Oxford University Press

English Language Teaching Global Blog


4 Comments

Using Facebook and Smart Devices for Blended Learning

Facebook icon with mortar board on top

Image courtesy of mkhmarketing on Flickr

Thomas Healy, is an English language instructor at the Pratt Institute, New York and at Kyung Hee Cyber University, Seoul. He presents regularly at conferences on how to use technology and social media in language learning. He is the co-author of Smart Choice Second Edition. In this article, he looks at ways of using social media and technology for blended learning.

A couple of years ago, I felt that my interaction with students was more suitable for kindergarteners, rather than my young adults.  My need to say ‘No!”, “Don’t do that”, and “Stop!” seemed to be ruining my rapport. Every one of my students had a smartphone, which they never wanted to put down or turn off. I didn’t even have a regular cellphone myself. Then I thought, “If I can’t beat them, I’ll join them.” I bought a smartphone, asked a student to show me how it worked, and embraced the digital age.

I soon learned that I could easily get lost and confused with the bewildering number of virtual tools, environments and applications. So rather than asking myself, “How can I use digital tools in class?” I asked, “What do I need?” I needed a place in the digital world

  • which my students and I could use from any classroom, technology-enabled or not, or even when we were on a field trip
  • where students could post videos of presentations and written assignments
  • where my students could find me and each other instantly and effortlessly.

Having analyzed the most popular social media platform, I chose Facebook as the hub of my blended learning environment. Facebook has most of the functionality of the Learning Management System provided by my school with the added advantages that it is much easier to use, and my students are connected to it all the time. I make a Facebook group for each of my classes. A Facebook group is a members-only, private space that is easy to create and access.

One of the most effective ways of helping students with their communication skills is through doing presentations. Through presenting themselves and watching others present, students become acutely aware of issues relating to vocabulary, pronunciation and eye contact, to name just a few. In the past, the presentations themselves and the feedback sessions ate up a lot of class time. Now, when students present in class they video themselves on their smartphones, and upload their recording to their class Facebook group. In class, we discuss how to evaluate the presentations but the actual critiquing takes place outside of the regular classroom. Students watch the videos and then give feedback using the comment feature.

We follow a similar procedure when peer reviewing writing assignments. One of the most important advantages is that students have a record of the feedback, which they can easily access.

21st Century learners are ‘prosumers’: producers + consumers. They are not content just to view something; they want to produce their own content in response. As much as possible, I use Facebook to make the projector in my class an interactive rather than passive experience.

I use Facebook as a presentation tool, and as a way to expand and personalize the contents of my lessons. I can upload my lesson visuals using Slideshare, or more frequently, by just uploading a series of screenshots to the Facebook group. Unlike with my Learning Management System, students can upload to the group too. We can personalize and expand a lesson by having them take photographs or scanning content and uploading it.

When appropriate, I have my students use the live chat function to answer, for example, grammar questions or other activities. By zooming in on student responses, the projector becomes an interactive rather than passive classroom tool.

The digital classroom can become too diffuse through the use of too many platforms and applications. Although I have added other tools over time, I try to maximize the functionality of Facebook. By focusing my students’ desire to share on language learning, it can be used as a powerful ‘academic network’.

To find out more about developing presentation skills in the classroom and ways smart devices and social media can be incorporated into the process, you can take part in Thomas Healy’s interactive webinar “Developing effective presentation skills” on either 8th November or 14th November. Register for your free webinar place now.


12 Comments

How To Teach ´Great Openings´ for Presentations In English

Young businessman giving presentation

Photo via Dries Buytaert under Creative Commons license

Christopher Wright has worked as a Business English Teacher and a Business Trainer in the UK, US, Spain and France. In his first guest post for OUP, he outlines techniques for teaching Business English students the art of opening presentations.

Doing presentations, like anything in life, is a question of preparation, positive attitude and ´practice makes perfect´.

Just like in the popular BBC TV Show Dragon´s Den the more preparation and practice participants (students) have, either in front of an audience (no matter how small) or recording themselves on a web camera, the more relaxed and confident they will feel when they actually have to give their presentations.

So what can we do as teachers and trainers to help? Here are 6 tips:

1. Visual Aids

Visual aids such as images, objects, sculptures and models are a fantastic but under-exploited tool for making ´great openings´ in presentations in English. A visual aid immediately helps grab the audience´s attention and piques their curiosity. And once the audience starts thinking “what is it?”, “how does it relate to the presentation?” and “why have they shown me this?”, the presenter starts winning their battle to achieve their presentation objective (to inform, persuade, entertain etc.). Visual aids also act as a great support for non-native speakers who are nervous speaking in front of people, as it removes them from the spotlight. Also it helps focus their attention on the presentation opening instead of worrying about the audience´s reaction. Watch this great example, a 5 minute TED Talk by a Dutch Engineer, and how he uses a visual object to make a boring presentation really come alive. Count how long it is before he actually starts speaking.

2. Petcha Kutcha 20×20

Petcha Kutcha events are organized around the World. They were started by a group of young designers in Tokyo in 2003 and have become world famous. Their goal is to improve ´The Art of Concise Presentations´. Each presenter is allowed to show 20 images (one per slide), with each slide lasting up to 20 seconds, hence the 20×20. So how does this relate to teaching presentations in English? In an internet obsessed world that has become more visual, faster paced, and now suffers from information overload, the ability to quickly communicate your key messages is vital. Other advantages include: being a useful technique for teaching time-poor professionals and managers; helping long- winded students become more concise; and finally there is a cross-cultural aspect.

3. Storytelling

Nancy Duarte wrote an excellent book called Resonate (Wiley, 2010), which helps any person learn how to craft visual stories and present them using the techniques normally reserved for cinema and literature. With Resonate, presenters learn how to: connect with the audience empathetically; craft ideas that get repeated; use story structures inherent in great communication; create captivating content; inspire and persuade audiences. It´s a book full of quick and easy-to-use communication techniques for creating great presentation openings.

4. Power of your Voice

Following on from point 3, great story-tellers also know how to use the power of their voice to captivate, entertain and influence their audience. There´s a reason why children (and some adults) will sit quietly, attentively and listen for a long time to a good story-teller. What is it they do? They vary their tone, pitch, volume, speed, intonation, emphasis and pauses to create moments of suspense, excitement, danger and happiness. There are hundreds of good examples on YouTube you can analyse with your students to show them the effect of the power of their voice when giving a presentation. Try comparing a presenter with a monotonous tone and one who knows how to use the power of their voice to see how different they are.

5. Using Quotes

This can feel like a very American presentation style, but its appeal is much more international than you´d think. They key is to select quotes from internationally known and famous authors, figures and people both from the past and present. Here is a good source for presentation quotes. Why do presenters use quotes? For two reasons, firstly it helps them quickly frame an argument or key message for the audience. Secondly, it gives their own presentation a little more credibility as people tend not to question these quotes as much as they would if they’re the presenter´s own.

6. Evaluating and Giving Feedback

At the beginning of this post I mentioned ´practice makes perfect´ and also the TV program Dragon´s Den. Why? Both highlight the importance of ´Evaluating and Giving Feedback´ to perfect a presentation. As teachers we can work with our students to develop criteria to evaluate their own and other presentations so they can learn through watching others as well as themselves. Technology (webcams, private YouTube channels, etc.) gives students the option of peer review of their presentations, either by themselves, or by teachers and classmates.


17 Comments

Teaching Presentation Skills

PresentingJohn Hughes is the co-author of a new video course from OUP called ‘Successful Presentations’. On 25th January, he hosted a webinar on this topic. In this post, he sums up the key points of managing presentations in the classroom.

Preparation before the presentations

Among most people’s list of most stressful situations, speaking in public comes at the top or close to it. This level of stress is magnified when a presentation is being delivered in another language. So the preparation stage is crucial. Use it for students to check their English and to build their confidence. You’ll need to input useful phrases such as ‘Today I’d like to talk about…’ and ‘Now let’s move on to…’ but language input also means providing individual students with key vocabulary for the topic of their presentation. Next you need to give students preparation time including rehearsal time at outside of class. Remember that students might need strategies for preparation at home. One useful technique is for students to work in pairs and practise in front of each other.

During the presentations

On the actual day that students give their presentations, prepare the classroom beforehand. Make sure students have all the equipment and technology they need AND that it all works. As the teacher you need to make notes for feedback but also sit back and enjoy the presentation as an audience member with the rest of the class. The other students who are listening in the audience should also actively participate. That means more than sitting quietly. They should think of questions and comments for the speaker. You can also focus their attention by giving them a task to do while listening; for example, they can write down one thing they like about the presentation and one thing they think the speaker needs to work on.

After the presentations

Students need feedback and there are different ways to handle this. One option is to meet students individually and give comments. If you have filmed the presentation, then you can also pick out certain sections for feedback or the student could study the video after class. Using a formalised feedback form is also useful at this stage so that there is a clear focus to the feedback. Alternatively, you could talk generally with the whole group about all the presentations and discuss any common issues that reoccurred; this will obviously work well with groups who are familiar with each other and have a good rapport.

Bookmark and Share


7 Comments

Business Communication Skills and Teaching Presentation Skills [Interview]

Businessman giving presentationIn November 2010, the Oxford University Press Conference for Private Language Schools took place in Kyiv. Oxford News met with guest speaker John Hughes, whose presentation ‘Business people want results – now!’ was dedicated to the new title from Oxford University Press, Business Result. Interviewed by Igor Gnatyuk.

IG: Could you tell us a few words about the importance of Business Communication Skills?

JH: Business Communication Skills (BCS) have developed in the last 20 years and to some extent they’ve come out of management training: so, for example, in the past in Business English (BE) we tended to focus on professional  content or different business topics and the key  business vocabulary. But over time it became apparent from management training courses that business people actually needed lots of help with presentation skills, with meetings, negotiating, even socializing, or writing – writing reports, writing e-mails etc. – and that’s been incorporated into BE over the years. So, often our teaching can include what it is to be an effective communicator alongside effective use of the language. As a result, the demands on BE teachers have increased to some extent. We also need to be able to teach communication skills.

Teachers often think that teaching communication skills as well as language is a difficult challenge but  nowadays many of the course books provide support in this area. For example in Business Result every unit has a section on BCS and it might focus on telephoning or having a meeting to discuss a project, these kinds of things. So Business Communication Skills have become one of the most important aspects of BE.

IG: Could you tell me about teaching Presentation Skills, perhaps from your own teaching experience?

JH: Often when we talk about Presentation Skills, people have this idea that it’s a big official context with a Managing Director standing up at the front of a large audience giving a presentation about products. While that is one possibility, it’s not necessarily the most common. Lots of our BE students give presentations every day and on quite basic things: maybe it’s a presentation about what they are doing this week in their department, maybe it’s an informal presentation of the product to a client – the range of presentations can really vary.

Continue reading