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.  



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 


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 

Hi—I'm John Allan. I am an educator who works in the technology enhanced language learning field. I create online learning opportunities and mentor instructors on the Avenue project. I have experience teaching ESL and EFL in Canada and the Middle East. I hold an MSC in Computer Assisted Language learning, a M.Ed. in Distance Education, TESL B. Ed., a B.Ed. (OCT), and a variety of TESL relevant certifications from TESL Canada, TESL Ontario and the Ontario Ministry of Education. For more articles, learning objects, projects and blog links see https://www.linkedin.com/in/johnharoldallan


2 thoughts on “Teaching with Wet Paint”

  1. Great resources, John! Any tips on how (tools/apps) to help us keep digital objects organized?
    BTW, another great resource is eCampus Ontario. Instructors can join in and register to the full version of H5P to create/share activities. eCampus also offers free teaching online training. In addition, OERs such as textbooks (e.g., PressbooksEDU), although not all interactive, are definitely good resources, which allow for creation and adaptation.

  2. Cecilia, Thank for the kind words. I use an online visual organizer, Symbaloo, to organize all of my online resources.

    Thanks for the reminder of the eCampus Ontario H5P and ebooks resources. I am currently rearranging content, integrating H5Ps and other rich media into an OER at the moment for an Ontario college. It is resource that has a great deal of utility and potential for blended and online delivery.
    If our readers have time they should check it out.

    all the best,

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