The Benefits of Bloom

image source: Google Images
image source: Google Images

We all know the expression, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”, but is it really true? Art theorists and philosophers would answer “No, of course not!” and here I quote Dennis Dutton, famous art theorist who stated in his 2010 Ted Talk, “…it’s deep in our minds. It’s a gift handed down from the intelligent skills and rich emotional lives of our most ancient ancestors.” In other words, the experience of beauty is not subjective, but quite objective. There are clear guidelines or criteria to what constitutes beauty for all of us, based on our genetic pre-disposition. Continue reading

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Mission “I’m Possible” –  Even You Can Become a Secret Agent!

Image source: www.bigstockphoto.com
Image source: www.bigstockphoto.com

Good Morning Mr./Mrs. Blog Reader.

Before you decide on which presentations to attend at the TESL Ontario Annual Conference, please read this:

There is an ongoing investigation concerning best practices, benefits and challenges related to virtual teamwork. A panel discussion exposing virtual teamwork will take place at the Sheraton Centre Hotel located at 123 Queen Street West, Toronto, Ontario, Canada at precisely 1:00 p.m., Friday,  November 13th, 2015. Participants will be given a writing instrument and asked to write questions on a piece of uncoated stock paper, with a vellum finish. They will then be instructed to slip the note into a Fedora, which may be a code name for something they are trying to “keep a lid on“. Discreetly do as they say.

Top agents from the TESL Ontario Blog Administration Team will be disclosing sensitive information. Who are they? What do they know? How do they do it, being geographically dispersed? What technology are they using to communicate? What makes this virtual team tick?   And most importantly, how can you use this information to design your own virtual team?    Continue reading

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How to Connect the Right Way: Using your PLN on Twitter

Image source: Denise Krebs copyright 2012 (tagxedo.com)
Image source: Denise Krebs copyright 2012 (tagxedo.com)

Last week, just before my webinar on using Twitter for Professional Development and Developing your Personal Learning Network (PLN), I came across a tweet from @danielmccabe, quoting Dave Burgess (@burgessdave), in Teach Like a Pirate , that said:

The negative teachers aren’t on Twitter…the people you see there are trying to move forward and help others move forward. (Burgess, 2012)

Truer words…

I am fresh off a third webinar for TESL Ontario and am basking in the glow of my PLN. This webinar was the second in a series of three that TESL Ontario has supported me in presenting. I had the pleasure of telling some stories about the important connections I’ve made on Twitter with teachers who offer me support and necessary dialogue. My Twitter PLN is the best sounding board for developing and tweaking ideas I have.

One of the challenges for educators active on Twitter is to bring more lambs into the fold. My favourite quote is from @AcademicsSay:

“You’ll have to show me how to do this Twitter thing sometime.” – Every colleague ever.

Over the past twenty years, I have met and befriended many teachers, but don’t even need all of my fingers to count the ones active on Twitter. It’s a shame, really. So many teachers are missing out.

I had lunch with a former colleague this week who was surprised and shocked by what I’ve been able to do Continue reading

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Create Video Lessons with Ted Ed

www.ed.ted.com
www.ed.ted.com

I am always searching for additional resources to integrate assessment into courses. This past summer, I stumbled across Ted Ed. Ted Ed is a creation from the popular Ted Talks, non-profit, series of videos and live events. Ted Talks are currently inspiring, challenging and teaching all who spare the time to listen.

What’s in it for Teachers

Ted Ed Lessons allow anyone to feature any YouTube hosted video, not just Ted Talks videos, and build a lesson around the video/animation. The Ted Ed resource provides a simple process and interface for educators to create learning quizzes. There is no coding or technical expertise involved in this process. These digital lessons can be easily shared through social media or email and with some skill a lesson can be embedded into your institutional learning management system or your class homepage.

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ROLES, REFUGEES, AND REFUGE

Image source: www.bigstockphoto.com
Image source: www.bigstockphoto.com

I attended my first PTA (Parent Teacher Association) meeting at my son’s school last week. The Chair had asked if I’d be interested in joining them to help execute a healthy food initiative for the students. I happily obliged because I’m a tad obsessed with food — the wholesome and tasty kind that’s kid approved. Anyway, I digress.

What struck me at this meeting was a new project directed at helping refugees, (particularly those who have fled from war torn countries), acclimate to their new community. The school is planning on raising a significant amount of funds to help them out, whether it be through financial or psychological support.

This got me thinking about the work we do as ESL instructors. During my ESL teacher training, a big part of the program focused on recognizing the students’ cultural backgrounds so that we could understand our students’ perspectives better and adjust our lessons accordingly. Continue reading

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Use Kahoot! to Spice up your Lessons

image source: www.getkahoot.com
image source: www.getkahoot.com

I have recently been trying to include more technology-based activities in class in order to ‘modernize’ the feel of the class and appeal to my tech-savvy EAP students.

One activity that has worked well recently is Kahoot! – a free application which allows teachers to create multiple choice quiz questions that students can answer using any mobile device. This application can be adapted for individual or collaborative work, and is equally useful for reviewing content, introducing new concepts, generating discussion or simply energizing the class with a quick ‘warmer’. Anyone who has previously used ‘clickers’ in class for any reason will appreciate the versatility of the program, which requires only internet access, a shared screen and a mobile device (all of my students used their phones). No player accounts are required, so in-class time is used efficiently. Continue reading

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Stop! Collaborate and Listen

image source: www.bigstockphoto.com
image source: www.bigstockphoto.com

How often do you talk to other teachers? What do you usually talk about? Do you openly share ideas? I think for many educators, teaching can often be a very solitary job, (especially when first starting out). Of course, we are usually surrounded by many students, colleagues, and staff at our schools on a daily basis. But when it comes to certain fundamental aspects of teaching, like planning and reflection, a lot of teachers around the world do these alone. I think it is extremely unfortunate if you are one of these teachers because I have witnessed first-hand how teachers can grow and develop at an accelerated rate when they collaborate with their peers. Continue reading

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“Hey! Only English in my class!”

Group of teenagers over the background with the many words from the different languages (language school concept)
image source: www.bigstockphoto.com

It happens across the board. It is a pervasive notion that seems to have been adopted with little to no research. It is somehow implicit in most English-learning environments, explicit in many course outlines and used as an evaluative tool in measuring the efficacy of language instructors. I have actually been refused employment because of my “renegade” attitude towards this ill-researched tenet of TESL. However, it stands in complete opposition to evidence-based educational research in second-language acquisition; not to mention a panoply of related motivational issues.

We’ve all heard it, said it and even followed it. “Only speak English in my class!” I used to insist. “Hey, you guys in the back, no Spanish!” was another one. “Stop translating everything! Focus on English!” I used to believe, only to my students’ dismay of course.

By doing this, we inadvertently omit how the brain works from our teaching and learning strategies. Continue reading

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ESL Week Contest Turns Groans into Creative Fun!

Image source: bigstockphoto.com
Image source: bigstockphoto.com

ESL Week makes me think about a particular student. Her first day is still crystal clear in my memory. Nervous, shy and just plain scared, she chose to say, “No English” mostly with gestures. I must have been blind as I did not see the butterfly about to emerge from that cocoon in a few months’ time. About six months later, one day, I made an announcement in class about the ESL week contest. Collectively, the class groaned, “No!”

In my experience, a yes becomes so much better when it begins as a no.   🙂

We then started playing with the contest idea.  A scaffolded version of the ESL week guidelines became a reading comprehension task. We brainstormed ideas through a speaking lesson on the topic. She came up with a few different movie (video) concepts. The voice inside my head nervously said, “How are you going to help her? Do you know ANYTHING about editing?” But I did not interrupt her vision. We moved on to writing the story board for her idea. In the days that followed, she Continue reading

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What is the Right Blend?

image source: www.bigstockphoto.com
image source: www.bigstockphoto.com

With the ever-increasing availability of technology in education, and ever-shrinking institutional budgets, there seems to be a lot of movement towards online learning.  Blended learning combines face–to-face and online activities, and is much better suited to language learning than online learning alone. The opportunity to use language in real-time situations is important for developing good communication skills. Well-developed blended courses provide an experience for the student where the face-to-face and online parts work together to support the learning in an integrated way.

From an institutional point of view, online and blended courses have the ability to provide more revenue with less overhead owing to the cost savings realized by potentially allowing for delivery of the course to a greater number of students, while at the same time freeing up physical space.  Pedagogically, students are not only able to learn how to use a language, but also how to use technology.  A blended set-up looks like it is beneficial from many points of view.  But how do students and teachers feel about blended language learning? Continue reading

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