Sunday, April 12, 2020

Teacher training in the time of COVID-19: From modeling blended workshops in Thailand to TALIN, Teaching and Learning in IsolatioN

Overview in a Nutshell

In my last post I was reflecting (when I wasn't dreaming) on my experience one week into the eLearning component of my English Language Specialist assigment through RELO Bangkok. I had been asked to prepare a set of blended workshops (partially online, partially face-to-face) on “Using multiliteracies and 21st century skills and tools in your own professional development” and on “Writing in tech-enhanced multiliterate classrooms” for delivery to university teachers of English and second and third year education students at various university language centers and institutes around Thailand. The workshops were prepared for delivery through a blended learning platform, based at http://workshops2020.pbworks.com/, which I created using free tools available online, with intent to model for participants how they could implement flipped and blended learning in their own classrooms and with their own students as I had been doing in my own classes throughout the latter part of my teaching career.

This was followed by a plenary at Thai TESOL on flipped learning, and then by the 3-week online learning course on Learning how to create and use a blended learning classroom which I had created in Schoology, also a free tool, and which at the time of my last post, I was one week into facilitating.

The online course was intended to allow the participants in the workshops to engage in consultation with me, the EL Specialist, on the concepts introduced in the workshops. As the timing of this eLearning course coincided with the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic during which many teachers participating in the online course were being thrust into totally online environments with little preparation, my work took on special relevance as it became apparent that those who had already been practicing blended learning techniques were best equipped to adapt to the new circumstances. In hopes of modeling for others how they might move from blended to completely online environments, the materials for the workshops, eLearning, and ongoing community space have been left online where anyone can explore them (at http://workshops2020.pbworks.com and from there to reach the links embedded in some of the text above).

A Broader Overview

As one who specializes in teaching languages through technology, and having been invited to come to Thailand and give two intensive weeks of workshops as an English Language Specialist, I had to first propose a menu of workshops that teachers and students at university language centers in Thailand might be interested in. To my relief only two of my topics were chosen, and then I had free reign to design materials to fit those topics. I like to work online, and when face to face teaching is involved, this is often what is meant by 'blended'.

I had also agreed to give a plenary on flipped learning at Thai TESOL, so my idea was to place materials online in advance for both the workshops and the plenary which participants could access beforehand, then present the materials to the live audience and participants, and finally leave all the materials online for participants to explore later, and in the case of the workshops link to artifacts left online by the many participants in those workshops.

You almost replay and reconstruct the plenary from my Learning2gether blog post here
https://learning2gether.net/2020/01/30/vance-stevens-plenary-at-thaitesol-on-the-what-why-and-how-of-flipped-learning-harmonizing-diversity-by-developing-skills-in-podcasting-webcasting-and-digital-storytelling/

The eLearning component was due to take place for three weeks after the two weeks of workshops and the Thai TESOL conference. My purview as I understood it was not to re-teach what I had taught in the workshops, but to act as a consultant for participants to explore the tools more deeply and apply them to their context. So I set up an interactive environment in Schoology that linked back to what I had presented before, and set projects, one for each week, meant to get participants to use the tools in “Creating and Using Blended Learning Classrooms”, the title of the online course.

When I went to Thailand at the end of January, COVID-19 was just becoming a concern. By the time I wrapped up the online course on March 11 schools were starting to shut down worldwide and it was becoming apparent that what I had been doing the previous six weeks, modeling how to teach f2f in a blended learning environment and then transitioning that to online in my eLearning course, had some potential as a model for others to follow suit in their new circumstances. Participants we spoke to during the course who were having the least difficulty taking their teaching online were ones who were already working in blended learning environments. In that case all that was needed was a synchronous classroom space, such as Zoom. But the first challenge to making that transition is to understand and become familiar with the basic components of a blended learning classroom.

There was a common thread uniting all of these activities. All modeled the flipped learning approach, whereby materials were put online in advance of the workshops and plenary. The participants could have seen them before each event, but while participating, I explicitly encouraged them to access to the materials, and in every case the complete set of materials was left online for follow up and further exploration by the participants or anyone else who might come along afterwards.

Here's what I left online and where to find it. It’s all available for use under creative common license, attribution / share alike.

The blended workshop course materials which I introduced face-to-face at several locations in Thailand are here:  http://workshops2020.pbworks.com/
These records were made of my plenary and workshop at Thai TESOL
The eLearning course portal through which I facilitated use of the materials from the workshops is here:  http://workshops2020.pbworks.com/w/page/138546024/Create_Your_Blended_Learning_Classroom


The Workshops

The workshops aimed to create a model of a teacher who him- or herself models effective ways of learning to his or her students. I hoped to be that role model for the participants in my workshops by giving them a variety of things to do through an interface that any one of them could themselves create in their own classes (not using any tools that would need to be purchased). Blended learning implies that there are various modalities to that learning, one usually being face-to-face, as in a classroom. So it encourages teachers to have a web portal through which they can work in a transparent way where everyone can find course materials in a predictable location, not handed out to be stored in binders that students may or not have with them on a given day in class, or for other reasons not be able to get access to in the disorder of their binders.

Online access has its drawbacks as well, but is in the long run a more stable and more efficient platform in contexts where the technology supports it. So my workshops were aimed at modeling how to set up blended learning environments that the participants could bring up on their devices, explore and interact with during the workshop, and take home with them at the end of it along with some ideas on creating their own.

The eLearning Component

This brought us into the final phase of the project, the eLearning. Timed to begin about three weeks after the end of the on-site blended component, I understood that I was to set up a consultations for any participants in the workshops who would like to explore blended learning in greater depth one-on-one with the English Language Specialist. Accordingly I set up a Schoology portal for it with interactive forums which linked for content to the workshop materials I had put online for the face-to-face workshops. I structured the 3-weeks of the course to encourage further exploration of the tools for blended learning, and assigned participants a project at the end of each week. The first was to use digital tools to create a digital poster of some kind, the second was to craft a digital story, and the third was to create a lesson or a portal that might mount online something the participants would want to teach. For each project I created my own model examples, and highlighted the work of participants who completed theirs.

Few participants carried out any of these assignments, but the course coincided with increasing concern over the COVID-19 pandemic. By the second week of the course, schools in Thailand and elsewhere were starting to close, and there was a sudden need for teachers to learn quickly how to move into purely online environments. It turned out from our webinars that teachers who had best succeeded at doing that quickly had already been using blended learning in their face-to-face classes, and as one teacher from Korea told us, if you were working from an existing blended portal, to go online, “just add Zoom”. It’s probably not that simple, but this was in fact what my online course was modeling, going from the blended learning format that I had modeled at my face-to-face workshops in Thailand, to a completely online one now that I had returned home and was working to carry on these consultancies in a totally online space.

Of the 42 people who signed up for the eLearning, only a few were from Thailand, but I had opened the course up to my wider network in an effort to bring in multiple voices and perspectives, and increase the volume of interaction. It is common for people to register in online courses and then not participate (i.e. lurk) but by the end of the three weeks there were 23 unique participants who had joined us at some point. This is not a huge number, but our 10 webinars remained consistently attended, and from the recordings you can see where the ones in March became increasingly focused on the need for teachers to come to grips with technology that would help them to engage their students in meaningful learning in their increasingly isolated situations.

Reflections

It is not easy to predict how a project will evolve over the course of its delivery considering what is learned day to day in meeting participants where they normally work and study and learning more about their contexts each day, and altering one’s product as a result of each encounter. One great advantage to working in an online space is that changes can be made daily if necessary (and often were) to reflect what was learned one day and thereby improve the next encounter. Thus many parts of my workshops were changed, even the emphasis and order of presentation of materials, from the first week to the next. And also, what participants can see now online for their workshops is likely improved slightly over what they actually did in those workshops, especially if I met them in the first week.

The eLearning course was even more susceptible to subtle and not so subtle feedback from participants on a day to day basis. Because so few of the expected participants (from Thailand) signed up for the eLearning, I had to discern the interest of those who did pretty much on the fly and tweak the course accordingly. In other eLearning courses I have conducted where there is no extrinsic reason for participants to be there (no certificates or fulfilment of prerequisites for a larger goals), the course has to respond to their interests and curiosity, and I have found that participants might not have much motivation to perform the exercises envisaged for them by the facilitator, whereas they might more wholeheartedly engage in interactions more meaningful to them. As Jay Cross once put it, people love to learn but they hate to be taught, so my most successful online ventures have been ones where the community drives the curriculum, and I have sustained communities of practice for as long as 20 years now on the strength of the mutual interests of their participants.

What happened with this eLearning course was that it became especially relevant to that group of participants who were both active in the course and who were also having to suddenly meet their students online. In addition it was becoming apparent, especially after our March 1 webinar, that blended learning was a critical precursor to moving courses online, and also that this is exactly what was being modeled in this course. So we began focusing on this aspect, especially in the last webinars in week three, where we started attracting teachers from around the world to share with us how they were coping with the abrupt shift in expectations of how they would be teaching their students in the near future.

The Aftermath in time of COVID-19

The course ended on March 11 but not the interest in this topic, which was starting to impact students, their teachers, and trainers of those teachers all over the world. In my case, I don’t teach students per se, but I interact with colleagues from all over the world in numerous online spaces as well as as face-to-face conferences, such as the TESOL conference in Denver, which were then on the verge of being canceled. TESOL and the CALL Interest section, to name just two professional associations, were scrambling to identify resources for their members, and the topic was not going away.

So I took steps to perpetuate the blended learning course community by creating a MOOC / Community, a space for open ended interaction, which I left up as a permanent announcement on the Schoology course, and as a link from the sidebar of the Blended Learning Workshops wiki here: http://workshops2020.pbworks.com/w/page/138923232/MOOC_Community_Extension

In that document I outlined how the community could move itself forward in pursuit of its exploration of resources for dealing with COVID-19.  Under the heading of What can you do here? there are two suggestions. One is that community members could help us crowd-source resources for people having to transition suddenly from face-to-face to online. For that purpose I set up a crowd-sourced Google Doc on which anyone with the link could write, here
https://docs.google.com/document/d/1pm4Q_jJbrWKu38-xv8-2QFrn-ialnZBT-qDofoXAWcY/edit?usp=sharing.

I began to move community suggestions into a page I had set up in the last week of the course
http://workshops2020.pbworks.com/w/page/138990084/What_if_my_school_suddenly_closes

I had also set up a listserv for the MOOC / Community space at https://groups.io/g/blendedclassrooms/.  However this list only attracted 3 course participants besides myself. Meanwhile though, other communities I was in were starting to jell around the issue; in particular https://groups.io/g/webheadsinaction/topics.

TALIN, Teaching and Learning in IsolatioN




Webheads in Action is a community that I had started 20 years ago. It had been experiencing a gradual revival slowly on its own but this accelerated in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This prompted me to take yet another initiative which I called TALIN, Teaching and Learning in IsolatioN. The idea for TALIN was prompted by suggestions in what I called “numerous cross-fertilizing communities of practice that there was needed a space where members of these CoPs could meet online and talk informally to one another about how they are dealing with changes in their personal and professional contexts and what they are doing to help others in this trying time of pandemic.”

I set up TALIN in another crowd-sourced Google Doc at TinyURL:  https://tinyurl.com/talin2020, but this one requires users to request edit access and provide credentials. I even created a Facebook page for it at https://www.facebook.com/groups/talin2020. Since that group’s creation around the first of April, the Facebook group has attracted 24 members, and the group has held or is planning a webinar every two days through the first three weeks in April. I expect this to be sustained for as long as schools are closed for the pandemic, but the group is under my https://Learning2gether.net umbrella, and its activities should extend the number of podcasts produced since 2010 to well over 450.

So, as regards sustainability, successful efforts appear to be strongly community-based. As Clay Shirkey so well explained in his book Cognitive Surplus, such movements are motivated by some collective desire to achieve outcomes mutually beneficial to a group, and they work only as long as they are free, inclusive, and driven bottom-up. Many well-meaning initiatives are driven top-down, and these are the ones that are hardest to sustain. But as we see from this example, the movement might be sustained but be in danger of losing its connection with its original impetus.

Find more about TALIN here from a presentation I gave on May 9, 2020 at the Virtual Round Table Web Conference organized by Heike Philp:


Conclusion

My experience in Thailand was highly positive. The work was challenging but the Thai participants were gracious and appreciative, and receptive to learning and experimenting with new tools. At the end of each workshop, one participant was tasked with standing before the group and delivering some words of thanks for the time we had just spent together, and then everyone would put their palms together and nod respectfully and in unison in my direction. I was particularly pleased with the way I was encouraged to create the materials I used in whatever way I saw fit, and with the hospitality and logistical support of the RELO office in Bangkok.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

When I wasn't dreaming

Last night, when I wasn't dreaming, I was thinking. Now I'm a week into the eLearning course which I managed to get set up for a kickoff webinar that was delayed to February 20. You  can find the description of the course here, http://workshops2020.pbworks.com/w/page/138546024/Create_Your_Blended_Learning_Classroom, and here's the recording of the first webinar:


I had been given reassurance that the course would go ahead as planned when the RELO team in Bangkok informed me on February 8 that they were about to start promoting it. I was at CamTESOL in Phnom Penh at the time with a workshop to give the following day, and the day after that my beautiful assistant Bobbi and I flew to Thailand on a well-deserved break, having pre-paid for diving for three days. I downloaded Schoology manuals on my cell phone and took them on the boat with me, but didn't have much time or energy to focus on the eLearning course from the 8th until the day we spent transiting airports February 14, and I woke up in Penang on the 15th with only two days before the planned start of the course.

The first snag had been that I really didn't know much about Schoology, the platform I had selected on the basis of having experienced courses which others had developed, and been a collaborator on one that someone else had set up. Had I finally over-extended myself this time? I had come to the realization that there was a lot about Schoology that was not intuitive and that others had done for me in the past. So I had to set a full day aside to start googling my questions about Schoology and then systematically read the hits on the manuals that Schoology had thoughtfully placed on line to help users get started with the tool. Through this effort I was soon in position to get the course set up.

By then RELO Bangkok and I had decided to start with the first webinar on Feb 20, but the next problem was getting the course populated. There were not many respondents from Thailand to the announcements about the course from the week before and the original start date of Feb 17 came and went with only a 4 participants signed up besides another handful who were in other ways associated with managing the course. But RELO Bankok was amenable to my reaching out to my other networks, and once I had posted an invitation to my Facebook groups and on three TESOL Communities lists, we had 30 people registered before day of the first webinar on Feb 20.

Because the course had been planned as follow-up consultancies for participants whom it was assumed would have mostly been familar the my workshops at http://workshops2020.pbworks.com/, I had not built in any tutorial materials into the mix, and I had no idea who the new participants were, so I set up discussion forums asking who they were and why there were there. And on Feb 20, a few of them appeared at the opening webinar and I began to get an understanding of what direction the course should take. When we should meet was the first issue, but I was able to set up a kind of calendar once I discovered the participants responding were in South America (EST time zone), the Middle East, Thailand of course, and the rest of Asia (but not Japan, which would have been one time zone too far). From this we were able to fix a time for most of our events, 1400 UTC, waking hours morning and night for our complete range of participants.

So now we're working on the content for the course. I had loosely planned it on having participants learn by doing. Accordingly, there were three tasks, one for each week of the course.

Week 1 - create a digital poster or infographic


The first task for the week that ends three days from now is to create a "digital poster." This could be anything a participant wanted to project, as long as it had a link. I suggested it should have some mulitimedia element, or be an all-media presentation (a screen cast using Screencast-o-matic, for example). The the purpose of the assignment was to get participants to surface their existing digital literacies and to add to that tools I had referenced from my workshops, or that they might have learned about from others in the course. It's a community-as-curriculum approach, where participants drive what gets learned around their interests and what they need to know, and an active hands-on approach, where they learn by doing, making mistakes and correcting them, and from meaningful problem solving.

The problem with that approach is in getting participants to DO it with minimal guidance, though I have been tryng to steer them to my workshop materials, where the guidance is, expecially on the three tools I find most useful for creating blended learning environments and classrooms. Here are the links to those tools in my workshops:


I would like to add to Week 1's mix one more element, Yo! Teach.

Yo!Teach! is a backchannel chat tool that was developed to replace Today's Meet, which died at some point last year, despite having become quite popular for passing messages to and from classes and other gatherings. I learned about Yo!Teach via an article in the TESOL CALL-IS Newsletter:
http://newsmanager.commpartners.com/tesolcallis/issues/2019-08-26/3.html

Yo!Teach is also listed as one possible replacement for Today's Meet at this website
https://www.commonsense.org/education/articles/5-online-discussion-tools-to-fuel-student-engagement

When meeting blended learning classes online, it can be useful to set up a back channel. Then if anyone is having a problem, that person can post a message in Yo!Teach and stand a chance of there being someone at the other end who can help.  If there is no one there you can at least leave your message and someone should see it and reply, or if you leave a name or contact, get back to you at some point.

Yo! Teach was designed as a back channel to be used concurrently with live events. So I can monitor it during office hours, for the benefit of anyone who wanted to ask a question asynchronously (or synchronously) and know that they would be able to get it answered in live chat during office hours.

Week 2 - Create a digital story


The follow-on task for the second week is to advance from exploration and budding skills with the recommeded tools into something that can illustrate a narative, or digital story. This came up in the first week at the first office hour of the course, when Magali from Ecuador appeared and told us about a platform being developed at her university which featured a means for students to create digital stories using the primitive tools built into the platform. I suggested that she could use tools available online that she would have more control over, and link from the school's platform to the online artifacts that she and her students created in the wild using pre-existing Web 2.0 tools. That conversation was recorded, and you can see it here.

Digital storytelling is a concept that transcends multiple purposes. As with the simpler "digital poster", it would be an excercise that pushes participants to carry their skills forward from a simple infographic the first week to a narrative using digital tools which they would bring to bear on the project according to their abilities. And the benefit of that would be that everyone would see what everyone else's abilities were and scaffold one another when those abilities were a rung or two up the scaffold. Everyone would learn from one another.

So now that I'm getting some interaction from participants in the course, three days into its emergence, I have clearer ideas about how to proceed. Now I'm ready to move forward with materials for the second week that would focus us on tools that, through the ruse of finding and using them to create a digital story, would get people thinking about and working with the tools that would be most useful in creating and using blended (and flipped) learning classrooms.


Week 3 - Create some aspect of a blended learning classroom


The third week asks participants to start some aspect of a blended learning classroom. Again there is no instruction apart from what the instructor / English Language Specialist is modeling. When put in the position of having to appear in Thailand with a platform that would encompass my workshops, I fell back on PBworks. I tried both Wix and Weebly but found those frustrating. PBworks allows me most flexible control over my portals. I can embed images and other graphics and even videos. It's HTML-based and I can get at the code. It's quick to work with so I can alter it one day to the next. I have a system of setting up archives and using the sidebar for easy navigation around the site. The sidebar and table of contents widgit create bookmarks throughout the site which can each be linked to, so pointing participants to exactly where you want them to look is quick and easy. I haven't found anything better than or that even comes close to PBworks for power, simplicity of implemetation, and speed and alterability, except perhaps Google Docs, which could do almost the same thing but without the sidebar.

For the eLearning I added the Schoology layer because PBworks lacks a way for users to interact with one another. Schoology can host forums and announce events. It's also quick and easy to work with, moreso than Moodle. Although the complexity of Moodle makes it more robust, Moodle has to be hosted through someone who maintains the server, and this creates problem both in the permissions you have to control your own course and the stability of that server. If you want to host with someone whose business it is to host other people's Moodles, that usually comes with a fee. Schoology at the moment offers reliable hosting with no fee for the basic functions. So it's a good starter platform for creating an LMS.

The foregoing two paragraphs in this post are my content for Week 3, but I'm not explicit in teaching that in my coursel My intent is to model to participants how to create blending learning classrooms by getting them into one and letting them see how it looks and feels, and do the same in their own contexts if the wish, or apply the look and feel to other tools if they have access to others. So that gets us through week 3 and to the end of the course.

After the course, once I've stopped dreaming


But life goes on, and this is what I was thinking about last night as I lay awake at dawn, the realities I'm recording here encroaching on my dreams. In April I am scheduled to give a presentation at the TESOL conference in Denver as a member of a panel on "Creating Materials in a Digital World," which has been included in the TESOL 2020 convention program in Denver, April 1st, 2020, 1:00 PM - 2:45 PM in room 402 at The Colorado Convention Center.

This came about when the Materials Writers Interest Section, in conjunction with Career Paths Professional Learning Network, issued a call last August for panelists "who have experience adapting, creating, and using digital materials to teach English and train English teachers. ... Such experience may include, but is not limited to, blended and hybrid learning, online learning, gamification, differentiated learning, building online learning communities and teacher education." The abstract for the panel is:
As the world becomes more dependent on technology ELT professionals find ways to adapt. This presentation shows participants in all stages of their career paths various ways they can adapt, create, and develop materials for digital learning in a variety of contexts for language teaching and teacher training.
Although I had neither conceived nor imagined this English Language Specialist project when I applied to be on the panel, it is definitely what I'll be focusing on.

This brings me to one last part of the jigsaw puzzle. Every three months I have to produce an article, preferably an edited one, for the On the Internet column of TESL-EJ, http://tesl-ej.org/.  I wrote the last one and it is perhaps bad form for an editor to write two in a row for his own column, but I may have little choice, as my calls for papers go unanswered. A write-up of my TESOL presentation might make a worthy article for the next issue of OTI if no one else comes forward.

In this post, I may have got started on that article :-)

Saturday, February 15, 2020

And now, after a month of workshops and conferences, the back side of the flip

Bobbi and I just returned home after midnight last night from the most amazing month. I guess I'll be piecing it together over the coming month, picking up the pieces off the internet and putting them together in an even better picture of what took place, but here is where the pieces have kind of come together.

I was invited to do an English Language Specialist gig in Thailand involving giving workshops from January 20-29, a plenary and another workshop at the ThaiTESOL conference in Bangkok, followed by three weeks of eLearning to be delivered from my home in Penang. So, we flew to Thailand on Jan 18 and were put up in the Conrad Hotel, nearby the US Embassy and in the most congested part of Bangkok, Sukhumvit Road. We were on the executive floor which had breakfast in a special lounge, full buffet without crowds, and came with an evening happy hour with enough of a buffet to fill us for dinner. Lunch was usually provided by the RELO's office or the places where I gave workshops while we were there,  but if not, we never felt the need for it. 

After dinner I usually had to focus on my next day's workshops anyway, which I constantly fine-tuned according to what I'd learned the previous day (i.e. how to improve them) and made changes to accomodate the next day's audience, whether I would be presenting to undergraduate students or practicing EFL teachers, Thai or native speakers, number of participants (anywhere between 14 and 40), and length of the next day's workshops, which could be anywhere between 2 and 4 hours. All this was manipulated and archive through the wiki portal I'd set up as a home page for the workshops, here: http://workshops2020.pbworks.com/ .

The workshops were on flipped and blended learning and I was modeling how to create a blended learning environment and flipping that to optimize meaningful and self-directed learning. The wiki was the core to that but I also had a Google Slides presentation, https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1HwSaXa3mT2HrcQz2dh7dD1e7fTHaofIbU7hzexHp-ZU/edit?usp=sharing, the better to walk participants through the parts of my wiki that I would cover on a given day. 

The wiki included polls, Padlet, and places where teachers could create wiki backchannels for communicating with students asynchronously or on the fly, in the classroom. I always encouraged participants to aggregate what we did in any workshop around a Twitter tag, unique for each day. This vacuumed up a lot of what the participants produced each day which I dumped onto a wiki archive for each set of workshops, here: http://workshops2020.pbworks.com/w/page/138117909/archives2020

To complicate things Bobbi and I were flown or driven between four different cities in Thailand -- in and out of Bangkok to Ubon Ratchathani, Bangsaen, and our favorite, Chiang Rai, which ironically we'd just passed through the year before on our two-day boat trip up the Mekong from Luang Prabang, on our way down to Chiang Mai. Normally we'd leave our hotel before breakfast and fly (or in the case of Bangsaen, drive) to the next destination, give a workshop there, overnight in a hotel, and give more workshops in the morning before returning to Bangkok to rest at the Conrad before workshops in Bangkok the following morning, rinse and repeat for two weeks, with time off on Saturday and Sunday.

This went on until my last workshop in Bangkok Wed Jan 29, and then the next day the annual ThaiTESOL conference started, and I was the plenary speaker on the first day right after lunch. The talk was on Flipped Learning so I got Jeff Magoto, a colleague in Oregon who was conducting an EVO session on that topic, to allow me to simulcast it to his participants. He recorded it in Zoom for me, and I blogged it, with the video recording and all the slides and ancillary artifacts flipped onto the Internet here: 

I also gave a workshop the following day at the ThaiTESOL conference, on teaching EFL through coding, coasted through the last day of the conference, and then Bobbi and I flew back the following day to Penang, where we repacked and flew just a few days later to Phnom Penh, where I gave the same workshop at the CamTESOL conference.

I recorded this one myself, with a larger audience, better delivery on my part, and livelier dynamics with the participants, here: https://learning2gether.net/2020/02/09/teaching-english-through-coding-using-collaborative-projects-that-dont-require-specialist-skills-or-even-a-computer/

While at CamTESOL, I found that the Regional English Language Officer, RELO Bangkok, was preparing to announce the 3-week follow-up to my workshops to be held online from Feb 17 to March 7. This had been in the overall plan but details had been left way up in the air until the RELO got back from a retreat in Bali Feb 8. Meanwhile we had arranged to fly the day after CamTESOL to Phuket in Thailand and then get a taxi an hour north to Khao Lak where there was reputed to be good diving. We executed this plan, dived for three days, and then flew back from Phuket to Penang via KL. 

Now I've got to come up with a store full of goodies for the eLearning that starts in just two days. I've got a storefront up here, 
but at the Schoology link, I've yet to stock the shelves. I need to get that done today and tomorrow.

I'll complete this post with pictures and videos when I get a moment, and create a new post on the eLearning in March. Meanwhile, you can follow a lot of this at my more often updated blog, https://learning2gether.net/

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Presentation idea: Flipping conference presentations in 2019

APACALL Newsletter #23 has just come out. I wrote an article for it. For the record, it's:
Stevens, V. (2019). Flipping conference presentations. APACALL Newsletter 23, December, 14-18. Retrieved from http://www.apacall.org/news/APACALL_Newsletter23.pdf
I want to turn this into a blog post so that I can update and annotate it. So what follows is the text of the article as published above, but illustrated and hyperlinked in such a way that readers can better follow the flip. Here goes:

Flipping Conference Presentations in 2019
Vance Stevens
Learning2gether.net, Penang, Malaysia

At conferences I have attended this year, I have given several presentations primarily focusing on two themes. 
  • The first of these was SMALL, a construct I have been writing about since 2009 and which stands for Social Media-Assisted Language Learning. 
  • The other theme I have been pursuing is a technique I have developed for encouraging weak non-native English speaking (NNES) student writers to develop fluency in their writing by giving them feedback in Google docs using the voice option available on mobile and tablet computers (Stevens, 2019a). 
These presentations might be of more than passing interest to readers of this blog because of how I managed to “flip” them, which is to say, 
  1. get them up online in advance of the presentation, 
  2. refer the live or online audience to the slides and other materials for viewing at their fingertips and on their personal devices while I am presenting, 
  3. and then put these and all related materials online so that the audience, or anyone for that matter, might view the materials later. 
For this purpose, I use https://learning2gether.net/, which is a podcast site where I have produced over 430 episodes since 2010 on various aspects of bridging learning technology with language learning pedagogy. You can see an index of all these podcast episodes here.

Thinking SMALL
One of the better examples of this occurred in April, 2019 at the Penang English Language Learning and Teaching Association (PELLTA, http://pellta.org/) international conference in Penang, Malaysia where I presented a version of my paper entitled Thinking SMALL: A case for social media assisted language learning (Stevens, 2019a).

I had earlier that year conducted a survey of teachers on their perspectives on using social media with students and had presented the results in March as part of a panel at a CALL-IS Academic Session on SMALL: Research, Practice, Impact of Social Media-Assisted Language Learning, which had been Webcast from TESOL 2019 in Atlanta, so we had a recording of the entire symposium; and I had placed my Google Slides online, where they can be found at Stevens 2019 (March 13) along with the video link to my part of the panel.



That talk focused more on the research results than did the one I was planning for Penang. Based on what I had presented in Atlanta, I revised the Atlanta Google Slides presentation to reflect what changes I intended to make in Penang, and placed it on open access where anyone with the link could view it here: http://tinyurl.com/pellta2019vance. 

I then rehearsed the presentation in Zoom while sharing my screen as a dress-rehearsal for the presentation itself, and uploaded the mp4 recording file to YouTube. I then put links in the Google Slides linking to the YouTube rehearsal recording, which you can see here:

 

I next announced to my personal learning networks that I was planning to webcast in Zoom live from my conference presentation venue. To my live and distance audiences, I noted that I would only be able to overview the topic in the half hour available to presenters; therefore the presentation would be flipped. By this I meant that the full version of the presentation; i.e. slides, write up, and rehearsal video, were being made available for viewing before the brief live presentation itself.

To make the link more accessible to my on-site participants I created a TinyURL to the slides, http://tinyurl.com/pellta2019vance, and communicated that to them at the beginning of my presentation, rather than try to get across to them the full and more complex link to the Google Slides. With a tiny URL, the TinyURL.com part is easy for audiences to remember or type into a browser, and I was able to specify the logically remembered pellta2019vance when I generated the TinyURL.

During the on-site presentation, I pointed out to those present that they could bring up my slides right then if they wished on their personal devices and not only follow them that way, but have access to all the live links that existed on almost every slide to provide greater depth to the presentation. I pointed out that after the presentation, they could review the slides, read the write-up, and watch the rehearsal recording to see what I had intended to say, as well as see the recording that I was making of the presentation itself, which I would upload later to YouTube. I told them I would place the link to the video and all the other artifacts I would afterwards put online, at the link they already had, as you can now see in slide 2 at http://tinyurl.com/pellta2019vance.



One of those links to other artifacts was to the blog post I created on my Learning2gether site, where they and anyone reading this would not only be able to reconstruct the presentation, but seek greater depth in the presentation that I had already given in Atlanta, and also in the one that I would be giving that summer at the CALL Research Conference in Hong Kong, which I also recorded in Zoom, and which furthermore resulted in a formal chapter being published in the conference proceedings (Stevens, 2019a). All of this material and all these links can be found online in my blog at Stevens 2019 (April 19) and in my Google Slides presentation, slide 25.

Supporting Student Writing with the Help of Voice-to-Text
In another example of flipping presentations this year, I presented a technique I had developed for using voice to encourage revision from student writing. The technique has the students share an empty Google Doc with the teacher but start their writing on paper in class. The teacher collects the papers and then reads them correctly into the blank Google Docs using speech-to-text. The teacher makes printouts of each student’s Google Doc, which now has what they had written expressed in correct language and writes notes on these printouts suggesting revision and improvement to the papers. The paper printouts are returned to the students along with their original papers, and the students continue writing in Google Docs, for as many revisions as possible, now focused both on content and on whatever errors occur or re-occur. 

I had presented a paper on my work with this technique at the ALLT conference in UAE in 2018 and had published a description of my research into the technique in the conference proceedings (Stevens, 2019b).

On March 7, 2019 I was asked to demonstrate the technique from my home in Penang, Malaysia online to a group of EFL teachers physically attending a webinar event at Sultan Qaboos University in Muscat, Oman. This gave me an opportunity to consolidate my previously published research on the topic and focus it into a practical presentation. I webcast the event in Zoom and archived it as Stevens, 2019 (March 7). The archive of the presentation consolidated previous work I had done on this technique, included a slide show attempting to clarify the demonstration, and in addition produced a video of the demonstration itself.



Meanwhile, I had submitted a proposal to the GLoCALL 2019 conference in Danang, Vietnam, offering to demonstrate again the technique in a workshop, which was accepted and scheduled for delivery at the conference, as a workshop mind you, in the ridiculously short time of only 25 minutes.

Fortunately I was able to get my point across in that time by flipping my presentation not only from having done it online the previous March, but by having had the opportunity to present it online at MMVC19, the 8th annual Moodle Moot Virtual Conference, only a few days before the presentation in Danang; see Stevens (2019, August 4). Here, in preparation for both the online and on-site conferences, I had not only improved my slide presentation but I had written out what I intended to say, and the online conference had produced a video of how the Danang presentation might ideally go if I had had more time to present it. As with previous conferences, I was able to tell my audience in Danang where they could find the slides by again given them a TinyURL link, https://tinyurl.com/glocall2019vance.

That TinyURL led to a complete writeup in Google Docs of what was meant to take place during the workshop in Danang. At the top of the write-up one can now find a link to the Google Slides deck and a link to the archive blog post at Stevens, 2019 (August 9). At slide 23 in that slide deck, one can see the MMVC19 rehearsal presentation, embedded there from its YouTube link, here: https://youtu.be/6QnTds__hf0



DIYLMS: Tools used
This is roughly the topic of some workshops I'm planning prior to ThaiTESOL in Bangkok the last couple of weeks in January, 2020. I plan to discuss flipped learning and model how to do the flip, introduce the tools, and reflect on what’s happened to some of our best free tools .lately. So let's look a what the tools are in the first place? To start with, what tools did I use in the example sited in this blog post?

Polls give students things to write about. For the research mentioned here, I used Google Forms, but there are many more; e.g.


More tools are described at 8 Best Polling Apps for Android and iOS Smartphones
by Gaurav Bidasaria June 15, 2019: https://techwiser.com/best-polling-apps/

Blogs and wikis provide space to host your portal and centralize your message. I’m using Blogger for this article, and https://learning2gether.net/ is based in https://wordpress.com/ for its podcast and archives, and PBWorks for its planning and index pages, http://learning2gether.pbworks.com/.

Other options include Weebly (I’m not fond of the free version; limited functionality with no ‘undo option for example). I prefer Wix; see Wix vs Weebly vs WordPress: Web War III, October 7, 2019,  by Dan Barraclough. Google Docs is also an excellent option as a wiki portal

I did the webcasting mentioned above through Zoom, https://zoom.us/. Other useful tools for webcasting are OBS (Open Broadcaster Software), a robust, full featured open-source and freely downloadable screen capture and simulcasting tool, https://obsproject.com/. There are also Facebook Live and YouTube Live.

For pre-presentation screen capture recording, I used Zoom for this purpose as well. But other options are:


Image capture is essential for materials creation. There are hard and easy ways to capture images from your screen. Sometimes you have to use the hard way; for example if you want to show users a website with its context menus exposed and mouse over the one you want so that it’s highlighted, you’ll need to use your operating system's screen capture tool (PrtScr in Windows; button combinations on iPad and Android) and then share the captured image in iOS or Android, or by pasting to Paint in Windows, saving it as a file, and then sharing the file.

But for cropping and capturing a part of a screen, you can use the Snipping Tool in Windows, or, my favorite, Jing, mentioned above. I like Jing over almost all other tools because you can save your capture as a file on your computer, or on the web at Screencast.com where you immediately get its URL (saved to your memory buffer) so you can paste it into a chat, let’s say, or send it in an email, and the receiver can see your screen via the URL you paste into the chat or email.


I use Jing a lot in preparing slides, which these days I do in Google Slides, where you can prepare your show online, collaboratively, for free, and have its URL as you work on-the-fly, which you can share directly with an audience. Google Slides these days imports MS PowerPoint slides almost faithfully (as far as I can see; though it didn’t always used to). It also seems to export faithfully to (download as) MS PowerPoint slides.

Faithful correspondence between Google Slides and PPT is handy in case you use https://www.slideshare.net/, which was acquired a few years ago by Linked In, which gives it a certain social presence. When I present and have uploaded my slides to Slideshare.net, I can tell my audience that they can find them at https://slideshare.net/vances. Of course they would also have a direct URL, but that short link pulls up my latest slide show off the top and is fairly mnemonic in case you want to give an audience the opportunity to follow your slides while you are presenting. And another affordance is that Slideshare.net hyperlinks all the URLs. My slides always have a lot of links that give them much greater depth than would be possible to convey in the presentation itself, so this is an important feature in case people in your audience want to explore your concepts either while you are presenting or afterwards.

Of course, Google Docs has all of these features as well, except for  the mnemonic URL. Google URLs are quite long and need to be shortened. Fortunately, there are many URL shortening tools; e.g. the three dozen listed at 37 URL shorteners and how to create custom branded shortlinks, October 6, 2017, by Eric Sachs, https://sachsmarketinggroup.com/37-url-shorteners-create-custom-branded-shortlinks/, but the one I prefer is TinyURL because it’s reliable (it's been around for a long time) and allows you to specify the URL you wish to shorten. All TinyURLs begin with https://tinyurl.com/ but the interface allows you to specify what appears after the slash. This allows me to create mnemonic URLs for those very lengthy Google Docs and Google Slides presentation URLs.

This takes us up through preparing your materials in advance and having your audience follow them during their presentation, but how can your audience share these materials with their social audiences or with you, as a backchannel, while you are presenting if you wish, or afterwards?

The key is in creating a unique tag for the event. It could be the mnemonic part of your TinyURL, so that the tag for https://tinyurl.com/pellta2019vance could be #pelta2019vance. Or it could be a course tag, such as the EVO Minecraft MOOC course we have coming up for EVO 2020, #evomc20. Or it could be a conference tag such as #glocall2019, whose hits you can see aggregated at https://twitter.com/search?q=glocall2019.

The latter is a good example of how participants at a conference can crowd-source through Twitter their impressions of a conference, tag them with the conference tag, and then watch as their colleagues share their own impressions. Participants in one session can track what’s going on in sessions they are missing even as they help their colleagues know what’s going on where they are. Since all the tweets carry a picture (or icon) of the person tweeting, it’s not uncommon for two people in the same session to see that someone else is tweeting in that session, look around the room, and find the other person looking for them. In such a way, bonds are formed between like minded colleagues.

What works for conferences can work for courses, either at a distance or blended, or in physical classrooms, or in workshops. Hash tags aggregated on Twitter or Facebook or through other means can form an ePortfolio of what the students or participants are doing collectively. They enable to collection of artifacts in one place where they can be displayed to demonstrate the outcome of whatever the task or project was.

These are components of a DIYCMS, a do-it-yourself content management system (CMS). All the tools mentioned so far are for creating, storing, and displaying content, and as it happens, for free. A CMS is a portal where content for a learning journey can be placed online for others to find and follow.

Add to that a means for having users upload their own content to the space, for this user-generated content to be responded to and evaluated, perhaps by peers in forums, then you have an LMS, or learning management system. If this is based in free tools such as Moodle, Schoology, Canvas, or Edmodo, or in a wiki where the community can upload content and interact with each other, then we have a DIYLMS, see http://diylms.pbworks.com/.

Still to come, stay tuned …

Audio and video editing tools

And a reflection on the tools we have lost

Here are a few I'd like to mention:

  • Ning, one of our first community-shattering turnabouts - Stevens, Vance. (2010). The Ning Thing. TESL-EJ 14(1), 1-7. Retrieved from  http://www.tesl-ej.org/pdf/ej53/int.pdf; also available: http://www.tesl-ej.org/wordpress/issues/volume14/ej53/ej53int/
  • Google+ Communities, which abruptly went offline one year ago
  • Yahoo Groups, which has been hosting many of our communities since last century, is disappearing as we speak, on only a few months notice (gone as a CMS after Dec 14, 2019
  • PBWorks only let’s you have one free workspace now
  • Today’s Meet disappeared this past year, 
But there’s Yo!Teachj, a backchannel chat tool that can replace Today's Meet, which I used to use for passing messages to and from classes and other gatherings. I learned about Yo!Teach here
http://newsmanager.commpartners.com/tesolcallis/issues/2019-08-26/3.html

Yo!Teach is one of the similar tools listed at this website, Jeff Knutson, February 12, 2019, Give students a chance to connect with each other and be heard.
https://www.commonsense.org/education/articles/5-online-discussion-tools-to-fuel-student-engagement

What happens next? What if we lose Google? Imagine when you have to download all your data from there on short notice, or lose it?

Conclusion
I have developed my presentation techniques over decades of presenting at online and on-site conferences, and in hopes of improving on the offers of many colleagues, whose presentations I have attended, to send them my email address and they would send me a copy of their slides. The flipped method provides a means for attendees at conferences to be better prepared to follow a speaker’s presentation by having access to presentation materials on hand during and possibly even before the presentation, and attendees can have a means of following up on their learning which provides much greater depth than what can be gleaned from a skeletal slide show. 

Furthermore, flipped learning is an approach intended for teachers to apply in their classes. In my presentations I hope to model for my peers how the flip works in a way they can understand experientially. Hopefully, on careful consideration of this approach, attendees at my presentations might try it out in their own professional lives, both with their students in class, and with their audiences when they present at conferences.

References 
Stevens, V. (2019a). Thinking SMALL about social media assisted language learning. In J. Colpaert, A. Aerts, Q. Ma, & J. L. F. King (Eds.), Proceedings of the Twentieth International CALL Research Conference: Social CALL (pp. 257-272). Hong Kong: The Education University of Hong Kong. Retrieved from https://www.vancestevens.com/papers/2019/CALL2019proceedings_stevensSMALL.pdf

Stevens, V. (2019b). Teaching writing to students with tablets using voice to overcome keyboard shortcomings. In Zoghbor, W., Al Alami, S., & Alexiou, T. (Eds.), Proceedings of the 1st Applied Linguistics and Language Teaching Conference: Teaching and Learning in a Globalized World (pp. 22-47). Dubai: Zayed University Press. Retrieved from https://www.vancestevens.com/papers/2019/ALLT2018_Proceedings_vstevensVoiceFeebback_onWriting.pdf

Stevens, V. (2019, March 7). Supporting student writing with the help of voice-to-text. [Blog post]. Retrieved from

Stevens, V. (2019, March 13). CALL-IS academic session on SMALL: Research, practice, impact of social media-assisted language learning – Webcasting from TESOL 2019 Atlanta [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://learning2gether.net/2019/03/13/call-is-academic-session-on-small-research-practice-impact-of-social-media-assisted-language-learning-webcast-from-tesol-2019-atlanta/

Stevens, V. (2019, April 19). Thinking SMALL at the 2019 PELLTA conference in Penang, Malaysia. [Blog post]. Retrieved from
https://learning2gether.net/2019/04/19/vance-stevens-on-thinking-small-at-the-2019-pellta-conference-in-penang-malaysia/

Stevens, V. (2019, August 4). Learning2gether with Vance Stevens at MMVC19 – Supporting student writing with the help of voice-to-text. [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://learning2gether.net/2019/08/04/learning2gether-with-vance-stevens-at-mmvc19-supporting-student-writing-with-the-help-of-voice-to-text/

Stevens, V. (2019, August 9). Supporting student writing with the help of voice-to-text – presented at GLoCALL 2019 in Danang, Vietnam. [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://learning2gether.net/2019/08/09/supporting-student-writing-with-the-help-of-voice-to-text-presented-on-august-9-at-glocall-2019-in-danang-vietnam/






Sunday, November 17, 2019

Learning2gether ten years after, and going on beyond episode 430

I often feel guilty about not posting more here, but I blog most regularly these days at my Learning2gether blog,
https://learning2gether.net/

Learning2gether was an offshoot in 2010 of the three WiAOC conferences we famously crowd-sourced under the auspices of Webheads in Action in 2005, 2007, and 2009 (http://vancestevens.com/papers/evonline2002/wiaoc_index.htm). L2g has been going strong since 2010 and is almost up to its 430th episode as I write this post. Normally I post notices of events on the L2g Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/groups/webheadsinaction/. I also keep an index of all L2g events, going back since their inception in 2010, here:
http://learning2gether.pbworks.com/w/page/34456755/archiveindex

I'm going there now to retrieve the following information which I need to paste here in order to create the state of play I'm focusing on in this blog post.

Learning2gether episode 426 took place on Tue, Oct 15, 2019. I soon afterwards blogged it, but I had always meant to go back and 'complete' the post. I have by now found time to revise this post and annotate it by adding further anecdotes and detail and expanding on my links to further information. So even if you have seen it before, you might want to revisit'
https://learning2gether.net/2019/10/15/steven-herder-interviews-vance-stevens-in-the-itdi-teachers-room/


Meanwhile, Electronic Village Online coordinators and moderators (http://evosession.pbworks.com) have been gearing up for EVO2020, which is the 20th year of EVO by the way, and as I am one of the EVO coordinators I was involved in the EVO moderator PD (professional development) month which has been taking place during this time. Each Sunday during the month there were events where moderators were supposed to attend and raise questions and discuss issues relating to EVO. Since this was ostensibly EVO business, I didn't feel right about inviting all and sundry, which is why I never made an announcement on any of the L2g spaces, but Jane Chien and I were responsible for preparing the third week of moderator PD (in Schoology, https://app.schoology.com/course/2264046012/) and the topic was what group spaces to use, such as Schoology, and how to replace groups that had recently disappeared; e.g. the Google+ Communities which had served us so well, and YahooGroups, which EVO Coordinators had been using (and both groups have now gone over to Groups.io).

Since the topic was relevant to anyone involved in eLearning or professional development through communities of practice, Jane and I suppressed the business part and held the session as a discussion, and produced L2g Episode 427 on Sun, Nov 3, 2019: Vance Stevens and Jane Chien host Learning2gether with Week 3 EVO Moderator Professional Development – Online spaces, certificates, and badges
https://learning2gether.net/2019/11/03/learning2gether-with-week-3-evo-moderator-professional-development-online-spaces-certificates-and-badges/



Again I did not announce the EVO Moderator PD Month event for the following Sunday on Learning2gether, but that link above contains at the end of it, a video embed starting at 25 min 35 seconds, which is where Nellie asked for moderators to come on and discuss the online spaces they had chosen for their sessions. First up was Graham Stanley, who spoke about how his Escape the Room session is organized, and he invited me to join him in the discussion, which also makes interesting listening. Here it is, starting with Graham:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=1547&v=0W--5Kuk2mA&feature=emb_logo

Heike Philp, who co-moderates the Escape the Room session with Graham, was at that event and she mentioned in it that she was doing a simulcast from Firenze in a week's time on educational applications of virtual worlds, and I asked her to send me the information. When I hadn't heard from her a few days later and as time was growing short, I sent her a reminder --  and, as she is a writer at http://learning2gether.pbworks.com/, she didn't reply to me directly, but wrote up the information directly on the wiki and asked me afterwards if I could come on in the Q and A period and take 5 min to talk about EVO Minecraft MOOC. Because she had entered it in the wiki and invited me to speak, I made it the next L2g episode, which is archived as L2g Episode 428, Wed, Nov 13, 2019 -  Learning2gether with Heike Philp and GUINEVERE simulcasting colloquium on games in virtual worlds
https://learning2gether.net/2019/11/13/learning2gether-with-heike-philp-and-guinevere-simulcasting-colloquium-on-games-in-virtual-worlds/

So that brings us up to the present where on Monday Nov 18, the annual Global Education Conference starts. It's a 3 day conference where presenters who fit fixed, but also flexible, criteria self-select to put their events up on a Ning and then schedule themselves to present at the conference. You can find more information here:
http://learning2gether.pbworks.com/w/page/32206114/volunteersneeded#MonNov18WedNov20The9thAnnualGECGlobalEducationConference

I'll be co-presenting on day 3 of the conference with Hanaa Khamis, who has been hosting L2g events recently from Egypt in my L2g Zoom Room. Our presentation is on Wednesday Nov 20 on upgrading teachers' tech-enabled pedagogical skills via the power of participatory learning through communities of practice and PLNs of like-minded peers. That event is announced here:
http://learning2gether.pbworks.com/w/page/32206114/volunteersneeded#WedNov200900UTCHanaaKhamisandVanceStevensatGECnbspParticipatorycultureofCPDthroughselfsustainingPLNs

And finally (or at least, it will be time for a break) when I did the interview with iTDi back in October, I told Steven Herder and Phil Brown that I was very curious to talk to to them about their business iTDi, which has some free components which they put on while trying to balance against the bottom line, so I got them to agree to come on L2g on my terms and discuss those issues.That happens on Thursday Nov 21, and there is more information here:
http://learning2gether.pbworks.com/w/page/32206114/volunteersneeded#ThuNov21noonUTCSteveHerderandPhilipShigeoBrownoniTDiandthechallengeofcommercialviabilityvssocialcommunityneeds

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Workshops for teachers and teacher trainers

Now that I'm retired, I am sometimes asked what kind of workshops I could do for teachers, so I've gone into my websites and compiled an inventory of my skills and pretensions, hopefully more the former than the latter. Two places where I address this directly are on my CV at https://vancestevens.com/papers/CurriculumVitaeVance.pdf and at the top of my ongoing listing of presentations and publications at http://vancestevens.com/papers/index.html

I've come up with a list of 24 topics, which derive from a set of concepts which explain and contextualize the workshops I have in mind. The concepts relate to projects I've been working on actively over the past year, since I left my last paid EFL teaching job in July, 2018, and the list of 24 workshops appears at the end of this blog post.

But I mean for this post to be a work in progress. That is, I might use this as a space to flesh out my ideas and concepts and possibly come up with more ideas for workshops. But every journey starts with a first step.

Where I've derived my expertise

The first steps in my current tangents started with a two year journey mostly overland through Europe, the Middle East, and Africa in the 1970's which plopped me back in Texas, table rase, ready to start a new life teaching English. Within a year my new job had taken me to the TESOL conference in New York in 1976, where I was able to find an EFL job in Saudi Arabia that very year. This is where I first got my hands on a computer in my workplace, leading to my being appointed to head a task force to develop a CAI facility for EFL at the university where I worked.

By 1981 I had started an MA in Hawaii which produced a thesis relating to what we were then calling CALI, and an invitation to attend a symposium in Toronto in 1983, where the acronym was changed to CALL, and which put me in position to co-found the CALL Interest Section in TESOL in 1985 and become its first chair. By then I was teaching EFL and working in CALL at Sultan Qaboos University in Muscat, Oman where I developed and managed the Learning Resource Center and produced CALL software there. This qualified me, when I left SQU in 1995, to get a position as Director of EFL Courseware Design and become involved in producing CALL software at a start up company in Cupertino, California.

This was where my career path headed toward the mountain top. Because I missed teaching, I got involved with teaching online as a volunteer. Two years later I was in Abu Dhabi working as a consultant for a language center being envisioned there. We were putting in a LAN and suddenly I could hang out online. In my spare time I upped my game and created websites which gathered followers in the Webheads student and teacher movements. In 2003 I became a coordinator with EVO, Electronic Village Online, now in its 20th year as a significant precursor to what are now known as MOOCs. This is where I started working in various ways on the projects described below.

Coding in ELT

Based on my experience with coding language teaching materials, working 2 years full-time as a software developer, and having recently co-written an article on coding in English language teaching, http://www.tesl-ej.org/wordpress/issues/volume21/ej82/ej82int/, I proposed a workshop at CAMTESOL 2020 on practical coding activities for language teachers to use in the classroom, even without computers (currently awaiting acceptance):
  • The presenter gives examples of language teachers who use coding in language classes to promote the 21st century skills of critical and creative thinking, analysis, and problem solving, in addition to the more obviously language-related skills of communication and collaboration. The workshop introduces and guides participants through a simple activity using a step-by-step approach, presented in accessible terminology, that can clarify for them this relationship between coding and language development. The activity is set out in a handout that participants can use during the workshop and with students later in class. The activity requires neither a computer nor prior knowledge of programming, only the instructions on the handout, and participants will be pointed to repositories of many more such activities.
The proposal is for a 30 min “workshop” and for an audience that may not have devices handy, but can be extrapolated to a longer one that can be done using computers

Technology in the Classroom/E-learning/Blended learning/CALL

I have been teaching online since 1998 and since then have consistently taken initiatives to seed and nurture communities of practice of learners and teaching peers, one of which, http://webheads.info, has been in action for 20 years. In all of my teaching jobs since then I have taken on roles such as CALL coordinator, computing instructor, Moodle administrator, software developer, and professional development coordinator. I blend learning for my face-to-face classes by creating wiki spaces where students can download materials and submit work online. This could suggest a variety of different workshop topics

One could be simply practical technologies for classroom use - specifics would depend on what kind of facilities existed at the target institution: do students have Internet or just teachers or neither; do students have their own devices? Personal phones, tablets, PCs, personal or in lab configurations? Do teachers have access to smart boards, some way of projecting in the class? Etc. I blogged issues faced when giving this kind of workshop in Khorat, Thailand in 2008, http://advanceducation.blogspot.com/2008_01_01_archive.html. More recent materials along these lines can be found at another of my blogs, http://toolkit4learning.blogspot.com/.

DIYLMS

DIYLMS stands for do-it-yourself-learning-management-system, or the tools needed to cobble together a portal and other free Web 2.0 tools facilitating blended or online learning, to whatever degree appropriate. The concept is illustrated in two workshops I gave on the topic in 2012, in Dubai http://diylms.pbworks.com/ and Erzincan, Turkey, http://erzincancalling.pbworks.com/ where there is a wiki portal (i.e. handout) for the workshops and links to the materials to be covered in the workshops, and a means of students submitting work to the facilitator.

Also in 2012 I gave a plenary in Marrakech on the topic, recording and slides at https://learning2gether.net/2012/02/08/learner-centred-do-it-yourself-learning-manag/. I gave other presentations around that time, and published on the topic, which in 2011 I was calling MePortolios, https://learning2gether.net/2011/08/22/me-portfolios-putting-the-me-in-me-learning-v/

Professional development through networking in communities of practice

Another kind of workshop I could give could be on ways to engage in continuing professional development through engaging in networks of other learners / teachers and communities of practice.
I have been a coordinator of EVO (the TESOL sponsored Electronic Village Online) since 2002 and for the past two decades I have conceived and moderated several EVO sessions designed to train teachers in topics ranging from pursuing professional development online through communities of practice, leveraging multiliteracies and 21st century skills and tools in their teaching and PD, and most recently, gamification.

It happens that I may be in Thailand at the end of January. I would be just starting a 5-week session of EVO Minecraft MOOC, http://minecraftmooc.org. That is, I will be interacting online in a live on-going (in its 6th year) community of practice whose purpose is to understand what gamification is and feels like through participation in Minecraft, and how what we learn can be used with our students and impact their learning. Therefore, I could give workshops on
  • Minecraft itself, 
  • on game-based learning and gamification (two similar but different things), 
  • or use the opportunity to have a live community of practice on hand to illustrate the look and feel of ongoing professional development in such a context.
  • EVO - Electronic Village Online: Recharge your professional development with the friendliest and most engaging trainers on the planet, free

    Since these sessions will have just started (Jan 11 through Feb 16, 2020, http://evosessions.pbworks.com/) it occurs to me that a great workshop would be to introduce EVO to participants, get them to enrol in a session, and then follow up by getting them to introduce themselves to their chosen community, and get started on the first week’s activities. It wouldn’t matter too much if they were a little late to the party
Multimedia skills

My definitive work in regard to multimedia professional development is https://learning2gether.net, a podcast series I have been doing for the past ten years, without any funding, using free Web 2.0 tools. Besides the community of practice and networked learning aspects, this work requires numerous media skills which I could also train via workshops. These include
  • the rationale for podcasting in language learning, 
  • spaces for meeting synchronously online, 
  • recording, editing, and streaming audio and video, 
  • harvesting recordings and uploading to YouTube and Vimeo. 
  • Using screen casting to create podcasts, interactions with teacher or student peers, and even produce lesson materials

    e.g. the simple-to-use Screencast-o-matic to the more complicated but more versatile OBS (Open Broadast Software), which I have used to “Record Lesson Materials On-the-Fly” as presented at TESOL in Seattle, 2017, http://tinyurl.com/tesol2017vance. I am part of a team using this software for live webcasting from the last three TESOL conferences. 
Another aspect of this work is tagging and making your materials known through social networking, as in my 2010 BrazTESOL workshop on http://braz2010vance.pbworks.com/TagGames

Task and Content-Based Instruction / Content and Language Integrated Learning / ESP

From 2003-2011, I taught computing as a subject in its own right, through the medium of English to EFL students, when I was a computing instructor at Petroleum Institute in Abu Dhabi, and in 2004 I published a book chapter on using task-based learning in an EFL online context. From 2013-2018, I helped develop curriculum and materials, and adapted materials directed at pilot and aviation support cadets while teaching EFL at a UAE air college. I could give workshops on developing materials for ESP

Research Writing and Publication / Academic Writing

This is usually what I volunteer to teach when I am working as a teacher. I have produced and edited hundreds of publications. I have often taught at the college level and specialized in teaching academic writing to low to intermediate proficiency students. I usually create wiki portals to help my students with concepts and activities; e.g. one I created to teach academic writing for my students at New York Institute of Technology in Abu Dhabi, at http://fcwr101.pbworks.com/.

Some of my most recent publications and presentations have been on technology-enhanced techniques for giving feedback to students and dealing with plagiarism. My particular focus is on utilizing the voice capabilities of modern mobile, tablet, and PC devices for improving effectiveness and efficiency in giving well-directed feedback on writing to students, something that can take a lot of a teacher’s time.

Workshops on teaching ESOL skills

As a teacher with 40 years experience in EFL I could also give workshops on more traditional topics such as grammar, reading, listening, pronunciation, vocabulary. I would have a lot to impart about the latter topic through my background of research and publication in concordancing and familiarity with a number of corpus-based and gamified tools for vocabulary acquisition.

Here’s the above distilled into a list, which I may develop further here in the future:

  1. Coding in ELT: Empowering teachers to integrate coding into their language lessons, and why (or why not?)
  2. Technology in the Classroom/E-learning/Blended learning/CALL environments
  3. Practical technologies for classroom use (need to narrow down its purpose based on need)
  4. DIYLMS: Designing classroom ecologies (do-it-yourself-learning-management-systems) from free and easily available Web 2.0 tools
  5. Helping students direct and archive their learning in MePortfolios
  6. Continuing professional development through engaging in networks of other learners / teachers and communities of practice
  7. EVO - Electronic Village Online: Start today, NOW, right in this workshop, to recharge your professional development with the friendliest and most engaging trainers on the planet, free
  8. Learning2gether to teach and learn through communities of practice
  9. Using multiliteracies and 21st century skills and tools in your own PD so that it helps you model to students how to learn in a future world that is here already
  10. Minecraft in language learning, why and how?
  11. Interacting live and online with EVO Minecraft MOOC,
  12. Gamification or game-based learning? What’s the difference and how can they be utilized in my classrooms
  13. Joining MOOCs and communities of practice to help you broaden your learning through free and self-directed continuing PD; or start your own MOOC
  14. What multimedia skills do you need for language teaching?
  15. Podcasting in language learning: Helping students learn through both consuming and creating content that helps them learn English
  16. Record lesson materials on-the-fly using tools for capturing images, audio, and whatever else happens on your screen
  17. Using YouTube and Vimeo in language learning as both a consumer and creator of content.
  18. Tag games: Bringing groups of learners together through intelligent use of tagging and aggregating content (making your materials known) through social networking
  19. Task and Content-Based Instruction / Content and Language Integrated Learning / ESP
  20. Improve you research writing and publication skills: Academic writing for teachers and learners
  21. Utilizing the voice capabilities of modern mobile, tablet, and PC devices for improving effectiveness and efficiency in giving well-directed feedback on writing
  22. Help your students improve their vocabulary skills through use of concordancing, and other corpus-based and gamified tools for vocabulary acquisition
  23. Kick your pronunciation teaching skills up a notch: Exploring the videos in the ESL Teachers’ Guide to Pronunciation Teaching Using Online Resources
  24. Grammar, reading, listening, writing: Which should you teach first and why? Defend your choice!