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February 4, 2011

Let's Go!

I’ve been online now for about two years, learning new ways to connect with other teachers for professional development, and how to use web tools in my own teaching. I wrote about my adventures in one of my first editorials for ELT News: The online adventures of a not-so-techie teacher. While I’m still not very techie, I have learned a lot online, and when Russell Willis offered me a chance to write a regular column about my cyberspace explorations I jumped at the chance.

Some of my faves...



In future installments, I’m going to introduce my favorite websites, resources, and tools for growing as a teacher, creating materials for classes, and teaching. This certainly won’t be an exhaustive list (like “50 ways to edit photos online”) because there are other people already doing those kinds of lists much better than I ever could. This is a place for me to share specific resources I’ve found useful, and tools that I have tried and liked. I’m partial to things that are free and easy to use, so most of my recommendations will be things that are free and won’t take much time to learn how to use.

While I’ll be introducing my favorites here, I do update my wiki regularly with new tools and resources. So, if you’re looking for sometime specific that I haven’t mentioned here, you might want to check there. And, if you’re interested in reading more about how I learn about new resources from my personal learning network (PLN), I invite you to explore those posts on my blog.

I hope you will join me in this new adventure by sharing your own recommendations for web resources teachers will love—just remember my bias toward free and easy to use! Post your suggestions in comments, or contact me directly. If I use your suggestion, I’ll be sure to give you credit!

February 9, 2011

Twitter and ELT Chat: Professional development in 140 characters

In the hierarchy of free online tools for professional development, Twitter is one of the best and easiest ways for not-so-techie teachers to connect with other teachers around the globe. If you can send a text message, you can tweet.

I'll talk more about Twitter in later columns, but today I want to talk about ELT Chat because it's an excellent example of ELT teachers harnessing the power of social media for professional development, and because teachers can benefit from the chats whether or not they have a Twitter account.

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The first ELT Chat was held in September of 2010 and since then over 31,000 tweets (messages of 140 characters or less) have been shared using the #ELTChat hashtag. Hashtags are what allow people to follow discussions or conversations on twitter. You can read more about the creation of ELT Chat on Marisa Constantidides - TEFL Matters . Marisa (@Marisa_C on Twitter) is one of many teachers who volunteer time to organize and moderate the chats.

Each week, teachers suggest and then vote on topics to be discussed. The number one choice becomes the discussion topic for the first chat (Wednesday 12 noon GMT / 9 pm in Japan) and the second choice becomes the topic for the later chat (Wednesday 9 pm GMT / Thursday 6 am in Japan).

If you're already on Twitter, you can set up a column in a Twitter application like Tweetdeck or Hootsuite so that all Tweets with the tag #ELTChat show up together. Here's what mine looks like on Tweetdeck:

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During the hour dedicated to each chat, this column gets very, very active as teachers around the world weigh in on the discussion topic. You don't have to contribute to the discussion in order to enjoy participating--it's fun just to follow along. If you aren't on Twitter, you can still "listen in" on the discussion by visiting the ELTChat Room at Tweet Chat. The page updates regularly with all tweets tagged with #ELTChat, so between discussions this is a good way to see what kind of links and resources ELT teachers on Twitter think other ELT teachers will be interested in.

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While I enjoy sharing ideas with other teachers during the chats, I believe that ELT Chat's greatest value is in the way the discussions are archived. The live chats happen quite quickly, and there's little time to enjoy the links that are shared during the discussion. And while I am sometimes awake at 6 am for the second chat, I'm rarely coherent enough to participate in anything more demanding than drinking coffee and checking email.

Luckily, transcripts of the chats are preserved on the ELT Chat website, and (even more luckily) volunteers summarize the main points and links. The ELT Chat site is becoming a rich information resource for each of the topics that has been discussed. It's pretty amazing to look at the summary for a discussion and remember that all of that was done in messages of 140 characters or less!

I've joined the moderator team for the first (9 pm in Japan) chat, and my Twitter buddy Chuck Sandy is almost always there as well. We're @barbsaka and @chucksandy on Twitter. If you've participated in an ELT Chat, please add your thoughts (and Twitter ID) in the comments.

I hope you'll join us on Wednesday nights to see how ELT teachers are leveraging social media for professional development!

February 25, 2011

EFL Classrom 2.0: A community by teachers for teachers

I have a thing for teacher supply stores. I love browsing the aisles just to see what treasures I might find for my students. Most of the time, there's very little specifically for teaching English as a second (let alone foreign) language, but I still always manage to find something useful.

Visiting EFL Classroom 2.0 is like walking into a huge teacher supply store, and discovering that everything on the shelves is for EFL teachers, and it's all free!

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Since David Deubelbeiss started the group three and a half years ago, it has grown into an active community of 20,000 teachers from around the world. Members share specific ideas for teaching, links to resources from around the web, and inspirational stories about education. You have to be a member to see most of the goodies, but membership is free.

I always lose track of time when I browse through the resources. I don't know of any website, anywhere, with as much educational content for EFL teachers. Not even David knows how many things are actually listed on the site, but he does know that some of the activities have been downloaded well over 10,000 times.

There are multiple ways to search the site, but I generally have the best luck when I start with the site map.

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EFL Classroom's wealth of content is both a blessing and a curse. There's so much available that it's sometimes a challenge to track down something specific. Just as happens in a teacher supply store, I get distracted by unexpected treasures I never knew existed!

For example, I wanted to share one of the games from EFL Classroom that my older elementary students absolutely love, a game called Fling the Teacher. My students were willing to do a lot of reading in order to answer the questions necessary to fling the teacher into the air. Unfortunately, I couldn't remember exactly where I'd originally found the World Cup version I wanted.

In the process of looking for it, however, I discovered a link to the online version of National Geographic's Young Explorer magazine, which is going to be a great motivator for an animal-adoring reluctant reader in my class. Then, I came across a word family sorting activity from Read Write Think that will definitely come in handy with my emergent readers. Then, of course, I had to peek at the karaoke collection and found a new gem to download for my senior class.

Oh, that Fling the Teacher game I mentioned? If you search for the game by name, you'll get several pages of game variations, plus a tutorial so that you can create your own version of the game (and then post of EFL Classroom so other teachers can use it, too). Here's the World Cup version my soccer-mad students loved.

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I hope to meet you at EFL Classroom 2.0. Take your time browsing the site and meeting the teachers who are part of this vibrant community. I'm sure that you'll find some unexpected treasures, too!

About February 2011

This page contains all entries posted to Barb's Bits and Bytes in February 2011. They are listed from oldest to newest.

March 2011 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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