First week of class and we created vision boards

End of the first teaching week for 2020 and it’s time to reflect for us teachers. We had a great first week welcoming back our students at our school. A lot was discussed and a lot of aims and goals were set.

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A week before EVO Flipped learning for Language teaching.

I am so excited. This is the week where we get enrolments for the Electronic Village Online (EVO) session called Flipped Learning for Language teaching. So far, the journey as a co-moderator (or just a general helper) has been really interesting. It started sometime in November 2019 where I was contacted by Carolina Rodrigues Buitrago to be invited to their team which I jumped at the chance to be able to help out. Just last year I was a participant of their session in Flipped learning. So why did they invite me, I certainly didn’t become an expert in flipped learning in just one year. Yet, I did really enjoy the course and really to a liking to the idea of flipping and creating active learning environments, but found it needs time to sink in and believe in it. Therefore, I suppose it was because of my enthusiasm in the course and live sessions and obviously in the area of flipped learning.

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“Keep it magical” and “Make a racket”, workshop by Sophia Papadeli…

The sketchnote featured in this blog pretty much sums up what I experienced at a workshop on Sunday the 1st of December at the Megaro Mousikis complex in Athens. When I first heard about Sophia Papadeli’s workshop  over on social media I said to myself, “This is something I definitely have to experience..”. Even though I feel that I have known Sophia forever, I’ve only been following her for a few years now and have met up with her in Athens only once before. She is a very talented and motivated educator who is so passionate about her work that she has advanced her niche in ELT to the extent that she can undoubtedly help others find their own path in the ELT field too.

The main event

Walking towards the conference room entrance, you could already feel the sparks of interest and tension of innovation firing up. There were quite a few of Sophia’s associates there willing to help you out in any way. I arrived a touch late (but not late enough to miss the start of the seminar) and had to sit towards the back of the room. Alas though, a dear friend and colleague (@Effie Pant) kept me a seat in the front row, which was dearly appreciated because the front row is where I love to sit willingly in order to be able to interact with the speaker.

So the magic began, Sophia started talking to the audience, explaining her ideas on motivation and how important connecting with your students is, touching on ideas from growth-mindset and how we should always have the learner in mind when we design our lesson plans – diversity and differentiation etc, etc. Things you have probably heard in seminars and from reading articles in education before, right? Wrong… Sophia didn’t just keep in theoretical, she showed us activities and events she has used in her school to keep her students motivated and alert in times when her students preferred to be distant and disconnected from learning. And by all means were they different, in all activities shown you could see the detail that a movie director ask for in their most challenging films.

Keep it magical..be a risk taker

If you follow my featured sketchnote around, I tried to document the feeling of the seminar with keywords. Most of them were connected to being a motivator for kids and making connections with them by keeping your activities interesting and as Sophia puts it, “Keeping it magical”.  Taking a risk, going out of your way to make it different and thus giving it meaning to your students. When you do these types of activities in class, you as the teacher should keep “faith” in these by showing your anticipation and passion. She showed us ideas for activities which could be used in class, I won’t go into any specific activities here due to some restrictions she has put on us for not publicizing her ideas. However, I can say that any activities you do design as teachers, make sure you make a big deal over it by involving your learners in the preparation procress by asking them to have prepare or do something for you by their next session. In addition, she emphasised the need of getting all involved in their learning. For example, ask students (or ask the parents to get students ) to wear something specific to their next class, to bring in something personal from home for their next class, all these preactions help build curiosiry for the lesson, therefore excitement and maybe some authentic interest on your student’s part. She even asked us to wear something white to this event. To tell you the truth, I didn’t. I didn’t catch on to her idea when she first asked us to do this via social media. I now realise how important this was for that event especially if you wanted to be immersed in her ideas to get the maximum experience, so if you are to immerse your students into a new experience maybe get them to wear something special (e.g. all black clothes, some gloves and a beanie) for you next activity. This will inevitibly be understood by parents who will have to help in chosing appropriate clothes or props for their child’s lesson which means at home they will make a racket about their childs learning helping to motivate them. Here before closing this paragraph, I just want to add that when your students arrive to class and you have prepared your classroom for a specific acitivty, don’t let them in to see what you have prepared! Keep them curious until all your students have arrived at the door of the classroom and then suprise them! Keep it magical…

All these little twerks towards learning wasn’t shown to us to add an element of a game, because we as educators are not entertainers. This is to make our students (and us for that matter) understand that there is an underlying need of having an deep interest to detail in what you do in life and that sometimes when asked for, you have to be able to comply in order to be immersed in a task.

Other subtle suprises

Sophia went on to talk about bringing your own talent into your classroom. For example, she likes to draw and direct (like a moive director, and obviously being good at it she had set the stage!), but what she presented to us and developed was that whatever you do that makes you happy bring it into the classroom for your students. Do you like photography bring in this ideas and create something. Do you dance? Put some song and dance into your activities..

She then went on and presented Nikos Galinis who brought in video production into a state school and got his students to produce social messages using use of youtube video as his means. Get out of your comfort zone was the message, don’t let your inner conscience (or the the Joker card) drag you down, become masters of the unexpected was her message.

We also had the privelege to view presentations from other presenters too. I particularly enjoyed the presentation on Inquiry based learning activities from Theodora Vogiou, where she presented an activity which her students created the problem and found solutions to. Well thought out and structured activity. Most informative. Aswell as, Rania Lamprou on using STEAM in Engish language activities. Very motivating for me having an engineering background. Also, last but not least we saw the teacher trainer, Ioanna Ntaidou using NLP methodologies in her activities too, but most of all some song and dance too.

Overall, it was a really interesting event which motivated me to get out of my comfort zone and try new things in my school.

What is “Flipped Learning,” you say?

As I have been doing for the past three years, again this year I followed the Electronic Village Online (EVO) sessions which took place online for five weeks starting on January 13 and ending of the 17th of February. This year I chose to follow the “Flipped Learning for Language Teaching” session. I believe that I chose this session over others because the idea of using technology more in and out of my classroom intrigued me and I wanted to learn more about this. This, of course, is not what Flipped learning (FL) is about and that I came to understand over the course of those five weeks interacting with professional educators from all around the world. Overall the moderators were very well prepared and even though this was an open online five-week free course, you could sense the enthusiasm and passion they had helping to create a global dynamic learning environment. The weeks were broken down into an introductory week where FL was introduced along with the learning platforms which we would use to access content and be able to interact and reflect on our learning. The following four weeks were split up focusing on the four separate fundamental pillars of FL called FLIP, but more of this further down.

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