Category Archives: Online learning

Online Teaching Reflections

Fast forward and rewind symbols on either side of zen stone, pause reflect and rewind
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Some of my primary concerns about this current online world of teaching are the creation of community and how to effectively engage learners.

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I write, therefore I am? Go hybrid in online language teaching

Person smiling and waving at computer screen.
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As Eva Hoffman quipped, “We live forward, but we understand backwards.” Hence, I’ve done a recount of my experience as a LINC instructor of advanced online classes during the pandemic and a student myself of different online courses from Additional Basic Qualification courses at OISE,  to  my own French lessons, transformed during the pandemic into Zoom meetings.  An issue that captured my special attention was the rationale for the hybrid mode of the remote ESL teaching.

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Teaching with Wet Paint

image source: unsplash.com Amauri Mejia

As the transformation to full online teaching continues, many instructors are unwittingly becoming instructional design-developers.  Some are adding study sets to Quizlet, others are hastily making Kahoots, while still others are using more ambitious tools such as H5P, Hot Potatoes and ScreenCastify to create more complicated learning experiences that enhance their online lessons. To generate timely, interactive, engaging and diverse learning opportunities for our students, many of us are creating digital learning objects on the fly.   

Advantages of using customized crafted learning objects include: 

  • appropriate language level and content for students  
  • learning objects will be relevant to the flow of an instructional unit 
  • new learning objects will add to your instructional tool chest for next term 
  • student motivation may improve as they engage with relevant activities 
  • instructor’s education technology skill set will improve 
  • contributions to and from educational peers will strengthen your professional learning network  

While creating paper-based learning materials is routine for language instructors, creating digital learning objects is not exactly the norm.  Generating learning opportunities on a daily basis for impending lessons leaves educators open to potential awkwardness –  typo here, a logic flow gap there, and technology issues that could not have been predicted as the activity worked perfectly on the teacher’s computer on the previous evening.  Many teachers have no choice; they learn a tool such as Socrative and immediately start creating activities that can be used to encourage more engagement through learner interactions.  Without the luxury of time, digital learning objects are shared with students without proofreading, peer input or pilot testing.  

Teaching with fresh and untested learning objects is risky but necessary during these trying times. We do not want to lose our students’ respect, but we need to have them engaged while they are learning online.  Below are a few suggestions to help avoid embarrassment while teaching with wet paint.  

  1. Join an appropriate collective.  Fortunately, the CIC, now IRCC, moved forward with recommendations suggested in the Fast Forward report (Kelly, M. et. al. (2007)). This report resulted in a learning object collection, Tutela, and an open source learning management solution, the LearnIT2teach project, now Avenue.  CLB-aligned language learning courses, learning objects, instructor training and mentoring are available to those in the settlement and language teaching sector.  Learning objects sourced from these projects are professionally created, vetted and organized for Canadian instructors to download and use with their online classes.   
  2. Locate tools that generate multiple activities from a language corpus.  The corpus can be a list of words, a list of terms with definitions and images or a logical block of text.  An example of this is Quizlet, which generates a set of flashcards, an adaptive learning activity, a spelling activity, a test, and three games including Quizlet Live, which involves all of the learners in a synchronous game.  By creating online learning objects with efficiency, teachers will have more time to take care with their data entry and testing of the learning objects. 
  3. Collaborate with peers. Instructors can invite other instructors at their institution or those from other schools across Canada to create and share learning objects.  Tutela already performs this function, but teachers are developing for the next day. It might be sensible to cooperate with a web of instructors who are willing to create, share and give feedback on learning objects.  These learning objects can be contributed to Tutela in the future after they are refined.  
  4. Organization of learning objects.  It is very important to name and categorize your digital files consistently.  This is more imperative if you are sharing these with others or are intending on using them in upcoming termsOnline learning objects such as Quizlet, Kahoot or Quizizz store learning objects on their websites.  It is still important to be diligent with naming and categorizing these learning objects. I learned this with Quizlet and H5P. After a few terms, it was difficult to find learning objects without a naming system.  Have a look at my old H5P account. What a mess!
  5. Keep a Learning Objects Journal.  Keep a record of the experience with each digital learning object.  You can learn from shared live activity, reported scores, access logs and discrete item data if learning objects have issues. Also, solicit feedback from the learners and other instructors. Their feedback can pinpoint problematic issues. These can be remedied later on, if you have time during term breaks.    

If you have any additional suggestions to improve the digital experience for our language teaching community, please add your idea(s) in the comment box below this post.  

 

References

Allan, John (2020). Reconsidering Quizlet. https://www.eflmagazine.com/reconsidering-quizlet 
 
Allan, John (2017). Add Fun to Your Vocabulary Lessons with Quizlet Live http://blog.teslontario.org/add-fun-to-your-vocabulary-lessons-with-quizlet-live/ 

Allan, John (2015). Create Learning Objects Quickly with Quizlet, http://blog.teslontario.org/create-learning-objects-quickly-with-quizlet/ 

Kelly, M., Kennell, T., McBride, R., & Sturm, M. (2007). Fast Forward: An Analysis of Online and Distance Education Language Training – Settlement at Work. New Media Language Training. Retrievable from: http://wiki.settlementatwork.org/index.php?title=Fast_Forward:_An_Analysis_of_Online_and_Distance_Education_Language_Training 

 Resources 

Aveune. Online settlement language training solutions for adult newcomers and teaching professionals. https://avenue.ca 

H5P. https://h5p.org 

Hot Potatoes. https://hotpot.uvic.ca 

Kahoot. https://kahoot.com 

LearnIT2teach. An Internet portal for LINC professionals wanting to get started with online blended learning. http://learnit2teach.ca 

Screencastify. https://www.screencastify.com 

SettlementAtWork Wiki. http://wiki.settlementatwork.org/index.php?title=Main_Page 

Socrative. https://www.socrative.com 

Tutela. The online community for ESL/FSL professionals! https://tutela.ca 

Quizlet. https://quizlet.com 

Quizizz. https://quizizz.com 

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#CdnELTchat: Join the Chat on Tuesday!

Image source: #CdnELTchat

If you’re a Twitter user, join the next #CdnELTchat on Tuesday, September 29. Below is a recap of the September 15 chat written by #CdnELTchat moderator Bonnie Nicholas.


The #CdnELTchat community returned from our summer hiatus with a Welcome back! informal chat. 

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Summary of the #EdTech discussion with John Allan

September 4, 2020 marked another successful and fruitful discussion on Twitter, through the #teslONchat hashtag. We discussed #EdTech with John Allan – @mrpottz

This chat explored the topic of education technology in terms of instructors and administrators rethinking their previous choices of edtech for online teaching. Continue reading

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Adapting lesson plans for online teaching

A PowerPoint slide titled, "PowerPoint Design," illustrating design ideas from PowerPoint
Image source: Jessica Freitag via PowerPoint Design

Awkward silence and staring at the screen while not knowing what happens next are what students may experience during an online session. On the other side, however, the instructor is trying hard to pull up a file for the next activity. You may think naming the activities of the day will do the job, but perhaps a bit of visual aid helps keeping the plan in mind both for the students and teachers. This is where an electronic version of a lesson plan might play a role.

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Perfect Timing: Avenue.ca

I am currently part of the team working on Avenue, an online portal that is the right thing at the right time!  It has been a pleasure to work with an amazing team of Canadian educators, administrators and developers to create Avenue under the management of New Language Solutions charity.  This IRCC sponsored Avenue national learning repository for adult newcomers and language instructors launched in mid-August.  The majority of Avenue’s courses, learning activities, resources, and training are focused on fully online teaching and training.  Avenue is a timely solution for language and settlement instructors and students as LINC classes continue online. I consider Avenue the principle online resource for IRCC language instructors across Canada.

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Remote(ly) Adjusting: Endless Possibilities

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March 17, 2020 marked the beginning of a new teaching paradigm for schools all over Ontario as the province began its quarantine efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19. As a result, schools had to instantly switch to 100% online delivery, which in a way also marked an acknowledgement that teachers are indeed instructional designers (and rightfully so). After all, instruction is not about technology for technology’s sake, but rather as a means to empower others to learn, to act on their learning, and to become independent, global citizens. With the shift online, it has become evident that as teachers we must embrace technology to be able to operate in a virtual world and do what we do best: Impart knowledge and awaken the desire to know more.

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Adventures in Summer School

Retro television with technical difficulties warning , 3D rendering
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Like many of my colleagues, I was teaching online this summer using Zoom. My adult ESL class (CLB 4) had about 14 regular students. By the end, we had become quite close and it was sad to see them go. Along the way we had a few adventures related to online learning that I’d like to share with you.

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