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


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: