I was at an ACE FELI all last week. It was pretty amazing. If you get a chance to go to one, or if you can request one for your community college, absolutely go! I’ll write more later if I have a chance.
P. S. It appears that my site has been compromised. I apologize for not keeping a tighter rein on things. If you have gotten any email that appears to originate from this domain and wasn’t just an update with this post, it didn’t come from me. I’m doing my best to fix things!
If you’re deskwarming in Korea or Japan, and you’re all caught up on lesson-planning, here are some ways to make the most of your time. (Of course, some sites might be banned at your school, but you never know.) I’ve never been in this position myself, but many teachers wind up spending time at their desks for a couple weeks (or more!)–no classes, no students, and few responsibilities (at least, if they’re experienced lesson-planners). It’s a little hard to imagine, but I’ve heard about it from several friends, and who knows, maybe I’ll experience it someday.
Anyway, I dug through my links. I decided to mix the links together, just as I might want to mix the use of my time–professional development, taking a break, and so on.
Read about fascinating things on Metafilter and the endless international help column of AskMetafilter (see orientation if you get distracted by in-jokes sometimes used on the site).
Improve your CV and your chances of getting that next job/getting into that PhD program by submitting an article/activity/etc. for publication at an online journal (yes, it’s the same link as above, but it’s worth saying!).
Play the devilishly cute, misleadingly simple games at Eyezmaze Games.
Get pulled into the underlying threads of fiction at TV Tropes–if you’re not sure where to go, look up a favorite TV show and wander around from there.
Watch streaming media in Korean and Japanese to improve your language skills will entertaining yourself: Crunchyroll, MySoju, Drama Fever, Viki, and relevant searches on Youtube and Veoh (e.g., for example.) Whether the content is legal or ethical depends on the site and content, plus your location and perspective.
I wasn’t able to post here during the holidays, but I was somewhat active on Twitter. Here are a few links that I shared that may be of interest to you, rewritten a bit for context and easier clicking.
This is part of how I use Wikipedia (and part of why the kneejerk brainwashing of students against it is wrong):
You heard about the possible closure of Delicious by Yahoo and then the backpedaling, right? You’d better read this on Yahoo’s “Delicious isn’t dead” statement (basically, the Delicious team was laid off, so plan ahead. The worst part is that either the service will degrade or everyone will scatter to a different service. And I DO NOT LIKE Diigo and its toolbars and disguised links. Hat-tip to @immlass). http://pinboard.in/ (run by some of Delicious’ original people, I think) is on my radar (one-time low fee, like Metafilter.com) to replace Delicious if needed, as is http://xmarks.com. Pinboard connects to Twitter, Instapaper, & Google Reader, so it may be worth $10 (1-time, not/year). Not to mention that actually having a tiny fee may keep it alive and answerable to its users–remember paying for stuff that you liked and valued?
This is just a brief note to call your attention–in case you’re not on Twitter or you missed it–to the new permanent page I’ve added here. The List of Free Journals collects a range of open-access scholarly journals on topics related to ELT/TESOL/TEFL/TESL/applied linguistics. I’ve actually added one two since I posted it to Twitter, so the list now stands at 27 28. (I’ll keep updating the page, though not this post.) Most are peer-reviewed; some are more practical (ITESLJ, in particular) but even the very academic ones may have useful ideas. Please check out the page, and comment here or contact me somehow if you have corrections or additions to the list. Thanks!
I plan to make a similar page for magazine-like sites, eventually, so if you have favorites, I’d be happy to know about them.
On Twitter, I followed a link to a blog post provocatively titled Are Expats More Creative? This post mentioned some research suggesting that people with deep experience abroad came back as more creative people–in a way measurable on tests of creativity–but it didn’t cite or link to the actual research. I was able to find a couple of papers by the researcher mentioned in the article, as well as a Youtube interview with him. It’s very interesting stuff, and while the studies are somewhat artificial, they’re very thought-provoking. It may be a good argument for teaching abroad and studying abroad, but the research team found that you can’t just travel abroad or live in an expat enclave/not get out into the culture or learn the language. You really need to have that integrative motivation to benefit.
To my surprise, a recent paper was downloadable for free, although it looked as though it would be behind a journal’s paywall. I don’t know if it’ll work outside of the US, but check the righthand column to see if you can download it.
(Note: This post contains lots of speculation and generalizations based on some extremely subjective observations, without any hard data to back it up. I’m not claiming I’m right about any of this! I’d love to get different points of view, so please comment. Thanks!)
I’m on Twitter as talkclouds. Since I’m currently working as a private instructor/editor, it’s been invaluable for staying connected. The e-mail groups that I joined as part of my various professional organizations are mostly dormant, and conferences are infrequent. Twitter lets me ask questions, discuss issues, and (best of all) share resources. In the last couple of days, I’ve found out about an event in San Francisco with the Japanese ambassador, two open-source textbook websites (more on that soon!), a JapaneseEnglish iPhone app, a new Pearson Longman site for teachers, an article on teaching English in Taiwan, where I could watch part of a Pecha Kucha session at the IATEFL conference in the UK live online, etc.
That leads to me my next question, which is — is it just me, or are UK-based teachers more with it when it comes to twenty-first century communication tools like Twitter and Pecha Kucha*? It’s frustrated me for a long time that technology seems more alien to English teachers than to, say, librarians–ALA (American Library Association) conference websites are usually more advanced than TESOL/affiliate conference websites, there are librarians all over Twitter, and so on. Meanwhile, CALL and TELL are basically niches, and even many of their advocates focus mainly on twentieth-century “language lab”-style stuff.
At any rate, I thought it was English teachers as a whole that were behind, but when my Twitter list exploded with #iatefl tags (see above), I realized that might not be the case. (Putting a # in front of a word in a post/”tweet” makes it into a “hashtag,” which makes it a clickable, searchable term collecting all the tweets on that particular topic/at that particular venue/etc.) So many people were tweeting from the conference, whereas TESOL’s conference just a couple of weeks before in Boston hardly even registered on my Twitter radar. One person I chatted with, who was at both TESOL and IATEFL, indicated that not only were there very few “tweechers” (Twittering teachers) at TESOL, but mentions of it were not received with favor or interest.
(Alternatively, is it not a North America/UK divide, but an ESL/EFL divide? If IATEFL is really focused on EFL, as the name indicates, and is not a general UK-based ELT association–I confess I don’t know–then that might be part of the difference. Most of TESOL’s membership is composed of ESL instructors, and many of them teach composition rather than or in addition to communication-oriented English classes. The former generally have less in common with EFL instructors than the latter. I’ve noticed a relative lack of interest in using technology other than basic computer applications among many composition instructors.)
I don’t mean to suggest that everyone should get on Twitter.** It’s not for everyone; lots of people will just find it annoying even after putting in the time needed to get used to it and learn its culture. (After all, I’ve tried Second Life twice and just can’t get into it.) But I think more people need to try it out–after all, teachers also need support and “personal learning networks.” Twitter is great for that. It’s also very casual; there’s not a lot of Twitter etiquette*** to worry about. You can follow (add) and unfollow (remove) people freely, and you don’t need to worry about catching every tweet.
My Twitter stream is like a magic cafe filled with English teachers from all over the world, plus some international journalists, cultural critics, general educators, linguists, and so on, all chatting to each other and to me. No one is making speeches, since it’s not a lecture hall–although someone may hand me a paper to read later. If I pop in, I can catch all kinds of interesting things and share my own thoughts (and due to the magic properties of the cafe, I can rewind a bit too). I have three other accounts–one for my personal life, one for English learners, and one where I post local news and events for my area. I just think the people in these “cafes” would be bored or confused by each other, so I’ve kept them mostly separate. Most people don’t go quite that far, although a lot of people have both professional and personal accounts. Fortunately, many Twitter clients and apps (small programs that just run Twitter) make handling multiple accounts easy.
CATESOL is in a few days, and I would love to propose a tweetup (a meetup organized through Twitter)–however, I’ve only heard from two other people who are going. I wonder if there are enough of us for a tweetup. You would think California would be cutting edge, right? So far that hasn’t really been my experience.
Any theories on what’s up? Am I and the other people I talked to just wrong and just not hooked into the North American ESL twitter community? Anyone want to talk about how it is in other places and disciplines?
* Pecha Kucha is not especially high-tech, nor are unconferences, but you could argue that both are part of the spirit of TED Talks and other tech-communication related innovations, and Pecha Kucha first came to the attention of many outside Japan though Wired magazine.
** I included this digression because I knew some people were going to think “What is the point of Twitter, anyway?” — as I did before I started using it and, to a certain extent, while I only had my personal account and didn’t have my @talkclouds account.
*** Previous link deleted due to a malware report [on the site I linked to, not here] by Google.
Well, I’ve made it to Twelfth Night without missing any days. I wasn’t sure that would happen. If you’ve been reading all along, thanks for sticking with me! I hope today’s resource will help everyone who’s trying to force their brains back into lesson-planning mode after the holidays. It’s not easy, searching for inspiration when your head’s still full of punch and eggnog (or fever and bronchitis, in my case)…
Today’s resource is one that I’ve just recently discovered, EFL Classroom 2.0. It has over 11,000 registered users, so maybe you already know about it. I thought it was worth a mention, though, because it’s the only English-teaching megasite that I’ve found to be worth signing up for so far. You probably know what I mean–when you look for ELT resources online, many sites look promising but require registration to really view anything. You hand over your personal information and jump through the hoops, only to find out that the site has been abandoned since 2001, has nothing of interest to you, has only materials that are free on other sites, has only materials that were stolen from other sites, or has only a few things that are really free and actually requires you to pay to see the good stuff. EFL Classroom 2.0 is different–they have good content in a wide variety of formats, and it’s aimed at various age levels. They don’t just have ideas, either; they have actual stuff that you can download and use. There’s also an active user community and forum, and I get the impression that it’s growing rather than stagnating–though since I’m new there, it’s hard to say for sure.
Here are some of the highlights of the site that I think make it worth your time spent registering (note: I can’t link to each page since you won’t be able to see them till you’ve registered):
“Lessons in a Can”: 100+ fairly fleshed-out ideas, including necessary materials such as videos, slideshows, or handouts.
Karaoke and lots of it–I’ve known several excellent teachers who used karaoke for pronunciation, energy, and and motivation.
Games for the classroom, from paper to Powerpoint–original ideas from site staff and users as well as a directory of online games
Community, including forums, an “Answers” section, “Classrooms” that serve as interest groups, a place for teachers to find classrooms for keypal and penpal exchanges, and even photos of other users’ classrooms (could result in new ideas for your classroom, and interesting if you haven’t started teaching yet!)
Categorized resources on everything from using comics in the classroom (yay!) to testing and evaluation (I can’t wait to look at their placement tests).
Videos, but unlike the videos mentioned in my TeacherTube and Vimeo post, many of these have discussion in the comments from other teachers, which is nice. Videos include both things you might want to show the students and teacher-training videos with ideas and methods for you. Quality (and legality, ala YouTube) varies.
There’s a lot more at the site. I have to admit, I find it a little confusing to navigate, but stick with it–patience will be rewarded. (This is one of those times when being a Delicious user will come in handy, since I think I’ll want to bookmark and tag a number specific sub-pages.) The “Rate Your Job” section has potential, but it seems that although the site isn’t easily searched (since you have to register to get in), people are still hesitant to discuss their experiences. I wish people would start using it!
There are lots of other things and new things popping up, including a just-started thread on games and lesson plans that will work well with Korean classrooms (the first idea is a “Korean Celebrity – Guess Who” game, and includes two files to get you started). The Korea-based teaching community seems to be particularly strong here, with at least three Korea-related interest groups, so if you’re teaching in Asia and you’ve been unhappy that so much of the free lesson material online is ESL-oriented, you’ll really want to check this out. However, there’s plenty that can be used in non-EFL contexts, despite the site’s name.
If you know of another great free site, please let me know about it!
And with that, the 12 Days of Christmas series concludes! Thanks very much for reading. I’d still love feedback–readership went up during this time, but I’m still looking (like any writer, second-language or first!) for a response from my audience. I’ll take a break for a couple of days and then start trying to post more regularly than in the past. Oh, and you can follow me on Twitter at talkclouds.
Very serious here on the sixth day, after photo fun yesterday! Is one of your New Year’s resolutions going to involve professional development? Read on for free self-guided online courses you can do from the comfort of your own computer! I’ll mostly focus on a set of courses for adult educators, but there are more at the end, including for K-12.
ProfessionalStudiesAE.org is a “portal for online professional development” with lots of courses aimed at adult education. They also offer sessions that require registration fees, but many of the listed courses have no charge at all. Here are some of the free, self-paced mini-classes you can take:
Adult Multiple Intelligences Theory and Adult Multiple Intelligences in Practice (two different classes)
Ideas for Teaching Reading
Using Authentic Curriculum and Materials
Activity-based Instruction: Why and How
Overcoming Poverty Through Action-based Literacy
Health Literacy: New Field, New Opportunities
Creating a Volunteer Program in the ABE/ESL Classroom
The mini-courses mostly consist of guided readings and reflections, but they may be useful if you’ve changed which level you teach, started teaching before you had a chance to do formal study, want a refresher, have a new topic you want to learn about, etc.
A friend let me know about a project at his university which is geared toward helping teachers prepare for the PRAXIS II K-12 certification test. Visit http://blackboard.fhsu.edu/ and enter the username esol and password FHSUESOL123 — click on ESL Workshop on the top right to get started.
TESOL, the major international organization, has recently started offering free online workshops (usually to members only), but they’ll be having a session on trends in the profession sometime in February 2010, which will be open to members and nonmembers. Details to be posted here, presumably. TESOL also sponsors the Electronic Village Online Sessions, which are associated with the annual international conference but for which you don’t have to be a TESOL member or registered for the conference. Registration will start January 4, and sessions include “Bringing Language Alive through Process Drama,” “Online Games for ESL/EFL” (I’m thinking about signing up for that!), “Internet 4 Young Learners,” and more.
Finally, Benjamin over at Collaborative Understandings will be hosting a workshop on using Moodle, the course management (and then some) system. Read all about it here and sign up right away–it’s free and it starts on January 4th. Via Collaborative Understandings, I also discovered Integrating Technology, which offers free courses on “how to integrate technology for active learning via blended and blended online learning.” They also seem to have a lot of courses available, but I haven’t explored them because (free) registration is required.
I’m sure there are lots more out there. If I missed a great professional development resource, let me know and I’ll highlight it here (if it’s time-sensitive) or write about it in a future post!
For a long time, people on internet communities have been asking whether TESOL (the international professional association) accredits or endorses any online certificate program, or whether they offer one themselves. The answer was always no, and so people always wound up advising against nearly all of the online TESOL (the profession) certificate programs. Most seemed to be ripoffs at worst and of extremely uneven quality at best. Recognition of such certificates is questionable at best, too.
TESOL has finally thrown their hat into the ring, and (to mix a metaphor) if things go well, we can expect them to become the 900-pound gorilla of online TESOL certificates. The TESOL Core Certificate is “a 130-hour online training program providing a foundation in the theory and practice of English language teaching” for both adult and young learners, in both ESL and EFL environments. It is not yet accredited, but the last online certificate I looked into that claimed to be accredited got its “accreditation” from an institution that I don’t believe would be recognized as able to grant accreditation anywhere outside of its home country. So is TESOL’s sponsorship and seal of approval worth more than that kind of accreditation? I’m inclined to think so, but you should make up your own mind.
You can read about the instructors and courses here and the other components of the program here. The entire program will take 6 to 9 months, which is indicative of a good program, I think–any program that takes only 4 weeks or so and isn’t 9 hours a day, 5 days a week in person (like the St. Giles CELTA course, which is very intensive!) is clearly just for show. No real work involved. A capstone requirement for the certificate will consist of ten hours of classroom observation, if you are teaching or assisting; 10 hours of reflective teaching practice (ditto, presumably); or 10 hours at an in-person or online professional development event such as a conference or workshop series. In addition, participants will write a “self-reflection paper as part of a professional development plan and portfolio.”
The program will start twice during the year, once in January and once in June.
The cost to do the entire program is $1,000 for regular TESOL members, $400 for global TESOL members (from certain countries only; see list), and $1,090 for non-members, including a TESOL membership). It’s possible to take individual courses, too. You can read more on the registration information page.
I still think that any online certificate is likely to put you at a disadvantage compared to a certificate from a university (a real, accredited university, that is) or a CELTA, but this is still likely to be a better choice than a random online certificate from somewhere else. If you are vaguely considering getting an MATESOL in the US after you try teaching overseas, and you are absolutely set on an online certificate as your only option, then this might count for something (then again, if it’s not accredited, I don’t see how you could receive any course credit for it–if nothing else, it could at least garner you some letters of recommendation from respectable, established professors, though, which can be very hard to come by once you’ve been out of undergrad for a few years!). Overall, I don’t think any online certificate is ideal, but if I had to do an online certificate, I would look at this one first. (This is not an endorsement or a recommendation, mind you; I just want to bring the existence of the program to your attention.)
For comparison, here are the courses I took when I did my TESOL certificate at CSU East Bay (then Hayward), which was an in-person program over three academic quarters:
Approaches, Designs and Procedures in Teaching ESL I (4 units)
Approaches, Designs and Procedures in Teaching ESL II (4 units)
Pedagogical Grammar/Outcomes Assessment (4 units)
ESL Practicum, Supervised Teaching (4 units)
Advantages: Some units transferred to the MATESOL program later as credit. Courses were offered in the evening. I was able to TA for an entire quarter of a course. There’s no question about the worth of my certificate. I made personal connections with all of my teachers and several of my classmates, which I maintain to this day both professionally and as friends (I don’t foresee this happening in an online course). I really loved my teachers–they’re great people!
Disadvantages: Pretty expensive (about $4,000, maybe?)–most certificate programs are offered as “continuing education,” so I didn’t get an in-state tuition break. 9 months is a long time.
Why “certificate” and not “certification”? TESOL notes that they’re going with a particular definition here, and I think it boils down to some association of the term “certification” with “credential”–that is, education that allows you to be granted a license or status to teach something. For example, in California you need a teaching credential to teach ESL at the adult school level, because adult schools are part of the public K-12 system. A TESOL certificate or CELTA (as far as I know) does no such thing, nor does it qualify you for a visa anywhere that I know of. It’s useful for two other reasons: 1) Some employers look for it or require it based on their internal rules about qualifications, or will give you a bonus/higher salary because of it. 2) It gives you the pedagogical and sociolinguistic tools and knowledge to start the process of becoming a skilled professional English teacher rather than a person who speaks English and has the job title of “English teacher”. (Those are two different things! Of course, it’s possible to educate yourself enough to become a skilled, professional English teacher, but just speaking English and getting a teaching job definitely doesn’t do it automatically.) As a bonus, I think having the tools to do the job well will make the job far more interesting, although it could also make it more frustrating if you find yourself in a job where modern language-learning techniques are ignored…
Dear Korean teachers, Japanese teachers, Thai teachers, etc.,
Do you remember how much fun you had when you were a MATESOL or PhD student in the US going to your local conference, or in the UK or Australia, or going to the international TESOL conference? I remember going with my international student classmates. The conferences were so much better because they were there! You don’t need to stop going to conferences just because you are back in Seoul or Okayama or Bangkok. In addition to the fun and inspiration of conferences, you may be able to find out about grants for materials and training, get free books, make useful international and local connections, etc. It can be great just to share ideas with (and complain to) people who really understand your job and concerns, when your non-English-teaching co-workers, friends, and family probably don’t. For example, if your country tends to prefer old-fashioned teaching methods like grammar-translation or the audiolingual method, other teachers from your country may know how to help convince school administrators to let you add more modern teaching techniques like extensive reading or task-based teaching. They may know about successful programs at specific schools and have exam results that you can show your school’s administrators and concerned parents. How else can you get this information? It’s invaluable!
Of course, time and money are still an issue, but you can check each group’s website for grants and reduced fees. You may even be able to get your boss to pay for your membership or attendance if you bring up the idea in the right way. Another concern for some teachers is that a few of these conferences and associations are dominated by foreign, “native-speaker” teachers. However, I’ve heard that a lot of them would be really happy to have more local teachers involved. They just aren’t sure how to reach out, because (…sigh…) many of them are monolingual English-speakers. So I’d like to encourage you to try joining your local association, going to their conference and workshops, presenting at the conference, writing for their publications, and becoming part of their leadership. Even if they don’t know it, they really need you! If you’re nervous about going, try to find a co-worker or former classmate to attend with you.
I’d also like to address this to any Canadians, Americans, Singaporeans, and others who have found themselves teaching English abroad despite having no teaching training and no applied linguistics background: Please check into these conferences and associations. You won’t become a full-fledged professional in a weekend, but sometimes the workshops are amazing. You could learn enough to really benefit your students and make what you do far more interesting for yourself, as well. (Some conversation-school instructors have told me that they’ve wound up totally rethinking the entire concept of “English teaching” as a result of being dragged to a conference.) Major conferences sometimes have free resources, too, which can make your life a lot easier. You, too, can bring a co-worker or fellow expat with you if you’re nervous, and you may also be able to get your boss to pay for membership or attendance.
Of course, if you’re teaching overseas as a professional, whether it’s long-term or short-term, you should definitely check out these groups. As a bonus, a few of them include the teaching of local languages as part of their mission statement, which could make things more interesting (and perhaps provide some high-quality language-learning connections for you). I’ve noted a couple that mentioned it, but others likely do as well. Some groups have peer-reviewed or less formal publications, both of which can provide a good place to start getting published if you have extra time on your hands. Several groups, like JALT, have affiliations within an entire region–I recently received information from JALT’s Extensive Reading group that they’re doing presentations with KOTESOL in Korea. So you may be even able to make connections in the next location where you’re considering teaching, without going anywhere.
These are just some of the many international groups. If you can’t find a group for your area, you can leave a comment and I’ll try to find them.
If you’ve had great experiences with your local group, comment and tell us about it! I’ve heard good things about KOTESOL activities and met people from the JALT Extensive Reading special interest group when they did some great presentations at TESOL in 2007.