October’s #AusELT chat: advance warning

Now, usually we are due for an #AusELT chat on the first Thursday of the month – but for October we have made a decision to postpone by one week, for the following reasons:

  • the English Australia Conference 2015 just wrapped up in Brisbane a few days ago;
  • many of our regulars are still travelling/recovering/hungover; and
  • 1st October has sneakily managed to also be the 1st Thursday of the month, thus taking us all by surprise.

So, the next #AusELT Twitter chat will take place on Thurs 8th October at 8.30 Sydney time (check here to see the time where you are).

The topic will be “Conference wrap-up and other interesting ideas”, and will basically be a 1-hour swap shop.

Come and share what you saw, what you loved, what you found interesting or controversial about the 2015 English Australia Conference.

Don’t worry if you didn’t go. You can still share new/interesting ideas that have come your way lately. Things that spring to mind from the #AusELT Facebook page recently include haptic pronunciation teaching; heutagogy; mentorship programmes; Periscope…I’m sure you can think of more.

Looking forward to e-seeing you all then!

NB: New members/New to Twitter? Please see the Twitter page on the blog for help and ‘how-to’. Come along and try it out!

This post by @sophiakhan4

Upcoming: #AusELT Twitter chat Thursday 3 September 2015: LGBTQIA issues in course-books and classrooms


Our next #AusELT chat will look at LGBTQIA issues in course-books and classrooms. While some communities and countries are moving rapidly towards greater equality and acceptance, others go more slowly, and there are places where it isn’t safe to identify as LGBTQIA at all. From these communities and countries come our students (and also our teachers) into classrooms which are diverse in more ways than just nationality mix.

Things to consider:

The course-books that we use are, for the most part, heteronormative in their content. How could those who identify as LGBTQIA be better represented?

Does the language that we teach need to change to reflect growing equality and acceptance?

What issues are faced by LGBTQIA teachers and students and those who study and work with them?

A brief introduction to the topic can be found in the pre-reading below:



Vote for Thursday’s #AusELT chat

The next #AusELT Twitter chat will take place on Thurs 3rd September 2015 at 8.30pm Sydney time (click here to see the time where you are in the world). Vote for the topic you would like to talk about here or on our Facebook page)

See you on Thursday!

Upcoming #AusELT Twitter chat Thurs 6th Aug 2015: Mobile language learning: Moving from ‘why’ to ‘how’, with guest moderator Mark Pegrum

Unsurprisingly for a community that grew out of social media, the topic of technology for learning and development has always been a cornerstone for #AusELT. One of our first ever Twitter chats back in 2012 was on experiences with technology in the classroom. In 2013, Paul Driver wrote an excellent and widely shared post for us on the topic of gamification in learning (you can read the summary here), and in 2014, Scott Thornbury’s thought-provoking post, ‘Edtech: The mouse that roared?’, generated so many tweets that the summary had to be divided into four separate posts! Later that year we were back with Huw Jarvis, the man behind the very helpful TESOL academic website of open-access keynotes, research and publications. Huw was concerned with how teachers and learners perceive mobile-assisted language use, and you can read the summary here. 4742869256_8d8e8e67e3_zIn 2015, the debate continues . . . but are we really moving forward? Those of us actively discussing the issue seem to agree that m-learning, used effectively and not just for the sake of it, has real value when based on sound pedagogy. Yet we are often stuck in a situation where institutions or colleagues still advocate the blind banning of mobiles in the classroom.

In our next #AusELT Twitter chat on Thursday 6th August 2015 at 6.30pm Perth time, 8.30pm Sydney time [click here to check the time elsewhere in the world], we would like to focus on how rather than if m-learning can work to our students’ benefit, and we are very lucky to have Mark Pegrum join us as guest moderator on this topic. EAJ 30.2_CT_10 Qs for Mark Pegrum_IMAGEApart from being an all round general nice guy, Mark is also an associate professor in the Graduate School of Education at The University of Western Australia, where he teaches and researches in the areas of e-learning and mobile learning. His recent books include: From Blogs to Bombs: The Future of Digital Technologies in Education (2009); Digital Literacies (co-authored with Gavin Dudeney & Nicky Hockly, 2013); and Mobile Learning: Languages, Literacies and Cultures (2014). Before the chat, please have a think about the following questions, suggested by Mark. We will use these to guide our discussion.

  • How do you and your students currently use mobile devices for language learning inside and outside the classroom?
  • How can you imagine you and your students using mobile devices for language learning in the future?
  • How does the learning enabled by mobile devices differ from learning with more traditional desktop and laptop computers?
  • What are your institution’s views on the use of mobile devices for language learning, and how do these views support or hinder your ability to use mobile devices in your teaching?
  • What, if anything, would need to change for you and your students to make more, or better, use of mobile devices for language learning?

And of course please bring along your own questions – the more the merrier :) If you are new to Twitter, please check out the resources available here and don’t be shy – we are a very friendly bunch and will happily help you out getting the hang of things! See you on Thurs 6th Aug!

This post by @sophiakhan4 and @OzMark17

Article discussion group: “Using wikis and forums for writing practice in ELICOS courses”

Getting started with the discussion.

Using wikis and forums for writing practice in ELICOS courses, by Jade Sleeman from La Trobe Melbourne International College. You can download the article here or access the whole issue from the English Australia website.

Introduction to the Article

In Jade’s article, she outlines how she used wikis and discussion forums in an advanced class of Academic English students to help them practice their writing. An interesting finding was the emergence of a community of practice, a term being used more and more in collaborative learning environments to represent a group who have an ongoing commitment to a shared goal. (Etienne Wenger’s book: “Communities of Practice” is an excellent introduction). So, how did Jade go about investigating the usefulness of Web 2.0 tools such as wikis and online forums? First, she posed two questions (see page 6):

  1. To what extent can Web 2.0 tools be used to create opportunities for collaborative writing beyond the classroom in an ELICOS course?
  2. Can the use of Web 2.0 tools for extra writing practice improve learning outcomes?

Then she decided upon an appropriate class to try out these ideas with over two weeks of the 5-week block (see page 6). She set the class of 15 students additional out-of-class writing activities to be completed in small groups on a Moodle wiki. These were then posted on the discussion forums and students were asked to provide each other with feedback before completing an in-class assessment task later in the week. Jade then set about analysing the students’ writing – see pages 7-17 for the findings of these analyses. A significant finding was:

“that students who began the study as modest or competent users of English (according to the IELTS band scale), and who participated actively by contributing to the wiki activities, were able to improve their results in academic writing. However, those students who on the pre-test were considered good users on the IELTS scale were not seen to improve their writing scores.” (pp. 17-18)

There were also interesting findings related to the difference between collaboration and cooperation in the learning tasks (pp. 9-11) and she also suggests that the notion of “legitimate peripheral participation … a stage of tentative participation that newcomers engage in, in relation to the more proficient members of a community of practice” (p. 12) is a useful way to think about less proficient students’ less prominent participation in activities.

Initial Discussion Questions

Jade has posed these questions to get us started.

  1. Have you or anyone you know used wikis or forums in your own classrooms? If so, what challenges or advantages do you think they offer?
  2. How do you perceive “peripheral participation”- do you think this has advantages for English language learners in online contexts?

Head on over to the AusELT Facebook page to discuss these questions!

#AusELT chat summary: Mixed feelings about Twitter? And other social media questions (5th March 2015)

This chat took place in March 2015 and started out as a very meta chat on Twitter about Twitter. You can read a complete transcript of the chat here@sophiakhan4 got the ball rolling before the chat with a post about why Twitter had been so significant for her. It contains an interesting list of things that would never have happened without Twitter (including #AusELT) as well as some reasons why you might want to bother with Twitter if haven’t gone there yet, or if Facebook is your drug of choice.

This chat sumary is divided into two parts. In Part 1, long-time #AusELTer Kylie Tyler (@thesmylers) writes about the Twitter-related part of the chat, reflecting on her own social media journey and sharing tips on how to make it work for you. In Part 2, @sophiakhan4 summarises the later stages of the chat which dealt with social media identity and curation strategies to manage the flow of information.

Part 1: Twitter journeys and how to make it work for you

 I first joined Twitter as @thesmylers in October 2010 but I wasn’t very active and only followed a couple of my friends who’d mentioned they had a Twitter account. I didn’t really know what it meant to “follow” someone and I think I might have “tweeted” maybe twice in the first 2 years. That all changed when I saw my friend @SophiaKhan4 present a talk called The Networked Teacher with @Eslkazzyb at a PD Fest in Sydney. They introduced me to #AusELT and, through the people they followed, the wider world of ELT on Twitter. I gradually built a list of people in the industry I followed and later that year I joined in on my very first #AusELT chat. I have to say it was both overwhelming and exhilarating. I barely had time to read the new tweets that kept popping up 7-at-a-time on my screen, let alone manage to respond to any questions or comments during the hour-long chat. However, afterwards I felt a real sense of achievement and connection with people who were interested in what I was interested in and that made me feel so good! Gradually, as I lurked at the next few chats, I tweeted a comment or two, and following the many conversations became easier and less frantic. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still fast and furious, and I still don’t understand how some people just seem to be part of all the conversations that go on during a chat. That’s why this month’s #AusELT chat was so helpful for me and hopefully in this summary you’ll find some helpful ideas too.

This month’s chat was a small one with some of the usual suspects, as well as newcomer @angelos_bollas, taking part, and some lurkers popping in every now and then. The topic was a good one: advice for those who are new to Twitter and other social media.

What can Twitter do for you and your professional development?

Just joining Twitter and following a couple of people really won’t give you a good idea of just how much benefit it can bring to your professional learning. I read somewhere that you need to follow at least 40 people for at least 6 months before making a decision for or against the usefulness of Twitter and I have to say that I agree, although when I started out I certainly didn’t. The couple of people I followed had nothing to do with ELT and I found myself wondering what all the fuss was. It wasn’t until I started following some #AusELTers, and followed who they were following, and followed who they were following, that, over time, I started seeing the (daily) potential in Twitter. Add to that the monthly #AusELT chats and I was finally sold.

The biggest thing Twitter can offer according to #AusELTers is being able to instantly connect with professionals who share the same beliefs and practices, regardless of whether they are interstate or international. @michaelegriffin referred to a post on his blog in which he exemplified the benefits of Twitter to some colleagues. He tweeted a question and within minutes had responses from around the world appear on his Twitter feed. As well as instant responses, connections like these can lead you to ELT blogs, the latest news and research in the field, lesson ideas and general support. Several #AusELTers even mentioned having formed new friendships through making professional connections on Twitter. This is something that sets Twitter apart from other social media like Facebook and LinkedIn and #AusELTers had a bit to say about this.

Most people agreed that Twitter has the advantage of being more anonymous. @aparnajacob noted that “unfollowing [on Twitter] is not as bad as unfriending [on Facebook]”, and this is true. Newcomers to Twitter can follow and unfollow people, and comment or not, without anyone being the wiser if that’s what they want. They can “just float on the Twitter tide” as @SophiaKhan4 wrote in this month’s #AusELT chat intro here. Other differences #AusELTers mentioned were @Penultimate_K: “Twitter great for chats & quick exchange. Linkedin/Facebook for more in depth discussion”, and @SophiaKhan4: “I follow ideas on Twitter & people on Facebook – Twitter offers a wider range.”

So who do you follow and how do you manage the volume of tweets?

As @Penultimate_K noted: “It takes time to adjust to the speed of the information flow. And the conventions of Twitter.” This is important to know when you first start out. If you’re used to using Facebook, Twitter can be like entering a different world; posts limited to 140 characters, using symbols like @ and #, “retweeting” and “favouriting”, can all seem a bit like a foreign language. But @michaelegriffin had some good advice for this: “one thing I think was helpful for me on Twitter was not to follow too many people at first. I added more as I got accustomed to the feed.”

Start by following some #AusELTers like @SophiaKhan4, @michaelegriffin, @cioccas, @Penultimate_K, and @forstersensei. Then, see who they’re following and from there follow who you’re interested in. Some recommendations from #AusELTers of people to follow were: @AnneHendler, @nathanghall, @TheSecretDoS, @Ashowski, @teflerinha, @HadaLitim, @michaelegriffin, @Larryfelazzo, ‪@oyajimbo, and institutions/associations like @MacmillanELT@TheConsultantsE @Edudemic @TeachingEnglish‪@English_Aus‪, @acereduau, @VocEdAustralia, @NCVER, @RITCWA and ‪@HeutagogyCoP‪ .

Once you’re following more than a few people, the volume of tweets coming through to your Twitter feed can be overwhelming. Apart from being selective about who you follow or going for periodic culling (my technique until now!), here are a few less drastic suggestions from #AusELTers – and remember, as @SophiaKhan4 said, “Twitter is a garden – you need to cultivate it to the shape you want.”

  • Favourite – @Penultimate_K recommends “using the ‘favourite’ function as a kind of bookmark.” “Favouriting” a tweet saves it in your favourites list which you can access at any time. This is a great way to save your reading for a time that suits you.
  • Mute – Muting people can unclutter your Twitter feed by stopping their tweets from showing on your feed. Muting a user doesn’t unfollow them and you can unmute them at any time. Details on how to mute can be found here.
  • Lists – These help you to filter your tweets into categories. You can create private lists of your own or join other people’s public lists. @aparnajacob said: “I enjoy sorting through a list of only lesson ideas for class or PD. You can customise your twitter feed.” @SophiaKhan4 agrees: “I follow a LOT of people – but some quite different pies (to have a finger in). Lists can help with that.” Twitter explains how to make and use lists here.

For practical info on how to use Twitter for PD and participating in #AusELT chats visit the #AusELT Twitter page. You can also access the #AusELT 1-page guide on how to get started with Twitter which includes a “starter” list of people to follow.

Part 2: Social media identity and managing the flow of information

Do you need to have different social media personas (personal and professional)?

 @sophiakhan said she felt stuck with two identities – one for family and friends and one for work purposes. “I would bore all the teachers with mummy and kids stuff and vice versa if I mixed…” @aparnajacob also felt conflicted and cited this as a reason for considering having two Facebook accounts. After all, she said, “Who wants to hear about your work life?”

Of course we all know, ahem, that having two Facebook accounts is not allowed and no one does it. But is there anther way? Echoing the earlier conversation on using lists on Twitter, @michaelegriffin said “I know some folks that use lists/groups well on FB so their non-teaching friends don’t get swamped with ELT”. A few of us were a bit in awe of that and wanted tutorials – though both @michaelegriffin and @sophiakhan4 – arguably big FB users – still hadn’t got to grips with it and @sophiakhan4 thought this might be because this feature is “not obvious or user friendly.”

Having said that, many other chat participants felt it wasn’t an issue and just having one Facebook account or one Twitter account was fine. @thesmylers felt that having multiple log ins on a single account was too difficult. @Penultimate_K also added, “I connect with people [on Facebook] who may not be actual friends through groups/pages.” @angelos_bollas also said he was happy with one Facebook account – but he later admitted “my real friends & family have unfollowed me on Facebook! They can IM me so we keep in touch … plus I post in English – they are Greek and when they post something on my wall in Greek, I tell them off so … they did what they had to!”  So it could be that using different channels for different audiences is a natural evolution that suits some people. It is true that that different platforms lend themselves to certain types of posts and so tend to appeal to different sorts of people – each has a very distinct character and audience.


cc http://www.flickr.com/photos/davidberkowitz/14897753798

 So what about LinkedIn?

While many #AusELTers thought it was worthwhile to have a LinkedIn profile, @thesmylers will find sympathy with many when she says: “I think I’m on LinkedIn but never used it”. @aparnajacob finds it “clunky”, @sophiakhan4 said she couldn’t “weed out rubbish well” and @penultimate_K wondered if “Linkedin makes it harder to be selective in order to tempt you to a paid account.”

And Google+?

Again people often seemed to have profiles that they did not use much. @Penultimate_K said “I could never get into Google+ – not sure why. It just didn’t appeal to me as a channel” and @Angelos_bollas commented: “Google+ looks so… old, doesn’t it?”

However, several participants were intrigued by the idea of G+ hangouts, with the end result that a week later @sophiakhan4 and @angelos_bollas actually did hang out on G+, a few weeks after their initial random meeting via an #ELChat on Twitter. And it was pretty great! Easy to use, with a lot of potential for small group meetings and…hanging out.

How do you curate useful links?

@Penultimate_K said: “choose the channel where the audience would be most appreciative of the info. Cross-post with care!” @sophiakhan4 said she felt “split over several platforms” for exactly this reason. However, other chat participants kept it simple: @thesmylers said “I only use FB and Twitter – copying links to posts across those works for me” and @Penultimate_K said: “I share on Twitter/LinkedIn. I discuss on the Facebook group” She also added that “FB (whether we love it or hate it) is really great! And searchable!” – however, I would add that while a group page, such as #AusELT, is searchable, if you are curating links on your personal profile page or your business page, you cannot search, you just need to keep scrolling back, and this is a drawback for me.

Some other curation favourites within the group were:

  • Pinterest: looks great – user-friendly – but better for visual things (it save images as a link to other sites, so a post without an image cannot be “pinned”)
  • ScoopIt: useful for curating more information-based teaching-related links but not much social interaction
  • PearlTrees: used to allow for “mind-mappy” curation of links, where links in different categories could still be linked to each other. Now it has been revamped it looks and behaves more like a less user-friendly version of Pinterest.
  • Pocket: A favourite app for @angelos_bollas who says it is similar to Diigo but much simpler to use
  • Wikis: @angelos_bollas suggested curating via a wiki, and even sharing it for public use. He mentioned the ‘almost endless’ storage capacities of a wiki and the flexibility in the kind of content you can store (links, PDFs, pictures etc.) Many of us agreed as we actually do have an #AusELT wiki that we use to curate things of interest to our community. However, we have recently decided to transition the content over to our blog primarily due to the more attractive interface and to curate all content in one place.

And that was about all we had time for. We covered a lot of ground, and as usual I would say – find what works for you!

For a complete workshop on social media for teachers, including presenter’s notes, PowerPoint and other materials, please click here. It’s under a Creative Commons license so it is adaptable and free to use in your institution.

#AusELT chat summary “Getting Away from Grammar” with Daniel Midgley, 4 June 2015


Photo credit: @sandymillin #eltpics

An extremely lively, fast-paced and interesting chat with guest moderator Daniel Midgley, @talkrtr, Lecturer in ESL and Applied Linguistics at Edith Cowan University, WA, and known to many through the Talk the Talk Podcast.

@talkrtr kicked off by stating he is a fan of the lexical approach and included this link:


@SophiaKhan4 and @McIntyreShona agreed with this approach however @McIntyreShona said her colleagues weren’t great fans. @aparnajacob’s students demand grammar everyday so she was excited to discuss a new approach.

Throughout the chat @Penultimate_K asked a series of discussion questions (taken from Daniel’s guest blog post which you can read here) which started off with;

Ever tried to get away from grammar in your teaching? Do you teach in a way that puts something else in the foreground?

@cioccas answered that getting away from grammar requires variety. @McIntyreShona suggested that manipulating text is the way for students to control their own language expression.

What’s your language learning experience? Was grammar instruction helpful or did something else work better?

@McIntyreShona and @cioccas learned languages using a variety of approaches, @Penultimate_K was expected to parse and translate, @lukeealexander had grammar-centric experiences however @aparnajacob acquired language ‘naturally’.

Is it necessary to have a grammar focus in mind & design tasks accordingly? Or play it as we go and explain things as they occur?

@lukeealexander believes focus on form and meeting students’ needs is important to consider. @McIntyreShona shared that course books are only 50% of her curriculum. @MeredithMacAul1  uses texts for grammar analysis and then asks students to use the language in their writing. @SophiaKhan4 suggested shining spotlight on grammar when it comes up in a meaningful context. @leoselivan shared that there is grammar teaching in LA however the practice is more distributed. @talkrtr encourages people to use http://wordandphrase.info/  for access to lots of examples.

What’s the difference between the way you teach (or learn) and the way you’d like to?

@cioccas said that she likes to teach the way she learns but understands that others learn in different ways so tries a variety of approaches.

Tim Doner is ‘the world’s youngest hyperpolyglot’ what can we take away from his experience? http://ideas.ted.com/why-i-learned-20-languages-and-what-i-learned-about-myself-in-the-process/

@aparnajacob suggested osmosis which @Penultimate_K also added immersion. @andrea_rivett took away that language is communication and culture and that eavesdropping was ok. @SophiaKhan4’s take-away message was songs which can be repeated and enjoyed. @cioccas added that learning the way that makes sense for you will keep you interested.

Who wants to defend the grammatical approach? Does it still have any merit? Can you change @talkrtr’s mind on this?

@MeredithMacAul1 said that students need a foundation so why not teach some structure however let students experiment and produce? @aparnajacob shared this link which she had also passed on to her colleagues:

http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/blogs/michael-swan/too-much-grammar-not-enough-grammar?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=%20bc-teachingenglish .

@leoselivan shared the following on avoiding grammar: http://www.theguardian.com/education/2012/sep/18/teach-grammar-rules?CMP=share_btn_tw.

Throughout the chat, it was discussed why teachers teach grammar. Reasons included that students expect it and consider it serious; knowledge of grammar leads to communication; course-books include it; and it’s convenient. However, it was also pointed out that when course-books include vocabulary and collocations, they often lead to a grammatical point. @aparnajacob summed up this discussion by stating that we miss the ‘scenic route to learning’ by allowing grammar and course-books to take precedence.

In summary, a focus on grammar is still widely used and by focussing on real-life language and contexts, lexical items can, and should, also be introduced. @lukeealexander shared that there were 4 systems in English – pronunciation, vocab, grammar and discourse, so give them equal time in class.

From this Twitter-chat two ideas for future chats were put forward: @cioccas suggested ‘Getting away from course books’ and @andrea_rivett suggested ‘reflective teaching’.

Thank you to guest moderator, Daniel Midgley ( @talkrtr )for joining the chat and for providing us with this  thought-provoking discussion. For more food-for-thought, check out Daniel’s Talk the Talk Podcast.

This post by @andrea_rivett