In 2020, many teachers around the world were forced to teach online. However, many were unfamiliar with this area of teaching and spent most of the Spring and Summer terms learning. Personally, I spent the whole of the summer teaching a university pre-sessional course to students resident in numerous countries and I would like to share with you my ideas on what makes an excellent online English teacher. It would be great to hear your thoughts on what makes a great online English teacher in the comments.
When teaching online, it is difficult to replicate different aspects of a physical lesson: classroom management, responding to visual clues from students or incorporating classroom games. In today’s post and video, I share five games you can use for your online English classes.
A few weeks ago, Apple announced their new M1 silicone chip with their range of Macs. Essentially, they were updating their range of MacBooks and Mac Mini with the new silicone M1 chip, and removing the Intel chip. In the video above, I share my advice for your next investment.
In the context of COVID, we are sure that you are curious about where the English Language Teaching world is from a teaching perspective? This is a year that has affected all of our lives in so many ways and the effects of COVID have obviously had a major impact on the ELT markets around the world. In short, the ELT industry is still coming to terms with all that has happened this year.
To truly understand where ELT is at the moment, The TEFL Academy went about conducting an in-depth study of the industry as a whole. It is clear from their findings that many people are considering teaching English for the very first time. This is due to the increase in online English teaching English work that is now available, coupled with the emergence of ‘working from home’ being the norm for so many people around the world. Ultimately the closure of in-classroom schools did not cause a decrease in demand for teachers but indeed an increase with schools switching to online learning methods.
The TEFL Academy learned that many of their students and TEFL teachers’ original plans and ambitions have been altered this year. Perhaps your own teaching plans have been changed too? If this is the case, the following 6 findings from the recent survey will be of interest to you and may even surprise you somewhat!
I was watching a recent YouTube video by Cambridge University Press ELT about the ‘great reset’ with regards to online teaching. What struck me was the fact that more credence is being given towards ‘online teaching’ now, rather than before the pandemic. I remember chatting to some other English teachers and teacher trainers about ‘online teaching’ and enquiring why there could not be an input session about online teaching and language learning during an initial teacher certificate, such as the CELTA or the equivalent. Some reasons that were made included online teaching not being a true form of teaching or it being more a fad, with the majority of organisations – prior to the pandemic – being located in South East Asia. You only have to scroll through the various online teaching companies to notice that the vast majority are located in China, Taiwan or Korea.
A few years later, a number of physical institutions and organisations are having to catch up and compete with online institutions. As well as companies and institutes having to incorporate a change to redress the current emergency, many teachers, who were teaching face-to-face, now find themselves in the position to teach within an online environment. It is my assumption that the vast majority of English teachers and practitioners have had limited experience of teaching within an online environment, let alone learning online. This raises the question: “How can English teachers be qualified to teach English online if they have not been trained?”. Teachers who have completed various qualifications (CELTA, DELTA, etc.) have all focused within a physical classroom environment. Teachers themselves have also not develop the softskills to deliver lesson content online for students and those teachers who have years of experience of teaching synchronously for numerous organisations based in South East Asia, usually unqualified without a CELTA or equivalent, have not been consulted. I should point out now that I am not disregarding how organisations, institutes and professional teachers have responded to the emergency form of teaching, but I am merely wondering whether more can be done.
Nevertheless, the video that I watch (please see above), raised an important point about the difference between ‘remote teaching’ and ‘online teaching’. Ben Goldstein highlighted that there was a clear division both forms which is a good step forwards. However, I disagree with the division of terms above. Personally, ‘remote teaching’ is associated with the location, while ‘online teaching’ is related to the tools to deliver the lesson. You are ‘remote’ from the classroom yet using ‘online’ tools to teach the students. When you teach ‘online’, you are using a variety of both ‘synchronous’ and ‘asynchronous’ tools to deliver content – not everything is delivered synchronously when teaching ‘online’. When you teach remotely, you can be located anywhere – at home, in an institute or at a cafe. You are not restricted to teaching, unless you have a stable internet connection and suitable equipment. What I find Ben is describing above is how the industry is dealing with the pandemic (“Remote”) and what online organisations were operating prior to the pandemic (“Online”).
Anyhow, the video is well worth watching as it does raise important questions as well as opportunities that are available for educational institutes.
I have always believed that setting up your own English teaching website is a useful activity, as teachers can reflect on their lessons by keeping a diary and share their experiences with others online. I first created my own blog – as it was back then – on Blogger, before transferring my website to WordPress. I initially set up my website to document my experiences of undertaking an MA in English Language Teaching, yet soon realised that it could be used for so much more.
Since starting, I have been keen to get other teachers involved in developing their own website so that they can document their own practice and share with other English teachers around the world. One other professional English teacher that I was able to persuade to join the ‘WordPress cult’ was Peter who created ELT Planning. In this post/video, I share the process that you have to follow when creating your very own WordPress website.
The new norm for language teaching is conducted remotely. It has been thrust upon all practitioners due to circumstances beyond our control, but much of the field of remote teaching and learning has been underestimated prior to the pandemic. I remember a few years ago, I was discussing why online language teaching and learning was not included in the CELTA and one practitioner declared that it was more unregulated with many institutions based in China seeking to exploit language teachers and pay as little as possible.
The pressure has now hit home with many of the students. They realise that they actually need to do some work and submit an annotated bibliography and sentence outline, in order to prepare for their essays. The previous Friday, I shared Essay Titles with my students and told them to consider a relevant essay title which connects to their subject of academic study. The majority of my students are going to be studying a business-related post-graduate degree from September, so the majority of the students chose similar essays. There was some emailing and responding to student queries in relation to their essays, with much of the catch-up sessions via Zoom explaining the expectation with an annotated bibliography and sentence outline.
Over the past week or so, I have been attending some Zoom meetings to prepare and induct for the newly arranged eight week Online Pre-Sessional course, which is to start next Monday. It is very much a new venture for all involved in the online course: students, teachers, convenors and admin staff.
Last week, all those involved attended a meeting to introduce all technology involved with the course. We were expected to become aware of all functions related to Zoom: breakout rooms, polls, chat, etc. This became quite an interesting experience for all end users. The person who organised this is technology and remote learning professional at our University.
The first part of this session looked at the hopes, fears and expectations of the Online Pre-Sessional course. Fears seemed to outweigh many other aspects: “Will I get used to the technology?”, “Will I embarrass myself to the students?”, “What will happen if I can’t use the technology?”. Some of the hopes focused more on being establishing rapport with students, noticing a development with student competency or being available for students during course hours. It was obvious that significant challenges faced by all tutors and students are related to technology and the ‘remoteness’ in relation to the course. We then looked at technological challenges and benefits and this was discussed in breakout rooms via Zoom. Much of what was discussed was demonstrated below.
On top of Zoom meetings, which focus on synchronous lessons, there is also an emphasis on asynchronous learning for students. With our institute, we have started to incorporate Canvas and were encouraged during the initial meeting to record self-introductions and post on the discussion board to students. Then, to encourage students to self-introduce themselves once the course starts. Furthermore, we were recommended to personalise the self-introduction – with the inclusion of hobbies, the place where we live or other aspects about our lives – so that rapport could be established. It appears to be quite invaluable suggestion, but obviously it is most dependent on how much a tutor wishes to share with their cohort of students. Other aspects on Canvas include the Announcements and Inbox, which I have not really used much in the past but I look forward to seeing how much this is integrated during the summer course.
Finally, there were a few considerations for tutors such as not organising a private WhatsApp/WeChat discussion group with the students (I guess there are some privacy-related issues). It was recommended that if students have any issues, that they use the formal channels of communication so that it is transparent and open. Obviously, it was possibly suggested that students could arrange their own private online social groups to help each other or share their own reflections and experiences. There is an assumption that providing learners with a private space would be of benefit and that they are able to liaise among themselves.
Some questions that I have going forward (and I hope to answer in future blog posts) include:
What is the ratio of face-to-face synchronous teaching/learning to asynchronous teaching/learning?
How much work ‘behind the scenes’ will go into synchronous teaching?
How will students respond to this new environment of teaching and learning?
What sort of EAP-related issues will emerge during the course?
This is my only second year as a Pre-Sessional Tutor and I am looking forward to this course as I feel much like a beginner teacher again. I also hope to share another update in the near future about my most recent inductions this week and my plans for next week’s course.
Teaching remotely or teaching online is becoming more and more common, especially with the latest pandemic where teachers are finding their courses and classes being placed online. Since then, there has been a scramble for finding alternative and suitable applications to support teachers and students with their online lessons with Zoom being touted as the most appropriate.
In this blog post and video, I am sharing with you seven ways you can incorporate Zoom to help you with your synchronous remote teaching and to engage and interest learners with lessons.