It’s been a REALLY long time since my last post, years actually. But, here I am. I’m on a break between semesters right now, and I think it’s as good a time as any to get back on this blogging horse.
I went to TESOL Convention in Toronto earlier this year, and one of the most memorable moments for me was meeting a couple online contacts from Winnepeg. One thing I’m missing right now in my professional life is the maintenance of these online relationships.
That being said, I think it’s important to consider what my goals are here. Why write? I think one of my primary goals with this blog is to promote my own professional reflection. It’s easy to go day to day, week to week without stopping long enough to really consider what has been successful in my classroom.
As I go into the new fall term next month, I have a couple goals I’d like to focus on. First, I want to optimize how I integrate student learning outcomes into speaking rubrics in my listening and speaking course. I’ve sort of developed a method for integrating the outcomes, aligning the outcomes with things students demonstrate, but I want to explore how others do this and see if I can’t improve how I go about it. Another goal is to continue to explore and implement activities in the classroom that allow my students to use English outside of class as much as possible. I not only want to encourage the use of English outside of our class, but I want to facilitate engagement with our learning outcomes and hopefully create an environment where students can direct their learning, at least with regard to this aspect of the course. I’ve done it with higher level students in the past, but I’m excited to see if I can make it work for a lower level class.
When exploring the vast pool of online tools and resources, it becomes clear that there are various types of tools available for any purpose. With the purpose of self-directed professional development and language education in mind, there are a few categories of tools that I have come to appreciate. I write this with a novice language teacher in mind, but much of the following information may be applicable to learners and social media as well.
Social media and online tools could be organized by how engaged the user must be with the platform and how the content is experienced by both the user and the support network (learning community). Every social media platform seems to fall along a plane that ranges from totally receptive to totally productive on one axis and collaborative to individual on the other axis. It might look something like this:
In reality, the classifications of social media tools may not be so simplistic. Each tool has the potential to be used in a variety of ways depending on the context and purpose. Where Twitter seems to be a fairly collaborative and productive tool (users create content and often share from and interact with other users), it could be a more individual, receptive tool if a user simply collected information others shared via Twitter. Information can be transferred, moved around, edited, and conveyed again using Twitter, but each user will engage with the tool in the way that works best for their purposes.
In the coming months, I hope to explore a few different social media tools in relation to my own continuing education and professional development. I hope to share my findings here and ultimately in my MA degree qualifying paper.
About four years ago I was introduced to the magic that is Google Reader. Initially I followed some entertaining blogs like The Bloggess, which I literally stumbled upon (using the ever time-wasting Stumble Upon), and various news feeds from home and my newly adopted South Korean home (I had just moved to Korea to teach ESL). I found Google Reader a great way to stay connected to a variety of online feeds; it was like reading a really cool, personalized news paper every day.
Upon my return to the US, I enrolled in graduate school and decided to create a Google Reader feed only for ESL-related blogs and articles. My search for online collaboration and my larger learning network had begun. After tediously exploring what seemed like an endless pool of blogs and online resources, I have watched my Reader subscription list grow to 27 feeds.
Through these feeds, I have come to appreciate the wide variety of voices within the field of ESL (and the online community in general). It has become fairly clear that if you are searching for like-minded individuals and communities online, you will undoubtedly find them. Sometimes I think back ten years (yes, it’s still strange to me that I can remember that far back) and think of how greatly things have changed regarding online communication and collaboration. Does anyone else remember AIM? How about Yahoo chat? While these tools are probably still trucking along in some form or another, it seems amazing that they were once the pinnacle of online communication. The tools and resources available to the ESL field and instructors in all fields seems to grow and morph every day. How can anyone ever expect to harness the value and potential in such an ever-changing pool of knowledge?! I would have to whole-heatedly agree with Vicky Loras when she says that an advantage in the field of education is that we get to learn something new everyday. Perhaps the ever-changing online community is a great place to seek that knowledge.
With the hopes of spreading some wisdom, here is a list of some of the blogs I follow to remain active in the online discussion of ESL:
- Larry Ferlazzo: This blog does a great job compiling resources from across the web. The resources and discussions on this blog range from K-12 ESL to adult learners. This is by far the most extensive compilation of information related to ESL I have come across online. I love his lists!
- ELL Toolbox: This blog is new to my Google Reader subscriptions, but I have found it presents interesting topics with some suggested reading to follow. I know I’m always looking for some good books to read.
- Free Technology for Teachers: This blog focuses on using technology in the classroom and presents some great online tools for teachers to try in their own classrooms. Each blog post includes an overview of the technological tool and an “Implications for Education” that suggests some ways in which the tool might be implemented in a classroom. The tools are not explicitly ESL focused, but they could often be applicable in any classroom setting.
- iTDi Blog: This blog is part of the iTDi (International Teacher Development Institute) website, and it offers one topic every month to which expert teachers respond. It’s a great place to read about the experiences of other educators. The topics vary widely but usually involve great examples of self-reflection and introspection on the part of the guest writers.
- Langwitches: This blog is written by a woman whose focus is on globally connected learning. The posts are very informative and they typically center around using technological and online tools to create learning networks and enhance professional development.
- 2 Cents Worth: This blog focuses on teaching and learning in a new information landscape. There are some great posts about the efficacy of using technology in the classroom and the author’s voice is unmistakably “big picture.”
While there are probably a million other blogs I have yet to discover, these are the ones that have gotten me to where I am right now. With ambition on my breath and the cold January bite at my back I embark on this new blogging journey. Perhaps I will consider these tips given by Leoxicon as I continue to build my blog and explore the online offerings for the field of ESL:
12 blog post ideas for new bloggers
1. Write a response to someone (preferably famous) expressing your opinion
2. Write about a web tool or app you use
3. Take two pieces of jargon from another (even unrelated) field and apply them to ELT
4. Write something about technology (whether you’re pro- or anti- doesn’t matter)
5. Blog about your favourite activity
6. Do a mini action research project in your class and post the results: preferably in two instalments
8. Write about something new you’ve learnt
9. There are many obscure “days” throughout the year: Honesty Day, Fun at Work Day, Dress-Up Your Pet Day and certainly loads of bad hair days. Pick one as a topic of your post.
10. Conduct a mini poll among your readers
11. Write an apology – even if you know the person it’s addressed to is not going to read it
12. Summarise a conference talk / workshop / webinar you’ve enjoyed
Finally, if you have run out of ideas about what to blog, post a Top 5 or Top 10 list of your recent blog posts!