7 Free Online Courses in February

7 Free Online Coursesin February

Long winter evenings of February may look picturesque, but if you prefer staying in, I have a good excuse for you to do so: free online courses. A lot of teachers enjoy their winter break, so if you want to procrastinate without the slightest feeling of guilt, you may enjoy one of the options I’ve picked for you:

1 Becoming a Better Teacher: Exploring Professional Development by the British Council and UCL Institute of Education

Start: 5th February

Duration: 6 weeks

For whom: teachers of EFL or educators who teach in English

I believe teaching is constant learning – this course only proves my point. The course is divided into simple modules that will show you how important CPD and its organisation is. From understanding Kolb’s cycle to learning through classroom observation and peer feedback – it will definitely help you develop your reflective skills and improve your teaching practice.

2 Language and Mind by Indian Institute of Technology Madras

Start: 5th February

Duration: 8 weeks

For whom: new teachers or those who need to revise their linguistics

Some people believe language to be a social creation and language learning to take place through social interactions. Others point out biological foundations of the language. This course will try to make you familiar with relationship between language and human mind; to understand language as a special purpose cognitive ability; and to understand underlying mental computation for natural language processing.

3 Introduction to Psychology by University of Toronto

Start: 5th February

Duration: 8 weeks

For whom: educators interested in psychology

This course focuses on the brain and some of the cognitive abilities it supports like memory, learning, attention, perception and consciousness. During the course you will look at human development from the perspective of individual growth as well as the influence of environment. The final part will focus on various forms of mental illness and the treatments that are used to help those who suffer from them.

4 Tricky American English Pronunciation by University of California, Irvine

Start: 12th February

Duration: 8 weeks

For whom: English language learners who want to improve pronunciation of American English

In this course, you’ll practice the sounds of American English that might sometimes be confusing, as well as proper sentence stress. The access to all of the lectures and handouts is free to anyone, but the graded assignments and quizzes are only available in the paid version of the course. You will need to submit recordings of your own pronunciation for graded assignments.

5 Speaking Effectively by Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur

Start: 5th February

Duration: 8 weeks

For whom: educators and students of English

This course focuses on the dynamics of effective spoken communication. It defines speaking as an autonomous medium with a particular vocabulary, syntax, structure, style and register. You will start with body language and basic conversation skills before moving on to such aspects as appearing in interviews, making formal presentations and participating in meetings.

6 Storytelling for Change by +Acumen

Start: 13th February

Duration: 8 weeks

For whom: trainers and educators who want to use the elements of story to get closer to the audience

The course focuses on something that seems to be present in all aspects of our lives – storytelling – as an essential tool for changing the world because it starts with changing conversations around, what we see, hear, feel and know to be true. The course is also quite innovative as you will be expected to form a Story Team as part of this course. Story Team meetings are an important and fun part of the course. This is where you will discuss the material, practice with a friendly audience, and learn from each other. This course will consist of a mix of team and individual assignments.

7 MOOC-ED: Learning Differences by Friday Institute and North Carolina State College of Education

Start: 5th February

Duration: 6 weeks

For whom: educators including teachers, coaches, administrators, or people who play a role in meeting the needs of all students

Historically, schools have approached student learning with a one-size-fits-all mentality and have struggled to adapt to changing student needs. That ends now – and this course is to help you change the way you teach and the way your students learn. You will focus on understanding learning differences, motivation etc. as the course focuses on providing a more personalised learning experience for all of your students.

I hope you’ll find something useful to enjoy over a cup of hot cocoa on a cold February night. If you belong to the vast majority of people who are eager to start online courses but struggle with systematic learning – don’t worry, next week I’ll post some tips that will help you choose, start and finish an online course.

Enjoy!

Advertisements

“Authentic Learning in the Digital Age” – can we connect technology and better education?

www.thatisevil.wordpress.com (1)

Traditional model of teaching may seem quite obsolete, especially when we look at technological advancement visible in all areas of our lives, including education. Even my blog reflects changes that have been influencing the whole TEFL process, most of them provoked by technological development. Even now, one of the most common questions regarding teaching focuses on technology – shall educators introduce technology in the classroom and if yes, to what extent?

Larissa Pahomov is a part of Science Leadership Academy, and the book she wrote offers not only her insight on creating an authentic learning environment, but also bears the mark of a true practitioner and some of the answers are the ones that make this book more than a guide for other SLA teachers.

“(…) Real learning happens anywhere, anytime, with anyone we like – not just with a teacher and some same-age peers, in a classroom, from September to June” (Will Richardson, Why School? [2012])

Trying to grasp the ideal learning environment, the book is divided into five core values:

Inquiry: students need to be able to ask their own questions in order to engage with their education

Research: students need to learn how to collect and interpret both data and sources of information

Collaboration: working together not only helps students to learn better, it also supports them in developing interpersonal skills essential for their future professional life

Presentation: students learn how to present themselves and their work appropriately and effectively

Reflection: a necessary part of a learning process to improve with each cycle of learning

Each part is detailed by a very organised set of information: description (how the value can transform the learning process and how a digital solution can enhance it), step-by-step outline (making the shift and various examples), solutions (many possible roadblocks and workarounds given), suggestions (how to implement the value not only in one classroom, but in the whole school) and anecdotes (mainly from ex-students, giving a very valuable feedback).

My favourite part of each chapter is the one focusing on challenges and ways to overcome them – and this is probably the highlight of the whole book. It is not very often that a publication mentioning collaboration states the most common issue connected with group projects like “my group-mates are not working as hard as me or doing what I tell them to” or a typical students’ excuse which is “we don’t have time to meet outside of school” – and yet it does and offers some insightful solutions.

I find this book highly valuable for anyone attempting to introduce technology in their curriculum on a regular basis, rather than using it as some kind of fun once in a while.
The sensible and down-to-earth approach has supported me in my DoS work to help my teachers realise the importance of using technology in the classroom and to answer their doubts and insecurities. I can truthfully say this was the most inspiring CPD publication I read in 2017 and I can only hope you’ll find it at least as useful as I have.
Enjoy!
“Currently, teachers and schools often fall into an embrace/reject dichotomy when it comes to using technology in the classroom. (…) this “digital divide” often reflects a misguided focus on the what of technology, instead of why and how. (…) adjustment means shifting away from looking at technology as an end in itself and toward using technology as a medium for all kinds of learning. To make that shift, schools and teachers need to be asking the following question: How can technology transform education?” (Larissa Pahomov)

Authentic Learning in the Digital Age: Engaging Students Through Inquiry
Author: Larissa Pahomov

Published: November 2014 by ASCD

ISBN: 1416619569 (ISBN13: 9781416619567)

Role Playing Teaching (Part 4: Games From Distant Worlds)

koata beach

One of the things that have set me on the quest of finding Holy Grail of the RPG in TEFL is the tedious environment of the coursebook-oriented curriculum. After years of using the same scheme of lessons, of omnipresent PPP model (slowly trying to include elements of TBT) occasionally interrupted by games, role-plays and authentic materials, I’ve started to dream of a course where changes would be part of its curriculum. Hence my idea of joining RPGs with TEFL – a match made in R’lyeh and blessed by Cthulhu’s tentacles.

What gives RPGs such allure is certainly its variety – declaring actions (as acting out is not really a necessity), following the plot and building a story is similar everywhere, differences are in the worlds – and those are aplenty.

Today I want to share some examples of the environments and systems you may enjoy with your students. You may take your students to the adventure in the Wild West followed by a crime story a’la film noir in an urban fantasy setting… So, the environments I can recommend to each and every teacher are:

Fantasy

Probably the first thing that springs to your mind after you hear “Role Playing Games” – thanks to the most popular RPG in the world, namely Dungeons and Dragons.  Fantasy worlds full of magic, adventures and heroes. If you’re into ever-popular Tolkien’s Middle-earth, you may choose The One Ring. If you prefer a grim world of perilous adventure – here’s Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. Do you love Terry Pratchett? choose Discworld RPG, and have fun! I would recommend these settings for those who actually are familiar with the concept of RPG, as one of possible problems may be convincing people that they are not only having fun, but also learning.

Science-fiction & the future

The logical step from fantasy – sci-fi. Now, there are many RPGs that happen in the future, but not all of them are true sci-fi, as there isn’t enough science in them to be called so. Eclipse Phase, Traveller and my favourite Blue Planet RPG have a truly sci-fi approach and may be awesome solutions for yet another environmentally-oriented classes on higher levels. If you’re teaching soldiers, go for CthulhuTech (future, mechs and Cthulhu, awesome!), if you prefer matrix-like world, go for Cyberpunk, or choose post-apocalyptic world as Neuroshima (Polish only, though you can play in English).

(Alternative) history

If you think fantasy or sci-fi is just too much for your students, you may try some historically accurate systems. As teachers of EFL, you may probably enjoy Pendragon, a system where you play a chivalrous knight in the arthurian realia. Aces & Eights may be a great solution of you’re into life in the alternative version of the Wild West. If you’re Polish who enjoys the history of their country, choose Dzikie Pola and enjoy the atmosphere of the Poland of old.

Non-human

Well, this may come as a surprise, but playing non-human characters may be a lot of fun! For more mature students I could recommend the World of Darkness universum, where you can play a vampire, a mage, a werewolf or a fae. Sounds too creepy? Think about something else – why not play an agile feline in Cats? Or maybe a heroic mouse in Mouse Guard? And we can’t forget of the game that at the moment is extremely popular among fellow gamer-parents who introduce their offspring to the world of role-playing games: My Little Pony: Tails of Equestria!

Urban Fantasy

The last, but not the least – urban fantasy systems, the ones I would pick for everyone who hasn’t tried RPGs before. It’s close to our own world, but you can – can, not must! – add a bit of the unreal. Think of the X-files: you can live the adventures in Delta Green, even when you leave Cthulhu mythology out of the equatio (can’t think of a reason why, though). Speaking of Lovecraftian Mythos, you may pick Call of Cthulhu and choose any period of time you wish – from roaring twenties to modern times. If you’re not into Cthulhu – choose Dresden Files or Monster of the Week – I’m sure you’ll have fun.

I myself believe urban fantasy is the best start to show the potential of using RPGs in teaching EFL, as you can introduce regular situations people experience in the real world – business conversations, small talks, negotiations etc. with no element of fantasy or supernatural. Try to think of it as a prolonged role-play exercise where each student having the same character, only facing different situations.

I hope you’re getting the general idea of what RPGs are – next time I’ll show you how to create Players’ Characters and why it may be an English lesson itself.

Enjoy!

Tell them what we’re doing! (guest note by Ewa Torebko)

Ready forSummer!

I met Ewa last August during Luiza’s Wójtowicz-Waga’s workshop where she shared her way of lesson planning and sharing it with her students. I found the idea just brilliant, so I asked her to write a guest post for my blog, so that you have the opportunity to learn from the master herself.

Thank you ever so much, Ewa!

Tell them what you’re doing and why!

Should you inform your students what the objectives of your lesson are?

Should you sum up or ask them to sum up what has been done and what they have learnt?

Do students remember best the things from the beginning and from the end of the lesson?

Yes, yes, and yes!!!

How do you inform them? How do you sum up? Do you simply tell them, write it on the board, elicit it from them?

One day, I decided I needed a clear graphic system that would help me with presenting the objectives and summing up the lesson. I found some images online, I drew others, I printed them out and laminated them, and this is what I came up with:

Ewa Torebko

photo by Ewa Torebko

  • an ear – for listening activities,
  • a open book – for reading activities,
  • a mouth – for speaking activities,
  • a pen – for writing activities,
  • I  ❤  grammar – (surprisingly) for grammar tasks,
  • a pile of flashcards – for vocabulary work,
  • two stickmen with speech bubbles – for pairwork,
  • three stickmen with a thought bubble and a light bulb in it – for groupwork,
  • a stickman doing a high jump and letter B – for ‘matura’ exam tasks at the basic level,
  • a stickman doing a high jump and letter E – for extended level tasks,
  • E=mc2 – for eliminating mistakes by correcting them a lot (feedback sessions when students correct mistakes from their written work or speaking tasks – no name calling unless students feel the need to own up to their mistakes),
  • a jigsaw puzzle with one piece missing – for all kinds of Use of English tasks,
  • a spiral – for a variety of revision activities, big and small,
  • a question mark – for anything that does not fit in with the rest or because every teacher needs to be mysterious from time to time.

How does it work? I’ve got all the images stuck to the wall with blue tack and select them for a particular lesson either before the students arrive or before they unpack and settle in, or sometimes I select them as I go along while telling the students what we’re going to be doing in the lesson. I stick the chosen images together in the order I planned the activities and tell the students what the agenda is or I elicit it from them once they are familiar with the images and what they signify.

During the lesson I refer to the images from time to time so that the students have a sense of order and purpose.

At the end of the lesson, I recap the class with the help of the images or ideally, the students do for me, sometimes with some prompting required, at least in the beginning. If there was a reading task, what did they read about? What reading strategies did they employ? Why did they read before doing grammar tasks or speaking tasks? If there were speaking tasks, what were they? How many were there? How many partners did they have a chance to talk to? What did they talk about? What language functions did they use? What vocabulary was useful for getting their message across? If there were revision tasks, what did they revise, how, and why, etc.

Did we do all the activities that had been planned? Did we do them in the order planned? If not, why? Perhaps some activities proved more challenging than anticipated? Why were they difficult? Did the teacher decide to skip certain activities and/or extend some of them? Why? How much were the students responsible for the changes?

How about not presenting the images at the beginning of the lesson and asking the students to recall the activities at the end of it? You might tell them it will be required of them or not. If you do, you will certainly have their attention.

Sometimes I sneakily mix the images up when the students are not looking and ask them to reorder them at the end of the lesson. Other times, I go even further and remove them completely so that the students have to recreate all the activities in the correct order.

If you want, you could ask the students to plan the lesson using the images, making sure they justify their order. How about asking your students to come up with their own images? Perhaps there is something they would like to add? Something that is unique and understood only by you and that particular group of students?

I find the images are useful for explaining your methodology, raising students’ awareness of what is happening in the classroom and why. They give us an opportunity to ask the students why they think the teacher planned certain activities and/or used particular methods, how useful they find them and why.

I also believe the images ensure that the students leave our lesson with a sense of accomplishment and a sense of closure – they help them realise the lesson was geared towards improving certain skills, expanding a particular set of vocabulary or preparing them for very specific exam tasks. Hopefully, when asked by a parent about what they did in class, they will be able to say more than just: “exercises” or “games”.

A final piece of advice: don’t be a slave to the images. I find them extremely useful with new groups that are going through the beginning stages of group development. They help with classroom management, establishing rapport and presenting your expertise as a teacher. With time, however, I tend not to use the images in every lesson because it can become tedious and repetitive. Sometimes you need to shake things up and add colour and variety to your classes.

Give it a try and make it your own! I highly recommend this method. It has helped me a lot since I implemented it. Apart from having all the benefits for the students that I mentioned above, it made me think more deeply about what I was doing in class and why. Isn’t conscious competence what we as teachers are trying to achieve?

 

7 Free Online Courses in January

7 free online courses

How are you in 2018? After my winter break I’m ready to rock! To my organised self it’s a double charm when the beginning of the year matches the beginning of the week (which in my case is on Monday). The New Year, as always, brings new challenges, new opportunities and new things we can learn – and I’m quite excited about all this!

Here’s my monthly bulletin on seven courses I could recommend for teachers, DoSes and educators in general. We’re taking January resolutions seriously, so most of the courses have their starting dates, no lazy self-pacement this month!

1 How to Succeed at: Writing Applications by the University of Sheffield

Start: 8th January

Duration: 3 weeks

For whom: people who are ready for a big change in their lives – both teachers and students

This course has been designed and developed by experts from The Careers Service at the University of Sheffield to help people write successful applications, whether they are applying for jobs or planning to study at university or college. When you complete this course you may go straight to How to Succeed at: Interviews (starting on the 29th of January) and then follow with How to Succeed in the Global Workplace which was produced in collaboration with The British Council.

2 Academic Discussions in English by University of California, Irvine

Start: 1st January

Duration: 4 weeks

For whom: students preparing to start university education, people who want to practice and improve discussion skills

In this class you will learn not only about different types of conversations you will encounter in academic settings, but you will also discover some strategies helping you understand other people’s meaning and helping you express yourself effectively. In the paid version, the curriculum includes recording several videos of oneself for peer feedback, however free users have access to all instructional videos and handouts.

3 Supporting English Learners: Resources for Leaders by Stanford University

Start: self-paced

Duration: self-paced

For whom: teachers, educators, DoSes

This course provides a set of resources designed to support educational leaders in driving educational change for English learners and guide you through a process of examining existing system around TEFL as well as help developing a plan to encourage shift practices. The overall goal is for participating educators to better understand students of ESL in their context and use what they learn to design a better system where students may achieve more.

4 Becoming a Confident Trainer by TAFE SA

Start: 8th January

Duration: 4 weeks

For whom:  educators, trainers

The course focuses on more practical aspects of training and facilitation like: practical techniques, approaches, hints and suggestions that you may apply to your own training environment. Confidence as a trainer comes from the awareness that you are well prepared in your topic, but it is also understanding that an effective trainer is someone who presents in a professional manner, is an effective communicator and has developed the awareness of the learning needs of their learner group.

5 Young People and Their Mental Health by University of Groningen and University of Cambridge

Start: 15th January

Duration: 5 weeks

For whom:  parents, caregivers, teachers and medical professionals but mainly young people aged over 14 wanting to know more about mental health

The course is designed primarily for young people as mental health problems often develop during the teenage period. It may be really useful for teenagers to know how to recognise common mental health problems, know how they arise, what can be done to prevent them and what should be done when one actually suffers from them. Naturally, it may be only useful for adults to take this course as well, as it may help us develop not only the knowledge, but also ways of communicating with teenagers.

6 Cybersecurity and Its Ten Domains by University System of Georgia

Start: 1st January

Duration: 6 weeks

For whom:  anyone and everyone interested in cybersecurity

This course is designed to introduce the more and more important issue of cybersecurity. You will gain access to materials that address governance and risk management, compliance, business continuity and disaster recovery, cryptography, software development security, access control, network security, security architecture, security operations, and physical and environmental security. You do not need prior experience in IT security to do well in this course. All you need is a willingness to learn.

7 Leadership Through Social Influence by Northwestern University

Start: 8th January

Duration: 4 weeks

For whom:  people interested in persuasive influence situations

Well, that’s a bit tricky course – I think there are two types of people who might find is useful – those who want to use persuasive approach… and those who want to recognise and defend against it (as it is, in its crudest meaning, manipulation). The broad goal is to provide learners with not only an extensive persuasion tool kit, but also with an understanding of how different tools are useful in different situations. For some, such knowledge may be interesting to use, for everyone – to study.

And, last but not least, a course that is not really free, but may be of use, especially for our students:

Writing Better Emails by the British Council

Start: 29th January

Duration: 3 weeks

For whom:  for all working professionals, especially young people, CEFR level B1 and above

Cost: $59

It isn’t very often that we have time to cover professional e-mail writing during our EFL courses – I know that some of my students would be more than happy to practise this skill at home, especially that they feel like practising in-class writing is a waste of time. This online course develops planning, organising, writing and editing skills, to enable students to write more effective and efficient emails and is an interesting option to recommend to your students.

I hope the courses I’ve chosen will help you pick something interesting to study this month – I’ll probably pick the one for Confident Trainers.

Enjoy and see you online!