Saturday, November 28, 2015

Understanding is key to communicating

The other day I asked my colleague Valerie Lewis to say how she helps language students deal with the 3 functions of speaking (speaking as interaction, speaking as transaction, speaking as performance), she provided a totally new perspective to the topic. She establishes the need to work on receptive skills first as vital for working on expressive skills. Listen to the recording to see if you think if her ideas are doable.

Audio recording and upload >

Based on Valerie's ideas, what does tell us about checking student comprehension before they perform a task and what does comprehension entail?

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Teaching the teacher

Tonight I had the preivilege to discuss the task of teaching teachers - what we ofetn refer to as teacher training and teacher development - with five other educators on the Google Hangout Series organized by Edumatch and known as Tweet and Talk. Watch the full episode here.

The talk centered around these four questions:

1.      Teaching teachers is like preaching to the converted: how true is that?
2.      What do teachers really need to learn?
3.      What’s an effective (not necessarily the best) way to show teachers what they have to do?
4.      What is one thing you would never ask a teacher to do?

But there was also much going on in the backchannel Twitter feed, which can be caught here.

Since I am into #microlearning, here's one lesson I am taking away from the disucssion.
We need to understand that learning goes the same way for all of us - teachers or students. They come with something to offer - procedural knowledge, learning styles, intrinsic and extrinsic motivations. Their Proximal Development Zones vary and are activated on their own time. We have to be sensitive to what is known as #Readinesstolearn; since this disposition can happen at any time, we have to be AVAILABLE and ON CUE when they come to us. In other words, #readinesstoteach. Are you ready?

Friday, November 6, 2015


Blogging has been around for some time. Seen as a way getting your ideas out on the Web, it has ridden waves of popularity with every tide that washes in the latest social media trend. 

Often when I tell people I keep a blog (in the plural, I must confess), the reactions flood in as fast as or faster than a live Facebook or Twitter chat: Nobody reads blogs anymore! I try to convince them and myself otherwise, but even with empirical data they'll most likely question me all the same. 

What's in now is to vlog: have a YouTube channel, get millions of views and then land a licensing contract and start collecting the dough. You name the topic and target group, there's a vlog qualified for the job.

So why waste to blog this, you might ask? Well, you ARE reading this, right?

My attention turns to education: how do teachers (and students) use blogs in the name of learning? Invariably, the aim is to work on writing skills, but blogs go beyond the traditional model we use in the classroom: assign a task, students (sometimes) hand it in, teachers correct it and return it, students keep them in their books and life goes on. 

Blogs offer a.chance of a real audience and a chance to foster an ongoing conversation about what is written. 

They promote reflection, responsibility and citizenship in all its forms. 

They work on the four C's: Communication, Creativity, Collaboration and Critical thinking. 

They qualify the user as author, editor layout designer, illustrator, curator and agent. 

For these reasons and more, we might not be wrong in saying that #BloggingistheNuWriting. All in favor?

Wanna read some more on the topic? Join me in the quest for knowledge as we share ideas around the virtual world with blogs! 

Friday, October 23, 2015

Professional Learning and Twitter

A quick read and listen - I used Evernote to voice over my take on how professional learning can be achieved thru Twitter. Click here.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Have you collaborated lately?

What does COLLABORATION look like and how does it differ from SHARING?

This week's #FLedchat on Twitter sought to look at the differences between collaboration and sharing. The conversation that ensued was a case in point - participants pooled ideas and came to common conclusions about the subjects in the most respectful and engaging manner.

Apart from reminding myself that collaboration always conjugates its verbs in the first person plural, it sparked some reflection as to whether I am in fact collaborating with the vast number of educators I have met thanks to Twitter chats, Voxer groups, Skype meets and Google Hangouts or just sharing ideas.

Sharing has its value -let that not be forgotten- but not always does sharing lead to collaboration, the ideal situation, as far as I see it.

Why spend time talking to other educators (who could be the colleague in the next room or the teacher in another region or country) if not to create something fantastic out of the experience? This should be "fantastic" for all those involved -mutual effort, mutual benefit.

Collaboration, then is sharing to discover the talents and abilities of others, NOT to showcase what I already know (or think I already know). In short, it synthesizes Kagan's principles of cooperative learning - the PIES framework.

What does collaboration look like? No one answer can put it in words, but these are what struck me most:

As an image, I would go for something like this

How have you collaborated lately or what are your plans for collaboration with another teacher? Share your story in the Comments.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Contextually relevant

While participating in the #tmchat, my answer to one of the set questions for the night gave me the chance to learn the term "contextually relevant" Learning can only be purposeful if it is connected to the students' reality, to what matters to them. Something we can never forget. #whatmatters #tmchat

Saturday, July 25, 2015

It's the people that make the party

I have been co-moderating the #nt2t chat for over two years now (and having a tweetful time at it, I might add), but the thought of writing this occurred to me during the last #whatisschool chat, in which I guest moderated alongside the inspirational Craig Kemp and Laura Hill. It was thrilling to get so much positive reactions to the topic and to the questions I had proposed. The post is not an ego trip, but rather a look at what make Twitter chats in general what they are to the point that people take an hour of their time every week to participate and socialize virtually.

I am going to use the party metaphor to hopefully make my point.  Party planners usually have to consider every minute detail to ensure the success of the event: the food and drink, the music, the venue, the theme, the program, and of course the guests. Get-togethers tend to flop if one of these items is neglected; yet without good, fun-loving, easy-going guests, these events often meet their doom. That’s why promoters and party organizers handpick their guests in the hope that they find the right mix of conversationalists, eager listeners, team leaders, and humor providers (maybe I just invented a new profession, here).

Looking at a Twitter chat, moderators thankfully don’t get to pick the guests: it’s that openness that lures people interested in the same topic in. The venue is available 24/7/365. You can hear the music by the sound of the group hashtag.  The food, drink and program come in the form of the welcoming, the questions and the chat format. Once again, the success of the chat is dependent on and measured by the people participating. 

The more eager and hungrier they are to chat, the more enriching and engaging the discussion. This became clear to me in some of the tweets that we received thanking us for the chat. In thanking us, these people showed their enthusiasm which made ALL the difference in the chat

Turning to the classroom, inevitably, I ask myself how much does all the preparation and setup we make really play towards the success of the class. Like in the Twitter chats, we can’t invite our guests (the students), but it’s our job to make them comfortable, to make them feel safe and at ease enough to express themselves, to engage in the proposed program (subject of the lesson). Without them, nothing else matters, or so the song says.   

Friday, June 12, 2015

Making learning and teaching authentic through social media

I set out to create an authentic listening activity for a one-to-one student and got much more than I had bargained.  I ended up with as an excellent opportunity to connect with educators from different educational contexts and with diverse professional/academic backgrounds. I am currently part of four Voxer groups, each comprised of teachers of a wide range of areas.

I was tutoring an intermediate Brazilian student of English as a Foreign Language who wanted to focus on Business English skills. We were focusing on the skills of introducing yourself and talking about what you do: describing job responsibilities and what the daily activities involve. This meant she had to use expressions like “I deal with…; I handle…; I’m in charge of…; I’m responsible for…; My work involves…” 

The student had lots of difficulties with listening type tasks, which spurred me to make something authentic and challenging for her. Thus the idea of reaching out to my Voxer pals and asking them to talk about what they do briefly. 

The response was fantastic, to say the least. No, I’m not going to hold back here: I was absolutely blown away by the willingness of my colleagues to help out. I don’t even need to tell you how awed my student was by all of the natural responses. It gave her a chance to deal with different accents and speeds, something that she has to face in real life at the company where she works. Also it gave her to chance to hear real language (including some of the useful phrases I mentioned above) being used. The ideal learning situation, won’t you say?     

You can listen to my colleagues' recordings on the right sidebar. 

On a more reflective note, this connection gave me the chance to learn a little more about the people I have met and interacted with via social media – first on Twitter and then on Voxer. I got to better understand what they do as teachers/educators, the roles they play, the new job positions they fill and what these posts involve.

I learnt about new educational roles some of these people are playing. What amazed me was how they manage to juggle so much at the same time and still reflect the passion and enthusiasm they hold for their profession. You can’t help but be inspired when you hear people like that.

It went beyond reinforcing the importance of having a PLN by stressing the need to organize this network that I build. This organization will probably help me see how I can connect with people, the kinds of projects I can engage in and how these people can help me and I them.

Thanks to all the tweeps from the EduMatch (#edumatch)and New Teachers to Voxer (#Nt2V) groups for the prompt answer to the "call of duty". I hope I didn't forget anyone who kindly recorded.    

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Why Twitter? (a question with an expiry date)

Why Twitter? Four reasons are given here. I’m not just copying and pasting here, sometimes it’s better to get other people say things for you in a more effective way. What’s more, there’s nothing better than reading ABOUT Twitter ON Twitter.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Being globally connected - what it entails

On May 11th, I was invited to guest moderate the #teacheredchat held every Monday from 9 to 10 pm EST. The topic is one of the buzz issues in 21st-century education - connecting globally.

The questions that guided the chat covered:

  • ways to stay connected as an educator
  • ways to connect your classroom
  • technology tools to help you make global connections
  • plans for staying connected
  • ways to convince others to connect
One question that lingered on in my mind after the chat was what it means to be globally connected and the implications that brings to the teaching/learning experience.

My impression is that connect globally is to use the Web to break down the physical walls of the classroom. The world we live in can't and shouldn't be shut out so making learning relevant, current and engaging can only happen if we open the windows of the classroom to what is going around us. The advantages and challenges of doing is that we can analyze our world critically and safely if we take the necessary precautions to protect ourselves and our students from unwanted cyber attacks. 

Before we can talk of connecting globally we have to develop in ourselves as educators the habit of collaboration with our local colleagues whenever possible. And this collaboration should be interdisciplinary to make the experience more worthwhile, to help students connect the dots between knowledge learned in one field and ideas acquired in another. 

Connecting globally reminds us teachers that we are also learners - from our students and from other inspiring educators who are being the change they want to see

So, the question still lingers: what does connecting globally mean to you?

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Does technology make change faster? Food for thought

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Extend your learning

A concise piece done by @ShannonSiegler and fellow teachers on what Twitter is all about for ">Authentic learning

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

An inspirational infographic It's all about being connected - in tune with the lastest trends in teaching, in sync with other like-minded educators, and in tandem with learners' needs.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Advice to the new at heart - what every new teacher should know

Note to the reader: These tips are based on my experience as a teacher of English as a Foreign Language. All things considered, I believe the ideas shared here can apply to any teacher, regardless of the subject. 

Experience, with the kind collaboration of time, is the best master we can ever have. But what if you're new to the game of teaching? Your school principal or manager, your supervisor, and most importantly, your students, won't probably be interested in knowing that you're still coming to terms with the syllabus, the methodologies, the materials, and the classroom techniques. Here are six things you might want to consider: 

1. If you can explain it in different ways, then you can teach it. 
You probably have heard the expression "there is more than one way to skin a cat". With the pardon of animal rights groups, the same applies for teaching. Although there several ways to explain things - synonyms, mimes, analogies, real-life examples, songs, just to name a few- we tend to use the one that we are most comfortable with or the one that always does the trick. But sometimes when a student doesn't get the explanation, it might help to use a different technique instead of repeating yourself. For those who understood it the first time, it is a moment to drift off. For the student who asks for further clarification, it may mean that the topic is over their head. 

2. Pay more attention to the students and to what they say than to the syllabus or the textbook - listen, read and feel them 
Yes, we have lesson plans to be followed and schedules to be met. The content has to be covered for our students to sit the tests successfully. But, if our role is to help shape responsible and constructive citizens, we have to meet them where they are, listen to what they have to say non-judgmentally and, when possible, use their contributions as paints to form a learning canvas. 

3. Students want to hear what you have to say 
As teachers, we are a model for our students. Notice I used the indefinite article to stress the importance that we are not the sages on the stage (we never were, actually), so we should be careful not to use our privileged position to get our students to think exactly as us. Our students take into consideration what we have to say, so we should always present them with differing opinions, not only our own. By doing so, we unconsciously teach them the importance of respecting opposing views and looking at things objectively.

4. Learn to improvise and be spontaneous 
Teaching is probably one of the jobs that require large doses of improvisation. Our lesson plans, teacher guides, and syllabi don’t prepare us for the students we are going to interact with everyday. After all, each group is unique and each student one-of-a-kind. Do you remember tip number 2? We have to have the resourcefulness to take what students bring to class everyday and weave it into our lessons to make the learning experience meaningful for you and for your group. Not all of us are naturally spontaneous, but I believe we can nurture it when we are wearing our teaching hat. 

5. Trust your gut feeling - be willing to go out on a limb 
This tip is an extension of the previous one, but requires more boldness on our part. When the class is not going the way we had planned we have to be able to trash it and start from scratch. Find the right mix of content, adaptation, student motivation and learning outcomes. This may seem scary for a new teacher who usually depends on the teaching aids made available at their disposal. 

6. Share your successes and failures with a colleague. 
Spontaneity, gut feeling, adaptability come with time and with a little help from a colleague. Schools sometimes assign a one-to-one mentor or teacher coach for the new teachers. You can take the initiative and choose your own “mentor” to help you out. Having a more experienced teacher to talk to about how things are going in your classroom, as simple as it may sound, can work wonders for your skills and most importantly, your self-confidence. 

7. Watch and learn from fellow teachers 
Even better than having a “mentor”, one of the best ways of gaining confidence and know-how is being able to observe teachers like yourself – new or experienced. Most of the times newbies are recommended to sit in the classes of teachers considered more competent and who can serve as professional models. Teachers are teachers, so we can always learn a new trick to add to our personal repertoire. What’s more, we can learn what not to do.

To the not-so-new teachers: What would you add to this list?

How to grow your PLN using Twitter

Nt2t can't stop

How can Nt2t help you with Twitter?