Teaching to a black screen.

Teaching online has its days. Yesterday, in one of my classes, no matter what I tried and believe me it was a well-prepared lesson about ‘famous’ people and most of the class was about how we could charm a somewhat famous person attend a small session with us in our ‘zoomroom’, nothing worked and it was mostly a class of the black screen for me.

I want to talk about black screens today because I believe it is strongly connected to student activation and engagement. Engagement in second language acquisition (SLA) is twofold and not only is it coined as being something your learners should have it they are motivated to learn also it’s about having the will of giving you their full attention and focus. It is often said that this is the new-age type of students. They say that millennials are multitaskers, they can watch tv and listen to music and maybe be active on social media at the same time. This for me however surely means that they share their attention and that basically, they don’t want to give you their full attention. Also, this to me says, “Your not boring, I’m in your class, I got out of my way to attend and I’ll do my share of work, but I don’t want to give you my full focus; I’ve got other stuff more interesting to me than you.”

Most students close cameras on the pretence of being embarrassed, or having a bad hair day or not liking their learning environment or having their little brother with them. Some scholars say that during remote emergency learning we should not pressure our students to open their cameras because they might indeed not be feeling comfortable with their personal learning environment. The truth of the matter is I agree with not pushing too hard for students to open their cameras, but lately, I have been noticing that this state is contagious and that all students are slowly using it as an excuse for not opening their camera.

In a class, yesterday, all my students were reluctant to open their cameras for me.  I did try to convince my students to open, but in a short while they switched off and even though I tried, they won in the end because I was losing time and seeing my objective going out the window. So I did spend time talking things out but ended up going back to the lesson as not to lose their attention completely.  And what struck me, yesterday is at the start of class when I was alone with one student, I got him to open his camera to say hello which he did, and as soon as another student entered the class, he immediately switched off his camera. Another case was after having a conversation on internet bandwidths and speeds of connection, one of my students who always uses his speed of connection as a problem to switch off his camera boasted about how fast a connection he has to all of us. This was actually mentioned to me by another student told him, who said to him, “why do you say that you never have enough bandwidth to open your camera since you have 100Mbps download and 10Mbps upload”, that’s a really fast connection for home internet!

So the truth of the matter is, even though we have our students motivated enough to come to our online class because they could have just say, “online doesn’t work” and that “my parents shouldn’t be paying for these types of lessons”, the fact that they attend without turning on their video is saying that they are just not engaged enough to do so. If your not actively involving them in an activity which needs for them to be seen, then they prefer to do your activities without their video turned on.

This preference is what needs to be discussed. Should we allow this to happen should this be talked out with all students separately and discussed as a prerequisite?  What do you do with the students who genuinely do have problems?

The more you allow this to happen in your classes the more disengaged learners you will eventually end up with. I believe that this notion should be actively talked about amongst older students and we should reach an agreement towards everyone being actively involved and having their cameras switched on.

For me, in my next lesson, it’s time to redo classroom rules, maybe work upon these rules through a google doc or a collaborative Canva drawing activity. Get them to collaboratively write the rules and to create an infographic of “our ‘zoomroom’ rules”

A good way to create ‘zoomroom’ dynamics and restart my class with a new outlook.

Photo by z yu on Unsplash

Disaster recipe: Collaborative writing online and young teens

They say the older students get the more attention span they acquire. I don’t really know if this is a true fact. Especially now with all my lessons having being moved online, I get to witness even the good students not wanting to focus in on me presenting something to them for even four minutes. This I found out yesterday when I had a group of four EFL students at a B1 level for a two-hour writing session. I had planned to do a writing session with them and planned to make it as interesting as possible, and mind you, even though I should get others to vouch for me, I myself was impressed with my own lesson plan which was quite impressive to say the least.

This lesson plan incorporated a nice warm-up activity to engage my learners on the topic of Mobile phones and young children. We watched a video about the use of mobile phones by young children where brainstormed ideas about the pros and cons of students using mobile phones were written on a padlet wall. Thereafter we reviewed a rubric from a model answer before we started reading and analysing a model answer. Sounds good so far? Well, after getting them engaged in the topic, getting them to collaborate on the padlet and all together read the model essay, which I found went well, all  I had to do after getting their attention was to show them a few key points in the main body paragraphs, giving emphasis to cohesive devices used by the author to link ideas together. (see image below) After at the most four minutes of presenting and underlining I started asking CCQs, that’s when it hit me that one of my students hadn’t been following me. He found my presentation time to switch off and let his mind wander which meant he didn’t pick up enough about how to structure a for and against discursive essay.

At the time, I was pretty disturbed. I found his behaviour upsetting and disrespectful, I put so much effort into this lesson plan and he just switched off. Then I thought, wouldn’t you switch off if you had something more interesting to think about? Especially, being in your own home, in your bedroom with your PJs on? Being honest, I probably would.

So this is where I had to differentiate. What I did for the following write up stage of my lesson is I uploaded the topic to a Google Doc and got them to write a paragraph each. They didn’t know that this could be done so they found it quite captivating. Below is an image which shows my students working on a google doc together. What I did was allocate a paragraph to each student depending on what I thought would benefit each of them. I got the weaker students to concentrate on the main body paragraphs and got the stronger ones to be more creative when writing the introduction and conclusion.

collaborative writing

I put a copy of the rubric in the Doc and wrote the titles of the main parts of the essay of I wanted them to write. After I shared the doc, they opened it on their pc and one of them directly on their mobile phone.

It took them about twenty minutes to complete the task and in the meantime, I had time to scaffold the structure of the main body paragraph to the student that had listened to me in the presentation stage.

The overall outcome was reasonable, and they were actually quite happy to get to write another essay in their own time. towards the end

Finally, I took their essay and plugged it into analyzmywriting.com which measured lexical density and got an average scale of around 50% which I explained that this was reasonable at the B1 Level. They like the idea of analysing their text using tools so I found this a chance to explain some more details about this analysis and promised them that we will do more with this tool in the near future.

lexical density writing

Overall, the practical part of the lesson was really interesting for them, but sometimes if a student wants to switch off while you present something, even though you think it’s very important for them and try to make it as interesting as possible for them, they will. Quickly, when this happened to me yesterday, I had thought, I should’ve flipped the presentation stage of this lesson plan and gave it to them to complete in their individual learning space and at their own pace. That way we would’ve got even more done in the group learning space. So flip it, is what I’m going to do with this for my next class.

Lesson plan: On the Bright Side of Quarantine

What really amazes me with our ELT field is that it is based on an idea that sharing your creations like materials and lesson plans not only to help other teachers be inspired and adapt tested activities, but also help the sharer reflect thus evolve as a professional educator. One such professional educator that I truly admire and that always shares his awesome work is Miguel Míguez.

Here’s a lesson plan based on the current covid19 lockdown situation and what really got my attention from this lesson idea is how he found a Lithuania photographer, Adas Vasiliauskas,  who happened to do a project on coronavirus lockdown and turn it into an inspiring idea to have meaningful conversations with my student which just might motivate them to end up expressing themselves in writing. Will definitely use this plan in my advanced class today. Very current topic with an interesting way of using this material in our class.

Amazing images for nonstop online class participation.

Quick not on how I will modify Miquel’s lesson plan. Basically, I will use his suggested activities as they are but since Miguel offered a word document for students as a file,  I adapted it as a google doc for my online classes. I will end up sharing the link to this google doc, get my students to make a copy for themselves and share their link back to me. So while we are in the lesson, when they are writing, I will be able to view their documents at the same time and individually comment on anything that might help. As a quick communication tool, I use Padlet.com for sharing links, docs, and getting feedback from students.

Thanks again, Miquel!

On the same page

Lithuanian photographer Adas Vasiliauskas has been using a drone to capture pictures of people in their homes since the country went under quarantine on 16th March, 2020. Each portrait is an imaginative exercise in creativity by the dwellers, too. “I started this project to give people a chance to brighten their day in this negative corona information environment,” says Adas. “I believe that these funny photos remind everyone that sitting quarantined at home can be fun too. And, of course, to remind everybody that you need to keep your social distance during these times.”

I contacted Adas about the possibility of using some of his photographs for a lesson and he readily agreed to it. His work provides such an inspiring and vibrant context that it will be difficult for students not to come up with unique, memorable personal responses to it — and we all know how important…

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What role does pedagogy have on this current digital stage?

*This article is to be featured in an online magazine.

In the days of COVID19 in which governments around the world have required us to work at home to save our lives and the lives around us, we have seen an unprecedented number of schools and teachers transfer their classrooms online. This has brought about tremendous stress on both students and teachers. On a larger scale in Greece, two main factions have arisen, the one says that online schooling should not be done without proper pedagogical insight and the later have started online teaching already. The question that arises amongst those who have opted for online teaching is do they have the proper training to support such an endeavour?

When we look at online schooling, it is not about knowing how to use digital tools that are needed to conduct such lessons. It is a whole lot more and is mostly about how you as a teacher can keep the teaching style that you have in your physical classroom before the coronavirus outbreak and instil them in your digital classroom. 

How do you support your teaching style in an online environment? 

This is where your knowledge of what can be done online and what not is most valuable. This expertise can be attained by either your personal learning network (PLN) that you already have or through a plethora of online sites giving you such information. Sure, one solution is to gather your students online and do your lessons. Saying that you could also do your lessons online without trying to use any of the available features of these such tools like breakout sessions and the use of the digital whiteboard. Sure it is ok not to find other digital tools to create engaging activities for your students as the core of your lesson plan or even as warmers or fillers, but how engaging and effective will that be for your students? Will your students’ motivational levels be high enough to keep them engaged in your lesson? Will you tap into their higher-order thinking skills by following the coursebook page by page (This applies to both online and off). How will they feel when you are at the centre of the classroom all the time and not them? If that is what you do anyway in your physical classes, then that is what will happen to your digital classes, but if you want to have that same magical effect you have when you are in your physical classes and keep your teaching style the same both online and off, then you have to be a lot more prepared when you get online. 

What methods of delivery do we have for online teaching?

Pedagogy is the science of teaching and is the method or approach we as teachers adopt for the delivery of our instruction. In practice, there are a variety of strategies to deliver instruction, whether online or offline; here a few strategies that teachers look at in the service of digital and blended learning environments. 

For one thing, teachers use flexible grouping strategies in their classrooms and commonly decide on who will sit with whom before class. In general, ‘flexible grouping’ is used to differentiate instruction to cater to all levels of students by grouping them into small groups, pairs or using the whole class instruction model. This strategy gives us the chance to focus on certain issues some students might have in the use of certain skills by differentiating instruction. Thus, keeping this strategy for your online classes is very important too. 

Typically, online you can achieve flexible grouping by using breakout sessions. Most serious online synchronous meeting tools do have this option. One example where you could apply flexible grouping is the think, pair, share routine in which you pose a question to your students, get them to think about it for a few minutes, having them take notes, and pairing them into breakout rooms to discuss and document results for about 7-8 minutes. Upon their return, they will be asked to share their discussion with the rest of the class. Indeed, you can not view all your breakout sessions at the same time. Yet, because this routine is known (or at least easy to teach) and you have planned your staging, your students will not let you down. Not to mention that you could always call on the option of popping in on them or adding an element of competitiveness to your task by getting them to police each other while in pair mode.

Also, taking advantage of collaboration strategies in your classes will work towards maximising your class time and eliminating the ‘one hand at a time’ discussion. This is even more prominent in online lessons where ‘one hand at a time’ becomes even more tiresome which adding to poor quality of internet connection could involve ample time loss. To plan collaborative tasks you might have to take advantage of a digital collaborative tool for a class discussion which could maximise class participation even to 100 per cent. This would even allow students who are not comfortable engaging in physical class discussion the opportunity to be heard.

Thereafter, there are other strategies that one could use to apply to online learning but these also apply to physical classes. There are options like Project-based learning (PBL) or Inquiry-based learning to choose from, but again choosing these methods boils down to the teaching-style you have in physical classes. One choice that is more of an approach than a structured method is the use of Flipped learning strategies for language teaching. This approach relies on the notion of saving valuable class time by taking out the teacher ‘chalk n’ talk’ time from the group learning space putting into the individual learning space or in other words the students own time; taking advantage of the group learning space to make use of more collaborative and communicative tasks. This by nature will get students using the language for extended periods of class time resulting in the reduction of students passively listening to the teacher.

No matter which pedagogy you apply or which strategy you embrace for your online classes, the most important thing you should keep in mind is that you could get away with not adequately planning your lesson in your physical classes and improvising your way through, due to experience. In online classes, there is a big chance that you might not only lose a noticeable amount of time due to technical issues but because of a lack of preparation, this time might multiply and lead to your students becoming disengaged resulting to loss of focus and connection.

Photo by Vincent Ghilione on Unsplash

So what’s the deal with online engagement? Can it work?

Inevitably so much has happened since my previous post. Due to Covid19 shutdown in Greece, our physical school has been closed since the 11th of March. Even though our digital school was up and running the next day, it took me 19 days to get my head around all that has happened to actually sit down and reflect. This post is about what has been going on in our digital classes and what are our next challenges to overcome in keeping our learners engaged. Saying that you have to know that I am not only interested in the engagement of individual students to learn; I am similarly interested in keeping my learners engaged as a community of learners at the school level. This ‘engagement’ is according to Zoltan Dornyei’s theory of engagement which means keeping our students motivated but also willing to interact with your curriculum in their free time and furthermore be active as a whole community. We want our community of learners to be actively involved in their learning.  The focus of this post will mostly be given to student motivation and engagement in online classrooms and how to continue to get students actively accept responsibility for their own learning which in the most part will keep students engaged and motivated. In theory, it sounds astonishing but in actual practice, it is easier said than done.

You might be wondering, why did I immediately get my school online? For one thing, I realised that firstly, I can, I was technically able to get my whole team online in a day because the infrastructure was in place anyway, and I had a well-trained team of teachers. But, secondly, I wanted to keep my community of learners active and involved and not at home and feeling depressed with what was going on around them in life. I didn’t want this Covid issue to completely affect my students’ routine. A community of learners that especially this year at our school have shown wonderful signs of growth and maturity in their own autonomous learning by using our infrastructure and course design.

Now nineteen days later, after the lockdown due to the Covid-19 virus, most teachers around the globe are now familiar with terms like ‘synchronous & asynchronous learning’ and the various digital tools readily available. So what about our students? Were they familiar with the digital context? Yes, you say? After all, they are the ‘generation Z’ generation and they are certainly familiar with learning from online resources. Well, that’s not entirely true.. Most of my young learners do use tech tools like ‘YouTube’ for leisure learning i.e. learning everything about how nothing at all, but they weren’t at all used to online digital classroom learning. One of the first observations I found that some teens, especially, had to come to terms with feelings of being exposed in front of their peers in an online classroom. Which was strange because their classmates hadn’t changed. This led to some having their web camera closed calling on technical problems as a reason. For them, they felt that they were being exposed and if they had to communicate that would put them in the spotlight. Saying that some other students, as Nikos Sifakis said in his vlog (Sifakis, 3.47) , did have an initial excitement and were eager to engage with us in an online learning setting, but as he warns this initial excitement will be lost if we as teachers don’t adjust to this new teaching medium.

I have to admit, in our first online lessons, a lot of effort was put into the presentation of new material, having students passively listening and allocating homework. This felt safe for the teacher, but we knew immediately this was not an effective way of teaching and was leading to the rapid demotivation of our students. Yet, it did buy us some time to learn more about how we could go about making our lessons more proactive.

And this all boils down to the correct use of pedagogy and as all teachers know is the method and the practice of teaching. Keeping your online lessons alive means having a sound lesson plan which has been well thought out to work online. That means think of an activity you have used in class and rethink of it for use in an online setting. There is bound to be a workaround. If not consult your personal learning network, they’ll know what do to. And another thing, give them more talk time, keep teacher talk time to a minimum and get them actively involved in what you are doing. give them control over what they are learning because if you don’t, this goes especially to the tweens and older teens, they’ll be thinking or doing something else which is much easier to fool you in a digital class than it is in a physical class.


Gamification in your School: Design, Plan, Execute -41st TESOL Greece Convention

Here’s my talk notes on gamification from my presentation at TESOL Greece Convention back at the beginning of March 2020. It was my last conference before the Coronavirus lockdown. I think I purposely waited two weeks after my presentation in Athens to make sure everything was ok.

Slide 1
Hi everyone and welcome to 41st TESOL Greece Convention and specifically speaking welcome to my workshop titled “Gamification in your School: Design, Plan, Execute”.

Slide 2
Just before we endeavour into the area of gamification, I just wanted to know how many of you in today’s workshop have practically used gamification before?

Now that’s interesting. Most of you here today say they have used gamification before.

Slide 3
Let’s have a look at today’s agenda. I’ve broken this workshop into two parts. Firstly, I’ll dab into some terms about the area of gamification and its background research.
Then we’ll have a look at how and why gamification works.

And lastly, I’ll end this workshop with some slides of how we have implemented our gamification system.

Slide 4
Which of the following is gamification?
A digital reward system
A loyalty program
an engagement tool
Using games in your classroom

Gamification is middleware for motivation
Points, badges, and leaderboards are just ‘signpost’ on the way of achieving their own individual goals. Not organizational goals. Success is where they overlap.
Gamification is about digital motivation. It’s a digital engagement model. All the other elements have been around for a long time scouts. Army. Uses badges for hundreds of years

Slide 5
Gamification is the use of game thinking and game mechanics to solve problems and to engage audiences.

Slide 6
Game thinking is the product of three-generation gamers. Kids today are growing up today with games as their principal forms of entertainment and that multigenerational exposure has simply affected the way that they think. Game thinking is about solving problems and engaging audiences.

Slide 7 Game mechanics
Which of the following are connected to game mechanics?

Slide 8
What’s at the heart of this gamification loop system?
At the heart of the gamification system is the point system. The things around the point system are called game mechanics. Points, badges, leaderboards. Things that can be used to engage users around a point system. Often it’s hard to communicate to somebody exactly how much money you have. So signalling is very important to show other students at which level you are. We use badges.

20200307_0727419. What is status worth?
There are people that are either playing games on tv or following these types of programs. Like master chef or GNTM, 16:07 What do these people play those games for?
“They play for attention, they play for power, they play for status” [Zichermann]. They don’t play for the cash. The bottom line is that If you don’t have a good status system in exchange for their behaviour, you need to give them cash or (a prize). Buy one get one free? Discounts on tuition fees, small group numbers, enrolment gifts..are just a few I could come up with…

Signalling (Status) is an important part of this kind of interaction. Sometimes it’s not always about the points it’s about the status signal.
10. Why is it difficult to engage students?
One of the things that science has learnt from games is that fun and the theme of the game is not connected. The theme is a lure to bring people into the engaging experience. And that has important implications.. If we can make farming fun we can make anything fun or anything work, depending on its design. It’s a switch that we can use to make anything engaging.

Slide 11.
In gamification, we use a term called “The Spoon full of sugar effect|
The premise of that song is if I make the medicine sweet enough, you won’t know that it’s medicine and you’ll take it.
Marketers sometimes use this to describe this phenomenon they call this loyalty program.
Loyalty programs are intended to get users to take any action in your favour when all competing options are mostly equal.
Loyalty is about status and signalling!

Slide 12.
11. Which of the following gets people to unforcefully take action against their self-interest in a predictable way?

Games are the only force in the known universe which get people to take actions which are against their self-interest in a predictable way without the use of force.
Increasingly students are faced with a set of choices that are basically distinguished between work and leisure choices but increasingly they are compulsory and optional choices. These are replacing fun and work. “Once we get into optional time, users are naturally going to gravitate to the experience that they find the most rewarding” [Zichermann]. By definition, games have a big advantage over just about anything you might be creating in your spare time. Especially the ones that are designed explicitly to maximize reward. For example.

Do kids not read books today because they don’t understand why it is important? No, it’s because they have the choice of stuff that is way more interesting than books. They’re choosing something that is more interesting to them.

Slide 13
Games have a profound effect on your brain
How significantly are games rewiring your brain?
Games have a profound effect on your brain. Through the process of Intrinsic reinforcement. Anytime you challenge yourself to something and you achieve that thing, your brain secretes a little bit of magical chemical called dopamine. Challenge achievement mmm that feels good. The more you succeed the more you want to succeed. Dopamine testosterone actually affects the way your brain is structured.
They don’t have to be good… in the real world, we get this dopamine release very infrequently. but, in the game world, we can achieve that more and more which is a little series of accomplishments.
Take deliberately the idea of games and apply them to the real world and you get creative.

Slide 14.
Would you like to play a 145-word list game?
Gamification is about motivation. (Transactional level experience) Extrinsic rewards are not enough for a sustainable effect. Intrinsic motivators have three essential elements.
1.Autonomy- the desire to direct our own lives for optimal wellness and performance.
2.Mastery – the urge to make progress and get better at something that matters.
3.purpose – the morning to do what we do in service of something larger than our selves.
(Intrinsic rewards engage people at an emotional level).
[Dan H. Pink]
1. Autonomy. They make choices about how they will perceive there learning goals. Players have a choice to discover their path.
2. Mastery. Is a journey… there is never an endpoint… there is always another level. Gamification is about always getting better at something.
3. Purpose. Must start and finish with a purpose. A goal much larger than themselves.

Don’t mistake business goals for player goals. By breaking that goal into a series of manageable steps and encouraging people along the way..
The goal is not a problem. It’s the path to achieving that goal is the problem.

One of the key problems of many gamified solutions is that they are focused on achieving the organization’s goals and not the players’ goals..

Gamified solutions must put players goals first and make them the primary design objective” [Zichermann]. Every design decision must be focused on motivating them in achieving their goals. Designers need to understand players needs and ambitions.

Slide 15.
Will you accept the ‘Gimkit challenge’
Make kids believe that they are doing something for a reason for a purpose.
Make kids feel that they have a choice and a reason.
They feel that they have no choice all the time. – Scott Herbert
In today’s globalised, digital age, young people are continuously bombarded with information through multiple channels, and the pace of social life has been intensified by social media in an unprecedented manner.

Slide 16.
How do we use rewards to engage our students?
Reward early, reward often, try not to go negative (in rewards) Give benefits for advancing levels. Show status.

Engage them in a deeper and more meaningful level. Encourage them to progress through level engaging them on an emotional level.

Slide 17.
What is fun is the new power metric mean?
The new metric consumers are looking for in games is fun and engagement. This is slowly going to become more important in students’ lives and as we advance we will be compared to how fun and how engaging is our schools.

Loyalty programs don’t engage emotionally.

Our expectations have changed irrevocably, we can never go back. Consumer expectation is rapidly shifting. The tide is turning from the consumer point of view and increasingly is fun and engagement. And this will increase more and more.

Every single touchpoint is an opportunity to draw in another user.

Slide 18.
The game always favours its creator… no matter what game you play the house always wins… there is no way to beat the house
You have a choice I’ve either being the house or be played…. The sooner you get gamification into your school the sooner you get a bigger cut in happy students.

Google – managing millennials. All the frustration. You’re taking the smartest fastest tinkering most socially connected most ethically grounded in history generation in history, dismissing them because you can’t figure out how to manage them because you don’t know-how. Let me tell you what will happen, they’ll switch off… disconnect and learn English mostly by themselves… But at a standard balanced threshold level whereas you could’ve taken them to a much higher and advanced level.

Driving licenses example because of tweeting and Instagram

Slide 19
Theme and fun are not connected
Fun and work can merge with games
Status, not cash is the best incentive
The gamification loop is your guide
Fun is the new metric
Games favour their creators

Slide 20.
Exit poll.



Gamification by Design

by Gabe Zichermann and Christopher Cunningham | 30 August 2011

Mock exams, are they worth it?

“You can learn more in one hour of taking a test than in one hour of studying”, I haven’t only seen this in my students myself, but it has been proven by science too[Belluck, 2011]. I learnt so much about my students on Saturday after they took their first mock exam for this season, most of them were from the B1 Level but it does apply to all of our Cambridge assessment English language examinations.

Some background information before the mock. During the past week in our lessons, we set a date to meet up at our school on Saturday morning. The date was set at 10:30am. When I arrived at school early (10:07am!). I found the photocopier broken and I had to fix it. That’s not something that is unusual at our school but the problem was that this lost us time from when we were scheduled to start. This made students uneasy and as students, they became quite restless which in turn would lead them to have difficulties in focusing on what they came to class to do…take the exam! Most of the students ended up starting just twenty minutes later in time than what was planned originally. I have to admit, ‘just’ here is not used properly because this was one of the main factors that caused early tiredness and unfocused students in the end.

Continue reading “Mock exams, are they worth it?”

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.

Continue reading “First week of class and we created vision boards”

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.

Continue reading “A week before EVO Flipped learning for Language teaching.”

Beliefs about language learning.

Studying Motivation in L2 acquisition has genuinely touched me. I moved to Greece when I was 18 with about an A2 level of Greek in my pocket and had quite a few problems presenting myself to friends and acquaintances which I couldn’t really explain at that time, some people even found me simplistic and ‘silly’ at times which really affected my selfconfidence at that time. This, Elaine Horwitz, mentions as a logical reaction and as often a case with an L2 in her literature. I can’t believe how I can now connect my own life experiences to classroom motivational strategy techniques.
I also was impressed about how Elaine states that although in a communicative classroom we tell students that we want to communicate with them, we want to know what they are thinking and that we really want to listen to them, we end up putting them in a situation where they can’t do this really which can sometimes be frustrating for them if we don’t acknowledge this fact with them beforehand.
I found the Elaine Horwitz model called the BALLI – Beliefs About Language Learning Inventory model in the book Motivational Strategies by Zoltan Dornyei which led me to some of her research papers and this video from a teacher training session here:

This Youtube video led me some more of her workshops at the University of Austin which is under CC trademarks presenting in depth practical solutions on Methods and Anxiety in L2 learning. See here

And here is a link to one of her original works .

And here is a newer paper about validity of her work

Making meaning: collective concept mapping

Have to try this in my classroom soon. The idea of thinking routines has really caught my attention. Since it’s about the same time and I am due to go back into my classroom in about two weeks, I’ll try and get this to be ready for the first day back.

Art Least

It was our first day at school after Christmas break and we all looked a bit numb. There was a mixture of sadness that holidays had ended and happiness to see familiar faces again. We were also a bit tired and sleepy after a two-week period of waking up late. I felt it was important not to overwhelm students right from the get-go at 8:00 am on a Monday morning, but opt for a more open-ended, student-led activity.

Photo credit: Annabel Lee

This post reflects on how we worked with two groups of sixth graders, mixed-ability A2- English learners, on the concept of “change” by using the thinking routine Making Meaning.  The aim of the routine is to build collective meaning of words, ideas, concepts or events; a collective concept mapping. It is a new routine I had come across some time ago, but had not given it a…

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HyperDocs Handbook: a review that turned out to be a detailed outline of core pedagogical principles which cause Hyperdocs to be invaluable to all educators..

Originally this post was supposed to be another book review. A book review on the Hyperdocs Handbook by Lisa Highfill, Kelly Hilton and Sarah Landis which offers in-depth knowledge of the what, why and how to use Hyperdocs to flip your classroom. Yet, as I was progressing through the book, I understood that I was lacking some fundamental knowledge on a few terms that were used extensively. Therefore this post as it turned out is more of a memorandum of research and analysis of terms found in the book and less of an overall review of the book which I will rewrite as a separate post eventually!
In general, Hyperdocs relies on the philosophy of the Flipped learning model. I believe in the fundamentals of the flipped learning model but have been inert to fully implement this method as the main pedagogy in my classroom (yet!). Mostly due to not having a fully comprehensive conception of all the principles relating to the use of flexible learning spaces to implement this concept. Flipped learning is a pedagogy that takes out the instruction stage from the classroom along with the ‘sage on the stage’ bit of the that too, and leaves time to challenge students through flexible learning spaces for real collaborative and flexible learning to happen in class changing the teacher role into a ‘guide on the side’. This all sounds astounding and having used many times in my classes; it does have excellent results in the way students get empowered to look at their learning, but there is a lot of fundamentals involved in respect to knowing about these flexible learning spaces and switching to this type of teaching in your classroom. Fundamentals which need to be looked at in-depth and understood to be able to design and implement lesson plans that are based on solid foundations. Fundamentals, which I have found deciphered in this book and found to be both analytical and clear.
Firstly, the book runs through some basic definitions and clarifies to its readers how Hyperdocs can help implement some of these distinct pedagogical strategies. Hyperdocs promote the use of a variety of strategies to deliver instruction in a classroom setting. One of these strategies is personalized learning which is possible through Hyperdocs as you can use Hyperdocs to design self-paced differentiated instruction that “promotes high expectations, use flexible methods and materials, and accurately assess student progress” and this is (stated to be) achieved through the use of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) model. UDL? This influenced me to investigate the UDL framework. This eventually directed my search to cast.org which in short is an educational research organization around since 1984 investigating the use of UDL in education. UDL is an instructional framework which guides you to design your curriculum based on differentiation because it believes that each student is “Universal”. That is, students with different strengths, needs and interests and this needs to be manifested in your curriculum providing authentic learning opportunities for all students. UDL also maintains that learning is based on three main brain networks playing different roles.

The Recognition network is how we identify and categorise what we see, hear and read or simply the “what” of learning. The Skill and Strategies network which is how we organise and express our ideas, the “how” of learning. And finally, the Caring and Prioritising or Affective networks which are how students are engaged and motivated to learn or the “why” of learning. It’s this kind of flexible paths that should be designed in your flexible curriculum targeting all students and this is where the UDL framework helps out. The 3 core principles of UDL which need to be taken into consideration when designing the curriculum are:

Source: https://www.ahead.ie/udl-framework

So as you can understand… UDL is not something you can throw around and not know much about!

Hyperdocs also incorporates other learning strategies when used in the classroom. A few that were stated and adhered to me are Flexible grouping which can be used by the use of Hyperdocs. Grouping like:

  • Whole class on one doc – “All students one doc”
  • Partnerships – “Brainstorm with your partner on this…”
  • Small groups – “With your team create…”
  • Individual – “On your own, show..”
  • Global partnership – “Connect with student A via a digital tool”\

This alone provokes collaboration through out all instruction.

Hyperdocs also supports delivering instruction for Project-based learning. Project-Based Learning (PBL) is a teaching method in which students learn by actively engaging in real-world and personally meaningful projects (source: https://www.pblworks.org/what-is-pbl). Hyperdocs allows for building background knowledge to become a task and not a lecture, improving both collaboration and expectation setting.

Another pedagogical strategy Hyperdocs provides the basis to deliver instruction for is the Inquiry-based Method. This method is strictly student-centred probing the teacher to be the guide on the side empowering students to ask questions and find the answers themselves relying on each other and their research. More information here: https://www.edutopia.org/blog/what-heck-inquiry-based-learning-heather-wolpert-gawron

Other pedagogical strategies mentioned for supporting the use of Hyperdocs are blended learning and distance learning which are supported by the use of Hyperdocs by providing a home base where students come and get their tailor-made guidance at their own time. 

In this part of the book, Innovative learning spaces were also mentioned as being the design of space as a more student-centred classroom in which traditional instruction has no place and the use of Hyperdocs bridge the gap between the space people use to learn and the instructional methods by which they learn.

In short (too late for that!), Hyperdocs are based on core pedagogical principles which cause them to be invaluable to all educators. Next step now is to reflect on how they are designed and implemented in (my) classrooms!