Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Getting ‘techy’

Following on from Dan’s ‘techy’ theme last week, I want to talk about my (often limited) approach to technology. As Philip, Head of the Executive Department at Hyland Language Centre, Madrid, will tell you, I am fairly (if not very) incompetent when things go wrong. After 7 years of comments such as ‘Philip, my mouse doesn’t work/is stuck’ or ‘My page has gone big/small/won’t print’, at least that is one part of his job that he no longer has to do! Dan now has to do this job, only now it’s usually ‘Dan, I can’t get the listening to work from the IWB’ or (more than once) ‘Dan, how do I get the video link onto the IWB?’

However, I AM interested in technology and where technology can take teachers. I have been lurking for a while (just looking at other people’s blogs, not commenting and not being brave enough to write my own). Now, I find myself contributing to this blog at Anglolang, which is interesting, challenging and, at times, even a bit scary!

It was Sandy Millin who (inadvertently) got me thinking about this particular post. I saw her interview
at Harrogate 2014 and was interested in her advice about blogging. Firstly, she said that you should write about what interests you and write a blog that you would be interested in reading. So true! The blogs I’ve enjoyed have a chatty style that I like and encourage me to reflect on my teaching without being too academic or difficult to follow. They are blogs I am happy to read on the bus / train home, not too taxing.

Keeping things simple!
Secondly, Sandy talked about staying simple and practical. Again, so true! Of the blogs I have written on this page, the most viewed (by a mile!) was one entitled Getting students to speak, which is the only one with a list of practical classroom activities.

Thirdly (and this is the one I am working on), hone your writing style. At times I think I have been too academic and, more often than not, I am not sure how a blog reads. I always ask Dan to read through what I have written and sometimes find that I haven’t expressed things in the way that I intended.

Starting and contributing to this blog has been interesting both in terms of having a forum on which to share ideas (and sometimes even to talk myself into or out of an idea which may not have been fully formed) and also in terms of the actual mechanics of setting up a blog (all very easy). I am an experienced teacher but this introduction to all things techy has been great for my own professional development.

Something else that Sandy talked about (and this
might have actually been on her blog. I didn’t write down the reference) was the importance of sharing and how her own blog had a huge number of hits after the British Council Teaching EnglishFacebook page shared it.

Anglolang’s  previous blog, which talked about IATEFL 2014 in Harrogate, received 100 times more hits than previous blogs because Sandy shared it on her blog (thank you!).  I think that this was the first time I had really understood the power of sharing and creating networks online. Something I would like to think more about.

Earlier I mentioned the importance of giving practical information in a blog so, in the interests of being practical, here are the sites that I have lurked on most frequently on over the years:

1.    Jamie Keddie -  http://lessonstream.org/ . This site, with its comprehensive lesson plans, has been a lifesaver during many a standby class! Looking forward to the new Videotelling site. http://jamiekeddie.com/project/videotelling/  

2.    Ceri Jones - http://cerij.wordpress.com/.  Ceri was my first DoS in Spain so this seemed like a good place to start. Thanks, Ceri, for lots of reflection in language most of us can understand!

3.     Ditto Sandy Millin. http://sandymillin.wordpress.com/ whose reflections have helped me to understand the possibilities surrounding technology.

4.    Sadly now no longer updated is http://sixthings.net/ .  I liked this because there were only ever 6 things – some were useful things for my classroom but others were just 6 things that made me laugh or random facts that I found interesting.

5.    Russell Stannard’s site http://www.teachertrainingvideos.com/ which gives step-by-step training videos in various things technological.

I’m sure my thoughts will develop as I get further down the road of becoming more technological. I’d be really interested to hear if anyone else has had a similar experience / similar concerns.


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