#ELTchat: the loss of eltchat.com – Plan B : A Repost

Image

I haven’t posted in a long while, partly due to lack of time – traveling, too much work and too many projects. I hope things will slow down a bit soon. And partly because I’ve been thinking a lot about teaching lately and have been having a bit of a difficult time organizing my thoughts enough to put it down on a post. But I hope to be blogging again soon. The reason for this post is simple: #ELTchat. I used to be a very active participant in #eltchat (lately I’ve been teaching at the times it takes place, so I have been having to catch up by reading the summaries and the wiki) and I know the value it has had on my professional development (and I know that is also true for countless other teachers) and the professional and personal relationships it has brought me. I was really upset by the news below, and I could never refuse a request by Marisa and Shaun to help spread the word, so everyone knows what is happening.

 

This is a repost of their post about the issue and what is going to happen now.

For the last – well, almost two years now, since September 15, 2010, #ELTchat has kept us on our toes and forged hundreds of professional and personal relationships amongst its followers who turn up on Twitter every Wednesday to talk about  topics they have suggested and voted on – a community of peers which was created by a small group of colleagues – which grew and grew some more and became something that counts as an important  part of our continuous professional development.

Like many great ideas, it didn’t hit just one person but several. And that is how #ELTchat was created.

The website to keep up the communication of its members, a base and repository of our ideas was one of the first things we all thought of creating – the wiki came later.

Andy Chaplin was keen to join the moderation team and help with podcasts and technical stuff; he was quick to buy eltchat.com and announced the good news to us after the fact. A few months later, right after TESOL France 2011,  he suddenly disappeared – some say for reasons of health. We never found out for sure. We never received a single word of response to our emails. eltchat.com was and still is registered in his name.

And yesterday we lost it


On August 8 the domain expired and we have no way of taking over unless it goes up for sale again; it was very sad that Andy Chaplin did not find it appropriate to renew.

The news is really upsetting.

The work we have put in on this website cannot be told in a few simple words – but it has been a labour of love and we have got so much out of it that we have never regretted one single moment

We are pretty upset at the behaviour of this individual – disappointment is one big understatement.

But we trust that our community of #ELTchatters, our PLN for short, will again gather round the new domain which we have purchased – eltchat.org

It will take us a few days to put the website back on its feet

And all will be as it was before – all the posts in place all your thoughts and comments, all the polls and great summaries which got us on the shortlist of the ELTon Awards nominations

We will be back with a vengeance

We are not just a website – we did not get on the ELTon awards shortlist as just another website!!!

We are a great community of teachers and we have a Plan B!

See you all in September!!!

Marisa Constantinides – Shaun Wilden

Cecilia Lemos

P.S. We would greatly appreciate it if any of you belonging to this great community of teachers,  teacher educators, bloggers, #ELTchat followers,  reposted this on your blog

If you decide to do this, please add your name to the post under ours.

Marisa Constantinides – Shaun Wilden

Cecilia Lemos

P.S. We would greatly appreciate it if any of you belonging to this great community of teachers,  teacher educators, bloggers, #ELTchat followers,  reposted this on your blog

If you decide to do this, please add your name to the post under ours.

Hi, my name is Cecilia and I am a recovering recaster

A Recasters Anonymous Meeting… would you be in it?

Setting: RA (Recasters Anonymous) Meeting, in a dark basement somewhere we can’t mention…

Me: Hi, my name is Cecilia… and I am a recovering recaster.

Group: Hi Cecilia!

Me: I haven’t recasted in… 7 days.

(applause)

The above scene is, of course, fictional (though I fear many teachers would want it to be true). I was a recaster. A true one. I believed in the effectiveness of recasting, for all students. I did, because I was taught to. People told me it was the non-threatening way of correcting students. It’s how you should do it in the Communicative Approach. And I did it. I did so much and for so long it became part of me. And then one day (Really? Just like that?) I questioned it. Ok… maybe I’ve been questioning its effectiveness for a few years. Maybe not its effectiveness (period/full stop), but rather its effectiveness on every student. I just didn’t think most students realised I was correcting them when I recasted… And since they didn’t realise they were being corrected, they never acknowledged they had made a mistake. So, even though I had my doubts, I kept doing it – maybe not as whole-heartedly.

It all changed about a month ago, after I attended IATEFL. As I have mentioned in this blog, this year’s IATEFL Conference (and a few of the talks I attended) left me with a sense of direction. With a feeling of more freedom. Freedom of being a teacher. Freedom of doing what I think is best for my students, no matter what approach is in vogue, or is adopted by the school where I teach. (You can read more about this feeling with my post IATEFL post).

Well, ever since I came back from the conference I have noticed myself stopping my impulsive recasting more and more. Not only because of the talks I attended but even more so for the conversations I had on the topic. Better (?) yet, I have seen myself consciously pointing out the student’s mistake (not when fluency is the objective, unless fluency is prevented by accuracy – or lack of accuracy preventing proper understanding) by saying: “the correct way to say this is…” or  “That is not correct. Why don’t you say…”. And you know what? It works! After doing that for a couple of weeks a few students voiced their feeling I had been correcting them more – and their approval of it. So I asked them (even the groups who hadn’t expressed their noticing of my change in behavior) if they preferred it that way – and I explained recasting (the previous method) – and they said that most times when I recasted they didn’t notice they were being corrected. But when I pointed it out they did, and they liked it better. They felt more progress, more learning. At the same time, a few students recognise recasting and see it as a correction. But in my case, these are a minority.

My point in this post is actually a question to ELT teachers worldwide: Do you feel your students pick up recasting? Because I feel most of mine don’t. And yes, some students might be (initially at least) a bit taken aback by a blunt/on-the-spot correction. But my feeling is that at least this way they understand they did not effectively communicate, and may be more aware of the mistake on other opportunities.

I was observed by a teacher trainee (who is taking classes at the Teacher Education program we have in the school I teach) on a class recently (in an A2 group) and at the end she asked if the way I corrected the students did not embarrass or shy them away from speaking in class. Knowing where she was coming from (taking a basic Teacher training course) I asked her if she was wondering why I had done explicit correction instead of recasting with the group, because I know recasting is the oral correction tool of the communicative approach. She said I was right and asked me to justify my choice it. I asked her if she thought recast worked with everyone – a question she didn’t immediately answer, but rather just stood there, looking pensive . I said that I tried to use it with the students I sensed it worked and I used direct correction with the others. I mentioned articles and studies and conversations I’ve had. She was happy (and relieved) to hear what I said. And so were other teachers that have observed me and approached me.

It seems people are waking up to students’ individual learning styles and needs. But how feasible it is when you have a large classroom? A multilingual, multicultural classroom? Does size matter in this case? Does anything?

 

I plan on conducting an experiment. A simple one. I have two very similar classes (same level, similar number of students – around 13 years old, A2 level). This week I’ll try to only correct their oral production by recasting on the first group and only by doing direct correction on the second. Then, on the end of each last class, I’ll ask them to reflect upon whether they felt / knew they had made any mistakes while speaking in that class (this will be done in writing, on little slips of paper, so that the students feel comfortable at being honest). I’m curious to see what I get! Stay tuned for the next episode on the recasting saga! :)

Teaching is like…

Brad Patterson felt the ELT Blogosphere was a bit quiet these days and decided to shake things up a bit by proposing a new blog challenge:

What is you teaching metaphor?

The challenge is very simple: share your “Teaching is like…” metaphor. As many things in life, despite its simplicity, the responses can be very thought-provoking and revealing – not to mention entertaining. We all seem to think for the answer to that question in our personal interests – other than ELT. Brad compares teaching to surfing and some of the people who left comments to his post say teaching is like reading a good novel, Latin dance, catching fireflies and jogging.

Not surprisingly, I couldn’t choose just one thing to make the analogy, so I thought Brad wouldn’t mind me having 2 metaphors. Especially because each relates to different aspects I see in teaching. So here is my contribution to the challenge (which – shockingly – are two of my favorite things) – teaching aspect of the analogy in italics, between parenthesis:

I have a thing for red shoes… (by miss karen on Flickr – CC )

Teaching is like buying new shoes. As soon as we buy them, we are all exciting and we can’t wait to start wearing them. (In the beginning of a new term we are all excited about our new groups and students, we want to get back on, start teaching again.) But the first time(s) you wear a new pair of shoes they may be tight in certain spots, they may hurt your feet and you might end up the day thinking: “What the heck was I thinking?”. (Starting to teach a new group of students many times means getting a group you don’t immediately hit it off with, they may bring difficulties and the excitement of a new semester soon fades and is replaced by routine and lots of work. And you are soon thinking: “What the heck was I thinking?”)

However, with time, as you wear that sparkling new pair of shoes they start loosening up, adjusting to your feet. And they become comfortable. (As the term rolls on you begin to know your students, they start to know you and your teaching style. Adjustments are made, you learn how to prepare and deliver lessons that work with each group. And things are not as bad anymore. It might even be fun!) Ok… there are those that you still need to put a little band-aid on that one spot that keeps hurting and you sigh with relief when you take them off. (Eventually there may be those students / groups that never get to the “comfortable” level, and that make us do our job but look forward to the end of the term.)

Pilates

I strongly recommend pilates as a way of keeping fit

Teaching is like doing pilates. It may seem easy to someone looking from the outside – gracious, slow movements. (Many people seem to think teaching, and may I say in particular teaching a language, is a very easy thing to do. You just present the structures and correct the students. Right?) But once you are the one on those straps, bars and huge balls, surrounded by springs and bands you see your first impression was not accurate. It is hard to keep the movement slow – it takes twice the strength of doing weights in an automatic way. (Once you’re in the classroom you realise there are many ways to “present” the language; that it’s not enough to just correct when the students make a mistake. You’re surrounded by different students, different needs, new techniques and tools to be used, long hours… It is hard to do everything and see learning take place.)

Some exercises and movements in pilates can be quite challenging. Coordinating different – sometimes quite complex – movements to be done at the same time by different parts of the body while also concentrating on your breathing can seem impossible. (Sometimes as teachers we feel overwhelmed by all we have to do in order to effectively doing our jobs. And many times we feel we can’t make it. Sometimes we feel there is no way we can teach a group of 15-20 people from different backgrounds, different levels, different interests. How can we tend to everything and everyone at once?) But once you start developing your muscles and they develop a memory – yes, muscles have memory! – and the movements become effortless, natural. You become motivated by your progress, you start to see the benefits of the exercises and they become worth it. (Once you become a more experienced teacher, things and procedures take less time and work. You start to see the results of your work: a student that gets a job or a scholarship, another one that travels abroad and can effectively communicate and get around… And you see the value of what you do.)

So, teaching for me is like buying new shoes and doing pilates. What is your metaphor?

Learning from Teaching & Sharing and the Secret Garden – What I got from #RSCON3


Last weekend I took part in the 3rd edition of the Reform Symposium Worldwide e-Conference. (you can learn more about it, watch the recordings from sessions and see archives from the past editions if you click in the image above. In short, the conference is made by educators, with educators and for educators around the world. It’s an intense weekend filled with great sessions on an array of topics, all related to education and how it is changing, what we’re doing to follow the change, how and what we can do to be even better at what we do. It was an incredible experience. And in this post I’ll try to put into words what I learned from it, from the 3 parts I played in it.

# As a participant - I learned so much, it’s difficult to pinpoint. I heard and reflected about the changes technology has brought into the teaching practice in many aspects (speed of spreading, reach and availability of information; the dangers of exposing yourself online (and how to protect ourselves and our students, how we have to reflect before putting things online); creating online “spaces” where teachers can collaborate and share activities; I discussed assessment, about new tools, adjusting to the new reality…

This was maybe one of the topics that stuck to my mind. The fact that teachers have to face the changes the world and education have been going through. We have to change, because the students today are not the students from 10, 15 years ago. They’re not even the same as the students from 5 years ago. Learning has even more ways (and places) for taking place. So can we expect to keep teaching as we did before?

I don’t think so, and in that sense the #RSCON3 (that’s the hashtag we used for tweeting the conference) is an innovative opportunity for teachers who are already involved in online learning/teaching/Professional development to discuss the benefits and difficulties of it. But even more importantly, it is a chance for the teachers who are still taking their first steps – or have heard about it but are still a bit afraid of or uncomfortable with it to learn more about it, find ways of getting into it – and see it’s not the bogeyman. I saw many other participants who were attending their first online conference discover what can be done, find out about fantastic resources available for free online.

I could not talk about #RSCON without mentioning the thing that leaves the strongest mark in me, and I will quote Akevy Greenblatt (@Akevy613) on his post about #RSCON to say it:

“I challenge someone to find a profession with more passionate people than educators. I am truly blessed and privileged to be an educator.”

It is impressive to see how much caring, sharing and committment there. And it’s all very evident during the whole conference.

Which brings me to an image I have about my own experience in joining the world of Twitter, Educator Blogosphere, Online tools… Up until about a year ago I used Facebook mostly for chit-chatting, keeping in touch with friends & family living far… I had joined Twitter a little before, but saw little use in it, and had no interest in it to tell you the truth…. I had never read a blog written by an educator… I knew a few websites that offered lesson plans and activities. Then after Braz-Tesol 2010 I was convinced by Jeremy Harmer to join Twitter, and he told me a few educators I should start following. And my life changed. And this is where the image comes… what I found (and am still finding, every day) is such an amazing immeasurable amount of resources, meaningful discussion, interesting ideas and reflections, online conferences, webinars, like-minded people and opportunities for learning and sharing, that all I can compare it with is a Secret Garden.

When you are introduced to the web 2.0 for teachers by someone who can show you the way, that person is actually given you the key and showing you the gate to a secret garden. Something I had no idea existed and it’s unbelievable, beautiful. Conferences such as #RSCON have as a goal to give the key and show this gate to as many educators around the world as possible.

Take the keys and enter… all you need is wanting to.

 # As a Presenter - It was my first time presenting at an online conference, my second online presentation (I have done a webinar before), first time using Elluminate as a presenter/moderator. Many of my feelings regarding presenting online are also Brad Patterson’s as he discussed it in his post about #RSCON, another great post you may want to read.

It’s strange presenting to an audience you can’t see or listen to (except when they get the microphone to ask questions in the end of the presentation). You have no idea of their emotions, their expressions… in a way it’s like presenting blind. Yes, there’s all the interaction going on in the chat box, but that too represents a bit of a challenge to me as a presenter. I never knew whether to look in the box, too afraid to love my line of thought, of drifting away from my presentation.

In a way it’s also fantastic, because I literally had people from all over the world in my session. And the chat box allows for such great interaction between participants, on the spot questions, sharing of links and resources…

Being a presenter also showed me how incredibly helpful it is to have a moderator to assist you. In my case it was extra special, because I had someone from my PLN, my friend Sabrina de Vita as my moderator. the moderator keeps an eye for questions, puts up links you mention, helps participants who are having problems – usually involving the technology… I thank Sabrina for making my presentation as smooth as it could be.

All in all, presenting at #RSCON only made me enjoy presenting online even more and looking forward to doing it again :-)

 # As an Organizer - I was lucky to be invited to become one of the organizers of  this edition of the Reform Symposium. And that was a huge learning experience in itself. To be part of a group made of such inspiring, hard-working, talented people such as Shelly Terrell, Ian Chia, Mark Barnes(who also helped moderate my session :-)), Christopher Rogers, Lisa Dabbs, Melissa Tran, Clive Elsmore, Jerry Blumengarten, Kelly Tenkley and Chiew Pang is a privilege.

I learned a lot from each of them, I saw how hard everyone worked to make the conference happen (months of preparation and planning, sleepless nights, hours and hours of work) and they do it because the believe in the power of sharing, in the importance of it. They do it for their passion for education. I am honored to be part of such a team. And I had no idea it took so much work to organize an online conference. I am sure I will be able to help much more on the next #RSCON, because I have learned so much.

So, these are my reflections about the Reform Symposium. And the message I want to end this post with is only one:

DON’T MISS THE NEXT #RSCON!!!!

Challenges, PLN and Where They Have Taken Me

Image by Diarmuid Fogarty - found on #eltpics on Flickr - Close ups set

 

A lot of teachers don’t know what a PLN is… Many know what the letters stand for (Personal Learning Network – or Passionate Learning Network as Shelly Terrell says) but don’t see how it works, how they can learn, benefit from it. Inspired by Tyson Seburn’s challenge to the PLN to give a spin-off to the #FollowFriday tweets on twitter (If you’re an educator and haven’t joined twitter yet you may want to read this: “Why Twitter is a Teacher’s Best Tool“) I decided to share my story, how being on twitter, having a PLN and challenges my PLN propose have made me reassess my practices and change some of them, how they have helped me develop professionally and learn.

One of the first blogs I started reading once I discovered the world of Educator Blogs was Jason Renshaw’s (English Raven). If you haven’t read his posts I strongly suggest it. Jason is an Australian educator with fabulous ideas, incredibly sharing and always questioning things, rethinking practices, a never-ending quest for teaching more effectively. And it was also Jason and his blog who have introduced me to many things: tools, books, articles, blogs… and dogme. Yes, I know dogme has been around for a while, but I recently discovered I was completely out of the loop of what was happening on teaching and the ELT world.

See, Jason has a thing for challenges. And I have one for taking them up. I have to admit I find it hard to refuse a challenge. Challenges for me do exactly what they are supposed to: challenge me to do things differently, think out of the box, take risks, venture in new paths. They bring a breath of fresh air, motivate me. And the very first challenge I took was from Jason. An invitation to teachers to teach a different class and try teaching upside down and inside out. In a few words, the challenge was to go into class without a plan, teach it using your intuition and student emergent learning and then, after the class was over, sit down and write the plan. I took the dive. If you want to know how my class went, you can read it on my guest post on Ceri Jones’ blog (I didn’t have a blog at the time, this blog was actually in a way the result of my taking this first challenging and sharing my experience on Ceri’s blog) – The Day Nothing Became Everything.

By the way, the post in which Jason proposed this challenge was my first #FFSpinoff.

What have I learned from that challenge? I learned I don’t need a lesson plan. I learned having the class based on student emergent learning can be a fantastic experience. I learned doing things differently can be fun and effective. I learned going to class without a plan in no way means I am going unprepared (thanks to Jim Schrivner’s reply comment to my account on Jason’s blog). It made me buy Teaching Unplugged and learn more about Dogme. Yes, I’ll be arrogant here and say I think it made me a better teacher. More confident for sure. Definitely more aware of using students’ immediate needs and interests in the class.

Other challenges came along (you can see some of them if you choose the tag challenges on this blog) and I learned from each and every one of them. Some were not related to classes and teaching, like Adam Simpson’s Ten People I Follow on Twitter and Why – it made me aware of some great people I didn’t know on twitter who I started following. Every one of the challenges I took has taught me something, about teaching, about people… So I’ll keep taking them.

Besides the challenges, my PLN has proven to me the amazing power of sharing. Sharing ideas, practices, activities, tools, websites, articles. It has introduced me to amazing educators, like-minded people – some of which have become dear friends. My PLN has been supportive in ways I could never imagine. So I make a point of trying to convince as many skeptics on the power of a PLN to join twitter and form one.

What about you? What have YOU learned from your PLN?