Tag Archives: PLN

#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.

14897753798_8dc6ed61b5_z

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: “Professional development – that’s what I want!” (3rd July 2014)

What do we want imageWhat a lively chat about professional development! @cioccas posted some questions for us to think about before the chat and then structured the chat around these. This was a great idea because we could formulate some answers before the chat and this made it easier to post (copy and paste our pre-written ideas) and took the stress off us to constantly type (well, at least that’s what I did!) The questions and issues we discussed are below, and the main comments are summarised.

 

What do teachers want and expect from PD?

@andrea_rivett posted: “It should be relevant, interesting and get me to think about my own practice.” @Penultimate_K commented that newer teachers wanted direction and skills development and more experienced teachers wanted refinement and innovation. @KateRoss0901 reminded us that some teachers wanted traditional forms of PD such as post-graduate study, seminars and workshops. @sujava and @sophiakhan4 wondered whether all teachers wanted PD. @sujava mentioned that any PD should include a takeaway for use in the classroom as teachers are time poor.

What is PD?

@Penultimate_K reminded us that self-directed PD is often forgotten as a form of informal PD. @KateRoss0901 made the insightful comment that we encourage our students to be self-directed learners but don’t seem to follow this approach in our own PD. @andrea_rivett raised the question of a definition of PD. Is it formal, informal, online, F2F, written, spoken, individual, collaborative, paid, unpaid, teacher-directed, institution-directed? Does it result in a certificate / assessment / observation / some form of classroom practice? Is it private reflection? Who defines it and how do we motivate teachers to participate in it?

@cioccas said that teachers should choose what PD they wanted and that it should be differentiated. @sophiakhan4 recommended we all read Karen Benson and Phil Chappell’s contribution on PD in the English Australia Journal as it deals with a program for differentiated PD.

Expectations around PD

@sujava said that some teachers felt pressed for time and felt that PD was an imposition. @MeredithMacaul1 reminded us of teacher workload as obstacles to attending PD. @cherrymp asked if these things were excuses. @sujava mentioned that some people want to teach / do their job and then go home and @SophiaKhan4 asked if we had unrealistic expectations of teachers. Are people in other professions required / expected to do PD?

A few people mentioned that PD should be provided as part of the job and @aparnajacob said that people expected to be paid as part of PD. Personally, I would expect mandated PD to be paid but anything I was interested in I could pursue myself. It’s always worth putting in a proposal to management to have PD subsidized (e.g. travel and accommodation expenses). Online PD would save costs here but @cioccas has observed that online PD is not always accepted by managers.

What do managers want and expect from teacher PD?

@andrea_rivett said PD was everyone’s responsibility but teachers and managers could suggest, deliver and organise it. @michaelgriffin asked how we can encourage and support teachers to manage their own PD, seek opportunities for PD on their own and become independent learners. This is a question those in management and teacher development constantly grapple with.

 A PD budget

The conversation turned to how to allocate a PD budget. Some recommendations included:

  • any budget for group and individual PD should be aligned to organizational goals
  • teachers who were sponsored by their organisation to attend an event could come back to their campus / college and share what they learned
  • learning institutions could take turns in hosting PD to keep costs down
  • teachers can share delivery (reduced prep time) so a guest speaker is not needed (and therefore no payment required)
  • teachers can put in proposals for external PD conferences and if accepted their college could pay for them to go
  • get staff to deliver PD, everyone votes and the best presenter gets a PD allowance (to attend a conference etc.) with the aim always being to bring back and share the ‘learning’

 Sharing PD opportunities

The conversation then turned to how to share PD opportunities / advertise PD. Some ideas were:

  • Bulletin board, newsletter, group / email list
  • Scoop.It (online magazine), English Australia newsletter

@cioccas asked how information about PD opportunities was disseminated to teachers who weren’t connected and @KateRoss0901 commented that this could be approached from various angles (formal, informal, electronic, spoken, written), which would catch a wider audience. She also commented that employees had a responsibility to develop themselves.

Who participates in PD? Why / why not?

@hairychef asked the pertinent question: “Has the issue of low engagement in highly qualified staffrooms been addressed?” @sujava mentioned PLNs: Facebook, Pearltrees and Twitter and showing people how to sign up. @cioccas mentioned that she has seen little take up of this from teachers even after several attempts.

This prompted the question from @cioccas: “How to encourage and support teachers to manage their own PD, seek opportunities for PD on their own and become independent learners?” @cioccas suggested a series of teacher-led PD sessions, which are starting to take off where she works. @sophiakhan4 mentioned the benefit of having models to inspire and show others what is achievable. She met her models through social media. A few people commented that managers should model best practice.

NB: If interested, you can

What is the role of teachers in their own PD?

 Some suggestions included:

  • to think about what they are interested in vs what they “need” to improve in
  • to run a PD session each – nothing too fancy (30 mins)
  • to do PD in pairs
  • to have active roles in Professional Organisations

Explore here for more ideas on:

What is the role of managers in teacher PD?

 Some suggestions included that managers should:

  • give PD presenting opportunities and responsibilities to teachers
  • have active roles in Professional Organisations
  • model good learning and development (mentoring)
  • use / allocate mentors to promote enthusiasm and commitment

Engagement and feeling valued

The conversation turned to teachers not feeling engaged because they didn’t feel valued and two points were raised. Firstly, do teachers not feel valued because of low self-esteem? Secondly, is the issue here industry baseline standards? Should entry to TEFL be like entry to medicine with the same standards? Would this make teachers more engaged in PD? @hairychef suggested ongoing demand-high teacher training. @KateRoss0901 mentioned that teachers may feel that remuneration didn’t warrant further investment in their careers. @cherrymp suggested we keep working on it that change will come.

On that hopeful note the chat was wrapped up at 9.30pm and we were all left with ideas for moving forward with PD in our centres. I suggest we try some of these ideas and report back from time to time on the AusELT Facebook page.

This post by @sujava

 

Workshop: Making PLNs work for you

MC900439356-1‘Personal Learning Network’ (PLN) is a term that’s every where at the moment, but really it only captures half the story – the half that’s about the individual and what they want from their network. The other side is what the individual can contribute to their network, and how that whole network grows stronger as a result. That’s why I probably prefer the wider term ‘community of practice’:

“Communities of practice are groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly” (Wenger, 2006).

Sounds like a perfect description of #AusELT to me 🙂 So, anyway, when Karen Benson (@eslkazzyb) and I heard that the theme of the UECA PD Fest 2013 was communities of practice, we obviously had to put our hands up to present.

In our presentation, ‘The networked teacher: Making PLNs work for you’, we wanted to explore the notion of a PLN as a personalised community of practice. We wanted to help attendees clearly visualise their current PLN, and not only to identify ways in which it could be developed, but to get a sense of why it’s worth developing, both personally and professionally. On a more practical note, we wanted participants to be able to explore what a PLN (this one!) looks like in practice via a range of online platforms and talk over some of the issues involved. And we wanted them to leave with a) some concrete ideas for how a PLN could help them in their individual situations (you can read some of their ideas here), and b) a plan for how to get started.

We humbly offer up our workshop Powerpoint, teacher’s notes, and summary handout here in the hope that it might help people running similar sessions in future. Feel free to use it and adapt it as you wish, but please credit/link to us where appropriate and remember to retain the original copyrights on other images used. And let us know how you go!

Acknowledgements & further reading

Several #AusELTers have already presented on this topic, or something along these lines, and their advice was invaluable in putting together our session. In fact, ours looks pretty shoddy by comparison 🙂 Please take a look at these presentations if you get a chance, there’s plenty more to explore:

If you would like to learn more about communities of practice, Etienne Wenger’s website is a great place to start (the definition of communities of practice in this post is taken from there).

Jacqui McDonald at the University of Southern Queensland has done a great deal of practical exploratory work with communities of practice, and actually used #AusELT as an example in her plenary at UECA PD Fest (#pride!) It was great to see her ‘view from above’ of many of the stages we have experienced in our evolving group, and to learn what we might expect in our future. A version of her presentation is available online here and is recommended for those who want to learn more about the inner workings of communities of practice.

This post by @sophiakhan4

What do teachers want from a network?

MC900439356-1Karen Benson (@eslkazzyb) and I recently delivered a short workshop on “The Networked Teacher: Making a PLN work for you” at the UECA PD Fest in Sydney. We are planning to develop parts of the workshop into downloadable materials for interested managers/senior teachers/trainers to use for in-house professional devlopment, so look out for that. As part of the workshop, we asked participants to complete a few sentences about what they wanted from their network. Here is a sampling of what was said*:

(*in one or two instances the wording has been changed for reasons of clarity)

I want to learn more about . . .

  • management in ELT
  • ways of presenting material and grammar in student-centred and helpful ways
  • the active classroom
  • using technology to engage and simplify learning
  • using Twitter for chats more easily
  • the #AusELT resource wiki
  • student engagement using technology
  • how to teach pronunciation
  • new ideas/activities in the classroom
  • blogging
  • how to observe/being observed in teaching practice
  • writing and publishing worksheets and activity sheets
  • blended learning
  • finding ELT work

I want to talk to people who . . .

  • are heads of centres
  • are involved in English programs at universities
  • are interested in being positive and creative and inventive in their teaching
  • are interested in maximising student benefit and enjoyment in the classroom
  • are inspired by the ELT/ESL world
  • are experienced teachers who use various forms of classroom technology
  • are more experienced than me
  • want to share and talk about learning and student motivation
  • I can help and learn from
  • teachers and managers in the ELT sector
  • are also fairly new teachers
  • are interested in designing PD systems/workshops/plans
  • have experience and expertise in my areas of interest
  • are professionals in the field of ELT
  • share my research interests

I want feedback/advice on . . .

  • dealing with relationships between universities and their English language centres
  • English program outcomes at the university level
  • reflection
  • strategies I use in class
  • how to improve my teaching
  • career advancement opportunities for teachers into management and other related fields
  • developing online courses
  • dealing with challenging situations
  • effective strategies to limit the use of L1 in a multilingual classroom
  • job-hunting skills

I want to be able to . . .

  • focus on strategies/solutions
  • share ideas and learn from fellow colleagues
  • get enough courage to contribute/participate in a Twitter chat

A huge thank you to all the lovely people who came to the session and contributed their ideas. We (or you!) can put forward many of these as poll topics for future Twitter chats. I’m particularly interested in the “I want to talk to people who . . .” section though. In a networked community all of these are possible; each person can build the network that best suits their purposes. Hope to see you out there!

This post by @sophiakhan4