Category Archives: Technology

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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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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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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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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Music for the Mind, Body, and Soul

Music recording concept. Creative process of writing a song
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I recently created an online listening and speaking module about music. The idea came to mind as a way to make online learning fun, interesting, and engaging for students.

           The module was broken down into four weekly sessions and accessed by students via Canvas, Padlet, Zoom, PowerPoint, Word, voice recording apps, and email.

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To Video or Not to Video: That Is the Question

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Welcome to the world of Covid-19 and online teaching! Do you like teaching this way? Is it working for you? Are your classes synchronous or asynchronous? At the University of Guelph, we’re using a combination of synchronous and asynchronous EAP classes. This means that every week I meet my class online at a set time while they are located in Guelph, in Korea, in Japan, and in China. These students have never met me or one another face-to-face.  Is it ethical, therefore, for me to require them to turn on their video and show their face to the class?

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Zooming your Docs

Since late March, many of our courses have been moved online, and synchronous sessions through Zoom have become a new part of our teaching lives. While testing various features offered by Zoom, I have realized that I really miss my classroom whiteboard, which was used for writing the agenda, teaching notes, upcoming coursework, classroom instructions, and conducting student interactive writing, editing, and speaking activities.

Although Zoom has a Whiteboard feature, I find it limiting, so I have replaced it with Google Docs. I have found this practice quite sustainable and a user-friendly approach to an online whiteboard. Here is how and why I combine Zoom and Google Docs.

  1. Sharing: I have created a Google Doc, named it “Whiteboard” and shared it with my students by placing its link on my Learning Management System (LMS). In every class, my students can click on the same link and find their class notes there.
  2. Organizing: I have organized my notes on the Google Doc by creating a table of contents, and the table of contents is organized by date of the class, list of planned activities, and by placing the newest notes at the top.  
  3. Navigation: This way of content organization through a table of contents makes navigation absolutely efficient for both students and instructors.
  4. Agenda: My table of contents also plays the role of an agenda. As an instructor, I place my list of planned activities on the Doc right before the class starts just like when I used to step into my physical classroom welcoming early arrivers and writing my agenda. Now, my table of contents displays my agenda.
  5. Class Notes: Once the class starts on Zoom, and after I greet my students for a few minutes, I start teaching by sharing my screen and displaying my Google Doc “Whiteboard”. Since my list of activities has already been shared, I ask students to locate a certain activity. When I have my students’ attention on that activity, I can add more teaching notes to it, just as we used to utilize our whiteboards/ blackboards and share information.
  6. Interaction: Leading a more sedentary lifestyle at this time, it is now more important than ever to create an interactive learning environment for our students, who might be staring at screens for long hours every day. Therefore, for every assignment, I have a short teaching moment, and then ask my students to work on the activity.
  7. Watching: In the case of showing a video, I place the video link right in front of the planned activity, which has two benefits: It is quick for the instructor to locate the video link and play it right there, and it is already shared with my students for their own future reference.
  8. Reading: The same goes for sharing an article and having students read it. With Zoom’s Breakout Room feature, it is easy to place students in different groups to read and speak about an article. I can assign certain paragraphs to each group, or I can assign a different article to every group. Having all the links shared on one page for the whole semester makes navigating content a highly efficient practice. A little side note: I also use the Zoom’s chat box or the broadcast feature to share a quick spontaneous link or a message when conducting breakout rooms.
  9. Writing: In terms of writing, I can follow the same practice of assigning a page to a breakout room group, where students can write and edit their work. I am writing a whole blog post on writing and editing, coming up soon. 
  10.  Announcements: Finally, I share reminders, coursework due dates, and announcements right at the top of every class’s list of activities, which makes it easy for students to plan upcoming activities and assignments.

This combination of Zoom sessions with a consistent Google Doc link has been a well-received practice with my students. By placing your whole class on a Google Doc, teaching, learning, note sharing, and storing have become sustainable, organized, and efficient. I highly recommend it to all the educators out there who are trying to make their lives and their students’ lives easier, stay efficient, and make learning more accessible.

 

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Five Ways Your Public Library Can Support Your Learners

Toronto Canada - Oct 12 2017: Bookshelves at the Toronto Reference Library. This library is one of the three largest libraries in the world. Province of Ontario Canada
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Ah, the public library – the place you perhaps went to as a child to sign out books so you could read and escape to new worlds in your imagination. But when was the last time you walked into your local public library as an educator (before social distancing)? And when did you realize the library offered more than just books? While there are some avid library users in the education field, there are still many who don’t recognize the underrated value the library has for the ESL community.

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Effective Strategies for Distance Teaching

It is the third week of social distancing in 2020, and I am constantly amazed and overwhelmed by the number of best practices being shared by colleagues and other educators. It is 2020 and the number of platforms to learn from and to share information about is just too many. Even so, I thought it might be a great time for me to share some of the best practices I have learned for effective online teaching strategies with my TESL community.

Many of us teaching at Ontario colleges were given a week to transfer our courses to distance learning. Keeping in mind that one week is definitely not enough time to learn and plan to teach from a distance, here are a few strategies that I follow while planning my courses.

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