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Digital Divide: What Is It And How Can You Bridge The Gap?

woman sitting on the ground and working on her laptopWe can safely say that, through the difficulties of 2020, English language teachers have grown accustomed to delivering online classes and learning to use new digital tools. Some teachers may face many weeks ahead of continuing such classes if high Covid-19 cases see a resurgence, their new academic year does not start until 2021, or they have become ‘online teachers’ on a semi-permanent basis.

As a result, some teachers have found themselves dependent on the help of parents to ensure their children are online at designated times and able to access class materials. Parent support is especially important for younger students who perhaps did not originally have the necessary computing skills to act independently.
But what about our students who cannot access the internet from home, or do not have reliable electricity supplies? Not only is infrastructure an issue, but also the lack of digital equipment, e.g. when siblings and/or parents require the use of a laptop or computer simultaneously. Similarly, adult students may have to share their bandwidth and equipment with a partner, or family, who all need to work online.

These are examples of what the ‘digital divide’ is beginning to look like in many of our societies – those with an unproblematic ability to access the internet or digital equipment, versus those with regular difficulties to reliably access either the internet or the necessary equipment.

This article focuses on the two issues of lack of connectivity and dealing with the parents who have this problem.

Helping students with connectivity issues

Many teachers have had few options but to carry on delivering online classes, while being unable to meet the needs of those students who cannot get online when they are delivering their ‘live’ (synchronous) classes. Here are some practical solutions to help address some of these problems:

  1. Upload materials to your school or institution platform that allows students to be online to download materials then work with them offline. The same can be done with a video of a lesson that you delivered. This, however, depends on your institution having a digital platform.
  2. If you use a digital platform, don’t upload pdf documents because they require a lot of memory and can take up a lot of space on a smartphone, which may be the only device a parent can use to download learning materials for their child.
  3. Use G-suite (Google Docs, Sheets and Slides) or Microsoft’s One Drive. These can be used to upload learning materials which you can save so they are available offline. For this the teacher, if using G-suite, needs to use Google Chrome and be online at the time of saving the materials. By adjusting the Settings, you can turn on Offline Setting, then send it as normal. Students do not need to be online to access it via WhatsApp, nor do they need to download it. If using Microsoft’s One Drive set up One Drive to Sync, and you simply drag it into a file that you have shared with your students (or parents).
  4. While you give an online class, simultaneously record yourself so you can send the recording to your students who could not get online at the time. The mp4 recording can then be converted to an mp3, so that it is not such a large file and it will not require a student (or parent) to be online for hours, and therefore at great expense, simply to download materials. The same thing can be done with a Zoom recording to reduce memory, before making it available to students.
  5. While doing an online class live, you can use Google Docs Voice Typing. This simultaneously types what you say and allows you to save it as a Google Doc. This way you can allow students, who could not attend synchronously, to have a transcript of what was said during the lesson. Tip: You do need to speak very clearly, which may help you be mindful about your pronunciation and clarity when you speak to your students. It is worth doing, simply to see how clear the app thinks your voice is – this is a good reflective task for any ELT teacher!

Working with parents to solve connectivity problems

Being able to help students with connectivity issues, of course, depends on the teacher setting up an understanding relationship with the parents. They are the ones who have connectivity issues. But if Covid-19 has taught us anything, it is that remote learning for students below the age of 18 must be in collaboration with parents. Here are some ways to help such collaboration:

  1. Establish WhatsApp (or equivalent) contact with parents of students. You could set up a special group only for you and the parents of students with connectivity issues. Then, while you deliver an online class, call the group (but only using the audio function because it needs less bandwidth) so any parent can help their child hear the class and even participate.
  2. If you are distributing worksheets or planning to use one in a live online class, send a WhatsApp message or email to the parents with connectivity issues the day before.
  3. You can also print the worksheet or materials, photograph it, and send it to the WhatsApp group for parents who do not have email accounts.
  4. Similarly, if you used Google Docs Voice Typing to use as a transcript (as described above), or any Google Doc, Sheet, or Slides, it can be saved using the Offline Setting. Similarly with Microsoft’s One Drive. Which means that the parent does not lose valuable time (and money) online accessing your teaching materials. The parent does not even require a Gmail account to be able to access any of the Google applications.
  5. If, for some reason, you do not get on well with G-suite or Microsoft’s One Drive you could convert a document to a QR code and send the code to the WhatsApp group. (Please follow this link to a YouTube video showing you how to do this).

As we were thrust into digital teaching, there was an assumption that teachers must synchronously teach the same number of times as they had been doing face-to-face. But by doing things alternatively, as outlined above, that is not necessarily the case. I propose that this would improve the lives of not only teachers but also students and parents.

What have you found to be of help?

Feel free to use the comments section below to share your own experiences with our community of teachers!

  • What have you found most difficult about moving your teaching online?
  • What are your coping strategies?
  • Has your institution found a solution for students who cannot join online?

 

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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Digital Burnout – It’s Time To Take Back Control!

My escape and healing from digital burnout - Erika Osváth

My escape and healing from digital overload – Erika Osváth

As a teacher and teacher trainer, my life turned upside down under the pressures of Covid-19. I found myself spending most of my day sitting in front of my laptop, striving to pass on the kind of knowledge I used to do face-to-face. I would get messages from students and teacher colleagues in the afternoon and late in the evening and would feel obliged to respond as soon as I read them. I was cooking lunch, doing the washing up and all the rest during my breaks, while making sure my daughters are also “on task”, sitting in front of their devices following their teachers.

Are you experiencing digital burnout?

After a few weeks, my eyes started to get sore, I would get more and more easily irritated by minor things happening around me. It was getting more difficult to get out of bed and feel the morning start with the right kind of uplifting energy. The feeling of confinement and disconnection from people started to take over. All these feelings were a sign of digital burnout. As I have discovered after some research, these feelings may lead to a serious state of anxiety or even depression.

How can I get out of this? What is it that I do have control over, or I can regain control over? I asked myself. After some quiet, self-reflective occasions I came up with a few ideas for myself, and made a conscious effort to follow them trying to keep in mind the well-known Hungarian saying, which I personally relate to: “Help yourself and God will help you.” The kind of feedback I got from my family, my colleagues and my friends tell me that it has been a successful endeavour. If any of the above feelings resonate with you, here are some of the things I helped myself with and may work for you too.

Self-discipline

1) Create a daily schedule

Create a daily schedule with the family and for yourself. Make sure you include the following things:

  1. Regular breaks between the online times.
  2. Small pleasures such as, making yourself a nice cup of tea or doing a quick 15-minute yoga or chi kung routine, instead of looking at Facebook posts or Instagram or anything online or involving a screen.
  3. Some kind of physical exercise.
  4. Silent moments to wind down excluding anything that involves a screen, such as video games or watching TV.

Top Tip – Involve your whole family in working out the daily schedule and get your children to make a poster out of it, something you can refer to during the day. Reflect on what has been achieved on a particular day with your family and at the end of the day, say, over dinner. These conversations may help you and others realize the control you have over your thinking, and things that happen to you or around you. Here are some reflective questions you can ask to help manage digital burnout:

  • Did I/we have regular breaks? What did I do during the breaks?
  • Did I do any physical exercise?
  • What was the beauty I saw/experienced today?
  • How do I feel now? Why do I feel in this way? What are some of the things that helped me feel this way? What are some of the things I can change?

2) Set boundaries

Be strict with yourself and your students about the times when you are online and ready to answer questions, offer support, etc. I told my students that I will not answer any questions after 5:00 p.m. Turning off the internet or mobile data services on your devices is a great way to protect yourself from digital burnout.

Conscious focus

1) Redirect your focus

It is a great idea to redirect your attention from a virtual superficial surface, which is the digital world, to things through which your senses – touch, smell, taste, seeing, hearing – can be activated in other ways. Make this a conscious practise until the habit is formed. For example, in break times, water your plants, touch the leaves, examine every single change you can observe from one day to another. Or make yourself a special cup of tea with refined aroma, one that you love, say a nice cup of Tulsi chai, and enjoy every sip of it.

Top Tip: It is key that you focus only on the thing that you redirect your attention to and shut out any other impressions that may want to intrude.

2) Arts and movement

Make a conscious choice of creating beauty in the form of any art and movement every day. For example, drawing, painting, handcraft, something close to your heart. You can also dance at home on your own to the music of your choice, something that makes your cells excited or follow a 5-rhythm pattern, or if possible, join a dance club, and learn a new dance, such as argentine tango, which is what I did 😊.

Top Tip – You do not have to be an expert in the arts. Use this as a means of connecting to something you find beautiful without having expectations towards yourself.

Self-love and joy

1) Start a diary

Build a friendship with yourself, through maintaining an inner dialogue answering self-discovery questions and writing about them in a beautiful paper diary with your favourite pen. Some of these questions may be: When I wake up in the morning how do I most want to feel? What do I need to let go of? etc. If you do an online search for “journaling questions for self-reflection” you will find a great number of guiding prompts and questions to build a better connection with yourself.

2) Connect with people

Instead of sending messages on digital devices phone your friends and family members every day and have quality connections with them. Communication through short messages is extremely limiting and shallow. Human voice and attention are given to the person you are speaking to add an extra dimension and quality to your connection. Hug your loved ones whenever you can. This is both physically and emotionally healing. It is well-known from research that hugs heal feelings of loneliness and isolation as well as build trust and a sense of safety.

3) Be of service to others

Be of service to others in whatever way it fits you. Find a good deed every day, a small act of kindness that you consciously look for and do without wanting anything in return. It can also be something bigger, such as volunteering. From time to time share these moments with your students, get them to come up with small acts of kindness they can offer to be of service to people around themselves, including listening to somebody with empathy. Encourage them to give something they possess, if not something material then their time and/or their attention to each other. Shifting the focus from “I” to “we” or “you” in this way is a great way to fill your life with joy.

 

Prioritise your wellbeing with our latest book, ‘Teacher Wellbeing’!

See our Practical Guide to Teacher Wellbeing

 


Erika Osváth, MEd in Maths, DTEFLA, is a freelance teacher, teacher trainer, materials writer and co-author of the European Language Award-winning 6-week eLearning programme for language exam preparation. Before becoming a freelance trainer in 2009, she worked for International House schools for 16 years in Eastern and Central Europe, where she worked as a YL co-ordinator, trainer on CELTA, LCCI,1-1, Business English, YL and VYL courses, and Director of Studies. She has extensive experience in teaching very young learners, young learners and teenagers.

Her main interests lie in these areas as well as making the best of technology in ELT. She regularly travels to different parts of Hungary and other parts of the world to teach demonstration lessons with local children, do workshops for teachers, and this is something she particularly enjoys doing as it allows her to delve into the human aspects of these experiences. Erika is co-author with Edmund Dudley of Mixed Ability Teaching (Into the Classroom series).


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Top 10 Tips To Help Your Online Lessons Run Smoothly!

Teacher frustrated at online lessonsFor many of us, it’s been a while since our teaching world got turned upside down and we found ourselves moving from a physical classroom to online lessons in a matter of hours. It feels like a lifetime ago since we were left wondering what the best practice for online teaching was. In this initial online period, often referred to as the period of emergency remote teaching (ERT), the best advice for running a smooth lesson included such sage things as to ensure you have a good microphone and lighting.

Fast forward to the present day and we’re moving out of the ERT situation and gaining confidence in our online teaching. In this light, I asked a number of teachers around the world what advice they would now give for ensuring the smooth running of online lessons. From what they told me I have collated the top ten tips to help your online lessons run smoothly.

1. Manage the technical stuff

Just because we are now more settled into the online rhythm doesn’t mean we should get overconfident with how things work. As such the initial advice of check your sound and video, make sure your internet connection is stable, still hold true. As many of us have learned just because things worked in one lesson it doesn’t mean they will in the next, so always check. If you’re just beginning with online lessons then follow some basic rules:

  • If you can, make sure you have a quiet, uncluttered space that you can run your lessons from. It should have good lightening so that when you are on webcam you can be seen clearly.
  • Be as close to your internet router as you can. If you have the possibility of using a cable for your internet then do as this can give you a more consistent connection.
  • Wear headphones when you’re teaching as this will cut down feedback caused by you and your students having their mics on. Encourage students to wear them as well.
  • Before your first lesson, familiarise yourself with the platform you are using. While platforms vary in their functionality, for your first lesson make sure you know how to switch on sound and vision, use the chatbox, and share your screen. This last one will mean you can show materials to the students.
  • Don’t worry about becoming a platform expert overnight, it is more important to make sure both you and your students feel comfortable with the key features. To that end, use your first lesson to teach students how the room is used, don’t assume they will simply work it out. If you’re looking for more support in this area there are a plethora of resources on the Internet though you could start with OUP’s digital teaching resources.

2. Assume the students are not tech-savvy

To quote a teacher in Portugal, “Just because you’ve spent the last 7 months in online lessons, becoming tech-savvy, don’t presume your learners have!” Always make sure in first classes that you give the students the language they need to operate i.e. “How do I turn on my camera?”. Make sure you’ve explained or introduced any new tools or features of the room before the students are set a language task.

3. Expect the unexpected

Rather like falsely assuming your mic and camera will always work, it would be wrong not to be ready for the unexpected. You never know what the online classroom might throw up. For example, what happens if the students’ connections are having a slow internet day? Is there a low-tech solution? You could send any lesson materials in advance so the students have the chance to get and access them before the lesson begins.

4. Adopt a positive mindset

Many teachers still yearn to be back in the same physical space as their students and continue to find the lack of proximity a major hurdle to their lessons. However, a positive mindset will rub off on everyone in a lesson and as a result should make the lesson smoother. To aid that make sure you aren’t trying too hard, teachers often seek lesson perfection and then dwell on any aspect in a lesson that didn’t quite get to that level, overlooking the many things that went well.

5. Write it down

This is a multi-layered tip. First, it refers to planning. While many of you are bound to make detailed plans already think in the planning stage about elements that encourage the students to talk. One thing you’ve probably noticed is that your online lessons have been quite teacher-led, so now is the time to think about creating opportunities for the students to speak and interact more.

Next, it refers to physically writing it down for students. Have you noticed in a lesson when you rely on oral instructions that you have to repeat it so many times and still not everyone gets it? So, have written instructions to put on-screen to aid your words. You can have these on a slide that you can display by screen share at the appropriate moment.

And last but not least, write it down refers to making use of written comments. Though you’re meeting in a virtual classroom there are still many ways writing is used in your lesson. For starters there is the chatbox, ensure you reply to comments and answer questions in the chatbox so the students feel acknowledged. If your room allows it, use private messaging to do things like praise a student or give them extra support. Furthermore, if you use an external collaboration tool like a Google Doc or a discussion board, leave comments there so the students know the teacher is ‘there’ if needed.

6. Use your classroom tools purposefully

In other words, don’t confuse technology with teaching. A lot was made at the beginning of ERT about what virtual rooms can do and what tools can be added to them. It perhaps led teachers to the expectation that lessons needed to be all bells and whistles. While you’re probably ready to do this now, do remember that your room tools should be used purposefully. For example, there is arguably no point in putting people in and out of breakout rooms for short tasks. While you might feel like this brings a more student-centred lesson, you’re in fact making for a very stop-start sort of lesson and inadvertently giving over a lot of time to managing the classroom. One longer meaningful task will ensure more time for the students to meaningfully work together.

Whatever external tools you choose, stick with them. There is nothing wrong with using the same tool, in fact, the more you use it the more the students get to know it and the smoother the lesson becomes. Chopping and changing to try and utilise the current tool of fashion just leads to confused students and dedicating lesson time to showing how the tool works rather than getting on with the teaching.

7. The whiteboard is your friend

A small confession here, I struggle with online whiteboards. They are difficult to write on, I forget to give students the permission to use it and it often means stopping the sharing of one screen to share another. All things which can affect the smoothness of my lessons. However, rather than simply avoid them I am trying to make them my friend.

Since I tend to use a slide deck I’ve learned to include white slides amongst my deck that I can use as aboard. This eliminates the need to switch back and forth. I can also prepare slides as boards making me feel more prepared. Other teachers have achieved the same by using external whiteboard sites (easy to find with a quick internet search) or using a shared document. Additionally, to quote a teacher in Ukraine “a virtual board makes lessons more visual”. What’s more, you can usually save your board for future reference and to be used as a revision tool in a future lesson.

8. Keep them focused

Let’s face it even in the physical classroom, keeping kids focused is often a challenge and online this is amplified. One technique for dealing with this is to use visual cues at different points of the lesson to check the kids are still following along and not doing something. The visual clue should be a signal or action that you do at various points in the lesson and everyone has to copy as quickly as possible.

9. Community

If ERT was about a quick transformation from face to face to online, now it is perhaps time to think about how we can effectively maximise educational opportunities. A way to do this is to go beyond the lesson and turn the class into a community. Some of the teachers who sent me tips talked about how they’ve used instant messengers to create groups to allow students to discuss things like language issues and homework problems outside of class. By doing so they feel the virtual classes have run a lot more effectively. This might not be suitable for every teacher so another option is to look into asynchronous areas that can have running discussion boards and be used to distribute work.

Not everything has to be done through the live online class, especially as there is so much to achieve within that time anyway.   This will help with the community aspect and it does make language learning fairer for your students. Not all are comfortable synchronously and not everyone has the same access abilities to be online at the same time. Planning lessons that utilise various online means should lead to an all-round better learning experience.

10. Find a teachers’ room

At first glance, you might wonder how this will make your lessons run smoothly, however despite being tenth on the list it was the most submitted piece of advice. Not only are teachers missing their classrooms but they’re missing their staffrooms as well. The place they go to find support and get stuff off their chest. It’s important for both well-being and to keep the positive mindset suggested in tip 4. Looking after oneself and having good support is a fundamental step in ensuring you’re an effective educator. Teaching from home can bring a sense of isolation so if you can, find a place to act as your teachers’ room, be it the various ELT groups on social media, joining one of the many online events that ELT organisations are running or making use of initiatives like the IATEFL BESIG online breakroom where teachers can drop by and chat.

My thanks to all the teachers that gave me their advice to use.

 

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?

Or are you looking for tips and ideas for using digital in your teaching?Move forward together

 


Shaun Wilden is the Academic Head of training and development for the International House World Organisation and a freelance teacher, teacher trainer and materials writer.  He currently specialises in technology and language teaching, especially in the area of mobile learning. His latest book “Mobile Learning” was published in 2017 by OUP.  He is a trustee of IATEFL and also on the committee of the Learning technologies special interest group.  He makes the TEFL commute podcast for teachers.


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Let’s make our thinking visible!

A blog by authors Patrizia Caroti, Sarah Howell, and Lisa Kester Dodgson.

While much discourse relating to teaching in the 21st century revolves around content, programmes, methods and approaches etc. there appears to be a gap in how teachers can equip students with the skills they need to deepen their understanding of the world around them as lifelong learners.

Thinking dispositions

Learning is the outcome of thinking, and as such gaining insights into the ways students think is crucial for teachers, allowing them to alter students’ thinking dispositions. Thinking dispositions (Ritchart et al, 2011) are the habits of mind that develop:

  1. Observing closely and describing;
  2. Building explanations and interpretations;
  3. Reasoning with evidence;
  4. Making connections;
  5. Considering different viewpoints and perspectives;
  6. Capturing the heart and forming conclusions;
  7. Wondering and asking questions;
  8. Uncovering complexity and going below the surface of things.

But how do we know what kind of thinking is taking place and how can we be sure that all our students are developing these thinking skills? What insights do we have into how our students are thinking and learning?

These questions stimulated our curiosity to experiment with Visible Thinking Routines (VTRs) in our EFL classrooms and take up the 21st century challenge: “Build a culture of thinking” in our learning community.


“Every committed educator wants better learning and more thoughtful students. Visible Thinking is a way of helping to achieve that without a separate ‘thinking skills’ course or fixed lessons.”

Visible Thinking <http://www.visiblethinkingpz.org>


But what are Visible Thinking Routines (VTRs)?

Visible Thinking Routines were developed by Project Zero, an educational research group at Harvard Graduate School of Education. The routines consist of a few short steps which scaffold and guide students’ thinking. They awaken curiosity and encourage students to dig deeper, taking their thinking to a more sophisticated level (Ritchhart et al, 2011).

We can demonstrate the potential of VTRs by illustrating our mini-research project carried out with two classes of 13-year-old students, in a state secondary school in Italy. The average English competency level of the students was A2 (CEFR) with 3 hours a week of EFL instruction using a mainstream textbook. The routines were chosen according to the thinking dispositions we were aiming to develop, the content being presented in the textbook, and how suitable we felt the routines would be in the given teaching context.

We focused on three different thinking dispositions linked to three VTRs.

Thinking Dispositions Visible Thinking Routines
Capturing the heart Headlines
Making connections Connect-Extend-Challenge
Wondering and asking questions See-Think-Wonder

Headlines

A routine for capturing essence.Headlines routine

Materials:

An article about fundraising and charity concerts.

Process:

  • Topic-specific vocabulary had been pre-taught. The students had been working on making deductions, expressing agreement/disagreement, and probability.
  • They worked individually on the texts, highlighting key phrases to help them create their headlines, and then shared their ideas on the poster.
  • They shared their thinking in small groups, read the other headlines, and made comparisons.

Reflections:

The Headlines routine encouraged students to think more deeply about the content and develop their ability to synthesise. Through sharing their thoughts they developed meaningful conversations around the content of the poster.

See-Think-WonderSee-Think-Wonder (STW)

A routine for exploring visuals and related texts.

Materials:

A photograph of a polluted river.

Process:

  • Topic-specific vocabulary had been pre-taught. The See-Think-Wonder routine raises students’ curiosity about the topic with visual stimuli.
  • First (see) they described what they could see, then (think) they expressed their thoughts about the image, and finally (wonder) they were encouraged to express what else they would like to know about the topic.
  • The students were given question stems to help them articulate their thoughts. Although they spoke in a mix of L1 and English, they wrote their responses in English.

Reflections:

This routine helped the students analyse a visual, and use elements within it to generate their own ideas related to the topic. We found this routine particularly inclusive, as listening to each other’s ideas and opinions encouraged all group members to speak up and share.

Connect-Extend-ChallengeConnect-Extend-Challenge (CEC)

A routine for connecting new ideas to prior knowledge.

Materials:

A photo, audio, and some text about the environment and recycling.

Process:

  • Topic specific vocabulary and expressions had been pre-taught.
  • The students made observations about the photograph and the dialogue by applying the (now familiar) STW routine before using the new CEC routine.
  • Using the reading text, first they made connections (connect) to what they already knew about recycling, then they discussed what new information they had gained and how this had extended their knowledge (extend), and finally (challenge) what still puzzled them. The students worked in groups and then a plenary session was held to present their thinking
    and their “challenges”.

Reflections:

The EFL classroom is often a difficult place for students to express their ideas and their knowledge about a given topic. The CEC routine helped the students tap into their prior knowledge and relate it to new content and encouraged them to go beyond the surface level of the topic.

Classroom activity 1

Thoughts…

A significant consideration which arose while reflecting with students is the importance of feeling comfortable and confident without the threat of evaluation; their thinking is not assessed in this approach! This concept needs to be highlighted at the outset of any Visual Thinking Routine and made clear that it is not just another worksheet to fill in with the right answer, but rather that it’s their thinking process that matters.

Classroom activity 2

Visual Thinking Routines need to be used regularly and systematically across the board so that students develop good thinking dispositions and habits which in turn have a positive interdisciplinary impact over time.

 

 

How could VTRs make a difference to your teaching?

 


Authors:

Patrizia Caroti is a teacher and ELT author with 30 years’ experience of teaching English in Italian Secondary Schools.
Sarah M Howell is an OUP author and teacher trainer. She has extensive experience of teaching EFL at both primary and secondary levels.
Lisa Kester Dodgson is an OUP author with a rich background in primary and secondary education.


References (recommended reading list!)

Majida “Mohammed Yousef” Dajani. (2016). Using Thinking Routines as a Pedagogy for Teaching English as a Second Language in Palestine. Journal of Educational Research and Practice , Volume 6, Issue 1, Pages 1–18. Walden University, LLC, Minneapolis, MN.

Krechevsky, M., Mardell, B., Rivard, M., Wilson, D., (2013). Visible Learners: Promoting Reggio-Inspired Approaches in all Schools John Wiley and Sons, Inc, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco.

Ritchhart, R., Church, M., Morrison, K., & Perkins, D. (2011). Making Thinking Visible: How to Promote Engagement, Understanding, and Independence for All Learners. John Wiley and Sons, Inc, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco.

“Thinking Palette.” Artful Thinking. Project Zero. Harvard Graduate School of Education. Feb. 2017. <http://pzartfulthinking.org/?page_id=2>

Ritchhart, Ron., Perkins, David., & Tishman, Shari. “Visible Thinking.” Harvard Graduate School of Education. Feb, 2017.<http://www.pz.harvard.edu/projects/visible-thinking>

Salmon, K, Angela. “Making Thinking Visible Through Action Research.” Early Childhood Education. The official journal of the Early Childhood Education Council of the Alberta Teachers’ Association. Volume 39, Number 1. 2010. <https://www.academia.edu/4841813/Making_Thinking_Visible_Through_Action_Research>

Arcenas, Claire. “Bridging our Thinking.” Visible thinking across subject matters. 13 Feb 2015. <https://clairearcenas.wordpress.com/>

Ritchhart, Ron. “Cultures of Thinking.” Think! From the Middle. Rochester Community Schools. March 2017. <http://www.rcsthinkfromthemiddle.com/cultures-of-thinking.html>

Jacobson, Gareth. “Team Teaching – an all or nothing phenomenon.” I think therefore… 16th Nov. 2016. <https://makingthinkingvisible.wordpress.com/>

“Research.” Visible Thinking for the child to be and the adult to see. <http://visiblethinking.ltd.uk/research/>

 


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Should A Coordinator Be A Leader?

Business woman in a meetingKaren Capel, an Academic Coordinator and teacher trainer, returns with another guest post for Coordinators and Directors of Study, sharing her thoughts on leadership in schools.

Do you think a good coordinator should motivate and inspire? Then we would agree that an effective coordinator should also be a successful leader.

These two roles are deeply interwoven, complementing and enhancing one another to result in a complete professional who is able to carry out managerial duties outstandingly.

Whether you are a natural leader or you have learned to be one, it is your responsibility as a coordinator to innovate and develop, to focus on people (both staff and students), to inspire trust, and to focus on both short-term and the long-term goals. You must also challenge the status quo in view of achieving your institution’s objectives and providing a better service to students. Therefore, a leader not only does things right but also does the right things. According to the leadership guru Warren Bennis, all of these are characteristics of a leader.

So what type of leader should you be? Hopefully a transformational one, achieving objectives by inspiring your staff and fostering the sense of belonging that will result in the formation of a real team. It is proactivity and the drive for continuous improvement that characterise both transformational leaders and successful coordinators.

The leadership style one follows is, needless to say, highly dependent on personality, though an effort must be made to ensure our staff is given the opportunity to express their ideas and put forward their suggestions, for this is the only way a team can work to its maximum potential and enhance each individual’s unique skills and capabilities. Nevertheless, it is worth pointing out that even when listening to every member’s opinions and allowing discussion of the different issues on the table, it is the coordinator who should make the final decision in all matters and who will always maintain responsibility for the courses of action decided upon. Only then would you embody a democratic leader who enables teachers to feel trusted and heard while supported and guided toward common goals and objectives. It is our teachers who are in direct contact with students and may therefore be in possession of invaluable information upon which all-important decisions may be taken. It is key to trust our own judgement when taking on employees and pay attention to the professionals in our staff and what they have to contribute, as it is they who should follow the procedures enforced and may come up with alternative and improved ways of dealing with certain issues.

On becoming a coordinator, it is highly plausible that you will encounter members of staff who are supportive and always willing to lend a helping hand, work as a team and back your decisions with a goal of improving the services provided to students, as well as internal procedures and practices; but it is just as plausible that you will encounter teachers who are resistant to change and who will antagonise every decision. It is you as a leader who must find the way to put them on your side by tactfully showing them that you are part of the same team and that each and every decision made has been thoroughly examined, all alternatives considered and every opinion carefully listened to. Once again, democracy is the key. Give these members of the team even more chances to participate and express their opinions and make them feel valued and trusted as professionals. Truly listen to what they have to say, for their ideas and suggestions may be altogether valuable and useful for decision-making, and then make your own decision based on the big picture and all relevant elements, which they might not be aware of. Just make sure you carefully choose your battles and let them win sometimes, as this is the only way they will actually feel you are paying attention to what they have to say.

It is also worth noting that a leader is not someone who is always telling people what they have to do, but someone who subtly makes it clear to everyone what his/her role is and what is expected from him/her. Leaders provide guidelines on how to proceed and accomplish the goals set while fostering teamwork and making employees feel trusted, and are therefore a paramount element for the organisation to achieve efficiency and growth.