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How can I use print course books in blended learning classes?

shutterstock_274481441Ken Wilson is the author of Smart Choice and in all has written more than 30 ELT titles. His first ELT publication was a collection of songs called Mister Monday, which was released when he was 23, making him at the time the youngest-ever published ELT author.

We asked teachers from around the world who have been using Smart Choice what one question they would like to ask Ken. He will answer three of these questions in a series of video blogs this month.

Today, Ken discusses the best ways to use a course book like Smart Choice in blended learning classes. Blended learning is a term increasingly used to describe traditional classroom tuition mixed with self-guided online learning. How can teachers integrate blended learning in to the classroom using a course book like Smart Choice? Ken suggests practical techniques – such as lesson flipping – and shares examples to demonstrate blended learning in practice.

What are the best ways to use Smart Choice in blended learning classes?


References:

Harrison, Laurie (2013). The Flipped Classroom in ELT.

Oxford University Press (2016). Smart Choice Third Edition.


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Flipping and Creating Video Presentations

flipped-classroom1What is lesson flipping? Is it an effective technique for language learning? Thomas Healy, co-author of Smart Choice Second Edition, explains how he has used the concept of ‘flipping’ in his classroom ahead of his webinar on 17th or 19th February on the topic. 

Since I started teaching over twenty years ago, there is one challenge that I continue to obsess about: I have many students, but there is only one of me. To address this reality, I’ve tried over the years to do a better job of making use of group work, collaborative learning opportunities, as well as trying to help my learners develop independent learning skills.

Dealing with the needs of individual learner’s needs, however, remains a major challenge. Recently, I’m trying to go beyond I’ll see you after class and Here’s an additional  worksheet.  I was intrigued when I stumbled on mathematics lectures on Youtube that were make by Sal Khan, and the concept of ‘flipping’.

SalKhanYouTube

Flipping is a very simple notion. Essentially, it means reversing how a teacher deals with presentation and practice in and outside of the class. In a flipped class, students experience (typically on video) the presentation of new material as homework. This, in theory, allows more time for students to practice and ask questions the next time in class. So, for example, in Sal Khan’s flipped classes, the learner would watch a presentation on how to multiply at home; they would do practice exercises in class, with the teacher present when they need help.

Fascinating, I thought, but would this work with language learners? How could I flip conversation practice, pronunciation exercises, and group work activities? Would students do the homework, or would I end up presenting the new material in class anyway?

Soon, it became apparent to me that I could not flip many elements of the class. But I could flip some. Or, at the very least, I could create a bank of resources that students could review again and again. For example, I could make videos explaining frequent errors what leaners make, which they could access independently.

When I went about this project, I was amazed at how simple the technology was.  I’ve struggled with technology all my life, and still have
problems connecting a DVD player to a television.  Of the many available, I’ve been using Camtasia.

Camtasia, which is available for Mac and PC, can be downloaded easily from the Internet. It is a ‘screen capture’ program that records what appears on your computer screen. In addition, you can add your voice, animated annotations, as well as subtitles.

Here is an example of how I’ve used Camtasia. Some of my students struggle with using ‘Make’ and prepositions. I made a video to review the grammar, provide examples and help students test themselves.

THscreenshot1Step 1. I made a presentation, using PowerPoint. Actually, you can use anything, including Word.

Step 2. Then I wrote out what I wanted to say- a script.

Step 3. I played the slides on my computer, using Camtasia to record what was on the screen.

Step 4. Then, while playing back the recorded presentation, I added my voice.

Step 5.  I added animated annotations and subtitles, and posted the video on Youtube.THscreenshot2

I included a simple quiz, which students could use to test themselves.

While I don’t ‘flip’ very often in the true sense, I do like to have bank of grammar, vocabulary and reading skills videos available that students can refer to independently. I’ve never had a student who, on first exposure to a new grammar point or language skill, said, “I understand. I’ve got it! I’ll always remember it!” THscreenshot3 Currently, I’m looking through examples of student writing samples and student videos to try to identify common accuracy issues so that, in the future, in addition to saying, ‘Here’s an additional worksheet, I’ll be able to say, “Watch the video and try the quiz.” And if they still don’t get it, I’ll see them after class.

Want to find out more about lesson flipping? Take part in Thomas Healy’s live webinar on 17th or 19th February. Thomas will discuss models of lesson flipping and provide a technical demonstration of how to implement this technique. Register today!


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How to bluff your way through the changes affecting English language teaching!

guide to changes in ESLAndrew Dilger and Sophie Rogers, former English language teachers, are part of the Professional Development team at Oxford University Press. In this tongue-in-cheek post, they consider some of the issues that any self-respecting ‘bluffer’ should be looking at over the long summer break.

English language teaching is changing

How many times have we heard that? This time, however, it really feels like it. With the increasing adoption of digital technologies including the use of tablets and smartphones in many schools; the emphasis on differentiating the learning experience for every student; a mass of edicts and policies from education ministries, school boards and  bandwagons, the average English language teacher – already exhausted and overstretched – could be forgiven for thinking it’s time to hang up their interactive whiteboard pen.

… and we’re not equipped to deal with it (especially in summer)

The thing is, it’s summer! One of the very few times in the calendar year when we can actually stop thinking about our students and start thinking about ourselves! Given the number of blockbuster movies to see, barbecues to go to, new recipes to try out on unsuspecting husbands/wives/partners/families (who we also need to get reacquainted with, by the way, after endless evenings of lesson planning and marking), how many of us really have the time to use the summer break to ‘skill up’?

… so here’s how to bluff it!

For this reason, here’s a bluffer’s guide for how to deal with the seismic changes affecting ELT. After all, the dream will be over in September and then it’s back to the chalk-face – or given the extent to which everything has gone digital – maybe that should be the ‘silicon-face’!

CAUTION: If your teaching is already ‘blended’, your classroom ‘flipped’ and you know your BYOD from your BYOT, then this blog post isn’t for you. For the rest of you, read on …

1) Get to grips with the terminology

Part of the problem is the terminology – we can’t bluff an issue until we know just what all the educators are actually talking about. So here are a few useful definitions to get you started:

  • Blended learning (also known as hybrid learning) – Situation in which a face-to-face classroom component is complemented and enhanced with learning technologies. For example, it could involve teachers and students communicating and interacting online as well as in class.
  • BYOD (Bring your own device; also known as BYOT: Bring your own technology) – Policy which allows students to bring their own mobile devices (tablet and/or smartphone) to school and use them in lessons.
  • Flipped classroom (also known as reversed teaching) – Situation in which students are able to watch videos of teacher-delivered presentations or lectures in their own time. This frees up more face-to-face time for interaction, discussion, collaboration, tasks, etc.
  • LMS (Learning management system) – System for managing learning and educational records or software for distributing online or blended courses with features for online collaboration
  • VLE (Virtual learning environment) – Online space where teachers and students can interact, share work, and organize online materials. VLEs are usually managed at the level of the educational institute.

Of course, the best way to keep on top of all these terms is to put up a poster-sized glossary in your teacher’s room. That way, everyone can add to it and everyone benefits.

2) Rely on experience

The good news for bluffers everywhere is that, as much as ELT is changing, the way we handle the change remains the same. We rely on our experience and wealth of teaching techniques to get us through. ‘Change management’ consists of simply adapting what we’re already doing anyway and if you don’t yet believe it, here’s a quote from someone who knew a thing or two to back it up:

“It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change.” ~ Charles Darwin

3) Get a book

With the sheer amount of published resources available – by both global and local publishers – there’s probably going to be a book about it somewhere. And chances are it’ll be written by someone who’s more immersed in the topic than we are. Some recent examples you might want to flick through include:

  • Bringing online video into the classroom – Jamie Keddie (OUP)
  • Technology Enhanced Language Learning – Goodith White & Aisha Walker (OUP)
  • Thinking in the EFL class – Tessa Woodward (Helbling)
  • Adaptive learning – Philip Kerr (theround – free!)

4) Go online

For many teachers, the internet is the equivalent of the days when we used to walk into the teacher’s room and shout out: ‘What exactly does student-centred mean?’ Or, ‘I’ve got a lesson in ten minutes with a class I’ve never taught before. Help!’ If you’re looking for shortcuts, then the following sites contain enough classroom-ready ideas and professional insights to put you right at the cutting edge of what’s hot in the ELT methodology:

5) Ask a colleague

It’s all about shaping learning together. The trick is to make sure at least one colleague we’re shaping it with is a bit more up-to-date than we are. This way, they can bring us with them into the 21st-century. If you’re looking to bluff it on an institutional scale, try setting up a ‘buddy system’ or ‘chat group’ to discuss some of the latest trends and how you can deal with them. Meet once a month/term and each take a topic – define it, summarize the implications and pool ideas for how you can bring it into the classroom. You could even put together a regular e-newsletter on the findings. Suggestions for some of the ‘buzzier’ trends affecting ELT for your first few chat groups are:

  • Mobile learning (using mobile technology such as tablet computers and smartphones; also known as ‘m-learning’ or ‘mLearning’)
  • Special educational needs provision (e.g. helping learners with ADHD, dyslexia, ASD, SEBDs, etc.)
  • Assessment literacy (understanding how all aspects of testing and assessment impact on the learning process)
  • 21st-Century skills (including the so-called ‘Four Cs’: communication, collaboration, critical thinking, creativity)
  • Multilingualism (how communicating in more than one language affects the learning process – if you’re feeling brave, you could also tackle ‘plurilingualism’!)

So there you go. Five easy techniques for staying ‘ahead of the curve’ and bluffing your way through the changes affecting English language teaching. Now we can get back to enjoying our well-earned summer break and working on that tan. Roll on September!


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Connecting online and in class

Flipped classroomKristin Sherman, Network co-author, looks at how to take advantage of technology in the classroom. Kristin will be hosting a webinar “Help Your Students Get Connected” on 24th October and 1st November.

How can we use our classrooms and technology to the greatest effect? A recent study at the University of North Carolina indicated that a “flipped” classroom helps students perform better. Graduate students who used technology to watch mini-lectures at home and then engaged in active learning in the classroom showed significant gains in performance. The success of such a “flipped” classroom suggests ways we can effectively wed technology and language learning.

Technology serves as both a system of delivery and as content itself. We live in a digital world, one that places increasing importance on digital literacy. Our students need not only to be able to use technology to find and manage information, but also to connect and collaborate with others around the world.

Use technology to deliver traditional content

In a flipped classroom, content, in the form of videos and readings, is delivered to the student outside of class. Teachers can use photos as writing prompts, link to video lectures or articles, and post questions for online discussion. These are all activities that have traditionally been conducted in the standard classroom, but teachers can adapt them and move them online.

Use the tools of the traditional classroom to teach about technology

Our students need to be savvy and responsible users of technology. One way we can help them is to provide content instruction in social media and other digital tools.

Online content is visually rich and stimulating, but it encourages surface-level engagement rather than deep thinking and prolonged attention. Users move quickly from one link to another, often reading only parts of texts. Instructors can use the classroom to help students better understand difficult texts and to think critically about online sources. Engaging, collaborative activities in the classroom help learners practice new language skills and improves social skills.

Think creatively

Teachers come up with new ways to blend technology and language learning all the time. For example, you can teach students important skills of summarizing and paraphrasing by condensing a book to an essay to a paragraph to a tweet.

What are some other ways we can combine technology and language learning?

Sources

  1. The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, Nicholas Carr
  2. The Post Lecture Classroom: How Students Will Fare, http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2013/09/the-post-lecture-classroom-how-will-students-fare/279663/
  3. http://www.teachthought.com/social-media/20-interesting-ways-to-use-twitter-in-the-classroom/

To find out more about using technology to connect with your students, join Kristin for her webinar on 24th October and 1st November.


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#IATEFL Liverpool 2013 – The “people people’s” conference

Old friends shaking handsOxford teacher trainer, Veríssimo Toste, reflects on his experience of the IATEFL conference in Liverpool.

It has now been several weeks since I was in Liverpool for the IATEFL conference. I have had time to catch up on work and to get back into my daily routine. This week I took out my conference bag and leafed through the various pages of notes, hand-outs, and promotional materials I collected during the week. I found myself reflecting on the conference and how much I had enjoyed it.

It was simply a pleasure to be around so many teachers. Listening to them talk about their students was both inspiring and highly motivating. Some of the ideas I wanted to try out for myself, and tell others about. There were ideas I already knew about but was amazed by what other people had done with them. More important was the excitement and enthusiasm with which I was told these stories. Being a great fan of class libraries, I was especially thrilled to hear how different teachers use readers around the world. I came out of each conversation feeling overjoyed about working in ELT.

I also realised I had learned about some possible future trends in ELT. I appreciated the focus on demanding more from students as a way to motivate them. This seemed to be a theme for many speakers – easy success is not much of a success at all. Many sessions focussed on how to help students succeed, including critical thinking skills, the use of technology, or the flipped classroom, among many other strategies – ideas that put the learner at the centre of their learning.

Unlike previous years, the different sessions I attended on technology seemed to emphasize learning more than the technology itself. Whether it was for improving pronunciation, for helping students with critical thinking skills, or for learning outside the classroom, it seemed to me that this year’s sessions recognised that technology is just another tool to support learning and that the aim is not simply the use of the technology itself.

I thought about this as I rummaged through my conference bag and realised the ideas and trends were not what made this conference special for me. I have come away from previous conferences with new ideas. I have always talked to teachers and felt good about sharing ideas. So, what made this conference stand out for me?

It took me a while to realise what I especially liked about this conference – and it finally dawned on me over dinner with friends. It was talking to people from all over the world. What a privilege! To share ideas with a university teacher from Colombia on classroom observation; to talk to a teacher trainer from Turkey who was nervous about doing her first IATEFL session; to meet people who I consider friends, although we only meet at the conference each year.

ELT people are ‘people people’ – they enjoy each other’s company and talking about what they do. I am delighted to be part of such a group. Bring on IATEFL Harrogate 2014!