After 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. Continue reading
Marina, a 27-year-old teacher from Zaragoza in Spain, loves learning English.
“I love English vocabulary. It’s both practical and beautiful, and it’s easier than other languages.”
For Marina, English presents the opportunity to communicate, not only with native English speakers but with people from across the globe who also have English as their second language. Continue reading
What is collaborative language learning?
One of the most satisfying experiences that I have as an instructor is when I have my class make pairs or groups and then, after a few moments, I hear lively chatter. Moving around the classroom, I hear students using the vocabulary and structures that we studied in class. Yet they are doing more than just reciting what they learned in this lesson; they are combining the learning goals of the lesson with the language that they already know in a personalized and creative manner. A casual observer might think that this was break-time or an opportunity for the class to relax. But while I hope they are having fun, I know that they are actually hard at work. This is the culminating activity that we have worked towards together as a class. It is collaborative learning in action. Continue reading
We know that with fast-paced change, it can be difficult to keep up with the latest trends. Jargon heavy instructions for unfamiliar technology can make getting started intimidating. And with so many Edtech innovations on offer, it can be difficult to know which solutions actually make a valuable difference to a student’s learning.
As a result, publishers have a duty to keep on top of trends and to experiment with technology. We challenge our own assumptions about technology and are always trying to learn how Edtech can benefit learning and help teachers to realise these benefits in their individual situations.
At Oxford University Press, some of that work is done by the Partnerships Team
We’re responsible for a lot of the English Language Teaching division’s partnerships with external companies and we work with a huge range of partners, from the start-up community all the way to the famous tech giants. In many of these relationships, we find innovative new ways to include Oxford content in the partner’s product.
This is a great way to help the quality educational material OUP produces to reach new audiences around the world, but it can also lead to deeper relationships, where we start offering a partner’s product in the packages that we offer to learners. For example, our relationship with Lingokids has evolved from offering our content in their platform to their app being directly integrated into some of our primary courses.
This way of working helps us to learn more about technology companies can enhance our content and how their products are used by learners and teachers, before making a decision on whether we could include them directly in our courses. As a result, we can improve our technology solutions, for teachers with effective support on how to use them with their learners.
This also allows us to innovate with exciting new technologies.
We keep a close eye on the new technologies that have the potential to disrupt education, such as augmented reality, virtual reality and artificial intelligence. By working with partners, we can experiment with how new developments might be applied to English language learning.
For example, we worked with VictoryXR, an award-winning virtual reality developer, to create the first language learning VR experience using Oxford materials. Designed for learners in China, the product immerses the user in real-world scenarios, such as travelling through airport security or introducing themselves to a stranger, for unrivalled authentic English practice.
We were a content partner with Google for the launch of Expeditions AR tours, providing learning content to be used in augmented reality experiences that are freely available through the Expeditions app. Since then, we have worked on a variety of pilots to investigate the pedagogical benefit that using AR can provide. We have also developed multiple experiences for use with smart speakers at home, to test how artificial intelligence can help extend meaningful, independent language learning outside the classroom.
By working with partners, we interact with the world’s leading experts in Edtech, who are constantly innovating. As a result, OUP is constantly learning about new ways technology can benefit language learning and, just as importantly, the frustrations and issues it can cause when teachers try to implement it.
So, we’re here to answer your questions at ELTOC 2020
As part of OUP’s ELTOC conference in February 2020, we’ll be running a session designed to give you an introduction to all things Edtech. We’ll explore some of the most popular technology buzzwords, such as the difference between augmented and virtual reality or what artificial intelligence actually means, all easy to understand language and with real examples of free products you can use to get started and tips for how to implement them in your lessons.
We’ll also be answering your questions about Edtech and the future of digital products. This is your chance to clarify anything you don’t understand, ask for tips with a particular technology or start a discussion on something that interests you!
You can catch-up on past Professional Development events using our webinar library.
These resources are available via the Oxford Teacher’s Club.
Not a member? Registering is quick and easy to do, and it gives you access to a wealth of teaching resources.
Harry Cunningham is an Innovation Manager at Oxford University Press in the ELT division. He’s focused on enhancing and bringing OUP’s English Language Teaching content to life with the latest and best technological solutions.
What is blended learning?
Blended learning is both flexible and dynamic. By ‘flexible’, I mean it is not just one thing (a fixed combination of X and Y) but rather, it can be many things depending on your teaching context. By ‘dynamic’, I mean that the components which make up blended learning are constantly changing. A recent incarnation of blended learning, for example, involves students donning headsets and practising a talk in VR (Virtual Reality) in preparation for giving a presentation in real life.
The classic definition of blended learning combines teaching in a ‘bricks and mortar’ classroom with web-based learning. The latter is usually ‘online’ but could be ‘offline’ and might not even involve the Internet at all, such as doing exercises on a CD-ROM or using a ‘native’ app – an app which ‘lives’ in your mobile phone and does not require a Wi-Fi connection to function.
Another approach to blended learning involves blending the use of print and digital resources, effectively combining the traditional and the new, analogue and digital.
When should teachers use blended learning?
In a very narrow definition of blended learning (such as face-to-face plus online) the answer to this question is: when studying online is a realistic, feasible option. In a broader definition of blended learning, such as that described by Sharma and Barrett ‘face-to-face plus an appropriate use of technology’ (Pete Sharma & Barney Barrett, Blended Learning, Macmillan, 2007), the answer is: ‘All the time!’ In other words, teaching in this new digital age should use the technologies which students meet in their everyday lives, such as the Internet, laptop, smartphone and tablet.
There are many reasons why teachers decide to run a blended learning course, as opposed to (say) a 100% classroom course like those I ran when I first started teaching, or a 100% online course.
One is time. There’s simply not enough time in a course to cover everything. Moreover, some language areas are really suited to be studied outside the classroom. Extensive reading and practising difficult phonemes, for instance.
Combining the best of the classroom (live interaction with the teacher and classmates) and the best of technology (anytime, anywhere guided practice) in a principled way can produce a ‘better’ course for students. In other words, the best of both worlds.
What is the value of blended learning?
Flexibility is one advantage. Students taking a blended learning course are frequently offered choices. We all know a class of 12 comprises 12 individuals, displaying different learning preferences. Students can match their path through the material to suit their own learning style and approach.
Similarly, from the teacher’s point of view, blended learning enables the implementation of ‘differentiation’.
We are all familiar with the restrictions imposed by the teaching timetable. The English language lesson is at 16.00 on Thursday. Yet this is the age of u-learning, ubiquitous learning. The distant part of a blended learning course can be done anywhere, anytime – in a coffee shop with Wi-Fi, at the airport, in a hotel … , this ‘best of both worlds’ (the classroom and online) is a key feature and benefit of blended learning.
Different approaches to blended learning
The approaches taken to blended learning are as many and varied as the different types of teaching: YL (young learners), business English, CLIL (content and language integrated learning). One common approach would be to issue the students with a printed coursebook and have them use the code on the inside to access their online digital materials. I focus particularly on this approach in my series of articles on running a blended learning course.
Different types of digital activities
Here’s a snapshot of the vast range of tools available for blended learning:
- a vocabulary memory game on an app to review new language
- a podcast; students can listen as many times as they wish, using the pause and the slider to listen intensively to selected parts
- a video, with on-demand sub-titles or a transcript
- a discussion forum; students answer a question before their in-class lesson. The additional time helps develop critical thinking skills and contrasts the real-time pressure to reply in the classroom
How to run a blended learning course
Looking for some practical advice and tips? Read my complete guide to help you prepare, set-up and run a blended learning course:
Blended Learning, Pete Sharma & Barney Barrett (Macmillan, 2007)
Pete Sharma is a teacher trainer, consultant and ELT author. He works as a pre-sessional lecturer in EAP (English for Academic purposes) at Warwick University, UK. Pete worked for many years in business English as a teacher trainer and materials writer. He is a regular conference presenter at IATEFL (International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language) and BESIG (Business English Special Interest Group) conferences and has given plenary talks and keynote speeches at conferences around the world. Pete is the co-author of several books on technology including Blended Learning (2007), 400 Ideas for Interactive Whiteboards (2011) in the Macmillan ‘Books for Teachers’ series, and How to Write for Digital Media (2014), and most recently Best Practices for Blended Learning. Pete was the Newsletter Editor of the IATEFL CALL Review (2008-2009) and has a Masters in Educational Technology and ELT from Manchester University.