The times they are a-changing

Out of time

out of time @ij64

I love this image – I admit that the link may not be immediately obvious – but it’s a great way to kick off a blog post.  Thanks Ian – and thanks #eltpics !

And now for the blog post – the first of 2012, and although it’s February 2, I’m still going to take this opportunity to wish you all a very happy 2012! – here goes!

Last summer I wrote about a short training course I’d been trying to put together for a local training centre.  It was intended as an extension of a pre-service certificate course. It felt like a good idea at the time. This was the rationale:

“in our immediate context, and increasingly in other contexts too, newly qualified teachers may well be asked about their views on the use of technology in job interviews, or be expected to use integrated whiteboards (IWBs) and data projectors in their classrooms”

And the aim was to:

“introduce trainees (and teachers unfamiliar with technology) to the issues, both pedagogical and technical, as well as to offer them a safe environment to dip their toes into the world of web 2.0 and educational technology.”

At the time there weren’t enough people interested and we didn’t run the course.

Last week the training centre got in touch asking me to update the information on the course so that they could advertise it well ahead of time and possibly get more takers for this summer.   In the meantime I had started to think about possibly offering the course as an online, moodle-based course. It seemed to solve the question of trainees having to stick around for an extra three days, pay for more nights in local accommodation and could possibly appeal to a wider audience.

Every Thursday I walk home after class with the course director.  The walk takes about 15 minutes and those Thursday morning walks are great.  We talk non-stop!  We plan and reflect on lessons, plan course strategies, discuss problem students, and generally put the world to rights 😉

Last Thursday we talked about the edtech issue.  We started off thinking about who, how, when it could be run.  We talked about the online option.  We agreed at one point that a blended course might be the best option, but then slowly we talked our way away from the whole course. Basically turned our backs on it.

There has been one key change since the course was first mooted this time last year.  The school – and training centre – has moved. In its old premises there was only one, portable projector and a fairly shaky portable ebeam.  They weren’t used much in class, and weren’t used on the certificate courses at all – except for one input session where we talked about ways of exploiting digital images and video clips.  In September the school moved into its new premises.  There are ceiling bracketed projectors and wifi access in all the rooms.  Use of the technology has been integrated into all the classes – it’s part and parcel of the school.  And it’ll be part and parcel of the training courses this summer – for trainers and trainees alike.

So, in the space of less than six months, the introduction to technology course has become obsolete.  There is absolutely no need to divorce it from the main course.  I remembered a great post by Marisa Constantides about how she is integrating edtech tools in her pre-service certificate courses. Read about it here. It makes so much sense. This is so obviously the future .. or in fact, the present!

And so, I turned down the offer to write and run the course this summer. Instead we’re going to get together to discuss how to approach integrating tech tools into the course in the most natural and unobtrusive way possible.  We want to negotiate a shared approach which will inform all aspects of the course: the lessons taught by the tutors on the first day of teaching practice, the unknown language lessons in the first week, the input sessions, the pre-course questionnaire and tasks, the materials assignments … everything.  A kind of mission statement for principled use and best practice.

That’s one meeting I’m really looking forward to going to!

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18 Responses to The times they are a-changing

  1. Times are a-changing, and so is your blog pic. Beautiful. Nice to see the evolution in your team’s approach to integrating edtech. Best to you in 2012, Ceri!

  2. Ideas worth spreading, Ceri, and thanks for your kind mention – reporting that it’s getting better with every single course as we, too, are gaining confidence and integrating the edtech more meaningfully into our coursework.

    Marisa

    • Ceri Jones says:

      Hi Marisa!
      Thank you for the inspiration – I’ve forwarded a link to your post to my colleague – it’s such a great description of how to take the little by little approach 🙂

  3. Kevin Stein says:

    Hi Ceri and nice to meet you (or your blog at least). Sounds like your new location provides students and teachers with the tools they need to put language into use in a more tech centered world. It really seems to me that how we use language is really the key and the fact that for a majority of English learners, English is needed to write emails, comment on blog posts, search the web, read web pages, and a host of other activities basically means we have an obligation as teachers to let students use and explore English in those mediums. I’m so jealous of how your school is moving in that direction. My school is still in the dark ages, but the kids all have smart phones. So I have classes in which students use the General Service List on their cell phones or read blog posts. In a way, it might even be an advantage cince their cell-phones have basically become another appendage for my students.

    • Ceri Jones says:

      Hi Kevin,
      Thanks for dropping by!
      As I said in my reply to Sirja, my classrooms at the moment are much the same as yours, but that doesn’t mean we can’t encourage students to venture outside the four walls – virtually on their mobile phones – and then by extension outside the class as well.

  4. swisssirja says:

    What can I say? I wish our classroom were equipped! That’s all I say…simply equipped. Because a tiny blackboard is not what I call equipment any more 😉 So as much as I love reading about tech teaching and using this and that in your classroom, well, for the moment it’s just a dream for a more advanced future.
    PS – not that I cannot give good lessons without all the gadgets, ha-ha 😉

    • Ceri Jones says:

      Hi Sirja 🙂
      Yeah, I remember our chat about this over coffee! The classrooms I teach in at the moment are the same – a blackboard and chalk – we sometimes, but pretty infrequently, use our mobile phones in class. I sometimes, sometimes take in my laptop to share photos (no surprise there, eh? 😉 )

  5. Chiew says:

    Way to go, Ceri! Just be wise in choosing – tech tools come and go by the dozen every day. Good luck and you know where you can find me 😉

  6. Of course you love the image – it is AWESOME!
    It seems that you are certainly rolling with the changes and coming out on top!
    Best of luck!
    Naomi

  7. How timely! I am just thinking about tech’s normalisation in regular language learning classes as opposed to being a special activity, a thought stemmed from Bax (2003) and one which obviously should apply to training courses as well. In just the little bits of dialogue I’ve had with colleagues here, there still seems to be this predominant belief that tech is just not common enough yet to be normalised. I disagree.

    • Ceri Jones says:

      Hi Ty!
      Yes, totally – and one of the quickest ways for it to be normalised is to treat it as normal I guess – even those reticent to throw themselves into edutech as teachers, are using it more and more in their working life, and I guess there’s a way in through the back door there by normalising tech in day-to-day admin or in structured teacher development.

  8. Pingback: Is CALL outdated? | 4C in ELT

  9. danij says:

    Plenty of food for thought.One of the joys, and indeed the challenges of the training course,is dealing with different personalities, linguistic abilities,ages,opinions and now the additional “tech-savvy”(if there is such word!).We still get the occasional trainee submitting hand-written assignments(often a joy to behold,depends on the handwriting!),as well as the post-university graduates who grew up with classroom technology and are a dab hand. It feels like a key consideration ,as in most learning environments, is the ability to “straddle” these level differences on the training course-not blinding anyone with science and encouraging those who can,to implement this tool as they would any other. The ability,as mentioned in an earlier post,to give good lessons without the gadgets-to really get to grips with the “essence” of teaching-is ,and always has been,the main idea we want to get across to participants on the training courses. TBD;)

  10. A wise decision, I’d say! 😉

    On a short training course I don’t think it’s ever going to be possible to include loads of tech because there are so many other things that, realistically, are more important, such as “getting to grips with the ‘essence of teaching'”, as Dani says.

    I suppose it’s most important to raise awareness of what is going on ‘out there’ in teaching world, as although some trainees will go off to ‘under-resourced’ schools, others may end up in a place where the use of technology is demanded. I think it’s important that new teachers are aware of some of the possibilities and also of ways in which they can go off and find out about these things for themselves. Perhaps the best way being to get in on some online social-media action!

    • Ceri Jones says:

      Hi Rich,
      Thanks for joining the conversation!
      I think what appeals to me most in the “normalisation” process Marisa talks about in her original post (and which Ty Seburn follows up in this post http://fourc.ca/call/) is the way that edtech tools become a normal and (almost) invisible part of the input and running of the course, tools that the trainees use to learn, and yes, social networking can (and I guess most probably will) become part of this too. Questions can be posted on twitter in input sessions for example (especially if you prime your twitter followers beforehand!) … just one example and I’m sure you’ll have plenty more suggestions for ways of enticing trainees into the online world of TD 🙂

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