Chris Roland’s ETprofessional article on Managing online fun is full of activities and classroom management tips for working with young learners online.

Anka Zapart talks about the benefits of online classes with very young learners, many of which are applicable to young learners too. She shares a useful site with online games with VYLs and YLs, and introduced me to colourful semantics as way of extending language production for children. She also has a very clear framework for choosing craft activities which would and wouldn’t work for a VYL/YL classroom, and this example of a very reusable caterpillar craft.

Pete Clements has a lesson plan for young learners (and older ones too!) which combines all kinds of different areas: environmental awareness, drawing, used to, modals of advice…all based on a single student-generated set of materials.

Activities for teens and adults

Making excuses is a game to practice making requests and making excuses, including both online and offline variations, from Mike Astbury’s incredibly practical blog.

Jade Blue talks about the benefits of drawing to learn language, including a range of simple activities that should help students to remember vocabulary and grammar structures, and process texts they read and listen to. She also shares ideas for exploiting authentic materials, both for intensive and extensive use.

Ken Wilson has started to post English language teaching songs he and colleagues wrote and recorded in the 70s and 80s. They still seem very relevant now and could still promote a lot of discussion. The first three are What would you do? (second conditional), It makes me mad (environmental problems) and Looking forward to the day (phrasal verbs / the environment).

Rachel Tsateri shares 10 simple and practical pronunciation activities (useful for listening too).

Leo Selivan has a lesson plan based on the Coldplay and Chainsmokers song Something just like this. David Petrie using sound effects as the basis for a review of narrative tenses.

Julie Moore has written ten posts with vocabulary activities based around coronavocab. The last one has examples of phrases which learners might need to describe how coronavirus has changed their lives.

James Taylor has a lesson plan about helping students to set useful goals for their language learning. If you’re interested in making and breaking habits, you might like James Egerton’s 11 lessons from The Power of Habit (not an activity, but relevant!)

Alex Case has hundreds of resources on his blog, for example these ones demonstrating small talk using specific language points.

Hana Ticha has an activity for promoting positive group dynamics called the one who.

Cristina Cabal has eight different activities based around the topic of travel.

Online teaching

Marc Jones suggests ideas for and asks for help with speaking assessments online when your students just won’t speak.

Matthew Noble is writing a teaching diary of his fully online blended Moodle/Zoom courses, with lots of interesting insights and learning shared. Here’s the post from week two (on building group dynamics) and week five (on making sure your computer will work properly and encouraging students to have good online etiquette).

Rachel Tsateri shows how to exploit Google Jamboard as an online whiteboard, including vocabulary revision, brainstorming, and sentence structure activities.

Naomi Epstein describes the journey she went on when trying to add glossaries to reading texts for her students, and the problems she encountered when she was on a computer but they were on a phone.

John Hughes shares three ways you can exploit Zoom’s recording feature in lessons.

Teacher training

Zhenya Polosatova has been sharing a series of trainer conversations. This interview with Rasha Halat was fascinating. I also liked this parachute metaphor from a conversation with Ron Bradley.

In my trainings I like to use the example of the students taking a class on how to fold a parachute that will be used the next day to jump out of an airplane. The students tell me “It was a wonderful class—the teacher explained and showed how to fold the chute step by step. Then the camera moves to the students and they are taking notes—very engaged in the lecture. They all pass the written test. The question is, will they now be able to successfully fold their parachutes in a way that they will have a successful jump? What would you suggest that the teacher did differently? I have always loved Michael Jerald’s (my SIT TESOL Cert trainer) question(s), “What did they learn and how do you know they learned it?” Now we are talking about skills, not knowledge—and effective communication is a skill. The parachute teacher had no way of knowing that they would be successful, even though they had aced the written test. So, whether or not face-to-face or by way of video, the nature of student engagement is the most important issue. It needs to be observed!

Zhenya also wrote about a reflective activity called Four suitcases, which could be particularly useful for anyone feeling down about the current state of the world and their place in it.

Jim Fuller has recently completed the Cambridge Train the Trainer course. His weekly posts about the course were good reminders of what I did on my NILE MA Trainer Development course last summer, including this one on exploratory talk and observation and this one on course design and developing as a trainer.

You might also want to explore my Useful links for teacher training and consider purchasing ELT Playbook Teacher Training. 🙂

Materials writing

Pete Clements offers advice on finding work as a writer, including various smaller publishers you probably haven’t heard of.

Julie Moore talks about reviewing in ELT publishing, something which helped me get my foot in the door for occasional work with some of the big publishers.

Distractions can make the writing process much longer than it needs to be. Rachael Roberts offers tips on how to deal with them on the IATEFL Materials Writing Special Interest Group (MAWSIG) blog.

John Hughes has a comprehensive selection of tips on materials writing on his blog, for example this checklist for writing worksheets or these tips on writing scripts for audio recordings. Explore the blog for lots more.

Professional development

Chris R from What they don’t teach you on the CELTA suggests a range of techniques to help you teach more student-centred lessons. Stephen J has written an accessible beginner’s guide to task-based learning and describes one way he worked with learners to make the most of a coursebook he was using, rather than mechanically moving from one page to the next. Charlie E shares ideas for recording and recycling emergent language which pops up during a lesson, including an online variant.

In a guest post on the same blog, Kip Webster talks about the importance of explicitly teaching directness and indirectness, particularly for maintaining group dynamics, and taking advantage of ‘teachable moments’ during lessons. In another guest post, Miranda Crowhurst shares an excellent range of tips for using social media to advance your teaching career. (As you can see, it’s a blog well worth following!)

If you’re thinking about alternative approaches to lesson planning post-CELTA, Pete Clements talks about the steps he went through when moving towards materials-light teaching. This reflects my experience too.

Monika Bigaj-Kisala reviews Scott Thornbury’s Uncovering Grammar, which helped her to change her relationship with grammar in the classroom.

Pete Clements reflects on the differences between an MA, PGCEi or DipTESOL, all of which he’s done. He also hosted a guest post from Michael Walker on the benefits of student and teacher reflection journals, particularly how it worked as an avenue for him to get regular feedback from his students which influenced future lessons.

Russ Mayne shares 5 non-evidence-based teaching tips, all of which I agree with.

Helen Chapman answers the questions Should I teach in English in Morocco? in this very comprehensive post (not necessarily professional development, but doesn’t fit anywhere else!) You might also be interested in a similar but less comprehensive post I wrote about why Central Europe should be on your list of dream TEFL destinations.

Questioning our practice

Philip Kerr’s posts are always thought-provoking. Mindfulness for beginners questions the strength of research behind the attention mindfulness is now receiving in education.

Russ Mayne asks should we use translation software, especially questioning its role in EAP contexts, and how we might need to update our teaching and assessment criteria to assess the inevitable student use of this ever-improving tool. He also writes about retraction in ELT and shares examples of research which has been retracted. (This BBC Inside Science episode has an interview with Stuart Ritchie which I would also recommend.)

Classrooms and coronavirus

David Petrie talks about how he helped his exam students prepare for doing speaking exams in masks.

Alex Case shares ideas for coronavirus changes for EFL classes. While this might be tongue-in-cheek, I’m sure some of them aren’t that far from things we might be seeing in our classrooms/schools over the next couple of years!

You might also be interested in my post on social distancing in the ELT classroom.

What have you been reading recently? What currently active blogs have I missed here?

Making the most of blogs (IH Torun 2018)

Every year in April, our sister school at International House Torun runs their Teacher Training Day, attracting local teachers and international visitors to this beautiful city:

Torun

Photo from my personal collection

My presentation this year was the most recent version of one I’ve done a few times before, now featuring ELT Playbook 1, my ebook for new teachers. If you weren’t there, you can watch a webinar version done for the British Council in 2015, or read a text version based on the presentation I did at Innovate ELT in 2016. Doing this presentation seems to be an annual spring event for me now 🙂 Here are the slides

The blogs which I recommended in this version were:

The reader I use to manage the blogs I read is Feedly, and the bookmarking tool I use is diigo.

What blogs are you reading at the moment?

P.S. I’ve also just rediscovered this post in my archive 🙂 What makes a successful blog?

Making the most of blogs (IH Brno Sugar and Spice conference, March 2017)

On 4th March 2017, I went back to my roots to present at the IH Brno local conference, this year called ‘Sugar and Spice’.

Brno Cathedral

This one-day conference is where I did my first full-length conference presentation in 2011. That presentation was called A Whole New World of ELT and was about all the many ways you could develop your teaching using online resources. My presentations now are much more pared down and focussed, and (I hope!) more accessible because of that – when I first started I tried to pack way too much in there. I was also seduced by new toys at that point and made an all-singing, all-dancing Prezi, which makes me dizzy looking at it now, and took hours and hours to make. Simple PowerPoint slides are definitely the way to go!

The presentation I did this time round is an updated version of one I’ve done twice before. You can watch a webinar version done for the British Council, or read a text version based on the presentation I did at Innovate ELT in 2016.

The blogs which I recommended in this version were:

I had a brilliant time at the conference, including seeing Hana Ticha present for the first time and taking part in a Live Online Workshop from the conference, which will be available as a recording soon. Thanks for a great weekend, IH Brno!

IH Bydgoszcz and IH Toruń Cambridge Day 2017

Each year IH Bydgoszcz holds a Cambridge Day to give ideas to teachers in the local area to help them teach Main Suite exams. Recently, our sister school, IH Toruń, has become an exam centre too, so to celebrate, we held events in both cities this year. My session was designed to share some (perhaps) less well-known online resources which can be used by teachers who are preparing students for both exams. These are the sites which I shared:

Cambridge Phrasal Verbs apps

Amusing cartoons and a matching game designed to help students remember 100 phrasal verbs. As far as I know they’re a different hundred in each!

The Phrasal Verbs Machine (cartoons in a historic style)

Phrasalstein (cartoons with a comedy horror inflection)

Alex Case

A one-man activity-writing/worksheet-producing machine, and everything I’ve tried so far has been good quality!

Key word sentence transformations advice and activities (including TEFL Reversi, which you can try by printing this Quizlet set: click ‘more’>’print’>’small’ and ‘double-sided printing’ and you’ll get cards you just need to cut up

All of Alex’s FCE worksheets

My blog

A collection of FCE resources for students and teachers which I recommend, including among other things a link to FCE: The Musical!, a 60-minute webinar by Andy Scott with lots more ideas of ways to make exam preparation interesting.

Various FCE activities I’ve shared on my blog, many of which could be adapted to other exams.

Richer Speaking cover

Richer Speaking is my ebook, which includes a section with activities for extending speaking, aimed at encouraging students to produce longer stretches of language. This is especially useful for the picture tasks in Cambridge exams.

A Hive of Activities

Emma Gore-Lloyd has a range of Cambridge exam activities on her blog.  One of my favourites uses pictures as a prompt to remember pairs of sentence transformations.

Quizlet

One of my all-time favourite resources, which is great for vocabulary learning in general, and which can be exploited for Use of English practice too.

How to use Quizlet, including links to classes/groups organised by CEFR level.

FCE/Upper Intermediate sets

CAE/Advanced sets

A good set to play Quizlet Live with is ‘Making your writing more interesting

Making the most of blogs (Innovate ELT 2016)

On 6th and 7th May 2016 I attended the Innovate ELT conference in Barcelona, jointly organised by ELTjam and OxfordTEFL.

The conference started with three short plenary sessions, and in a change from the traditional conference format, anybody could apply to be a plenary speaker, in much the same way as you would for a workshop, rather than it being invited speakers only. Following on from Kat Robb and Jamie Keddie, my plenary was called Five things I’ve learnt from five years of blogging. Thanks to Laura Patsko for recording it via Periscope so that you can watch it here – the image quality is a little low, but the sound should be fine.

I followed up the plenary with a 30-minute workshop on Saturday called Making the most of blogs. You can watch a 60-minute webinar I did on the same topic last year, or read on to see the slides from this version, including some blog recommendations to start you off.

Making the most of blogs title slide

I chose this topic because blogs are a key part of my professional development, both through writing my own blog and reading those of other people. I have learnt so much from this process, and hope that I continue to do so for a long time. This presentation aims to share that love 🙂

Why do teachers blog

Teachers blog for many different reasons. Here are just a few.

Reflection
By blogging, it makes you consider your lessons, your teaching and your life in more depth. You think about what you’re going to write, and which aspects of your teaching/work/life you want to shed light on. The comments you receive help you to go further by finding out more about particular topics or reconsidering your ideas about why something did/didn’t work.

Sharing materials
You’ve produced great materials or your students really enjoyed a particular activity, but you have no idea when you can use them again. Share them with others, and inspire them 🙂 Materials, activites and ideas from my blog are all in one category.

Portfolio
When you apply for work, your blog can show prospective employers a lot about you and your interest in developing yourself professionally. If you’d like to move into materials writing, the things you’ve shared show what you’re able to produce and give editors an idea about your writing style and experience. It’s also a good way for you to keep track of what you’ve done over time. I do this through my writing, videos and presenting tabs.

Making connections
By reading and commenting on other people’s blogs, you start to build up a network of people who are interested in development. This comes in very useful when you are…

Asking for help
A blog is a great place to throw out questions and see what comes back. One example of that on my blog is when I wanted to know about what EFL teachers do when they retire, which prompted a very useful discussion in the comments and led to me setting up an ISA.

Catharsis
For me, the main reason I choose to write on my blog is to get things out of my head, whatever they may be. Sometimes I know that these posts are very personal, touching on stress, health, home, love and more, and there is no obligation for you to share anything you don’t want to – it’s your blog, and your decision. These are often the posts where the comments make me laugh and cry, and show just what an amazingly supportive bunch of people those of you who read this are. Thank you!

How do you find blogs?

OK, so blogs are useful. But how do you know where to start looking for them?

Many blogs have a blogroll, a list of the writer’s favourite blogs to read. You can find mine in the bar on the right of my blog.

The British Council Teaching English facebook page is an endless source of useful links, including many different blogs.

On Twitter, you can follow the #ELTchat hashtag, which is populated by English teachers sharing content. The ELTchat summaries page takes you to the blogs of many different contributors to the chats, and the summaries themselves are an incredibly useful source of information on a plethora of topics connected to English teaching. If you’d like to find out more about using Twitter for professional development, try this post from my blog. This post was also written a couple of days after an #ELTchat on using social media for professional development, as summarised by Lizzie Pinard.

If you’d like some more specific starting points, here are ten blogs I’d recommend. I chose these blogs when I put together this presentation as they’re ones I return to again and again, but ask me on a different day and I’d probably pick a different ten 🙂 (apologies if I’ve missed yours!)

Blog recommendations 1

ELT Rants, Reviews and Reflections
Mike Griffin is based in South Korea. He teaches and trains in universities there. His posts often make me laugh and always make me think.

Living Learning
Anne Hendler was based in South Korea for a long time, and is currently in transition to new places (looking forward to finding out where!) Her posts are a prime example of reflection in action, and are full of ways that she has worked with her teen classes to become a better teacher.

The Other Things Matter
Kevin Stein may not write very often, but when he does, it’s always worth reading. He is based in Japan and works with teenage students, many of whom have had trouble at other schools. His blog also includes some short fiction designed for language learners, accessible via a tab along the top.

Blog recommendations 2

How I see it now
Hana Ticha teaches in a Czech state secondary school. I’ve learnt so much from her about the challenges of teaching in a context very different from that of my own in private language schools. She also writes about how she keeps her own English up. If you didn’t grow up using English and think that might mean that you can’t blog, Hana’s writing is a prime example of why that shouldn’t stop you. If your mother tongue is English, read it anyway 🙂

Lizzie Pinard
Lizzie has taught in a variety of different contexts, and is now working for a British university. Her blog contains lots of information about studying for Delta and MAs, as well as helping your students to become more autonomous. She also reflects on her own language learning.

Close Up
Ceri Jones is a materials writer, trainer and teacher based in southern Spain. She shares materials and activities (often under the tabs along the top) and reflects on her lessons. A recent series I’ve particularly enjoyed has been about teaching ‘barefoot with beginners‘, without using coursebooks. If you click on the link, start with the post at the bottom and work up to get the full story.

Blog recommendations 3

Muddles into Maxims
Matthew Noble is a CELTA tutor in the USA. Reflections on how to become a better trainer and on his own lessons make his blog a go-to for all teacher trainers. He’s also recently hosted a series of interviews with Anne Hendler about the process of doing the CELTA as a teacher with experience, starting here.

ELTeacherTrainer
John Hughes is a materials writer, trainer and teacher. His posts include advice on materials design, classroom observation and business English.

Blog recommendations 4

Tekhnologic
This is quite simply one of the most useful blogs out there. It’s full of incredibly professionally designed templates and materials, and loads of easy-to-understand tips on how to get the most out of Microsoft Office, particularly Excel and PowerPoint. Before I found this blog, I thought I knew quite a lot about Office, but T never fails to introduce something I’ve never seen before in their posts. I just wish I knew who is behind the blog (though I know they’re in Japan) 🙂

Teaching Games
Mike Astbury is currently based in Spain, and if all goes to plan he’ll be coming to work with us at IH Bydgoszcz next year 🙂 He posts lesson plans and activities based around games for a range of levels and ages. They are all available as templates for you to download and adapt to your classroom.

Fear of missing out - how to get a feed

Once you’ve found a blog you want to follow (read regularly), there are a couple of ways to make sure that you don’t miss out on new content. You can choose to subscribe by email, meaning you’ll get a message every time a new post is published.

Another option is to use an RSS feed. This is a link which you put into a reader (see below) in order to automatically collect new posts. On my blog, you can find links for both of these near the top of the right-hand column. Some RSS readers don’t require the specific feed, just the normal link to the website, i.e. https://sandymillin.wordpress.com for this blog.

RSS readers

A reader is a piece of software you can use to read all of the blogs you want to in one place, instead of going to each blog individually.

I use feedly, a free subscription service, where I can add a link to any blog I want to follow and it will automatically collect all new posts from that blog as they are published. The screenshot above gives you an example of the interface: posts I have read in that session are greyed out, and posts still to read are in black. They are organised in order of date, telling me how many days old they are. To keep posts for longer than 30 days, you need to pay for the pro package. On the left you can see (some of!) the list of blogs I follow, along with how many posts are waiting for me to read from each. I don’t think I could keep track of anywhere near as many blogs as I do without using a reader! I spend about 5-10 minutes a day looking at the oldest posts, often just skimming them and saving them for later using diigo, an online bookmarking service. You can access it via your browser or through the free app.

Alternatives to Feedly which I haven’t used are the WordPress Reader and BlogLovin’. There are also many apps available. Try out a few different things and see what works for you.

Join the conversation - add comments

One of the main reasons I enjoy blogging is the conversations which happen in the comments section. Even if you decide not to write your own blog, you can still join in by adding your thoughts. It helps the writer to know their efforts weren’t in vain 🙂 and may add layers to their thinking.

And please don’t worry about sounding stupid or feeling like you don’t have anything to add (both things I think we’ve all experienced):

xkcd.com cartoon: I try not to make fun of people for admitting they don't know things. Because for each thing 'everyone knows' by the time they're adults, every day there are, on average, 10,000 people in the US hearing about it for the first time. Fraction who have heard of it at birth = 0%; fraction who have heard of it by 30 = 100%, US birth rate = 4,000,000 per year; number hearing about it for the first time = 10,000/day. If I make fun of people, I train them not to tell me when they have these moments. And I miss out on the fun.

One of my all-time favourite cartoons 🙂 Thanks xkcd!

How to start your own blog

Now that I’ve whet your appetite and you want to get involved, here are three simple steps to starting your own blog:

  1. Choose your host.
    I like WordPress because I find it quite intuitive, but I know it might not suit everybody. WordPress.com is free. WordPress.org is paid and may require a bit more tinkering, but you can use your own domain name if you want to. A couple of alternatives are blogger and edublogs, but again, take a look around and see what works for you.
  2. Design your blog.
    For me, this was one of the most fun parts. I started with one theme, then changed my mind after a couple of months because I decided it didn’t really ‘fit’ me, and then moved on to the rainbow theme you see now. If you’re anything like me, you’ll end up spending 3-4 hours doing this and head down a bit of a rabbit hole, but it’s worth it because it’s part of your professional branding.
  3. Write your first post!
    It doesn’t need to be long, and it might be as simple as telling people why you’ve decided to start your blog. Here’s my first post. Once you’ve written one post, it’s much easier to write more 😉

What to write about

But of course, you won’t always know what to write about! An important rule of thumb for me is that you should write about what interests you. Don’t feel like you must write about something in particular because that’s the way that ‘blogs are written’. If you wouldn’t read it, why would anybody else? 🙂

You can…

  • …share your materials or ideas
    Don’t worry if you think your idea is not earth-shattering or completely original. Remember that people will read your blog at different stages of their career: they might be new to teaching or in a completely different context and have never seen it before, or they might be experienced and these things have fallen out of their head (!)
    Having said that, if you are basing your idea on the work of others, please credit them and provide a link or a book reference if possible to avoid plagiarism. There’s nothing more annoying than something you’ve put a lot of work into appearing verbatim on somebody’s else’s blog with no acknowledgement. Thank you for not being that person. Here endeth the lecture.
  • …reflect on lessons or experiences.
    What worked? What didn’t work? The latter is often more fruitful and interesting – don’t be afraid to share failure, as it can result in tips from others that will help you improve. Here’s an example. Reflecting on experiences outside the classroom can also be interesting to readers, especially those who want to find out more about what it’s like to work in a particular type of school/culture/country.
  • …ask questions.
    As you build up your readers and promote your blog, you should get some interesting answers. Often just the act of posing the question yourself can help you to move closer to the answer.
  • …summarise a webinar, seminar, presentation or conference.
    This helps you to keep track of sessions you’ve attended, and brings them to the attention of other people who may have missed them or been unable to attend. It’s also interesting to see what each person’s take is on a particular session. For examples, why not explore the IATEFL Birmingham 2016 register bloggers?
  • …respond to other blogs.
    If you read something on another blog, you might like to write a longer response to it on your own. What are your thoughts on the same topic? Did you try out a particular activity? Naomi Epstein is particularly good at doing this on Visualising Ideas.

Tips - pictures, share buttons, about page

If you start writing a blog, there are three things you can do which will help your readers:

  • Include a picture with each post.
    People are more likely to engage with a link if it’s accompanied by a picture than if it’s just text. Don’t forget to acknowledge copyright by including the source of the image, and to ask for permission if necessary.
  • Add share buttons to your blog.
    On WordPress.com, this is an option in the ‘settings’ tab of the dashboard. If people can share at the click of a button without having to copy and paste links, your post should get a wider readership.
  • Create an ‘about‘ page.
    You’re putting in all the work, so tell people who you are! They’ll wonder who’s writing all this stuff. Don’t forget to update it periodically – mine was a year out of date when I put together this presentation. Oops!

Self-promotion

It can be a bit daunting to start promoting your blog, and it may feel immodest, but if you’re not going to tell people about it, why write it?

It doesn’t need to be much, but please do tell people about your writing: share a link on Twitter using the #eltchat hashtag, post it on facebook, email it to a few people who you think might be interested… Genevieve White has some great advice about self-promotion for wallflowers to help you. You can use the #shamelessselfpromotion hashtag if you want to 🙂

On the other hand, try to avoid spamming by sharing your post in twenty different places in an hour – I don’t know about other people, but I’m liable to ignore that content because it annoys me (!)

Do bear in mind that it can take a while to build up readers. I started my blog in 2010, I write quite a lot, and this is what my stats look like as of today:

sandymillin blog stats as of 21 May 2016

A lot of those views come from people returning to old content which they’ve found useful, and a new post often only gets 50-100 readers in the first couple of weeks, whatever it might look like from the number of subscribers it says I have at the top of the page 🙂 Remember, too, that stats aren’t the most important thing, although they can be pretty addictive!

Questions

I was asked two questions at the end of the presentation.

The first was ‘What do you do about negativity?’ When dealing with negative comments, of which thankfully there seem to be few, I moderate comments before posting, so they only appear if people have previously commented on my blog or I have approved them. I can then choose if I want to share a negative comment or not. Obviously I still read them, and you have to deal with it in the same way as you would negativity in any other area, for example student feedback. Consider it on balance with all of the positives, and try not to let this happen:

How negative comments echo in our heads

The other question was ‘Why blog?’, and I hope I’ve managed to answer that throughout this post. I’d love to hear your reasons for blogging (or not!) and for you to share a link if you decide to start your own blog.

Thanks for the opportunity to present, Innovate ELT!

Hopefully, you’ll also be able to read my summary of some of the other talks I attended soon.

Update

At the end of the conference Milada Krajewska from Lang LTC in Warsaw interviewed me about blogging for teachers. Apologies for the background noise as they packed up the conference!

I know who I am, but who are you?

I’m totally stealing this idea from Joanna Malefaki. In fact, I’m going to steal her words too:

I would really appreciate it, if you took a minute to say hello, tell me where you are from/about yourself, and what you like reading in the ELT blogs you read.

I am doing this cause I want to get to know the people who actually read my posts. Reading your comments really puts a smile on my face!

I’ve often wondered who reads my blog, and while I’ve had the pleasure to meet many of you *waves!*

Not that kind of waves!

Not that kind of waves! (my image)

I know there are a lot more of you out there. So, don’t be afraid, say hello!

Blogging for professional development (British Council webinar)

On Thursday 21st May 2015 I was honoured to present as part of the British Council webinar series. Since blogging is such a central part of my teaching and my life, I’m often asked about it. In this webinar, I tell you:

  • where to find blogs connected to teaching;
  • what to do with the posts you read;
  • how to keep up with the blogs;
  • how to start your own blog.

Sandy's blogging webinar

Here is a recording of the webinar, including a list of many of the blogs which were shared by myself and the participants during the talk. Here are my slides: All of the links in the presentation should be clickable. If any of them don’t work, please let me know. If you have a favourite blog to read, feel free to share it in the comments so that others can follow it too. And if you start a teaching blog, I’d love to hear about it. Good luck!

There’s a summary of the webinar on tekhnologic’s blog.

Blogging for professional development (webinar announcement)

On Thursday 21st May 2015 I’ll be giving a webinar on behalf of Teaching English British Council, all about blogging for professional development. It’s 13:00-14:00 CET – find out what time that is in your time zone.

You can register for the webinar and find out more information.

See you there!

What do you gain from using blogs for professional development?

Micro-dictations (TeachingEnglish blog associates)

I’m very proud to be one of the TeachingEnglish associates, a group of wonderful English teachers from around the world. Each month a series of topics is posted on the ‘blogs‘ section of the British Council TeachingEnglish site, which everyone is invited to write about, including you! Here are the topics for July 2014. If you haven’t tried blogging before, why not give it a go? To inspire you, the associates offer their takes on the topics.

My contribution for July is an introduction to micro-dictations, one of the activities I use to help students improve their listening skills. Adam Simpson has written a balanced argument for and against homework and Larry Ferlazzo suggests a range of sites students can use to practise their English over the summer.

If you do choose to join in, why not share the link here so that others can read your posts?

Summer's here

Summer’s here

The big reveal (TeachingEnglish blog associates)

I’m very proud to be one of the TeachingEnglish associates, a group of wonderful English teachers from around the world. Each month a series of topics is posted on the ‘blogs‘ section of the British Council TeachingEnglish site, which everyone is invited to write about, including you! Here are the topics for June 2014, all based on images taken from ELTpics, which I co-curate along with a lovely team of teachers from around the world. One of the four prompt photos is also by me 🙂 If you haven’t tried blogging before, why not give it a go? To inspire you, the associates offer their takes on the topics.

Marry Me Yes

Photo by @oyajimbo, from ELTpics, shared under a Creative Commons 2.0 licence

My contribution for June is on based on the image above, entitled ‘Marry me – yes’. Click here to read it: The Big Reveal’. It’s a tried and tested lesson structure which has served me well!

If you do choose to join in, why not share the link here so that others can read your posts?

Infinite ELT Ideas is back!

My Infinite ELT Ideas blog has finally been resurrected! Hopefully I’ll be able to keep up posting on it this time, as there’ll be no Delta to eat my time!

To start you off again, here’s the latest prompt, based on the BBC World Service ’60 second idea to improve the world’. All you need to do is click on the link, read the post, and suggest ideas for how to use the podcast in class. What are you waiting for?!

60 second Idea to Improve the World

I’m a terrible student – motivate me! (TeachingEnglish blog associates)

I’m very proud to be one of the TeachingEnglish associates, a group of wonderful English teachers from around the world. Each month a series of topics is posted on the ‘blogs‘ section of the British Council TeachingEnglish site, which everyone is invited to write about, including you! Here are the topics for May 2014. If you haven’t tried blogging before, why not give it a go? To inspire you, the associates offer their takes on the topics.

My contribution for April is on the topic of motivating students to learn outside the classroom: ‘I’m a terrible student – motivate me!‘. I shared three things I’ve used with my students and as a language learner myself.

I would recommending reading all of the April 2014 posts, covering topics like motivating students to write, and the future of education. My favourite is by Ceri Jones: ‘The dog ate it‘.

If you do choose to join in, why not share the link here so that others can read your posts?

A brief introduction to online professional development (IH DoS conference 2014)

I’ve just returned from my first International House Director of Studies conference, which I will hopefully write about later this week.

I did a ten-minute session as part of a ‘speed-dating’ format, where I presented the same idea five or six times – I lost count! Here are my slides, along with the associated links, with a commentary aimed at Directors of Studies, but which will hopefully be useful to anyone who reads it.

Shelly Terrell

Shelly Terrell

This is Shelly Terrell, one of the most prolific sharers of content online. Her blog is Teacher Reboot Camp, where she has a lot of information about using technology in class, along with other areas of teaching, as well as the 30 Goals Challenge. She also does webinars every Friday for the American TESOL institute. I chose this picture to start my presentation because it sums up why I love online CPD – great people, a caring community, and lots of ideas.

Twitter

This is where my online professional development started. I like Twitter because it’s completely open – you can follow anyone, anyone can follow you. Although I use it less now than I used to, I still look at it briefly every day, and use it a lot during conferences.

A tweet is 140 characters, the same length as a text message. Here’s an example:

Tweet

‘@’ introduces someone’s Twitter name (or ‘handle’). When it is blue, you can click on it and choose to follow that person or organisation, so that you can read what they are writing about. In this example @KatySDavies and @BCseminars are clickable.

‘#’ introduces a topic on Twitter (or ‘hashtag’). You can click on it to read everything people are saying about that topic. This example includes the hashtag #eltchat, which is one of the most popular hashtags for the English teaching community.

ELTchat tweet stream

ELTchat summaries index word cloud

Every Wednesday, at 12pm and 9pm UK time a one-hour conversation takes place using the #eltchat hashtag. The topic for each chat is announced beforehand, and anyone can join in simply by including the hashtag in their tweets. At the end of the chat, one participant summarises the conversation and turns it into a blogpost. The blogposts are collected in the #eltchat summaries index, one of the most useful resources on the web. #eltchat started in October 2010, and previous chats have covered an incredibly wide range of topics. Some chats that might be particularly relevant for Directors of Studies include:

For a more in-depth introduction to using Twitter, take a look at my beginner’s guide.

Facebook

There are a lot of pages on facebook which are aimed at English teachers. Some are location-specific (e.g. Czech Republic, Turkey), some are by authors (e.g. Hugh Dellar and Andrew Walkley) and others are by publishers (e.g. Richmond ELT).

As far as I’m concerned, the most useful page is Teaching English – British Council, which has nearly 1.5 million likes as I write this. Ann Foreman, who runs it, posts a whole range of links, starts discussions, and shares ideas. It’s a thriving community.

Teaching English British Council

For many teachers, facebook is probably the easiest way of accessing online professional development, as if you already use facebook, it’s a simple matter of clicking ‘like’ on a couple of pages.

Blogs

Since I started blogging about three years ago, I have changed dramatically as a teacher. While a lot of this is due to the fact I started using social media professionally at the same time and have now done my Delta, blogging has made me more reflective, and forced me to up my game in terms of the materials I produce, knowing they will be used by other people.

There are a huge range of English teaching blogs out there. You can find some of the ones I follow in my blogroll on the right of this page. I also have a Blog Starter List – if you think you should be on there, let me know!

Feedly blogs

To keep track of the blogs I follow I use a ‘reader’ called Feedly. It’s available online and as a free app. There are many readers out there, and this is just one example. You put the addresses of the blogs you follow into the reader, and it then becomes a one-stop shop, by automatically including all new posts from those blogs, meaning you don’t get a full email inbox, and you don’t have to remember to look at each blog individually on the off-chance there’s a new post. The image above shows you my list of posts to be read at the moment.

Two blogs which are particularly good for Directors of Studies are Be The DOS by Josh Round at St. George International, and The Secret DOS, which is incredibly funny, particularly his post about timetabling.

Webinars

A webinar is an online seminar, normally videoed, which you watch from the comfort of your own home. A lot of organisations provide webinars, including OUP, Cambridge, Macmillan, Pearson and British Council. My favourite ones so far were the 10-minute webinars at the International House 60th anniversary online conference. Click on the picture below to see them all.

IH TOC 60 webinars

 

There are now webinars on an incredibly wide range of different topics, so if you have one or two teachers who need input on a particularly topic, but not enough to warrant a full CPD session, you could refer them to a webinar, which you can then discuss with them afterwards. If you want to find a webinar on a particular topic, use the #eltchat hashtag on Twitter or one of the facebook pages mentioned above to ask people to point you in the right direction.

Questions

The most important thing about social media is how supportive the ELT community is. If you have any questions about anything mentioned in this post, please don’t hesitate to ask. Good luck!

Ten blogs in ten minutes (IH TOC 60)

I’ve just finished my presentation at the International House Teachers’ Online Conference to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the IH organisation. All of the presentations are 10 minutes long, and there are 60 presentations in total. All of the videos are (will be) available on the blog. There’s something for everyone!

IH 60th anniversary

For my presentation I had the difficult job of choosing 10 blogs to share with the world. I decided to choose blogs which I go back to again and again and/or which lead readers to other great bloggers. Sorry if I had to miss you out! Here is the presentation, handout and the video. Ten blogs in ten minutes (IH TOC 60)

Thanks to Mike Griffin for inspiring me to do this by celebrating his PLN.

Note: I made a little mistake with the ELTsquared blog, which is actually at http://www.eltsquared.co.uk – sorry Chris!

Happy birthday IH!

Update

Kevin’s blog, The Other Things Matter, has now moved to wordpress: https://theotherthingsmatter.wordpress.com/

The blog starter list has also moved.

12 from ’12

After the successful 11 from ’11 challenge which Adam Simpson did last year, he decided to run a 12 from ’12 follow-up. Not having much time to blog at the moment, it’s taken a while for me to reply to the challenge, so I hope it was worth the wait!

The biggest thing I’ve ever been involved in…

…and not related to teaching at all! Regular followers of this blog will know that my summer was mostly taken up with two things:

The Olympics

The Paralympics

where I worked as a volunteer, or Games Maker as we were called. It was an amazing experience, probably once-in-a-lifetime, and I still get tears in my eyes every time I talk about it. If you ever get the opportunity to be involved in a big sporting event, whether it has -lympics at the end or not, grab it with both hands. My posts about the Games include my selection of the best of my photos from back of house, the events I saw, the technical rehearsal for the Olympics opening ceremony and the athletes’ parade celebrating the success of TeamGB and ParalympicsGB athletes.

2012 Gold Medal in the British Museum

2012 Gold Medal in the British Museum (phot0 by Sandy Millin)

The teaching

Delta has taken over my life, and my blog. I explained what it is in this post, and have started a series of posts reflecting on some of the things Delta has changed in my classroom. There aren’t many yet, but more will be added over the next six months, time permitting!

In April I had one of the best weeks of my life at the IATEFL conference in Glasgow. I learnt a lot, and really enjoyed meeting so many people from Twitter and the teaching world. I wrote about it here. I presented about how to help your students take advantage of online resources.

In May I appeared in print for the first time. This was very important for me as it marked the next stage in my career. I’ve now had two columns in the IH Journal, and two articles in the IATEFL Learner Autonomy Special Interest Group journal.

I’ve shared quite a few posts with ideas for activities this year. These are my favourites:

And finally, at the start of the year I put together a list of Useful FCE Websites. This has become by far my most successful blog post ever, with three times as many hits as the next most popular post on my blog. Pretty good for a few hours’ work, even if I do say so myself!

Best of the rest

To stop this post sounding completely self-indulgent, I’d also like to share a few of my favourite blogs which I’ve discovered this year. These are:

Kevin Stein’s The Other Things Matter

Carol Goodey’s new blog

Chris Wilson’s ELT Squared (I think I discovered Chris’ blog this year, but even if I didn’t, it’s always worth recommending!)

Leo Selivan’s Leoxicon

That’s it!

I’ve had a very eventful 2012, which I’ve really enjoyed. I’m quite tired now though, so here’s hoping 2013 is a little more relaxing…

Setting up a self-hosted blog

This guest post was written by Chris Wilson, who has his own self-hosted blog at ELT Squared. On his blog one post is about choosing a blog provider to use with students. He has also written a step-by-step guide to for setting up a Posterous blog. Over to Chris:

If you reading this I’m guessing you’ve been convinced. It’s time to set up a blog.

Congratulations and welcome to the club!

Just to help you along the way I thought I’d pass on a few tips I’ve learnt during my many years of blogging, and by the end of this post, you’ll have set up your own self-hosted blog. But first let’s answer some important questions.

Why do you want a blog?

This can really affect every subsequent step you take. If this is something for yourself and you don’t really want anyone else to see then you’ll choose something completely different from someone who wants a blog to make money.

Why should you choose a self-hosted blog?

There are many great free blogs but they do lack some features of pricey ones (such as audio/video hosting or advertising). The free ones are great to start out on but from experience of changing between blogs three times it’s best to stick with just one.

How can you choose a name/style?

Go through these questions quickly and answer them honestly. They can help you pick a good name to use for your blog/persona.

  • Think of three adjectives to describe yourself
  • Imagine your ideal reader then try to write to them
  • Write down some books/blogs etc that you enjoy reading. What do you like about them/the way they write?
  • What other influences do you have? What is it that you like about them?

Setting up a self-hosted blog

Self-hosted blogs are very different from hosted blogs in that they require YOU to buy your own webhosting, basically a place where you can upload information, or in this case a website, to the internet and then other people can access it. Self hosting is obviously a lot more technical and requires a great deal of computer competency. It also costs money, thought the exact amounts vary.

However, the advantage is it is completely customisable! You can do whatever you want with it, install any add-ons you like, change the theme to any theme you like, have your own unique domain name etc.

I recently changed over to a self-hosted wordpress blog (wordpress are generally considered the best blog option) and I have not regretted it.

Here is the more detailed instruction process I followed

  1. Sign up to a hosting company.
    There are various webhosting companies which have different features and different pricing schemes. I use Zyma.com which is a British company that offers great support. Despite my issues in setting up, they quickly responded and helped me through every step. Their service costs only £4.95 a year, but there is a hidden charge. You also have to pay for domain hosting. Despite owning my own domain before I went over to Zyma, I still had to pay for it for 2 years at £18.98 in total.
    For a list of different companies check out this comparison list.
    Once you have your webhosting you will need to choose your domain name and you can even have one that ends in .com .co.uk or any other country domain!
  2. Installing wordpress
    Once you have signed up you need to log in to your cPanel (control panel) and then install wordpress. Many hosting services have a quick install option which is usually under a category like software and services. One of the great things about Zyma is the presence of this quick install option and video guides on their website for how to install a blog.
    For more detailed instructions on how to install wordpress with or without a quick install option click this link.
    Consider where to install your blog. If you install it in a subdirectory (like /blog) then you can have a website with several sections including a blog! When you are installing, it will ask you for an account name and a password. This is very important as they are your administrator account details.
  3. Getting the details
    Enter the email address where you want your blog details to be sent to (you may have got a free email address along with your domain and webhosting)
  4. Done!
    Once you have installed your wordpress blog, you’re basically good to go! Except you have to wait 24-48 hrs for the domain name to be registered for your blog and for your use. However, you can get your first post ready, find a cool theme, write your about page and much more! You should be able to log in to your admin page via your server address (a series of numbers) and /wp-admin/ or once your domain is up using this formula: http://www.domain name/wp-admin/

If you are considering a self-hosted installation, then there is no harm in setting up a blog on wordpress.com first so you can get used to the style of using wordpress ready for when you have your own site. [The blog you’re reading right now is hosted on wordpress.com.]

I hope this is a useful guide for how to set up a blog. If you have any more questions then leave a comment, visit me at eltsquared.co.uk or find me on twitter @MrChrisJWilson.

Twitter and Blogs for Professional Development (post-IATEFL)

During IATEFL I had quite a few conversations about joining Twitter and starting blogs. I know that both of these processes can be quite daunting when you’re new – it’s only 18 months since I started, and the learning curve at the beginning was pretty steep!

To that end, I’ve collated a few blog posts which might help:

When I have a bit more time, I’ll hopefully write a beginner’s guide to blogging along the lines of the Twitter one above or my Independent English blog (shameless plug there!)

I hope these links help, and if there’s anything you need advice on that isn’t covered here, leave a comment and I’ll see what I can do!

My new blog: Independent English

As if two blogs weren’t enough 😉

I set up ‘Independent English‘ for students, with the aim of giving them ideas to help them practise English at home. I plan to post roughly once a week, with each post being a step-by-step guide which they can work through alone or with a teacher. If I have time, I will also record myself reading the post so that students can listen to it if they are not confident readers. It is probably best for B1/Intermediate and higher at the moment, although some posts may be suitable for lower levels later.

The first entry is about podcasts, including a list of links to (in my opinion) good podcasts for learners and native speakers to listen to.

There is also a facebook page for you to ‘like’.

Please feel free to pass the link on to your students, and/or to give me feedback on how to improve the site. Hope you find it useful!

Tools for the 21st-Century Teacher

This is my take on the tools presented by Niall Creaney during the closing plenary at the PARK Conference in Brno on 2nd April 2011. If you have a problem with any of the links, please let me know in the comments. The tools are:

  1. Twitter
  2. Blogs
  3. Google Reader
  4. Social bookmarking
  5. Glogster
  6. Prezi
  7. Dropbox
  8. Evernote
  9. Quizlet
  10. Wallwisher
  11. TitanPad
  12. Skype
  13. Word clouds

I have also added a bonus tool:

11b. Google Docs

1. Twitter (@sandymillin)

Twitter has opened so many doors since I started using it in October 2010. It’s a micro-blogging site, where you send messages 140-characters long out into the world. For teachers, this means an international community full of support, inspiration and ideas. To find out more about what it’s about and how to get started, take a look at this conference presentation I did about blogs and Twitter for teachers. (Update: I also have a complete introduction to Twitter for Professional Development)

It seems scary at first, but if you keep going back and try to spend an hour or so playing with it at some point, you’ll get the hang of it. For the first couple of months I lurked, which is completed normal (find out more by taking a look at the post on the Online Professional Development survey I did in January 2011, through Twitter of course!) Now I spend a few minutes every day having a quick look at the links, and I always find something to make it worth it: useful, thought-provoking and/or fun.

As well as using it for professional development, many teachers use it with their students. I haven’t tried it myself, but here are some links to people who have:

2. Blogs

I started this blog in October 2010, but nothing much happened on it until I started posting regularly in January 2011. Partly through promoting my blog on Twitter and partly through presenting at conferences and promoting it, my stats look like this:

Apart from giving you a great positive feeling every time you see your stats :), writing a blog is an excellent way to reflect on your teaching. You can use it to share ideas, connect with other teachers, get inspiration and so much more! As with Twitter above, you can find out more about what teachers use it for on my Online Professional Development Survey post, and see how to get started with it in the Whole New World of ELT one.

3. Google Reader

As well as writing your own blog, there are hundreds of other teachers in the blogosphere sharing their ideas. To get you started, take a look at the sites in my blogroll (on the right of this page).

The best way to keep track of the blogs you read is to use a reader, such as Google Reader. Once you’ve signed up (free), you add the links to the blogs you want to follow and the reader does the rest. This is what my page looks like:

This is the first page I see when I go onto the site. In the centre are all the posts that have been added to blogs since I last went on the site. As I read them they automatically disappear from the main page, but I can access them again by clicking on the name of the blog in the bottom left-hand corner. Of course, you can also go back to the original blog address too!

Here are some links to help you get started:

4. Social Bookmarking

So now you’ve had a look at Twitter and blogs and you’ve found loads of great new ideas. How do you keep track of them? The answer is Social Bookmarking. Rather than keeping your links on your computer, where you could easily lose them if anything went wrong, you can use a site like Delicious or Diigo. You can access your bookmarks from any computer, without having to worry about being on the same machine. You can also tag them with as many words as you like, making them easier for you to find again.

This is my page on Diigo:

As you can see, each link is tagged with various key words which I have chosen myself. To find a page again, I have various options:

  • I can search for any word I remember from the title / post using a box in the top right (not shown);
  • I can search for a specific tag by typing it in the box at the top (where it says ‘filter by tags’)
  • I can click on a tag underneath a link
  • I can click on a tag in the menu on the left

This is the little bar which appears in my browser (Safari) whenever I want to add a site to my bookmarks:

You simply click ‘Bookmark’ when on the page you want to share, change any of the options you choose, and hey, presto! it’s added to your bookmarks. You can also upload the bookmarks from your computer straight onto the social bookmarking site to keep them all together.

As for the ‘social’ part of social bookmarking, you can subscribe to other people’s links and be updated whenever they add to them. My Diigo page is here if you’re interested.

Here are some pages to get you started:

5. Glogster

This is the first of the tools which is mainly for students to use. The slogan is ‘Poster Yourself’, and it does what it says on the tin. Here are some examples of work created by 14-year-old boys in the UK: they created glogs about Spanish-speaking celebrities as part of their Spanish studies at secondary school. It is an easy tool for students to use, and the results look impressive quickly. You can include pictures, videos and text, then embed your glog in other sites, such as on a class blog or a school webpage. This one was embedded into a wiki (via @tperran). Students could use it as an alternative to traditional paper-based homework, then email you the link. There is even an option to create a Glogster for Education account, where you can create accounts for your students for free.

Here are some tutorials to start you off:

6. Prezi

Prezi is a web-based alternative to Powerpoint, used to create striking presentations which you can either present online or download to your computer. If you’ve seen my Whole New World of ELT presentation, then you’ve already seen your first prezi. As with Twitter, it looks a little scary at first glance, but once you’ve had a look at some other examples of presentations, followed the tutorial you are given when you first log in to Prezi and played around a little, you’ll soon get the hang of it. One tip: zoom out as far as you can before you start making your presentation if you intend to have a lot of ‘layers’ – the default setting is slightly zoomed in.

You can use it in the classroom too. Here is an example of a presentation made with American primary school students (via @surrealyno). And here are more ideas:

These are the Prezi Learn pages – an excellent guide to get you started.

7. Dropbox

Dropbox is a free online file-sharing site. First download their desktop application, then drag the file you want to share into the folder on your computer. Dropbox will automatically ‘sync’, making your online Dropbox look exactly like the Dropbox folder on your computer and vice-versa (if somebody updates the file online, it will update in your Dropbox too). You can then invite people to see your files and folders. Here is a video tutorial to show you how it works. This is my homepage:

The free account comes with 2GB of space, with an extra 0.25GB added for every person you refer to the site. I have now referred 3 people so I have 2.75GB.

It’s a great way for students to submit work to you as they don’t have to worry about space limits. It’s a lot easier than traditional file-sharing sites in my opinion. I haven’t used it with my students as yet, but it’s been useful for sharing materials with colleagues en masse.

One teacher (lucky enough to have computers for every student!) used Dropbox to synchronise student presentations. To see an excellent summary of everything you ever needed to know about Dropbox, including links to a few lesson plans (mostly primary and secondary), click here.

8. Evernote

This is the first of these tools which I’ve not used myself, so I’ll let them explain themselves to you:

EvernoteIt seems it’s an easy way to take notes on anything and in any way you could possibly imagine: use it to type notes, take screenshots, store photos and much-more – it’s like an online, searchable filing cabinet. It can be accessed from computers and mobile devices. Here is their guide to find out how to get started. I reckon the best thing to do is just go and play, then come back here and let others know what you’ve been doing with it… (Thanks in advance!)

9. Quizlet

This is a customisable flashcard site purposely designed for language learners to use for self-study. It is incredibly easy to use, and you don’t even need to create an account if you already have a facebook one. Once you’ve signed in, there are three big blue buttons to greet you:

You can search for flashcards that have already been created or make your own quickly and easily. Quizlet’s own guide is here. Once you’ve created the set, your students can then look at the flashcards and play two fun games to help them practise the words. This set about vegetables (created by @NikkiFortova) is a good example that you can play with. You can also create groups so that all of your students can see the flashcards you create for them. It’s principally designed for self-study, and the makers recommend allowing students to choose when / if they want to use it.

Update: I have created a complete beginner’s guide to Quizlet.

10. Wallwisher

Wallwisher is one of a variety of online bulletin boards. Others include Primary Wall and Lino-It. All of these tools allow you to post notes, pictures, videos and links on a ‘wall’ which looks similar to a real-world noticeboard. This is the demo screenshot they have on their homepage:

Here is a wall I created for students to post suggestions on how to practise English outside class (unfortunately students didn’t get into it in this class, but I know others who have!) Apart from the example just mentioned, I’ve only added to walls other people have made to send birthday wishes, but there are many other uses for it!

11. TitanPad

This is the only other tool on the list which I have not used myself. TitanPad is designed for online collaboration when creating documents. This is the example they show on their homepage:

As you can see, each collaborator has their own colour, clearly marking who has edited what in the file. You can save versions of the file and export it in various formats. Up to 8 people are allowed to collaborate on each document. The main attraction is that no sign-up is required – you can create a pad directly from the homepage. Unfortunately, it also has some disadvantages, as the pad is public to anyone who has the url. This post explains how it can be useful.

11b. Google Docs (update: now called Google Drive, but still does the same thing!)

If you’ve ever used Microsoft packages, you can use Google Docs without any more effort than simply logging in. You can create documents, spreadsheets and presentations online, as well as professional-looking forms. It looks similar to other offline software, making it very quick to learn if you are already familiar with document etc. software. Here is Google’s tour of their docs function.

As with TitanPad, you can view changes made by other collaborators and the documents are updated in real-time. You can also find out who else is viewing the document at the same time as you. You need to sign in, but don’t have to have a Google account to do this.

Google Docs have myriad uses in the classroom. My students used a document to give me definitions of words and a form to answer reading comprehension questions of an online article during a webquest. Here are some suggestions from other teachers:

12. Skype

Skype is a piece of software which you can download to your computer, then use to make phonecalls to people anywhere in the world. Watch the visual explanation to find out more (they explain it better than I can!):

In March 2011, Skype created an Education section of their website. This enables teachers to set up projects with other schools around the world, as well as finding inspiration for Skype-related projects. Here are 50 suggestions for using Skype, based on real projects which teachers have done. It’s a great way to bring the real world into your classroom.

13. Word clouds

A word cloud of this blogpost so far made using Wordle…

…and the same text entered into Tagxedo

As you can see, word clouds look visually stunning, and encourage students to read and think about what is there. The online software processes the text, making each word appear once in the cloud sized according to how often it appeared in the original text (i.e. the more a word appears in the original text, the bigger it is in the cloud) I won’t go into too much detail here, as I have already blogged and created presentations about word clouds. The posts can be found here, and include links to tutorials for both Wordle and Tagxedo, as well as many ideas on how to use them:

So, that’s it: thirteen (plus one!) tools presented at the PARK Conference, explained in my own words. If you have any more suggestions on how to use the tools, or think I need to make any corrections, feel free to comment on the post. I look forward to hearing what you think!

Enjoy!

25th March 2011: I’ve just discovered that the original plenary session on which I based my list of tools was taken from this page: http://issuu.com/mzimmer557/docs/tools_for_the_21st_century_teacher. You will find more tools and more information there.

Clouding my blog

Here’s my response to Dave Dodgson’s mini challenge based on his wordclouds presentation from the 2011 Virtual Round Table conference:

In word cloud format (using wordle) you can see that I’ve just done a post on Cuisenaire rods with Ceri, hence the large ‘rods’ and ‘one’, the latter of which also comes from the articles post. I didn’t realise how much I’d used the word ‘one’ until it appeared here! As with Dave and Vladka, I’m happy that the word ‘students’ is so large in the cloud too. You can draw your own conclusions from the rest of it!

To see what I’ve done with word clouds with my students, take a look at the first part of the presentation in this post.

Enjoy!

A Whole New World of ELT (IH Brno Conference 2011)

[Since doing this presentation, I have created a much clearer introduction to Twitter, and done a 10-minute introduction to ten of my favourite blogs.]

On Saturday February 19th 2011, I presented this session on online professional development, with a focus on blogs and Twitter.

If you have any questions, comments or feedback, feel free to comment on this post or contact me on Twitter @sandymillin. I look forward to seeing you again in my PLN!

cartoon from www.weblogcartoons.com

Don’t end up like this!

Cartoon by Dave Walker. Find more cartoons you can freely re-use on your blog at We Blog Cartoons.

I have also included some more links related to Twitter and blogs to help you out.

Twitter

Blogs

Other posts on my blog which you might be interested in

Final thoughts

Updates

These links have been added since the conference:

Twitter

Blogs

PLNs and Continuing Professional Development

Invite them in (30goals)

This is my contribution for this week’s 30 goals challenge, set by Shell Terrell.

Goal 6: Invite them in

The first challenge of the week was to invite colleagues and those around us in to see what we do in our classrooms. I always have the door open at school, or the blinds open on the meeting room windows at company classes. I’ve always enjoyed having other teachers come into the room, and peeking into my colleagues’ rooms when their doors are open too.

But what I’ve not been doing is sharing my students’ work outside the room – it’s always been for myself and them only. So for the last couple of weeks I’ve been trying to encourage students to (allow me to) share what they’ve been doing. The result is a new blog with work from as many of my students as possible. This has been positive for them, allowing them to see that there is a wider audience for their work, and for myself too, allowing me to get feedback from both teachers and students on what we’ve been doing.

The Online Professional Development Survey

I’ve spent this afternoon putting together the responses to the Online Professional Development Survey I sent out on Twitter this week. 43 very helpful people responded – thank you very much!

I have also included all of the comments as there were so many they didn’t make it onto the final slideshow! I thought they should be included somewhere though, so here goes:

What do you think you’ve gained from using Twitter for professional development?

What have you gained from using Twitter for professional development? (a wordle)

A great PLN
Loads of new ideas
An invigorating community
– sharing links and ideas
– being motivated to look for new things to share
– being in touch with what`s going on in the ELT world
– following conference updates if I can`t attend in person
– supporting fellow teachers with great ideas by retweeting or spreading the word
– inspiration for developing my own materials
– slowly plucking up courage to join in discussions and voice my own opinions
Motivation; new ideas; reflection on current practices; free training for online tools; connecting with like-minded professionals
A great deal of professional support and advice, lots of amazing ideas and resources as well as help when I need it.
A lot more than one would think. The information that is tweeted out, e.g. on free webinars, ideas, views on edreform, etc. provided me with more opportunities for self-development than in the previous 10 years. It also gave me the opportunity to connect with like-minded people in the profession. As a now freelance ELT teacher and teacher trainer, this gave me a lot of reassurance and further fueled my passion for my profession. Thank you my PLN!
Access to a network of incredibly dedicated and committed ELT professionals, sharing links to innovative resources and creative ideas for teaching, training…Motivates me, and hope to use it to motivate others.
A network of valuable professionals with interesting views and links, which give me something to mull over. Also enthusiasm for my job and new skills.
a whole new range of ideas and materials that I wouldn’t have found on my own
I’ve connected and shared/learned from educators I would never have met otherwise. I’ve learned many different tools and sites. I discovered blogs written by teachers and the millions of activities shared through those, the reflections they incite.
lots of teaching ideas & motivation to continue developing
resources, ideas, follow great colleagues, become a part of the global educational community, share projects, ideas, feel connected.
Access to the latest in ELT and EdTech from the people at the cutting edge.
Networking and friendship with important educators.
Knowledge of the latest in Web 2.0
Almost too much to mention! In brief:
– connections with great educators from around the world.
– discussions on lesson ideas/general ideas about education & ELT
– links to ELT blogs
– links to web 2.0 resources and (perhaps more importantly) discussion, reflection and advice on how to utilise them in class
– the opportunity to attend and present at conferences, both face to face ones and online events.
I’ve learnt a great deal, and met some wonderful educators from around the world.
links to other amazing TESOL blogs through retweets
Much greater awareness of discussions and people in ELT. New ideas & ways to work with learners.
I have gained contact with fellow teachers from all over the world thus expanding my pd network
A chance to meet like-minded professionals
LOTS of new ideas and resources, and can see a constant stream of new ones to come. Am planning on setting up a hashtag to use to stream things to my work colleagues in a new virtual space I’m setting up right now.
Incredible ed resources, a professional network, and an increased blog readership
the abundance of resources sharing which is not possible if I do it alone
I have gained lots of human connections to whatever information I am seeking at the time.
– Gained a really large community of learners/supporters/teachers
– Able to reflect more often
– Great resource for finding useful sites/information/tools/sessions
The latest in education from around the world. Sharing ideas with teachers in a virtual “staffroom”. Often not the time to do this on the job.
PLN, friendships, helping/advising others, getting help/advice, staff (I’m a sub and don’t have a staff, home school)
Lots of new learning tools and links. Following inspiring educators. Lots of contemporary ideas.
I have gained access to a group of really motivated educators who have great classroom ideas and great insight into the current ed policy debates.
A global network of educators who tweet interesting and useful links.
meeting other great educators; sharing ideas, information and expertise; participating in webinars, courses etc..; collaborating on projects; learning
I discovered very interesting web tools and resources to use them effectively
“1. Network of new colleagues
2. So many new resources
3. Ideas about teaching, ideas for classroom activities, ideas about grading
4. Daily professional development
5. A place to bounce ideas around (chats)
6. A community”
The confidence that I am not crazy in thinking that education is changing and has to change. Even though I am passionate about technology in education and have been working with it for over 20 years ( was involved in the ACOT program), I still need a support group!
Differentiated and personalized professional development

What do you think you’ve gained from using blogs for professional development?

What do you gain from using blogs for professional development?

“Reflection time; A sense of community – I’m not the only one doing these things”

“- great opportunity to look at teaching through someone else`s eyes- juxtaposing your ideas with those of others – that makes you reflect on the very basic concepts sometimes”

Reflection and clarifying my own ideas and thoughts; blog posts take longer to write and help me sort out my own thinking on various topics and areas.

Responding to useful/valuable blog posts engages me in interacting with colleagues further and at a deeper level.

Again, support, new ideas and being connected to like minded people

Got to know the people from my PLN a little better, especially on what their interest areas are, their thought on educational issues. It also gives me the opportunity to get more insight into where today’s EFL is going, what the trends are, general problems, issues that need to be solved.

New educational platforms, blended learning forms and tools, educational technology that haven’t reached us yet in Central and Eastern Europe (am based in HUngary)…. and a lot more.

I need/want to explore more myself, manage time to factor in reading blogs contacts and new ideas

More confidence in using technology in the classroom, a wide range of lesson ideas based around youtube etc

I’ve learned about new tools and how to use them, I’ve been pushed to reflect upon my practices and experiment in my classes.

lots of ideas

lifelong learning

A greater awareness of what’s happening today in ELT and EdTech

“My own blog has been great for reflecting on what I’ve done in the classroom, both for sharing lessons and activities that worked really well and evaluating activities that didn’t work so well. The feedback I receive from other teachers in the form of comments has been invaluable in shaping my thinking too.

From other people’s blogs, I have gained many ideas to adapt for my own classrooms and plenty of ‘food for thouıght’. Reading somebody else’s thoughts on teaching (no matter what thier context) and seeing things from their perspective is a great way to reflect.”

Again, I feel that I’ve learnt a great deal, and it has certainly kept me much more current with regards to developments in my field that I probably would have otherwise been.Beyond how I’m able to apply what I learn in my ESL classroom at an international school in Cambodia. Most of the students are ELLs so I’m able to forward suitable links to co-workers in various disciplines because of the blogs I follow.

Reassurance that I’m on the right track with what I’m currently doing. Deepening knowledge and understanding of language learning, people’s experiences, and language. Ideas to use in my own practice. I have read about current educational moves and it has improved my reflective practice

A wealth of resources and teacing tips for professional developmentreflectionLots of new ideas, resources, and things to reflect on and share.Blogging is an incredible tool for reflecting on my own teaching practice, and learning from other teachers around the world

“Through other people’s reflections I can feel more connected or like I am doing things on par with others. Finding tools, and getting new ideas to motivate my students with their blogs.

“New skills and tools. resources, networking (reading and commenting), validation (like minds, not alone or not only who thinks/questions that), opposing views, entirely new (to me) topic/method/tool/etc.Being able to look back at my development and changing ideas and practices. Getting ideas for using web tools in the classroom. Professional practice.

Many fantastic resources and ideas. For myself I love the idea of reflective practice. In order to learn, I have discovered, I need to write.

A chance to air my own thoughts and share my ideas, as well as reading about my colleagues’ own thoughts and ideas.

wider access to information and new ideas

Developed an insight into the way to use webtools appropriately

Daily professional development, enriching ideas, being part of a community of practice, a place for professional conversation

Too much to mention here

Reminded how important reflecting is for teachers.

I don’t do it yet. but it is on my 2011 to-do list

New colleagues’ ideas to follow and mimic.

What do you think you have gained from using YouTube for professional development?

What do you think you have gained from using YouTube for professional development?

Ideas! Seeing how other teachers use their classrooms is good for observations in your own time (especially if it’s difficult to fit them in where you work)
“- appreciating the powerful message of a short video clip in the classroom context- adapting non-ELT related materials to the needs of my sts- observing other teachers at work (recordings of Jamie Keddie`s lessons = a must for every teacher)- ‘attending’ conferences that I couldn`t participate in by watching talks online”

Very useful tutorials on almost everything – especially Web 2.0 tools

“Mostly motivational power, the great feeling of “”I’m not alone thinking that ….””

A lot of quick and handy training videos on e.g. using tech tools for teaching, my blogs, etc.”
more exposure to new theories / ideas – similar to attending a conference session.

I’ve listened to some great lectures discussing education, I’ve discovered/watched videos that can be used in class with the students.
visualization of the data, inspiration
“Mainly, I’ve come to videos from links/embeds in blogs and tweets so the gains have been the same.
I’ve also embedded some videos from YouTube onto my school’s wiki page for teachers so my colleagues can benefit from them as well.”

“I found a book of Ken Wilson’s I believe will take my teaching to new heights usingDRAMA!”

Being able to see other classrooms has been both informative and reassuring. Also, it’s great to be able to see talks and interviews from ELT people. Found interesting materials to use with my classes
“New ideas, new tools, equipment etc. Resources to use with my students (and reviews of these)”
I have found several examples of classroom activities being used in actual classrooms.

“Handy for uploading videos and sharing on blogs.Great for experiment demonstrations for the students.”
same as blogs and Twitter, visual PD, humor, etc.

“Great visual learning for ‘How to …’ videos. Easy to understand when you are confused with written instructions. Can recommend videos to others for easy viewing, high interest level for audiences”
“Resources for students – better than just reading for them.
Professional development for myself – almost as good as going to a conference in some cases.”
the way to use some tools appropriately Nothing like pictures to show you how to do something.

Too much to discuss here
Inspiration, and sharing it with others

What do you think you have gained from using the BBC / British Council Teaching English website for professional development?

This was my introduction to online professional development, although I didn’t take the next step until Shaun Wilden came to our school and talked me in to Twitter!
“- interesting ideas to reflect on (articles)- activity ideas to use in class- insight into great ELT authors` views on teaching (guest blogging)”
This is the one I spend the least time on. I don’t think I have spent enough looking through on what it has to offer to be able to comment here.
Lesson ideas / materials and some good theoretical knowledgeLearned new techniques, activities to be used in class with my students.ideas
Lots of new ideas and resources and information for reflection. I share heaps of this with my colleagues.
New to it, so still exploring it. BBC has some great science resources as awell I have used.

What do you think you’ve gained from using online conferences / webinars for professional development?

What do you think you have gained from using online conferences / webinars for professional development?

“- new challenging experience – gaining confidence to share ideas online- meeting fellow teachers from around the world and sharing ideas with them”

A lot of practical ideas, getting to know both speakers and participants a little better in terms of what their thoughts are on specific issus. How things are done in other countries, ….. long long list. Could repeat everything I said for twitter, basically. Though these are more focussed and give me the opp. to select and join in the ones I would like. It also allows me to stay silent and just listen and read if I choose to.

The chance to listen to leading ELT practitioners without leaving office/home contacts and knowledge about ELT developments

lots of ideas and ability to present online

Confidence to present.

The ability to ‘attend’ a conference from the comfort of your own home is amazing. There is also the convenience of archived sessions if you miss the live broadcast. The main gain has been hearing/seeing what other teachers around the world do in their classes.

Being able to listen to people live while interacting with those around you in the chat or on twitter makes the ideas and information much more memorable and enjoyable.

“As a trainee, I have been able to listen to experts who would have otherwise been impossible to have access to.As a trainer, I have improved my presentation skills and shared my experiences with teachers all over the world.”

Not much so far that I couldn’t find on Google

connection with teachers worldwide

Ideas, resources, connections

I have regained the time that I used to waste in bad real-life conferences!

“I love them. You can multi-task, sit on the couch and add when you like to the chats. Very useful, make twitter friends, find links and websites that are shared. You can share some of your own learnings, and such in the chats or even raise your hand and speak if you are willing. Great place to be involved and learn.”

global/non-local perspective, “staff” PD days, networking, Collaboration. Global ideas. Current/future practices. Building a PLN

They are an easy way to participate in PD without having to leave your school or house. I only attend when the topic interests me (unlike other PD sometimes). The ability to participate from my own home without the expense/time of going somewhere far away.

Live communication techniques , making new connections Immeasurable – new ideas, new techniques, new tools, new technology, expansion of PLN

Directed, specific PD that keeps me fresh and in the “challenge zone” of my own learning.

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