Category Archives: Online learning

Daily Small Talk

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As a person and as a language instructor, I hear the words ‘small talk’ and I shudder. However, I have learned – after teaching online for nearly three years now – not to underestimate the opportunities and utility of focusing specifically on Small Talk in class. Focusing on Small Talk has always been successful. When surveyed, learners consistently report that they want more Small Talk rather than less. 

I started teaching virtually with a fairly small class (CLB 7) who really responded to Small Talk. For one thing, I found the class needed to deal with mental health issues – near the beginning of COVID – and needed to feel as social as possible in a virtual environment. That’s when I started to develop Small Talk as an integral activity. Most recently, I had a much larger class that also responded very well to the Small Talk activities. This activity is not a one-off lesson but rather focuses on best practices, routine, feedback, and refinement.

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One of Us

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The Setup

We were three months into an online class and just past a spike of on-boarding new learners.  At this point, and counting the newer learners, about half of the class relented to turning their cameras on. It was Monday and I had a new grey tie.  I really wanted to show off my new necktie, so I wore – uncharacteristically – a black shirt.

Learners arrived and turned on their cameras, saying “Good morning.  How was your weekend?  Are you feeling any better?” and all that.  One of the first was a lovely woman, a retired teacher and a dedicated student – one of those learners who is, besides punctual and respectful, eager to please and who quietly but assuredly defends the soundness of the instructor’s pedagogical choices. Let me call her Harmony. 

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Creating Dialogues Remotely

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Over the pandemic, several instructors have commonly requested assistance with recording dialogues for PBLA activities, assessments, reading practice or listening activities. In this post, I have detailed the steps. These steps focus on preparing a listening dialogue for a class activity. I am sure that many instructors and students have devised their own hacks for this issue, so if you have invented better methods, please add them to the comments below. 

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Keep Things Organized – Tips for Organizing Google Drive

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Organizing Google Drive for you and your students can be challenging. When assessments and assignments are assigned through Google Classroom, you may get lost in the mountain of documents. For your students – especially for those who aren’t tech savvy – it’s even more challenging. As we approach the end of the school year, here are a few lessons I’ve learned from online teaching about how organizing your Google Drive early saves you time and effort.

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Web Accessibility for Language Teachers

Educational digital accessibility is often viewed as a set of practices  dedicated that assist disabled individuals with challenges to participate in online and blended courses.  In fact, accessibility practices endeavor to more than eliminate barriers to education; they ensure that digital content is enhanced for everyone. Digital accessibility practices are something we all should practice because: 

  • they remove barriers to education and training
  • legislation requires accessibility across Canada 
  • many Canadians live with at least 1 disability 
  • they improve all digital resources for all users 
  • it is the right thing to do 

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The Curse of Knowledge or Groundhog Day? – Take Your Pick

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I blame the title on sitting in front of a computer day in and day out, setting up breakout rooms, and talking too many times into a dark screen divided into little squares, each one imprinted with names and hardly any faces; despite it all, there I was, on that particular day, hair fully brushed, looking good from the waist up, and full of burnt-out enthusiasm, ready for my lesson on “paraphrasing.”

Groundhog Day

On that morning, as I have been doing for a while (two years minus a few days), I turned on my computer before class time to make sure everything was in order and that my Google Jamboard was shareable and editable for my students to work in groups.

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H5P Power Tools

Image Taken By: John Allan

H5P has become a buzzword since we adapted to online learning.  It has been touted as a way to integrate interactive, self-assessing, and media-rich learning objects into an online course. This is true, but many instructors quickly learned that even though H5P presents a relatively intuitive authoring method, the number of tools and associated options make this process overwhelming. 

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Advanced Moodle Activities

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Since the pandemic learning management systems have become a common means of hosting online content.  Beyond content, LMS provide security, accountability, feedback and various opportunities for collective and individualized learning.  The Avenue project is hosted on the Moodle learning management system.  Moodle arrives with a set of core activities that include:   Continue reading

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Students in Charge: Ideas for Reading and Listening Activities

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Recently, I did a small experiment with my students. Instead of me assigning reading and listening tasks, I asked them to read an article and watch a YouTube video, and then make their own questions as if they were teachers. The results and feedback were quite astonishing.

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