One of the aspects of my current role that I enjoy the most is that I get to run regular 15-minute workshops for my colleagues, chiefly on topics related to e-learning. While I am growing more confident the more I run these mini-PDs, I still have a lot of learning to do; so I was very happy to come across Martyn Clarke’s post (on OUP ELT Global) on what to consider when running a workshop. This may be summarised as follows, though I encourage you to read his post in full:
- Identify the purpose of your workshop.
- Have a clear structure to guide the learning process (he suggests Input – Task – Output).
- Think about logistical matters such as timing, schedule conflicts, teaching space, materials, etc.
- Prepare a follow-up task (“homework”) to help teachers make use of what they have learned.
- Have your colleagues evaluate your workshop, and consider what you will do with their feedback.
While I do tick most of these boxes in the way I deliver workshops, Clarke’s post has helped me to think about it a bit more systematically. I realise that most of my workshops hitherto would be classified as “awareness-raising”–introducing my colleagues to a new app or a new way to use Google Slides or Blackboard for blended learning, for instance–and I could probably explore other models (such as skills-development). As for process, I often include a hands-on task if I’m demo-ing an app using a set of iPads; otherwise I adopt the tried-and-true method of gathering participants’ ideas on a new concept (e.g. how they might apply what I’m teaching in their own lessons) before adding my own.
I also like to give participants a “takeaway”, such as a one or two-page set of instructions on how to use a particular app or tool. But I certainly need to be more pro-active in encouraging workshop participants to incorporate what they’ve learned into their own teaching. I imagine there’s a lot of great PD in language centres across the world that disappears down the memory hole as busy teachers, initially very enthusiastic about a new idea or approach they’ve encountered, struggle to find an immediate place for it in their programmes, and soon forget it.
For those of us in far-flung places like Perth, opportunities to attend ELT conferences are few and far between. Fortunately, there are a lot of presentations and webinars online, and I was recently able to catch a number of IATEFL 2016 talks posted by MacMillan. I’d like to highlight a couple in this post, because both presenters provide useful sets of guiding principles for incorporating technology in our lessons.
Michelle McDonnell-de Graaf’s main message is that it is easy to be overwhelmed by the sheer volume of tech tools that are out, so how and why we’re using these tools is more important than which tool we use.
For McDonnell-de Graaf, a good tech tool . . .
- stimulates interaction.
- does something the teacher can’t. For example, Kahoot! does a much faster and more efficient job of maintaining a leaderboard during a class quiz than a teacher ever could.
- allows variation in skill and content.
- facilitates peer assessment. Collaborative online spaces such as Google Drive, Wikispaces and discussion boards are great for this.
- stimulates creativity and depth. (McDonnell-de Graaf gives the example of a student-created Kahoot!)
- promotes autonomy.
Tom Walton maintains in his presentation that who is using the technology is just as important as how and why, and he makes the case for placing tech as much as possible in the hands of students. This is a complete inversion of how I imagine many teachers think about technology in the classroom: we generally see ourselves as the IT gurus in the room, whereas Walton argues technology should be managed by the learners. Given that most of our learners are digital natives, and given that we want them to be more autonomous, Walton’s notion makes perfect sense.
Here are Walton’s guidelines for cultivating a learner-centered approach to technology in the classroom:
- Start with the tech that your learners are already using (ask them).
- Never touch the technology yourself. (This is one I’m not sure about: surely there’s scope for demonstrations/modelling–but I guess more confident or tech-savvy students could be used for this.)
- Get your students to create things using the technology.
- Get your students to set up a shared online space (WhatsApp, for example).
- Make your students responsible for tech support; your responsibility is language support.
- Tech tasks should be language-focused, not technology-focused–and should involve uncomplicated technology. (Walton provides some examples of these tech tasks, and more are available on one stop english.)
- Your learners will probably be more tech-savvy than you . . . and you should take advantage of this.
So there are your takeaways: be discerning about the tech tools you use in your lessons, but then be ready to cede control of them to your learners.