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How might Covid-19 impact the world of education?

using hand sanitiser in the classroomAfter sinking or swimming in the virtual world of remote education, many teachers will probably look back at 2020 as when they learnt how to use most of the digital tools in the shortest of time. Some may look back and remember it as a time when they first recognised the English language ability of certain students that had previously gone unnoticed. Others might have concluded that completing the curriculum should not be their one and only goal and that their students also needed them for maintaining a level of wellbeing.

In fact, wellbeing has taken centre-stage for many people in 2020. Suddenly having to spend hours in front of their laptops; learning new tools; dealing with technical issues alone; working while sharing their home space; not wanting their students to see what their home looked like; experiencing lockdown, all heightened the need for wellbeing. An ELT friend of mine described it as being like “camping in a call centre”. Camping because he sat down with a flask of hot coffee (knowing he would not have time to prepare himself fresh cups), and a call centre because of the hours spent in front of his laptop talking via his headset.

There are clearly many lessons to be learnt and changes that educators and educational institutes can make to move forward in a positive way since remote learning is here to stay. We must ensure that our students’ and teachers’ emotional needs are met while considering the role our communities play in the future of education.

Building on lessons learnt

It has become clear that face-to-face education cannot simply be transferred online. If you used to teach 21 hours of English a week at your institution, it is important to analyse how much of that needs to be online. Do 100% of classes need to be face-to-face (physically or virtually)? How much can be blended, so that some things can be done by the learner after having received and understood instructions? Below are some suggestions on what can be done differently.

The educators:

  • How can we convey language virtually? The teacher is essential for the warm-up, lead-in activity to introduce the theme, topic or language, but s/he can support students to achieve the rest asynchronously.
  • Activities involving interaction can be done asynchronously with students working together online (recorded) or using a chat function which can be kept as a screenshot. This evidence of collaborative work can be sent to the teacher and used towards a portfolio of work. Tasks should incorporate creative skills, rather than only focus on knowledge or accuracy of language.
  • Later stages of the lesson can be recorded by the teacher for students to view at another time, to check answers or summarise what the learning points were. Monitoring could be done when students send in their group ideas – using audio or video from a Zoom, Microsoft Teams or a Google Doc that they have all contributed to.
  • Students who do not have the equipment or reliable connectivity to ‘meet’ their peers remotely still need the opportunity to learn collaboratively. When possible, provide opportunities for groups to come together at school in a safe manner (hand-washing, wearing masks, physically distant, etc). This would help those who have difficulty with remote education while allowing them to collaborate with the rest of their classmates online. This is becoming known as a ‘hybrid class’.
  • Last, but not least, don’t forget the textbook! If you are working with a set textbook your students should have it, so make use of it instead of recreating the wheel. But make sure that you provide open extension activities they can move forward with remotely so they can use some creativity while at home. Learning is not about simply learning knowledge and facts, there are other skills that students must develop, have fun with and discover they have.

 

The educational institutes and communities:

  • Physical teaching materials can be printed off by the school or institution and made available for the parents/students with connectivity issues that week (for whatever reason). The adults should then be able to visit the school reception and collect the relevant education materials for themselves / their child. These could be packaged in envelopes labelled with the name of the student and parent(s).
  • Smooth and regular communication between the institution, students, and parents is vital. A digital platform is the best and most reliable way of achieving this. Institutions should consult their teachers, students and parents when selecting a platform that will suit everybody’s needs. An unsuitable platform adds unjust pressures and additional workload to already time-deficient teachers!
  • Parents should be invited to practical demonstrations of how to access the platform so that they do not struggle alone with it – online demonstrations would save time and resources.
  • An institute needs to be mindful of the increased burden for the teacher in maintaining good communication with students/parents. – The time, electricity, mobile data, reliable internet are essential for remote teachers. Institutes are in a good position to negotiate packages with internet providers for their schools and teachers.
  • If teachers are expected to offer blended or remote learning, the institute should make sure they have the correct hardware/software to do so.
  • Partnering with a local radio or TV station, to transmit live classes to their students without digital connectivity would help institutions avoid the cost of platforms or dependence on unreliable internet connections.

 

Respecting and valuing wellbeing:

  • Local restrictions allowing, the teacher can use the connectivity and resources available in their institution, by delivering education online from the school classroom. – Students with connectivity issues are invited to join the teacher in a hybrid class (as described above). This can also solve some teachers’ problems with delivering remote classes from home.
  • Ask teachers if they prefer online or face-to-face education. There may be some who learnt to teach in a non-digital age and may struggle to deal with remote teaching. Thus delivering face-to-face classes could help to maintain their wellbeing. Those who particularly enjoy digital teaching could be assigned to teach purely remotely. Those who are somewhere in between the two could split their teaching hours between school and home. The most technically advanced teachers could provide professional development training for their colleagues on how to use certain educational digital tools efficiently, or suggest online professional courses to participate in. This also gives the teachers an opportunity to (physically distantly) meet and compare their experiences and thoughts on students’ progress.

 

The new normal for education:

We should therefore not be returning to business as usual, but taking the opportunity to innovate and allow our students to learn in different ways; at different paces; in a more autonomous manner. This can be done while respecting their social and emotional needs, harnessing the responsibilities of parents and communities, and ensuring the wellbeing of our teachers. Covid-19 has highlighted some inequalities, but it is up to us whether we now make the changes to even them out.

 

Are you ready to explore digital tools for teaching and learning?
Do you need help getting started with the digital tools in your Oxford course?
Are you looking for tips and ideas for using digital in your teaching?Move forward together

 

 


Zarina Subhan is an experienced teacher and teacher trainer. She has taught and delivered teacher training at all levels and in both private and government institutions in over fifteen different countries as well as in the UK. Early on in her career, Zarina specialised in EAP combining her scientific and educational qualifications. From this developed an interest in providing tailor-made materials, which later led to materials writing that was used in health training and governance projects in developing countries. Since 2000 she has been involved in Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL), materials writing, training trainers and teachers in facilitation techniques and teaching methodology. Zarina is published and has delivered training courses, presentations, spoken at conferences worldwide, and continues to be a freelance consultant teacher educator.


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Developing Intercultural Competence In Your Classes

group of friends socialisingAs a Spanish learner, I once faced the awkward situation of thinking I was having a conversation about new potatoes being on the menu, when in fact the hotel manager had diverged from the conversation to give me the news that there was a new Pope! Being in a Catholic Latin American country at the time, I should have been more aware of the context and cultural importance of the vote going on in the Vatican that week. However, my focus was simply on the words. Hence intercultural competence is so important and should not be ignored in the language classroom. It is especially so with English because it facilitates communication between so many people from diverse backgrounds (ELT Position Paper on Global Skills, 2019).

If we are to successfully communicate with people, we need to appreciate different perspectives to be able to understand how someone on the other side of the planet might view things. Open, respectful, and tolerant communication enables interaction with diverse cultures effectively, enabling us to connect with people. From researchers to taxi drivers, gaining intercultural competence alongside language skills can help smooth out communications and help reduce the stress of communicating in another language.

Intercultural competence in the ELT classroom

As an English language teacher, you may wonder if your students will be interested in such a thing as intercultural competence. A useful exercise to help students understand its importance is to ask them to write down what different interests, groups of people, clubs/societies, communities (local/national/international) they belong to. As an English language teacher, perhaps you listen to music in English and are part of a fan group of certain music artists; belong to an association of English teachers; run a book club. You might enjoy super-hero films; be a fan of Liverpool Football Club and watch every press conference Jurgen Klopp makes. – Incidentally, as a German manager of players of 17 different nationalities, living in England, he is an excellent example of what intercultural competence means.

  • The activity helps us understand how we belong to different communities and are multi-faceted in terms of our cultures. In other words, multicultural is the norm, not the exception.
  • For the teacher, it becomes a multi-purpose activity, because students are using English to discuss and write down the communities they belong to, whilst the teacher simultaneously discovers students’ interests and online communities they belong to.

Many students are keen to learn about Korean culture to understand their K-Pop idols better and so might combine Korean words with their English in their chats on fandom pages. Greta Thunberg is a climate activist that has captured the interest of many teenagers and young people. The sports fans may prefer Naomi Osaka – a Japanese tennis star born to a Japanese mother and Haitian father, brought up in the US. Whatever the interest of your students, the chances are high that they visit and possibly engage with other fans, in English, on pages/websites, so they are probably already reading in English to find out about the people/topics they are interested in.

English language and citizenship

As our students are online much of the time, it is essential that we can help them to be aware of their responsibilities as fair-minded and respectful participants. Bullying is a topic that we can investigate and learn about its effects together so that those who may have thought being anonymous removes responsibility realise that there are consequences of actions.

We can weave citizenship into example sentences while helping the understanding/practice of language items. E.g. because, because of, that is why, as a result of, consequently:

“I know a few words of Korean because I love Rain’s music.”

“Lewis Hamilton is one of the best F1 drivers and he is not afraid to promote Black Lives Matter. That is why I like him the best.”

“Billie Eilish is vegan, believes in sustainable fashion, and consequently signed a contract with H&M for their sustainable fashion line.”

“As a result of Greta Thunberg’s activism, more young people understand the need for replacing petroleum as an energy source.”

“Because of bullying, I refuse to have an Instagram account.”

Encouraging learner autonomy

After using the above kind of examples to illustrate how we use these connectives, we can ask students to do an internet search on a person/topic of interest and note down 5 sentences that use a variety of the same connectives. A follow-up to this could be they write out the sentences they found with a blank for the connective and provide it as an example for their peers to complete.

Another meaningful way to get students to further practise connectives would be to ask students to reflect on what issues/cultural aspects they feel strongly about in their communities and if there are any that have influenced their behaviour/habits. This would lead to them creating their own sentences using the connectives to describe why or how these issues have influenced how they live. Hence while they are using and practising English, students are also becoming more conscious about reasons for good citizenship and opinions on cultural values.

Download the position paper

 


Zarina Subhan is an experienced teacher and teacher trainer. She has taught and delivered teacher training at all levels and in both private and government institutions in over fifteen different countries as well as in the UK. Early on in her career, Zarina specialised in EAP combining her scientific and educational qualifications. From this developed an interest in providing tailor-made materials, which later led to materials writing that was used in health training and governance projects in developing countries. Since 2000 she has been involved in Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL), materials writing, training trainers and teachers in facilitation techniques and teaching methodology. Zarina is published and has delivered training courses, presentations, spoken at conferences worldwide, and continues to be a freelance consultant teacher educator.


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Teaching During The Pandemic: Postcards From Around The World

Postcard with the message "Wish you were here!"This year may have been difficult for everyone across the globe, but it has been especially challenging for teachers. They have had to transform their lessons into online sessions and adapt to rules and advice to keep their students safe and make sure they can continue learning. In this two-part blog series, we contacted this year’s Headway Scholars to find out more about their pandemic teaching experiences and any advice they have for our teaching community. Read their stories below!

Comments have been condensed and edited for clarity.

Dr. Ahmad Khalil Awad, Saudi Arabia

This pandemic has taught me to value everything we have; our families, friends, books, life, pets and countries. It has taught me a priceless lesson of not taking things for granted. Life is full of ups and downs, but there is no mountain too high nor is there an ocean too deep.

It has been really challenging to teach students during this time. Their fears and uncertainty around the situation overwhelmed their thoughts so we have had to help with this. Teaching online was new to all of us and it was difficult not being able to meet our students face-to-face.

TOP TIP: Sometimes, I felt like I was talking to myself and no one was participating in the online lesson. Using a flipped-classroom approach with tools such as Kahoot, Wordify, Padlet, and Oxford Learn are amazing in helping us achieve our teaching and learning outcomes.

“The pandemic has taught me to value everything we have.”

Fariha Haidary, Afghanistan

During the pandemic, I have been teaching English to business and journalist students at university. Although it was my first time teaching online, I received good feedback from my students and felt satisfied with my teaching. They said that they didn’t feel like they were online during my lessons as I made it feel like the usual classroom experience.

TOP TIP: WhatsApp has been very helpful during this time. I make sure to share the link for the online lesson and lesson recordings in our WhatsApp groups before and after our sessions. Google forms have also been useful for producing quick online quizzes for students.

Safa Abdul Razak, India

The most challenging part of online lessons in India was how many students were not able to participate because of a lack of technological know-how and poor internet connection. It was also difficult to get students to understand the importance of attending these sessions.

There have been many funny (meme-worthy) incidents over the last few months, where students were eating, watching television, conversing with their siblings, arguing with parents or generally distracted, while I carried on. However, on the bright side, since students have less school work, we have been able to explore new surroundings, talk about incidents that we would never have thought of until this lockdown, and spend a lot more time learning English.

TOP TIP: Connect with other teachers and students around the world! I started a pen-pal project with several schools in other countries and it yielded wonderful results. My students were able to learn about other students’ lifestyles and how the pandemic was affecting them.

“There have been many funny (meme-worthy) incidents over the last few months, where students were eating, watching television, conversing with their siblings, arguing with parents or generally distracted, while I carried on.”

Begoña Urruticoechea, Spain

Teaching during the pandemic has been very intense. Online lessons have been tailor-made to fit my students’ needs and this has been very demanding. Despite it being really tiring, it’s also been satisfying. Students’ good results are always gratifying for teachers, but to be told that they have enjoyed my lessons is equally delightful.

TOP TIP: Teachers should inspire students and the best way to do this is showing our enthusiasm for what we do. I make sure to establish a close connection with my students and get to know them and their needs. I then pick materials according to their interests and needs to help stimulate their learning process and help them become autonomous learners.

Santina Mandelli, Italy

My experience was challenging as I had never taught online lessons. It was also difficult to get students to attend and concentrate during these lessons. Some struggled with their internet connection and others did not have a laptop or tablet. I had to be very patient, but eventually more and more students were able to attend lessons. Does teaching online mean avoiding books? Of course not! Sharing the pages of Headway through video lessons was great because I could show pictures, texts and the corrections of the exercises straight to the students’ screens.

TOP TIP: I split the classes into small groups. Students seemed to attend more frequently and willingly because there were less of them and I was able to help and listen to them more carefully. This solution was quite difficult because I had to increase the number of sessions in our timetable, but it was more satisfying for me and my students.

“Students seemed to attend more frequently and willingly because there were less of them and I was able to help and listen to them more carefully.”

 

Unfortunately, because of the pandemic, this year’s Summer Seminar at Oxford University was cancelled. Instead, we are excited to welcome our winners to Oxford in 2021 and thank them for sharing their stories and advice.

 

How have you found teaching during the pandemic? We would love to hear about your experiences in the comments!

 

Coming soon: For more stories from our Headway Scholars about teaching during the pandemic read Teaching During The Pandemic: Postcards From Around The World (part 2).


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Festive Resources and Activities for your Class | ELT

festiveIt’s that time of year!

To help you celebrate, we’re sharing a collection of Festive ELT activities to get you and your class in the holiday spirit!

We’ve prepared some multi-level ELT activities for you to use online or in the classroom. We’ve got something here for all.

All activities are photocopiable and shareable online using the below-sharing links.

Beginner 

  • Decorate your tree
  • Festive Wordsearch

beginner

Shareable link -> https://oxelt.gl/2JTJjrf

Intermediate and above

  • Gapped-text exercises
  • Extensive reading resources
  • Festive sing-along

intermediate

Shareable link -> https://oxelt.gl/37glVgr

Happy Holidays from all of us here at Oxford University Press! ❤️

 


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Become A Pretesting Partner And Shape The Future Of Assessment!

Map showing the locations of our pretesting communityHave you ever wanted to give your students stress-free practice taking online assessments, without the pressure of taking a real exam? Or have you ever dreamed of finding out where students need more practice, without having to spend hours marking their tests? Our Pretesting Research Partners work with us to trial our exam questions before they become part of our live tests – helping us to shape the future of English language assessment. And it’s completely free! Continue reading