5 minutes of Feedly | EFLtalks

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I did a 10×10 (10 slides over 10 minutes) presentation at yesterday’s EFLtalks Business event. It was a lot of fun and some of the other speakers were very interesting. I particularly enjoyed Rob Szabo and Pete Sharma’s talks.

I talked about how I use a news aggregator app called Feedly with Business English and ESP learners. I work with a lot of professionals from technology and consulting organisations in India. A recurring need they experience is engaging in small talk with their global stakeholders because their conversations tend to be extremely transactional – focused almost solely on project deliverables.

The EFL perception of small talk is that it’s about things like the weather and the weekend. But in business in general and in consulting in particular, small talk is often about what’s happening in your industry. It’s an opportunity to demonstrate your credibility and expertise, develop a good working relationship and potentially deepen customer accounts because you might be able to cross-sell services in future. So, there are clearly benefits to this kind of small talk to both the individual and the organisation.

My learners find talking about what’s happening in their industry and the business world challenging because they rarely read. Continuing professional development doesn’t exist and information flows in a top down manner in training programmes and through communication from leadership. They’re often subscribed to role-based emails that curate articles but these tend to be full of internal thought leadership (read propaganda) which can give people a flawed view of developments in their sector.

Feedly aggregates updates from different sites. So once you’ve done the initial legwork of populating and organising your ‘feeds’, it becomes an easy way of reviewing what’s happening in your industry as well as parallel sectors. In this presentation, I’ve suggested some activities using Feedly which mirror the sorts of tasks people do at work. By incorporating tasks that get learners to use Feedly on their phones or laptops, they develop the habit of staying on top what’s happening in the business world in a way that’s quick and efficient.

Here’s a slightly modified version of the presentation I used for the EFLTalks Business event.

You can find out more about EFLtalks from its site (it’s temporarily offline), its YouTube channel and Facebook group.  Alternatively, you could also connect with its founder, Rob Howard.

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Life after CELTA | An interview with Parvathy Nair

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I think I am up to any challenge the classroom has to offer.

Here’s the next installment in my Life after CELTA series in which I attempt to document the professional journeys of Indian CELTA trainees. Parvathy Nair did the CELTA in Mumbai exactly a year ago. I was interested in catching up with her because in many ways, she represents how many trainees on the CELTA in India differ from those on courses elsewhere. The CELTA might be a pre-service course in other countries but in India, it tends to be a mid-career course that teachers do as a way of reinvigorating themselves professionally or finding new directions in their teaching careers.

Parvathy came to the CELTA, having taught school-level English in Pune for many years. I was curious about what she hoped to get out of the course as an experienced teacher of English and what kind of impact, if any, it’s had on her teaching practice.


What sort of work were you doing before the CELTA? 

I was teaching as a primary teacher in a CBSE School in Pune, when I took a month-long break for my CELTA. And now I am the Head of the Department.

What motivated you to do the course?

I did not have a certification that qualified me as a language teacher. Specialising in English for my B.Ed. did not help me in any way either. The B.Ed. was more about the philosophies of education proposed by the various thinkers and educators of modern India and there was little about language teaching. I felt it was high time I learnt the pedagogy of language teaching. And CELTA fit the bill.

What do your employers/colleagues know about the CELTA? 

When I told my employers about the course, they asked me why I wanted to do it – a reaction that probably stems from the comfort zones that the teaching fraternity often operates out of. I had to convince them that this certification was important for my personal and professional development. But a couple of my colleagues who had taught in international schools knew about the CELTA.

What kind of impact did the course have on your approach to teaching?  

Pre-CELTA, I was in an ‘ignorance is bliss’ mode, and thought that the techniques that I was using were the most appropriate. But once I completed the course, I discovered multiple approaches to teaching language. While the CELTA, by definition, is targeted at teaching adults, my experience over the last year has been that it works wonderfully for young learners as well.

What kind of impact has it had more generally on your professional life? 

I have become a very confident teacher. And I think I am up to any challenge the classroom has to offer. I never thought I had it in me to teach a class that comprised a visually impaired child, children with learning disabilities, first-generation English learners and children with conventional needs, all at the same time.

Have you had opportunities to apply what you’d learnt outside your regular school context? 

Yes, I have been fortunate enough to apply it in the curriculum that I am designing for the RTE students. These are first-generation English learners without much access to learning resources and are typically from economically challenged backgrounds. While they attend their regular classes during school hours; two days in a week are dedicated to language learning under my supervision. I used my CELTA learning experience to design the approach used on this course.

Many newly CELTA-qualified teachers in India would like to work with schools but find this challenging without a Bachelor of Education (B.Ed.), existing experience teaching at a school, and/or lack of awareness among school administrators about the CELTA. What advice would you give them?  

If a teacher intends to teach in an ICSE, CBSE or State Board school, a B.Ed. is a must. These schools do not see the CELTA as a recommended qualification, but just an additional self-development course. The CELTA does not impact your pay scale and does not offer job security either. A B.Ed. on the other hand ensures a salary as per the prescribed government pay scale and also secures your job (unless the school flouts the government-laid rules and regulations). The IB and IGCSE schools though, do not have B.Ed. as a prerequisite, as the affiliations are not based out of India. But these schools are far fewer in number and do not cater to the larger population either.

CELTA course administrators will have to work with policy makers, government and schools to emphasise the importance of this certification. Until such time, B.Ed. will remain a prerequisite.

What are your plans for continuing professional development?

There are two courses that I would like to take up in the future – an M.A. in English Language Teaching and short course on the history of English.

Where to next? 

At least for the next two years I intend to continue in the same school.

In India, we get a lot of trainees, who like you, come to the CELTA with many years of teaching experience. What suggestions do you have for experienced teachers who intend to do the CELTA? 

Unlearning is, as much a part of learning and one should have an open mind. I would leave it at that.


Parvathy blogs at The Nomadic Gene although it’s not strictly ELT focused. You can also connect with her on Instagram. She’s a talented poet and I hope she doesn’t mind me sharing a link to ‘I sent the horses back home’ which she wrote in response to the sexual assault and murder of an 8 year old girl in Southern Kashmir last year. 

Going paperless with OneNote

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Over the weekend, I presented at a professional development event in Chennai – Perspectives in Business English Training – hosted by ELTAI BESIG and Ethiraj College. We had Evan Frendo from IATEFL BESIG as our keynote speaker. Here’s a summary of my presentation on going paperless with OneNote.


I started exploring OneNote a few years ago in response to some conclusions I arrived at after reflecting on my ESP courses.

  • We use too much paper in Business English and ESP courses: the difference between the volume of paper handouts we use and the amount of paper that’s used in a large digitally driven organisation has only become more pronounced over the years. I recall walking past a series of meeting rooms with glass walls to the one that I was training in at the end of the corridor for an in-company workshop. All the other rooms were filled with people busy on their laptops, smartphones and at the whiteboard. I don’t think there was a single piece of paper in any of them. My room was the only one swamped by paper handouts.
  • Our courses don’t reflect the realities of the workplace and workplace communication: whether it’s in terms of the amount of paper we use, or the limited way in which we use technology, Business English and ESP courses are often divorced from how communication occurs in the workplace. Evan Frendo in a BESIG webinar once spoke about the tendency for teachers to ask students to stand and deliver presentations when the great majority of presentations at work are delivered sitting down and often over the phone.
  • Even millenials or digital natives need support with using technology meaningfully and resourcefully at work: we assume that young people are on top of tech. This isn’t necessarily true particularly when it comes to mapping the affordances of digital tools that are available at work to their communicative needs.
  • Texts within courses and training programs don’t reflect the multimodal nature of texts at work: coursebook texts are quite different than the range of texts that working professionals encounter which include multiple genres within a single text type, data, images, infographics, video, audio, hyperlinks, embedded social media, all of which are underscored by intertextuality (how texts connect and speak to each other).
  • Written tasks at work are often collaborative but written tasks in the classroom are usually done individually: I can’t generalize and say this is true for everyone. Certainly, when I think of a typical email writing task on my courses, I don’t usually set it up as pair or group work. But even emails are often written collaboratively by teams in meetings – not to mention other sorts of documents such as presentations, proposals and reports which often have multiple authors.

But it was a specific event that led me to OneNote. Four years ago, I was teaching a course that focused on improving communication in meetings and it also included some on-the-job coaching. One of the outcomes we focused on was getting learners to produce useful minutes/notes during the meeting. I got them to watch a lot of videos and participate in simulations, and write up minutes on flipcharts with colourful markers. By the end of the course, the walls of the room were covered with rainbow coloured ‘minutes’ in large writing. I was feeling very pleased with myself.

Later that week I found myself observing a meeting with three of these learners. It also included some attendees who’d joined in telephonically as well as a client who’d been dialed in. Interestingly, all three of my learners were taking notes in different ways. The first was using the Notepad application on his laptop. Notepad has no text wrap or formatting so he was essentially writing one long sentence across his screen. The second learner had an Outlook message open and he was typing the notes directly as an email. He even had all the attendees’ and the client’s email addresses filled in the To: field; presumably to send the notes the minute the meeting got over. The third learner didn’t have his laptop with him. Instead, he was writing in a physical notebook. Halfway through the meeting, the second learner suddenly put up his hands and started to apologise profusely – he’d accidentally sent the email with half-written barely understandable notes to everyone. He then went to his Sent items folder and opened the message, and started writing in it again! And all this while, his colleagues continued to make their own notes and the other virtual attendees were conceivably making their own notes.

I saw a need and a opportunity – and a definite gap in the way I was approaching course design and delivery. I needed to

  • Make in-class tasks more authentic
  • Mirror real life tech use
  • Build digital literacy along with language and soft skills
  • Allow for collaboration
  • Reflect the multimodal nature of work.

My research took me to OneNote, a relatively unknown application in the Microsoft suite. OneNote comes bundled with Microsoft Office which means a lot of people already have access to a licensed version without realising it. It’s certainly on most work systems that have Microsoft Office. OneNote also has a free app for mobiles and tablets although it restricts you to a maximum of 500 notes.

Initially, I only focused on getting my learners to use OneNote to take meeting notes. But I soon discovered what a versatile tool it is. It lets you record audio, draw, research, organise, and collaborate among other things. One of my favourite features is Insert stickers which lets you personalize stickers and use them to give quick feedback for written work. I also like the web-clipper which is a button that gets added to your browser and is an easy way to collect links, articles etc. This can be really useful for web quests with a bit of learner training. The best part is that it’s easy to share a Notebook with your learners and get them to work collaboratively on it either using the OneNote mobile app or on their laptops.

You’ll find more ideas in this presentation which is a slightly modified version of the slides I used for the session.

OneNote also has an additional Class Notebook add-in which is specifically designed for education with lots of useful tools. Unfortunately, this version is only available for people who have Microsoft Office for Education which in turn is only available to those in the formal education sector.

Life after CELTA | An interview with Kumar Sharma

Kumar Sharma ELT

I sent my application to over 100 schools and agencies and only one bothered to reply …

Here’s another interview in a series I’m doing to address concerns about post-CELTA career options for Indian teachers. Some trainees do the course to ostensibly travel and teach but a South Asian passport and a non-native speaker of English (NNEST) tag mean that most doors are firmly closed. But there are those who’ve been able to find opportunities despite these challenges and I’d like to showcase one of those stories.

Kumar was on a course I tutored on last year. He was very determined about getting a job overseas. He left for China earlier this year. I caught up with him about his experiences so far and asked him to share advice for teachers who’d like to follow in his footsteps.

What sort of work were you doing before the CELTA? 

I was working as an English teacher at a private language institute in central Mumbai.

What motivated you to do the course? 

I was an English teacher without any teaching qualifications, so I did some research and came across the CELTA. I wanted to improve as a teacher and explore the world of ESL. I discovered that CELTA could be my passport to teach abroad and that was a deciding factor to do the course.

How did you go about applying for jobs overseas after finishing the CELTA? 

Once the CELTA was over, I knew I had to start looking for a job and put my learning into action. I searched online and registered myself on international job portals. Websites like ESLcafe.com and gooverseas.com to name a few, post job openings daily. I sent my application to a lot of employers and finally got a reply from my current employers.

What challenges did you face? 

The biggest challenge I faced was finding companies who hire non-native English teachers. I was told during my pre-CELTA interview that its almost impossible to find ESL teaching jobs abroad because of visa restrictions.

Tell us about your current job and your teaching responsibilities. 

I am an ESL teacher in Changchun, China. I teach primary, elementary and middle school students. I prepare PowerPoint presentations and lesson plans for the grades I teach. My school provides me with the textbooks for these classes. I’m tasked with completing the lesson plans a week in advance and submit them to the school coordinators. I also co-ordinate with the local teachers to discuss the progress of the kids. It’s very important to be flexible and spontaneous as a teacher, so even though I have a lesson plan to follow, I sometimes adjust my teaching to suit the class.

To what extent does this job meet the expectations you had of it?

I am completely satisfied with this job. I wanted to teach abroad and get sense of the culture of teaching and learning. I came to China with no expectations at all, because I didn’t want to feel disappointed. But I wanted to do justice to the opportunity given to me and I am glad I was able to achieve that. I am working to get experience, because the time I spend in China will add value to my CV and make me a better teacher at the same time.

Tell us about the city you live in. 

I live in Changchun – it’s the capital city of Jilin province. It’s usually very cold here – winters can be as cold as -35 degrees Celsius. Changchun has been voted the happiest city in China, and I must say it deserves the title. People here are very warm and hospitable, not just because I am a foreigner but even with each other. The public transport in this city is efficient; you can reach any part of the city with ease. You can either travel by trains, buses or taxis and the fares are cheap. The cost of living in Changchun is also very low compared to other major cities in the country, you can easily save quite a lot of your salary. The cost of utilities like water, gas and electricity is also very reasonable. Parks, restaurants, temples, schools, malls, universities and tourist attractions – they have it all in this city! I can go on and on about it, because that’s how much I love it and as I write this, I’ve just been here five months!

What’s the most surprising/unusual thing about living or working in China? 

I can’t think of any unusual experiences as such but what surprised me the most is how much importance is given to a child’s overall development. In schools, kids are not just given an education in terms of subjects (like back home), but also moral and physical development. They make them responsible right from a very young age. The future of these kids is in safe hands for sure.

Have you been able to network with other expat English teachers who work in the area?

To be honest, I haven’t really got a chance to network with any teachers from other cities, but I have colleagues from Ukraine and Russia and we often exchange information about our respective countries, lessons and kids. I am sure over time, I’ll be able to network more. It’s still early days in China for me.

What do employers in China look for when recruiting teachers? 

Employers want teachers who are energetic, passionate and hard working. Teaching in China focuses on fun but teachers must also be good at discipline his/her class. If the kids in your class seem to be enjoying themselves, you’re seen as a perfect fit. There’s also a harsh reality about teaching in China – employers often discriminate between employees based on their nationality. White skin is unfortunately a qualification that can fetch you a higher salary. If you’re a white European or a native English speaker then your pay is going to be more.

What sort of perceptions do they have about English teachers from India?

There are very few Indian-English teachers in China. The general perception about Indians is that we don’t speak good English. The fact that we receive our formal education in English is unknown to them. A lot of Chinese people are surprised that I speak English fluently. However, I’ve not yet had any opportunities to speak with any other Indian teachers in China. All the schools I teach in are okay with the fact that I am from India and this doesn’t seem to have an impact in their behaviour or attitude towards me.

What advice would you give to CELTA-qualified teachers from India who’d like to teach overseas? 

The road ahead isn’t easy. But if you believe in your skills and abilities then you can overcome any obstacles. I’d advise teachers to be patient when searching for teaching jobs overseas. If you’re a non-native English teacher, then be prepared for a lot of rejections because the visa rules in most countries are getting stricter by the day. Don’t take the risk of working illegally in any country as that could jeopardise your career. I sent my application to over 100 schools and agencies and only one bothered to reply, and I grabbed the opportunity. It’s also very important to get teaching experience post CELTA. Don’t always look for money. Every teaching opportunity post CELTA, even if it’s seemingly insignificant is valuable. Back your CELTA with self-belief, hard work and dedication. All the best!

NB: Kumar has consent in place for the image used in this post. 

Upcoming MOOCs for ELT educators | Jun – Jul 2018

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Here are some Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) to keep you occupied over the next couple of months. All of these courses are free but you also have the option of  upgrading and buying a certificate from the course provider. Some of the courses have already started but it’s not too late to join.  A good way of keeping track of upcoming courses is using Class-Central‘s alert function. They’ll send you an email when courses you’re interested in become available.

Adult learners

Assessment

Behaviour management 

CLIL

Language teaching

Linguistics

Special needs and inclusion

Teacher education 

Technology

Young learners

Other topics

 

Image attribution: Photo by Ciprian Boiciuc on Unsplash

Developing as a CLIL practitioner | Resources

CLIL resources

When exploring career options with CELTA trainees here in India,  I find that there’s understandably some apprehension in response to the question ‘what next?’ The range of options available is considerably more limited than other countries. It’s technically illegal to employ a teacher who doesn’t have a Bachelor of Education, which essentially locks trainees out of the formal K12 education sector.

However with the rise of English as a Medium of Instruction (EMI) across South Asia and the exponential growth in private EMI schools who often have questionable standards, there’s immense untapped opportunity here for CLIL.

Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) “is a dual focused educational approach in which an additional language is used for the learning and teaching of both content and language. For example, CLIL has involved Malaysian children learning maths and science in English. CLIL has been used for Norwegian students to do drama in German, Italian students to learn science in French, Japanese students to learn geography in English and Australians to learn maths in Chinese. The combinations of languages and subjects are almost limitless.”

Uncovering CLIL, p.9

As a CLIL practitioner, you could consult with school networks and tertiary institutions (EMI is as much a reality in colleges as it is in schools) on a project basis. Your work might include writing materials, planning curriculum, teacher training, monitoring and evaluation activities and co-teaching.

Here are some ways of developing as a CLIL practitioner. While courses can be useful, I think we are sometimes too quick to discount the role books can play in our professional development and I’d recommend creating a professional development plan that includes resources from all of the following categories.

Books

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  • Putting CLIL into Practice by John Clegg, Keith Kelly, and Phil Ball (OUP). You can preview this book here.
  • CLIL Activities by Liz Dale and Rose Tanner (CUP)
  • Content and Language Integrated Learning by Do Coyle, Philip Hood, and David Marsh (CUP)
  • The CLIL Resource Pack by Margaret Grieveson and Wendy Superfine (Delta)
  • Teaching Other Subjects through English by Sheelagh Deller and Christine Prince (OUP)
  • Uncovering CLIL by Peeter Mehisto and Maria Jesus Frigols, and David Marsh (Macmillan)
  • The Roles of Language in CLIL by Ana Llinares, Tom Morton, and Rachel Whittaker (CUP)
  • The TKT Course CLIL Module by Kay Bentley (CUP)

Note that only Teaching Other Subjects through English and The TKT Course CLIL Module are available as low priced South Asia editions.

Assessments

The Cambridge Teaching Knowledge Test (TKT) has a specialist module on the CLIL. Here’s a free handbook from Cambridge for candidates who are preparing for the TKT – CLIL. While it’s information light, it outlines syllabus areas for the CLIL and could be useful in designing your own development plan. The TKT Course CLIL Module book describes these syllabus ares in greater detail.

Courses

  • Exploring content and language integrated learning (CLIL) is a 15 hour course spread over 5 weeks from the British Council. This is an online moderated course and is run periodically. I think it’s reasonably priced at £100 and covers a range of relevant topics and includes virtual sessions in a webinar format.

  • Content Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) offered by Oxford TEFL, is a 30 hour online course.  It seems to have good reviews but the syllabus outline included on their site gives you the sense that they cover less on this 30 hour course than the British Council’s 15 hour course. However, they state that participants “will read articles, blogs and watch videos and then discuss the content with your tutor via forum discussions and live tutorials. For each module you have to complete an assignment.” An assignment for each module might be the clincher.  However, at €350, it’s a bit dear.
  • English for Teaching Purposes is a free MOOC from the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona on Coursera. It’s offered quite frequently and there’s one starting on June 18, 2018. It focuses on CLIL in a tertiary context and its intended audience is university lecturers who are required to deliver their sessions in English. You can purchase a certificate for under ₹2000 (NB: Coursera has differentiated pricing based on location you may see a different price in your own currency)
  • CLIL Teaching Method is a face to face course from Kaplan International which is offered as a 15 hour, 20 session course at language schools in the UK and Ireland. I don’t know much about this course and it would be sensible to connect on social media with people who’ve done it.
  • Postgraduaat CLIL is a year long diploma (?) course offered by UC Leuven Limben in Belgium. It’s taught in French and English and looks interesting but it seems to be aimed at teachers in Wallonia, Flanders and Netherlands.
  • CLIL (Content and Language Integrated Learning) Methodology in Higher Education from the Summer School at Utrecht University is a week long course priced at €750 – the institution also organises accommodation.
  • Techno-CLIL: Over the last two years, Italian CLIL practitioners have offered a free moderated course as part of Electronic Village Online. If it’s offered again in 2019, you’ll be able to enroll in the first week of January.
  • Free CLIL Video Course: This is a video series rather than a course but why look a gift horse in the mouth. After subscribing to the course, you’ll receive four emails with links to videos that introduce you to CLIL. It might be a good idea to follow the course author Patrick de Boer on Twitter.

Websites

  • TeachingEnglish: articles and blogs on the British Council’s site for teachers.
  • OnestopCLIL: lots of resources but mostly for paid subscribers.
  • LexiCLIL: this site offers ideas for blending the lexical approach with CLIL.
  • CLIL@India: a project funded by the EU’s Erasmus+ programme to introduce CLIL methodology to India. You can follow the project on Twitter (@CLILatIndia ).

Blogs 

  • CLIL Seminar in Getxo: An up-to-date blog with lots of CLIL lesson resources from Loli Iglesias.
  • CLIL for success: interesting stuff and some of the posts are bilingual.
  • A CLIL to climb: hasn’t been updated in yonks but I’ve included it because I encountered CLIL for the first time on Chiew Pang’s blog many years ago.
  • CLIL Media blog: this is a successor of the CLIL Magazine which was full of useful articles and resources.
  • Reflections on CLIL: Not been updated in a while but worth a dekko.
  • Nina Spain: has a lot of resources including training materials.

Gaining experience

  • Volunteering with an initiative such as Teach for India which places its ‘fellows’ within low resource, disadvantaged classrooms could be a good way of getting teaching experience.
  • Find out if any affordable private schools in your suburb/town offer EMI classes or are making the transition to full EMI status – offer your services to them. You could co-teach with subject teachers, dealing with English needs while they can focus on maths, science, social science etc.

Are there any other resources you think I should include in this list? Share links in the comments below.

If you’re working with CLIL, your experiences of developing skills in this area might be useful to teachers who are interested in a career in a CLIL. Give me a shout if you’d be interested in being interviewed.

Image by Tra Nguyen on Unsplash

Upcoming webinars for ELT educators | Jun & Jul 2018

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Here are some upcoming webinars that might interest ELT professionals. I have only been able to track down one in July but I’ll keep updating the list if I come across any others. Do let me know if I’ve missed any.

An asterisk (*) means that you’ll need to register to attend.

Approaches

Business English & ESP

Special Educational Needs (SEN)

Technology

Testing 

Young learners 

Other topics

Image attribution: Photo by Jeroen den Otter on Unsplash