Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Edublog Awards 2010

The Edublog Awards 2010 are now open for nomination!

As the site says, "This is our chance to nominate and celebrate "the achievements of edubloggers, twitterers, podcasters, video makers, online communities, wiki hosts and other web based users of educational technology."

Here are my nominations (I have decided just to nominate in categories that were very clear for me) and some of the reasons why I chose them:
Best individual blog : I think there are few people who do so much to encourage blogging in ELT (indeed in education itself) more than Karenne Sylvester. Her posts are often provocative, always thoughtful, and never boring. She deserves to win this award for services above and beyond the call of duty to educational blogging.
Best individual tweeter : Shelly is a dynamo of positivity who energises everything she gets involved with. She's very generous with her time and does so much to promote the idea of using Twitter and establishing a PLN for teacher development. I can think of nobody more worthy of this award.
Best group blog : I'm nominating this site, which is more than a blog, but contains at least two very influential blogs (Alex Case's TEFLtastic and TEFL guest with Tara Benwell, which I think makes it viable for this category. The site has become essential reading for teachers of English and a great source of information as well as being a thought-provoking blog.
Best new blog : I work with Paul in Barcelona, at the British Council Young Learner Centre. This year I saw an amazing transformation take place in his online activity after he attended the IATEFL conference in Harrogate. He returned transformed and convinced about the power and value of connecting to people online, and plunged into Twitter, started wikis with his classes and set up this blog. His blog is fast becoming a testimony to his passion for teacher development through reflective practice and his faith in the learner-centred classroom. It deserves wider recognition. 
Best resource sharing blog I am always amazed at the resources that Nik finds and his enthusiasm for sharing his findings and helping teachers with ideas on how they can be used in the classroom is admirable. His blog is a great one-stop-shop for teachers interested in using technology in class, and one of the things that makes it great is that it's never simply a collection of links, but always has well-thought out ideas of how the resources can be used in practice.
Most influential blog post : I'm nominating Gavin Dudeney's post 'Second Life: The Long Goodbye' because behind it was a brave and well thought out decision/position and it really did shake the SL educational community that someone as influential as Gavin, who had done so much to promote this virtual world (and created a number of very useful artefacts), had been a spokesperson (sometimes even evangelist) for it, had established a strong reputation, and who was behind the most important event for language educators (SLanguages), would decide to throw in the towel. IT made all of us involved in SL rethink our position and has opened up a reflection on the value of using the platform which is still in progress. A truly influential post.
Most influential series of tweets : I'm nominating this more for its potential than for the influence it's had, as it is very new, but deserves to be more widely recognised. IT shows how a hash tag can be utilised to engage a community of educators on Twitter and get them to collaborate in helping to build a valuable resource for the educational community (in this case a libnrary of pictures that can be used in ELT) - an initiative (I think) of Victoria, a teacher in Hanoi, who uploads the pics to
Best teacher blog : This was a difficult decision to make. I've decided to nominate Ian James's excellent blog as I think it is full of very useful, well-thought-out and practical ideas for teachers. I also think that this blog needs wider recognition, as many teachers would benefit from reading it on a regular basis.
Best educational tech support blog : Ozge's blog is a treasure trove of resources and help for anyone interested in educational technology. And not only that, through her posts she makes it easy for other teachers to follow in her footsteps. Particularly interesting for teachers of young learners, and she is one of the few people out there who concentrates on primary level learners and ed-tech too, which means this blog is a highly valuable resource for the ELT community. Ozge is also a wonderful example of how the ELT ed-tech blogging community has been re-energised in recent years by a large group of very dynamic (mostly female) bloggers, who are leading the way and making it easy ofr others to follow in their footsteps.
Best elearning / corporate education blog thanks to MacMillan's One Stop English, the ELT community has a great way of discovering new bloggers and existing bloggers are encouraged to do more for the community through the monthly stats overview of Top Bloggers. It's great for blogging motivation and I know the ELT blogging community appreciates their work.
Best educational wiki : Kyle's wiki is full of lesson plans for computer games and links to the best ones to use in class. I also work with Kyle in the British Council's Young Learner Centre, and we collaborate on the Digital Play blog together. Before the blog, Kyle enthusiastically started to compile the best ideas for exploiting online games with learners and he's continued to do so here. If there's an online game that is good to use with English learners, you can be sure to find it on this wiki, and it'll probably have a walkthrough and ideas how to use it in class too. A wonderful resource that deserves wider recognition.

Best educational podcast : I know of no better podcast for elementary students. It is a magazine format, and one of the wonderful things about it is that can be enjoyed to in so many different ways. In its entirety, or in sections; with or without transcript/exercises; on the iPod/iPhone using a new app.; online through the computer; through iTunes; on an mp3 player. It's become a very popular podcast and certainly one to recommend to your English language students. 
Best educational webinar series : This totally online conference (twice yearly) is fast-becoming a vital date in the diary for educators. Not only is it an incredibly well-organised event with something for everyone, but the fact that everything is recorded and made available means that the webinars provide a rich resource of artefacts that can be enjoyed by a very large number of people for a very long time  after the event has happened.
Best educational use of a social network : I usually can't make this, but it's always useful to look back on the transcripts of the Twitter-based chat and to listen to the podcasts. I'm voting for this to be nominated in this category because it's an excellent example of how the dynamism of a social network such as Twitter, which is usually of an ephemeral nature, can be reined in to provide longer lasting value for educators. I think it provides a fabulous model that can be followed by lots of other educational areas. 
Best educational use of a virtual world : When Gavin Dudeney and Howard Vickers announced they were not going to hold another SLanguages conference, there was a virtual wave of disappointment among the ELT community in Second Life. In four years, the conference had grown to become the event of the year for the languages community in Second Life. They had also done such a good job of it, that there were doubts that anyone could take over. However, SLanguages 2010 was a great success. I also think that if SLanguages wins this award, then it is only fair the praise be heaped on Gavin and Howard for the work they started 4 years ago. It is also testimony to their help, support, and encouragement of the new conference organisers that SLanguages 2010 was such a success.
Best use of a PLN : Twitter has become such an important cornerstone for any educator's PLN, but it is also a difficult place to know where to start. Barbara Sakamoto had the brilliant idea of building a list of newbie-friendly Twitter educators for teachers who wanted to begin with Twitter, but who also need encouragement, could follow. A wonderful idea, which has been used by many teachers and is worth wider recognition.
Lifetime achievement : The Edu blogosphere. I'm not nominating any one person here, but everyone who has a blog and who shares their thoughts, ideas and reflections with other educators all over the world. Taken as a whole, the edu blogosphere makes up the greatest educational force on the Internet. It is also global, multi-lingual, multi-cultural, and probably acts as a strong force in favour of greater communication, understanding and peace worldwide. Long may it last!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

6 Tips for effective ICT use - ELT Peru Networks workshop for Teachers

I was recently honoured when Leo Marin in Peru invited me to prepare a video message for teachers attending the ELT Peru Networks Event, Transforming English through Technology! that took place today. This is the video I made for the teachers:

I hope the event went well - I have now found a programme of the workshop online and see that my video (which lasts just over 3 minutes) and my colleague Graeme Hodgson's presentation was scheduled for an hour! I hope Graeme prepared a longer video session, or that they were able to have a discussion about the contents of both videos! Still waiting for feedback from Leo to find out...

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Is the ELT blogging honeymoon over?

Recently, Alex Case of TEFLTASTIC asked if the TEFL blogging boom was over. He was, of course, referring to the blogging explosion that happened over the last year or so in ELT, with lots of teachers who'd previously never done so starting blogs, and the fact that the hyper-activity of nine months or so has now died down. In particular, he cited the reduction in mutual linking and commenting.

I'm not sure if this lull has to do with the summer, and that once the new term begins (at least for many teachers in Europe), there'll be an increase in activity again. Time will tell. Alex wondered if the drop in activity was due to Twitter, but if anything, I think Twitter was probably behind the increase in blogging that ocurred in 2009. As this micro-blogging site took off and lots more teachers saw the value of it and got used to sharing their thoughts in 140 characters, I believe many of them then realised that sometimes, 140 characters wasn't enough, and the logical progression was for them to start a blog.

Taken together, Twitter and a blog are like Batman and Robin, a dynamic duo which has come to form the basis of a PLN (personal learning network) for many people. People pick up on trends using Twitter and expand upon them, writing posts on their blog, which they tell everyone about using Twitter, and so on.

There's also the Wow!factor of course. When someone first discovers blogging and gets a taste for it, then it's typical that they spend lots of time writing posts. It's new and it's fun and most people get a taste for it, especially when they have people visit and leave comments (the 'Hey! Someone is interested in what I have to say!' factor). As time goes by, however, and especially if the comments drop off, then it's not surprising if people start wondering if it's all worthwhile and post less frequently. Some will also stop blogging altogether.

As for me, I've gone through all of this, and have repeatedly told myself to be more of an active blogger, but, looking at my blogging statistics (below), in the eight years I have been blogging (2003-2010) seems to show that blogging is only something I do occasionally these days, and has been for a number of years. Making the chart below and tracking my blogging progress surprised me. Why? Because I still think of myself as a blogger, but I think I now read other people's blogs more and spend more time commenting upon them than I do on writing in my own blog. The exception, of course, is the Digital Play blog, which I share with my colleague Kyle Mawer – there we have been regularly blogging once a week and have every intention of carrying on doing so starting again this month.

So, what now for blog-efl? Well, I noticed that I've publicly stated on this blog that I was going to get back into blogging again and it never happened. Why was that? I think it was mainly because there were too many other things going on to occupy my attention, but I do keep coming back here, and I have every intention of becoming more of an active blogger. I think I've got my appetite back again. At least it now seems that my blogging activity is increasing (I've written one more post than I did last year) – I wonder if I'll ever return to the hyper-activity of 2003-4...

Sunday, July 11, 2010

David Crystal - British Council Isle in Second Life

On Monday and Tuesday next week, two of David Crystal's talks will be rebroadcast live on the British Council Isle in Second Life

Here are the details:

David Crystal Second Life July 2010

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Private or Public? Has Facebook changed the privacy game?

As Facebook starts to become more and more a part of people's online lives there seems to be a growing number of commentators who have decided to deactivate or delete their accounts.

Usually concerned about privacy issues, some people are opting out of Facebook and choosing not to take part in the social media revolution.  

There are others, however, who have now started questioning this. Here's one that's worth a visit: 'Is Deleting Your Facebook Account Really a Good Idea?

Two points are made here that are particularly worthy of discussion:

1) As Facebook becomes more and more useful as a source of public data, and as it becomes a greater part of the Web, do you think it's a wise decision to abandon Facebook? 

2) The whole idea of privacy is changing, being re-written by anyone who has a life online. Isn't it better to consider everything you do online to be public?  

As a teacher, like it or not, at sometime you're going to have photos of you taken in class which will end up on Facebook /elsewhere on the Web.

This happened to me recently when a Tourism student of mine used her mobile phone to take a snapshot of me as I stood on a chair for comic effect (see left - thanks Sol for permission to use the photo). It was a surprise when I saw I'd been tagged, as I had no idea she'd taken the photograph, but I really don't mind it being shared here.

I think this is because I have got so used to living my online life in a very public way. I know it was difficult at first, and these questions of what I should and shouldn't share with people came up when I started blogging in 2003. I also have to say that, give or take a few minor feuds, nothing bad has yet happened to me sharing online (that I know about!). I have, though, heard some horror stories concerning other teachers and students and am sure that if any of this had happened to me I'd feel differently.

Another related blog post worth a read is the 'Concerned about Facebook? You're probably getting old'. Here, the author makes the point that privacy concerns are being voiced by people aged 35+ and wonders if it's because young people using these social networks are naive. I really don't think so - I think it's because new generations are growing up with this new idea of privacy (or lack of privacy) online.

Finally, the ability to easily reach other people using the web is creating a new kind of 'fame' (although 'fame' is the wrong word here - probably better to say many of us are now becoming 'not unknown') because of our web presence (we turn up on Google searches, etc). I am enjoying this and think it's related to Andy Warhol's idea of fifteen minutes of fame, when he said "In the future, everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes.". 

I think Warhol's idea has changed. In the present day, it's more like 'everyone is famous in the eyes of fifteen people.' 

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Looking for students for AVALON Learning pilot courses

If anyone knows students who are interested, there are two free courses for English students starting in Second Life later this month, organised through the AVALON EU funded project.

  • The first is a Speaking Skills course for B1 students preparing for the Cambridge First Certificate in English (FCE) . The details are in the document below.
AVALON FCE Speaking Skills May 2010

  • The second is a Business English course for B1 (upper intermediate) and above students (see document below for details)

AVALON Business English May 2010

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Reflections on recent conferences (part one) : ISTEK

I know this is very late, but I want to add my two pennies worth to the growing number of blog posts about the extraordinary ISTEK conference that was held on 27-28 March 2010 at Yeditepe University in Istanbul.

I'm not sure I know of an ELT conference that has generated so much online discussion. ISTEK the conference (and post-conference) has been the one everyone has been talking about. I started this post shortly after attending and then hesitated in posting as a fierce blog-storm brewed. Now that the hurricane seems to have passed,I thought I'd pick up where I left off, and write my account of the event as a record for me if nothing else. Here's a list of the posts I know have been written about ISTEK (apologies in advance to those I've missed off). Two other blog posts and their many comments have now been deleted, but anyone who is curious enough can follow the digital footprints to see what the fuss was all about:

Now I'm going to concentrate on the experience of the actual conference. How it was for me. Much has already been written above, and was said just after the conference bu many about just how fabulous this conference was, with many of us who presented or attended saying it was the best conference they'd ever been to. All-in-all, I have to say that this was true for me too. I thoroughly enjoyed the event and was impressed at how smoothly everything ran. That's not to say that it was a perfect ELT conference. Here are a few of my reflections on what was and what could have been different.

  • Organisation. Second to none. Jeremy Harmer has already mentioned this in his post, but much of the success of the conference was due to the tireless efforts of the omnipresent Burcu Akyol . Without her sterling efforts and the team she assembled to help and support the event, I'm sure the ISTEK conference would have been just another conference. Whenever I've spoken at a conference in the past, I've learned not to expect to see much of the organisers. It's similar to attending a wedding. With so many guests, you shouldn't expect to see much of or spend much time with the bride and groom. At conferences, the organisers can be spotted quite easily. They are usually the people flitting past at breakneck speed on their way to or back from sorting out some potential organisational hiccup. That didn't seem to be true of Burcu. One of the first things I saw when I arrived at the venue was Burcu's presence, asking me if everything was OK, if I needed anything, etc. That seemed to be the case throughout the conference. She dedicated a lot of time to mingling with people and seemed to be very present throughout the conference.

  • Numbers. One thousand participants registered. This is a very nice number of people for a conference. Not too many, not too few. I wonder about next year, though. With the amount of attention the ISTEK conference has been getting, I'd expect to see a lot more people want to attend.

  • Plenary speakers. I have to say that one criticism of the ISTEK conference that I have is that it was plenary-heavy. There were more plenary sessions than other slots each day. There were three plenary sessions and two concurrent sessions and I'd have preferred it to have been the other way around. However, this aspect of the conference may well have resulted in the sensation that was felt by all present that I spoke to that we were all at 'the same conference', a feeling which doesn't usually happen at conferences, where you may not see some people all day long. I also have to say that the plenary sessions were all excellent in this conference, a factor which is unusual in my experience. So, I'm undecided. It worked at this conference.

  • Concurrent sessions. There were two slots a day and presenters were asked to repeat their session so that those who missed the morning slot could attend the afternoon one. As a speaker, I found this very interesting, but it was a shame that I couldn't attend any of the sessions that were on at the same time as mine. As a result, apart from the plenary speakers, I got to see only two other people speak.

  • Timetable. Something that is always a problem at conferences is how much time to leave between sessions. At ISTEK there was a fifteen minute gap, which was enough time for everyone to get from one place to another without rushing. So long as the speakers finished on time (but as is the norm, many didn't). I have been guilty of this in the past, but the more conferences I go to the more I realise that it's important that everyone presenting at a conference does not overrun. because it does cause problems for people. Some people in the audience are too embarrassed to stand up and walk out of a session and become anxious and therefore are no longer concentrating on what the speaker has to say anyway. And this could be the thing they remember about the session. I think a great talk therefore can be spoiled by taking too long. It's something that plenary speakers in particular should be careful not to do. If a plenary speaker overruns, then he or she holds up a lot of people, and bites into the time of the other speakers. At ISTEK, the time allotted to concurrent sessions was 45 minutes, but some of the sessions were shorter due to time delays. Going back to the time between sessions, I was pleasantly surprised at TESOL Spain this year that thirty minutes was allotted between sessions. On paper this seemed like a long time at first, but in reality, it allowed for the sessions to overrun and for people to network a lot more in the breaks.

  • PLN. I mentioned in a previous post on this blog that I thought this year was going to be the year of the PLN (personal learning network) and ISTEK was an indication of this. I met so many people face-to-face for the first time that I was connected to online. Twitter here was the key. I know it was a vital tool in the run-up of the conference (used extensively for the conference organisation and for getting news out about the event) . But it was also incredible just how warmly people responded to each other face-to-face because they'd been tweeting to each other. I'd met other people I've been connected to online before, but this was different; it was special. There's something about being connected to other people in this way that means when you meet them in person, you feel as if you know them very well.

  • Social Events. That a Pecha Kucha evening is quickly becoming a staple event at ELT conferences around the world is down to Lindsay Clandfield's enthusiasm and organisation. The ISTEK pecha kucha was another success, and I thoroughly enjoyed all of the presentations. If I have any criticism of it, it's that the ELT pecha kucha is becoming a competitive event. I could see this in the run-up, with those presenting (most of whom are very seasoned speakers) saying how nervous they were, and tweeting about how much time they were spending on getting it right. I think this was also played up to this during the event. I think pecha kucha events are much better when not staged as competitions between speakers trying to outdo each other. Speaking to Luke Prodromou during the event was enlightening too. “Does a pecha kucha have to be humorous?” he asked me. And he's right, it doesn't have to be, but there seems to be a pressure now on ELT pecha kucha for people to try to get laughs. Storytelling event. Scheduled for the same evening, straight after the pecha kucha, I had my doubts that this was going to work, especially given the number of girating bodies on the dancefloor singing along to “I will survive”, etc. I obviously hadn't accounted for the mastery of Andrew Wright, who had us quietly hanging on his every word as he told an absorbing tale which was the perfect end to a fabulous evening. What could have been better? A bedtime story before we got into the buses and headed off home or to our hotels.
I could write more about ISTEK, but I'm going to stop here. To sum up, I think it was a model example of an ELT conference and I'm sure it'll become an important date for many on the calendar from now on.

Monday, May 03, 2010

It's worth taking a look at this blog - mobile learning

I've just been tagged by Sheetal Makhan (be sure to check out her great blog btw) and this is as good an excuse as any to jump back into blogging again after a long absence. I've actually got a backlog of posts I've started (about the ISTEK conference, IATEFL and more), but rather than try to keep this chronological, I thought I'd just jump in with this.

The idea is for every blogger tagged to list ten blogs worth looking at, and for those who are tagged to do the same. That way, we'll be able to point people to blogs that would otherwise be overlooked and increase the community aspect of the blogosphere.

After staying clear of Mobile Learning (or M-Learning) for a long time (mostly from lack of time I suppose) I'm currently trying to catch up on what I've missed and what better way of doing this is there than checking on the blogosphere and what people are writing there about the subject.

So, my list contains bloggers who are all covering mobile learning :

1. Nicky Hockly's eModeration Station  has some wonderful posts about emoderating in general, but she's also just started writing a series on mobile learning. Check out  Mobile Learning #1 The Big Picture and Mobile Learning #2 The Issues -  Nicky will be continuing this very informative series, which I'm really looking forward to.

2. Thanks to Nicky's posts, I found David Read's Mobile ESL blog, which is dedicated to m-learning. David's blog is an invaluable guide to the subject and his own enthusiastic efforts in introducing m-learning makes fascinating reading. Be sure to follow David (@dreadnought001) on Twitter for up-to-the-minute information and to join in the m-learning conversation.

3. For a more general picture (not just ESL) about m-learning, check out Leonard Low's reflective journal on mobile learning practice

4. E-blah-blah , Sandra Pires is another commentator involved in ESL who blogs about m-learning among other aspects of digital learning. 

5. Of course, there are lots of different ways of introducing m-learning. If it's the ipod Touch you're interested in, then Lindsay Thompson has a great blog about Personalising Learning with the iPod Touch

6. Mobile learning is not just about smartphones either. It is said that m-learning has the potential to bridge the digital divide as mobile phones are being bought by people all over the globe. check out M-learning Africa for information, research and projects in this continent. 

7. Want to read more? Rob de Lorenzo has a great list of further reading on his blog Mobile Learning that makes a great place to start.

8. Peter Tobey's M-Learning is Good is a blog worth keeping an eye on.

9. Another ELT blogger who is starting to write a lot about mobile learning is Nik Peachey - Check out his practical ideas for learners on Nik's Learning Technology Blog

10. Digital Play. This is cheating I suppose as I blog here with my friend and colleague Kyle Mawer, but we've just written a post about games and other fun apps for the iphone/ipod touch

Know any more that I've missed? Please let me know in the comments section.

So, there you have it - if you've been tagged, then you can continue the wave in three easy steps:

1.  Insert the picture/logo at the top of this blog to your post.
2.  Compile your own list of ten blogs that you feel are worth reading.
3.  Tell the bloggers that they have been tagged.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

IATEFL 2010, Tweet-Ups and the year of the PLN

Just been going through the drafts of my blog and found this one from 2010. I'm not sure why I didn't finish it/publish it back then (written November 2012)

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

15th EFL / ESL /ELL blog carnival

The fifteenth edition of the EFL/ESL/EEL carnival is now published, and I'm very happy to be a part of it.

The carnival is a great way of providing a snapshot of what people have been blogging about recently in the world of ELT. This time round the topics are:
    • Thought-provoking pedagogy
      • Teaching effectively with technology
      • Presentation and social media advice
      • Issues to ponder

      There's so much good stuff here, it will take you a while to digest it - that's the other thing about the carnival : it's a great way of getting to know bloggers that you may not have come across before. 

      Of all the posts in the carnival, I particularly enjoyed Ozge Karaoglu's How to survive in 2010 - digitally and Marisa Constantinides' Don't Forget the Pedagogy. Karenee Sylvester's Powerpointing Me suggests a great way of using this technology well with a new class and Jeremy Harmer's On being nervous is a great read for anyone who's ever presented or is thinking about presenting at a conference. I also loved looking at Eva Büyüksimkeşyan's students' Glogster projects - fantastic work! I'd also like to take Vicky Saumell's 40 Things you can do with a data projector in an EFL/ESL lesson and expand upon it - a great resource to have .

      And the best thing is...I haven't finished reading them all yet, so I'm sure this list of favourites will grow.

      Sunday, January 31, 2010

      APLaNet - Exciting New Professional Development Opportunity for Language Teachers

      APLANet is a new European Union project proposal which aims to help language teachers to develop their own Personal Learning Network (PLN) .

      We are looking for two types of people/organisations at the moment: 

      1. Educators who are skilled in using social networking tools and who would be interested in helping other teachers create their own Personal Learning Network using tools such asTwitter, Facebook, Ning, etc.
      2. Teachers who would like to build their own PLN and would be interested in being mentored, piloting materials, etc. as part of  their professional development.

      Both of these would be recognised on the project documents as 'Associate Partners' (EU project trerminology which sounds more formal than it actually is) and would receive recognition in the form of a certificate of participation as well as a great opportunity to form part of an exciting new community of language professionals.

      Think you're interested? Or know of anyone who may be interested? Read more about it below and download and return the document (link at the end of this post)

      Autonomous ‘Personal Learning Networks’ for Language Teachers (APLaNet) 

      For Language Educators and Users of Internet Language Resources.

      The APLaNet project will be showing and helping language educators how to join existing and create their own Personal Learning Networks (PLN) on existing social networks. The project will show you how to join and use the resources that are daily being created, shared, tested and talked about.

      Using a PLN language educators will be able to find their way through the jungle of ICT resources on the net and find language teachers, just like themselves, that will help them use the resources.

      We are looking for two types of Associate Partners (in the downloadable document we describe the associate partner roles in depth):

      1. Teachers of languages – interested in piloting the project and building your own PLN

      2. Existing users of social networks to help mentor the teachers and help them build their PLN

      Please download the document to understand more about the project and how you can be involved:

      You can download the document from the link below

      Saturday, January 09, 2010

      2010 - the year of the Personal Learning Network?

      One of the things I'll remember 2009 for is it was the first year that mainstream ELT teachers really took to using social media. This is something that Lindsay Clandfield mentions in a recent blog post on language teaching trends of the 00s). It was particularly interesting to be able to see blogs being set up by educators such as Ken Wilson, Jeremy Harmer and Scott Thornbury.

      Of all the internet memes that emerged in 2009, it was surely PLN (Personal Learning Network) that caught the attention of  the blogging educators.

      The Twittering Classes 

      This was mainly due to the emergence of Twitter as an essential tool for the connected teacher, although there are still many teachers who have decided it's not for them. Some have been put off by its trendiness (in the UK it became much talked-about because of Stephen Fry and other celebrities - the same seems to have been true in other places too) and others don't see the point of the 140 character limitation or think it's just a variation of the status update in Facebook.It is similar, but people are far more likely to connect to lots of other people in Twitter than in Facebook (For me it's 1800 on Twitter to Facebook's 721). I think this is the whole point - I get so much out of having an extensive network of people there , and the fact that its focus is on short messages is what makes it work so well

      It's interesting to see  comments made by educators who have recently discovered the point of this social network, such as these words in a post at What's New in the World :

      "I have found more resources and got more useful advice for professional development in 3 months on Twitter than in the previous 5 years without it. "

      The blogger goes on to mention just some of the benefits of actively taking part in tweeting: the access to expert opinions, links to useful resources, advice and immediate feedback to any questions you may have. I would also add a few more to this: real time search (if you use a tool such as Tweetdeck this becomes even more useful), access to a quick and easy concordancer, debate on best practce.

      PLN: Small Pieces Loosely Joined

      Of course, Twitter is only one useful part of my own PLN. Having a blog and reading and commenting on other people's blogs is another, vital part. As is belonging to specialist social networks (usually using Ning). Facebook is also important, especially as there are so many teachers who use this social network and who don't use Twitter.

      The Importance of Facebook

      In fact, nowadays (at least in my situation) if you're not connected to people on Facebook, and other social networks, you'll miss out on what's happening (more and more people are using Facebook to organise events, etc.) in your social and professional circle of friends and colleagues.

      Here's an example that comes from a conversation with a colleague yesterday - I was talking to someone about the TESOL EVO sessions, because I'd invited lots of people to take part through Facebook, and she asked me what we were talking about. The conversation that followed went something like this:

      Me: Didn't I invite you too? Aren't we connected on Facebook?
      Teacher: No, I keep my Facebook limited to close-friends and family

      On the one-hand, I can totally understand the reasons for doing this, but this attitude is definitely not for me - I only started to appreciate the personal and professional advantages and benefits of social networks once I'd become more inclusive and widened my network to include people from all over the world and who I hardly know (or don't know). It's led to so many benefits: to me finding out about things I'd otherwise never have heard about, establishing friendships and reinforcing professional contacts, being invited to speak at conferences and take part in projects, etc (in some cases based on a single tweet being picked up by someone who was monitoring a term in Twitter!)

      2010 - The year of the PLN

      All of this is why I think 2010 will be the year when teachers many more mainstream start to embrace the idea of the PLN and begin to take a more active part in belonging to the global staffroom that is out there waiting for you, offering you friendship, support, help and advice - if you want it!

      Saturday, January 02, 2010

      TESOL EVO 2010

      Happy New Year everyone!


      Why not start 2010 with some professional development courtesy of TESOL's Electronic village Online?

      The best place for educators to start, especially if they are new to teaching and learning languages with technology is the Becoming a Webhead (BaW2010) session. Run every year, this is the perfect introduction to the Webheads community of practice and it's specially suitable for those teachers who are interested in using technology but who are unsure of where to start.

      After joining the BaW2010 Yahoo group, you'll be introduced to a dazzling array of possibilities and will be helped every step of the way by experienced and friendly mentors. By the end of the six week session, teachers will have a much better idea of how they can start to introduce technology into their classroom to enhance their lessons and will also be part of a supportive community of like-minded teachers they can draw on for inspiration and help.

      For those of you with more experience, there are lots of other sessions to choose from:
      • Adaptive Technology
      • EVO Drama 2010
      • Digital Materials Preparation Techniques
      • Images4Education
      • Internet4YoungLearners
      • Multiliteracies for social Networking and Collaborative Learning Environments
      • EVO Video 2010
      • Online Games for ESL/EFL
      • Smart Teaching with Interactive Whiteboards
      • Teaching Languages in a Virtual World
      • Virtual Language Travel
      Enrolment has now just opened for these six-week long hands-on virtual sessions and this year there is a wide variety you can choose to join,details of which are in the EVO Call for Participation

      I'm excited about co-moderating the Teaching Languages in a Virtual World EVO session - essentially it's a repeat of the session we did last year, but so much has happened in the last year, and we're expecting the participants to have more experience, so the discussions should be very interesting. We're also hoping that more people will bring actual virtual world teaching experience to the mix. If you want to join in the fun, then sign up here: